Nathan Ake

Nothing to separate entertaining Bournemouth, West Ham United

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Two would-be Top Seven teams both delivered attacking quality on Saturday, but West Ham United will be happier as it delivered a late equalizer in a 2-2 with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

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Andriy Yarmolenko scored early and helped set-up Aaron Cresswell‘s late goal, and Felipe Anderson was also a driving force for the Irons.

But Bournemouth will feel aggrieved by the chalking off of a Nathan Ake goal by VAR, one that would’ve made it 3-1.

Callum Wilson and Joshua King scored the goals that counted as the Cherries now sit seventh on 11 points, one point behind third-place West Ham.


Three things we learned

1. Yarmolenko at his very best: Last week’s star show led to another for the Ukranian playmaker, who took the fine work of Sebastien Haller to set him up and raised it to the next level. He worked a very good center back in Nathan Ake to score, and could’ve had two or three assists on the day. With Haller, Manuel Lanzini, and Yarmolenko, the Irons have game changers.

2. VAR stings Cherries: Bournemouth’s Ake thought he had a goal to go with an assist, and the Cherries would’ve had a 3-1 lead had VAR not noted that Ryan Fredericks was hip-to-hip with a just offside Dominic Solanke as the ball took the slightest of turns off the West Ham defender. It’s an offside that probably never gets called without video, as Solanke was in the sightline of Irons goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez but not making a play on the ball.

3. Wilson scores, but will rue miss: Are these the sort of missed chances that keep Callum Wilson from breaking into the England mix? The striker scored once, yeah, but his 1v1 chance belted into Jimenez’s thigh from close range is one which should’ve really decided the match.

BONUS. Fabianski injury a big concern: Roberto Jimenez has plenty of experience between the sticks, but Lukasz Fabianski limping off heavily could be a major prob for the Irons. He was one of their best players last season, and West Ham looks up for a Top Seven challenge. Slim margins between star keepers and adequate ones.

Man of the Match: Yarmolenko


West Ham took a deserved lead following its bright start, as Sebastien Haller settled the ball and laid off for Yarmolenko. The Ukranian turned Nathan Ake — no east feat — and curled a gorgeous ball around a helpless Aaron Ramsdale.

VAR took a look at a potential Bournemouth equalizer which had been blown dead for offside. Ake’s trap of a cross was kept onside, and King’s classy finish hit the scoreboard after a minute’s review.

The next moment was an injury, as West Ham star backstop Lukasz Fabianski was banged up and the Irons introduced well-traveled Spanish backstop Roberto Jimenez. The backup allowed four goals to Oxford United at midweek.

Felipe Anderson had a scissor kick well-saved by Ramsdale on the edge of first half stoppage to keep West Ham from taking what would’ve been a fairly well-earned advantage.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Wilson belted a shot past Jimenez, after the referee played advantage following a foul on Dominic Solanke outside the 18. Perhaps the defense and keeper shifted off, but Wilson did not. 2-1 after 29 seconds of the second half.

Ake made it 3-1 in traffic, but would it stand past VAR? No, a razor-thin call went against the goal scorer, whose shot hit West Ham’s Ryan Fredericks on its way past Jimenez. Solanke was ruled to be offside.

Yarmolenko’s curling effort nearly leveled the score line in the 64th, but just missed the far post.

The in-form Ukranian then sent a gorgeous pass over the fray for Anderson to head on Ramsdale, who was wise to the effort.

Jimenez denied Wilson 1v1, an unreal opportunity denied by indecision and sturdy goalkeeping.

Cresswell delivered West Ham’s equalizer, scoring tighter to goal than his pristine free kick last week. It was a Yarmolenko cross headed back into the fray by Anderson.

Bournemouth carried over the line by ‘fight and belief’

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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It wasn’t pretty — at least not in the second half — but Bournemouth had enough “fight and belief” to get themselves over the line for a first-ever win away to Southampton on Friday.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Speaking after the game, Cherries manager Eddie Howe was obviously pleased by the victory in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry, but quickly turned his attention to a list of areas in which his team came up short and was perhaps fortunate to hold onto a 2-1 lead prior to Callum Wilson‘s gifted goal in the 95th minute — quotes from the BBC:

“It was a nice moment. We rarely get those moments in football where you get that pure emotion and joy for a few seconds. Then you start thinking about next week.

“You want the players brought down to earth because you want the focus on consistent success. In the first, half we were okay. We didn’t hit the heights we are capable of. We were scrappy and didn’t keep the ball as well as I wanted, but we had spirit and sometimes that’s the most important thing.

“In the second half, we were reactive and looked tired and that’s where we needed to show our heart to see the game out. There were some heroics from our goalkeeper too.”

As for defender Nathan Ake, scorer of Bournemouth’s first goal, it was all about digging deep for the desire and will to win. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the first names on Howe’s teamsheet every week at this point.

“It was a very tough game. The fans are buzzing. It was a great three points. The manager said to put the ball in the box.

“It was a great ball and it fell on my head. In the second half, we made it difficult for ourselves. We didn’t keep hold of the ball and had to defend more. The last result against Everton was great so it gives you confidence, but we had to fight and believe we could win.”

Had you offered anyone associated with Bournemouth 10 points from their first six games, they would have snatched your hand off to take them. A thoroughly solid start to the season. Up next is a visit from ninth-place West Ham United next Saturday.

Bournemouth picks up first-ever win away to Southampton

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Bournemouth picked up its first-ever victory (16 visits – all competitions) away to Southampton in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry, 3-1 at St. Mary’s Stadium on Friday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nathan Ake and Harry Wilson got goals for Eddie Howe‘s side during a wonderfully dominant first-half performance before the roles were reversed in the second half. James Ward-Prowse pulled Southampton back to 2-1 not long after halftime and Saints pressed and pressed for an equalizer but ultimately came up empty. To make matters worse, Callum Wilson put the game away on a late Saints howler.


3 things we learned

  1. Slow starts for Saints — Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. For a team that’s built around the idea of defensive solidity and limiting chances, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side appears especially limited once forced to change its plan of attack and… well, attack. In the two games they didn’t concede first, two clean sheets and two wins.
  2. Halftime adjustments — Hasenhuttl certainly got his tactics wrong from the start, but whatever was said at halftime made a noticeable difference in the second half. Given loads more freedom to push forward in attack and to win back possession, Southampton made it a game from 45:01 onward.
  3. Making few chances count a lot — Bournemouth needed just six shots to get their two goals. On the other hand, they managed just six shots in 90 minutes. Highly efficient, or lacking in overall production? Both, perhaps?

Man of the Match: Oriol Romeu


Ake put the Cherries ahead in the 10th minute, rising high above the crowd to get his head to Diego Rico‘s corner kick. It was Bournemouth’s fifth goal (of nine scored) from a set piece this season.

It didn’t take long for Bournemouth to easily cut through Saints’ four-man backline — a tactical change from the three-man operation which secured a victory away to Sheffield United last weekend — and put the ball in the back of the net again. Joshua King finished a devastating counter-attack with a sublime finish, only to have the goal taken off the board for being narrowly offside, via video review.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Once again, Bournemouth met little resistance en route to doubling their lead, only this time the goal stood. Philip Billing got to the endline down the left side of Saints’ penalty area and cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Wilson was waiting to sweep it past a helpless Angus Gunn.

Saints were gifted their way back into the game in the 52nd minute, when Steve Cook went straight through Che Adams as Southampton broke down the left side of the box. Ward-Prowse stepped up to the spot and hammered the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to cut the deficit in half.

Saints’ best chance at drawing level came in the 82nd minute, but Ward-Prowse was denied Ramsdale from close range, and though he spilled the rebound in front of goal, Bournemouth were able to clear the ball away in just the nick of time.

Gunn and center back Jannik Vestergaard ran into one another outside the Saints penalty area in the 95th minute, allowing Wilson to pick the ball up and walk it over the end line for the late exclamation point on Bournemouth’s historic night.

Bournemouth’s defensive desperation was such that they attempted just the six shots in the game, including zero between the 38th and 85th minutes. Alas, Saints couldn’t find the equalizer and Bournemouth catapulted all the way up to third in the PL, for the time being.

Who’s the most irreplaceable player on ‘Big Six’ Premier League sides?

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When Aymeric Laporte was lost for months with a knee injury, there was a fairly standard reaction to the news.

This was the player Manchester City could least afford to lose for a long period of time.

[ MORE: Juve wants De Gea ]

There’s a debate to be had there, and it’s been had plenty, but it has us thinking: Which player is the most indispensable for each of the “Big Six” in their quest for a successful PL season?

It’s going to be a defender heavy list.

Tottenham Hotspur

Tough one, here, and we may be just a few months of consistent performances from changing the answer to Tanguy Ndombele (Yes, he looks that good).

But this one’s down to two players. It’s not a defender, as Spurs have three dynamite center backs and the drop-offs between full backs don’t hold wide-enough margins.

It’s between the Harrys (Harries? Anyway, “Between the Harries” sounds like we just started a new reality show).

Don’t be misled by Spurs’ remarkable job making up for the loss of Harry Kane to injury late last season; the big striker is still on history-making pace for his young-enough career. Since becoming a full-time starter, Kane has 162 goals in 241 matches. Would you believe he’s not 27 until next summer?

Harry Winks is the ball-possessing, clean-passing motor that so many teams crave for their midfield. He’s been a 90-plus percentage passer in every season, and has completed 94 percent this early season. Again, small sample size, but his 75 passes per game trails Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, Granit Xhaka, Paul Pogba, and teammate Toby Alderweireld.

It’s almost a coin flip here. We’re taking Kane, but we’re basing it on a tiebreaker of advanced statistics. Anyone making an argument for the 23-year-old Winks deserves to be heard.

Manchester United

This is perhaps the trickiest call of the bunch.

Anthony Martial has been far and away the most important player to the Red Devils’ early season, sputtering as it may be, but it’s far too soon to say he’s irreplaceable.

Four players have played every minute of the early season: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof, and David De Gea. Both Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay have nearly played the full 360.

The fact of the matter, and this belies United’s plight, is that United is too thin to have a single player who would hurt the most to lose; Forced to choose one, we’ll say Maguire as he’s the most proven consistent entity of the bunch.

Chelsea

Another tough one, though it seems like it should be an easy one: N’Golo Kante. But he’s still finding his footing under Frank Lampard and last season wasn’t a great one as Maurizio Sarri messed with a great recipe by moving Kante from his role of pure opposition destruction.

Again, Chelsea’s has a good answer in replacement players for any of their stars getting injured; Marcos Alonso is barely playing, same with Michy Batshuayi. Olivier Giroud, Willian, even Pedro.

So while we’d like to make the case for Cesar Azpilicueta, the answer is probably still Kante.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Arsenal

The easy answer is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it is not necessarily the correct answer because of replaceability. If the Gabonese superstar goes down, Unai Emery can still roll out a strike force with Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe.

The Gunners are very thin at center back, but the problem is that the starters aren’t stars.

So we’ll proffer one that’s a bit out of the box: Bernd Leno. The goalkeeper has been pretty darn good considering his team has offered very little resistance to attacks. His back-ups are Emiliano Martinez and Matt Macey. There’s no rule stating one of those two wouldn’t be a good starter, but they have six PL appearances between them (all Martinez).

Liverpool

It’s Virgil Van Dijk.

Mohamed Salah is the straw that stirs the drink, but the Reds have a very good attackers behind him (both young and experienced) and made a run to the Champions League and a record league point total while he was not exactly thriving in form (Salah had a lone goal in an eight-match league run over February and March, and missed the incredible Barcelona comeback with a concussion).

The idea of it being Alisson Becker is interesting, but for Liverpool supporters that is probably fueled more by watching substandard keepers derail their dreams for a couple of years. For a neutral and especially for stat hounds, it’s not as big of a drop to Adrian as it seems (but it’s big).

We may want to revisit this discussion in January regarding Fabinho, but Liverpool is very deep in the midfield, too. It’s Van Dijk, and it’s not close.

Man City

It was a combination of a few things, the first obviously being the players’ quality. The PFA Team of the Year winner helped City lower its goals conceded total in his first full season at the Etihad, as City won almost every competition it entered in 2018-19.

But it was also City’s depth behind Laporte, with Vincent Kompany gone to Anderlecht and the next injury seemingly cueing up Fernandinho or Kyle Walker for center back duty.

An argument could be made for Ederson simply based on the keeper’s quality in possession and shot-stopping alone but no other position, really; City may have had to work harder for the title last season with Kevin De Bruyne injured, but it found an answer largely through Bernardo Silva. Leroy Sane looked like City’s MVP two seasons ago, but Raheem Sterling emerged as the club’s best wide man and there’s some guy named Mahrez behind him.

Laporte, it is (And if you want to really get into the nexus of this article, and why the stats say there is a big drop-off from Laporte to even John Stones, let alone a third wheel, check here. Also, I’ve learned that City fans vastly under-appreciate Otamendi).

Best of the Rest

Less explanation, similar amounts of confidence.

Aston Villa: Jack Grealish
Bournemouth:
Nathan Ake
Brighton and Hove Albion:
Shane Duffy
Burnley:
James Tarkowski
Crystal Palace: Luka Milivojevic
Everton:
Michael Keane
Leicester City:
Wilfred Ndidi
Newcastle United:
Fabian Schar
Norwich City:
Teemu Pukki
Sheffield United:
Dean Henderson
Southampton:
Jannik Vestergaard
Watford:
Abdoulaye Doucoure
West Ham: 
Sebastien Haller
Wolves: Willy Boly

Premier League transfer grades

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The summer transfer window is over. All of the deals are done. Premier League squads are now set until January.

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Wow. That was fun. Given all of the records broken, all of the big names arriving, leaving or staying in the Premier League, which club did the best business this summer?

[ MORE: PL season previews ]

Below we dish out grades to all 20 Premier League teams based on their ins and outs.


Arsenal: B+

A very decent window for the Gunners, who added two key defenders in the final hour. Kieran Tierney David Luiz arrived and all of a sudden this looks like a more balanced squad. Nicolas Pepe arrived in a club record-deal to spice up their attack, plus Dani Ceballos oozes quality in midfield. Losing Laurent Koscielny was a blow, but Luiz is better than their current central defenders even if he takes a few risks on the ball. Overall, Unai Emery‘s squad is stronger than they were 12 months ago.


Aston Villa: B+
Where do we start with Villa!? 12 new signings this summer from the newly-promoted team, who are one of the big spenders with over $180 million spent on transfer fees alone. Tom Heaton, Wesley, Trezeguet, Jota and Tyrone Mings all look like being very important signings, and Villa have a very strong squad. Will it be enough to keep them up? We are about to find out. Villa get an A for ambition, but a B+ right now because it is so tough to predict how bringing in so many players at the same time will work out. Ahem, Fulham…


Bournemouth: C
The Cherries did a few pieces of decent business with Harry Wilson arriving on loan, plus Jack Stacey, Lloyd Kelly and Arnaut Danjuma all coming in to strengthen their squad. Bournemouth kept hold of Nathan Ake, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson, which is huge, but maybe they needed a few more experienced defenders to improve their goals against column.


Brighton & Hove Albion: C+
Graham Potter has been given money to spend and he’s strengthened Brighton’s attacking unit. Trossard arrived from Genk and Neal Maupay from Brentford in club-record deals, but will they settle in quickly in the Premier League? It looks a big gamble for Brighton. Losing Anthony Knockaert was a strange one, but they did keep hold of Lewis Dunk. A decent window for a side who struggled massively in the second half of last season, and needed a little more in midfield and attack. They’ve got that.


Burnley: D
Danny Drinkwater‘s arrival on deadline day was the biggest move for the Clarets, as Sean Dyche‘s side once again kept their wallets in their pockets. Jay Rodriguez arrived from West Brom and the hometown hero will be tasked with scoring goals, but overall it was an underwhelming window for Burnley. After their relegation scrap last season, many would have called for bigger changes. They did keep James Tarkowski though.


Chelsea: C-

Well, we can’t judge Chelsea on incomings due to their transfer ban, but Christian Pulisic did arrive after his loan spell at Dortmund and he looks like a star in the making. Matteo Kovacic is now a permanent Chelsea player too, while the big arrivals for Frank Lampard have been those coming back from loan deals. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori will all be important players this summer. Losing Eden Hazard was a hammer blow, while the loss of Luiz should not be understated either. As expected, not the best window for the Blues.


Crystal Palace: D
Losing Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Man United was far from ideal, and even though Wilfried Zaha remains at Selhurst Park, is he happy enough to put on a show each week and push the Eagles up the league? Zaha looked set to join Arsenal, Everton, Napoli and others this summer, but the move just didn’t happen. Palace’s asking price of close to $100 million didn’t help out Zaha, and now they have to deal with him not being happy about having to stay in south London. This will be tricky for Roy Hodgson to handle.


Everton: B+
A very good window for the Toffees, led by the acquisition of rising star Moise Kean from Juventus. The deadline day capture of Alex Iwobi is also a very smart buy and they now have so many attacking options behind Kean. Sidibe gives them extra cover at center back, while Andre Gomes is a star in midfield and it was key to make his loan move from Barcelona permanent. Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph are shrewd signings to plug the gap left by Idrissa Gueye and Marco Silva has all the tools to lead this team to a top six finish. Very very decent.


Leicester City: B
Yes, they lost Harry Maguire, but they did so on their own terms and got close to $100 million for him. Adding Youri Tielemans was a must after his superb spell on loan from Monaco in the second half of last season. The Belgian midfielder oozes class and was worth breaking their transfer record for. Ayoze Perez will be a great understudy to Jamie Vardy up top and although it would have been nice to add another center back to replace Maguire, it was a smart move to not pay over the odds for James Tarkowski or Lewis Dunk. Dennis Praet’s arrival on deadline day strengthens their midfield further and this young, exciting team will push for the top six. Brendan Rodgers will be content with this summer. Nothing more. Nothing less.


Liverpool: C

Just $6 million spent by Jurgen Klopp on two youngsters, and the German coach is very comfortable with that. With Rhian Brewster, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returning from injury and Divock Origi back in the frame, they have options outside of their best starting lineup. That said, is this Liverpool squad deep enough for a PL and Champions League push? If they suffer a few injuries to attacking players, you would be right to worry about Liverpool’s staying power. Having got Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno, Simon Mignolet and Danny Ings off the wage bill, maybe Liverpool will spend money in January. This is a bit of a gamble for the reigning European champions.


Manchester City: B

Joao Cancelo and Rodri give Man City cover in two key areas, right back and central midfield. Rodri is the long-term replacement for Fernandinho in the hooding midfield role and it will take him a little while to get used to the pace of the Premier League. Elsewhere they tried to sign Maguire but didn’t want to pay what Man United did, so there is a sizeable gap at center back after legend Vincent Kompany departed over the summer.


Manchester United: B+
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted young, quick, hungry players this summer and he got them. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire arrived for huge fees and Daniel James looks a huge talent out wide. Paul Pogba has remained at United, for now, and Romelu Lukaku departed for $90 million to balance the books. United’s back four of Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and Shaw is very solid, but they are still a little tough to figure out in midfield. Going forward they are now led by Rashford, James and Mason Greenwood should emerge. All in all, a very positive window. Linked with approximately 8,992 players over the summer, the three they did sign are all quality additions.


Newcastle United: C
After losing Ayoze Perez and failing to sign Salomon Rondon permanently, the start of the window wasn’t looking great for the Magpies. Add in the fact that Rafael Benitez walked out as a manager and journeyman boss Steve Bruce replaced him, and there was almost a riot in Newcastle as much-maligned owner Mike Ashley once again failed to sell the club. There were the additions of Joelinton, Andy Carroll and Allan Saint-Maximin to boost their attacking options but Newcastle’s fans won’t be overjoyed with this summer.


Norwich City: D
Daniel Farke has kept faith in the team which got the Canaries promoted last season as the champions of the Championship spent very little. Teemu Pukki is their main threat up top, and it will stay that way, while they kept hold of young full back Max Aarons. Norwich’s squad is really interesting but they probably should have showed a little more ambition this summer. That said, we’ve seen newly-promoted teams spend big and fail to integrate all of their new signings successfully, so it is a fine line.


Sheffield United: C+
Ollie McBurnie and Lys Mousset arrived in club-record deals as Chris Wilder kept his defensive unit together but strengthened the attack. Bringing Dean Henderson back in on loan from Manchester United was brilliant business and the Blades have gone right in the middle of fellow new boys Villa and Norwich. Villa have spent big, Norwich have spent nothing and Sheffield United have spent a little on some young, quality lower-tier players.


Southampton: C+
Saints needed to strengthen their defense and they look to have done that right at the end of the window with the addition of Kevin Danso. That was much needed for Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side. In attack they upgraded the team massively with Moussa Djenepo and Che Adams arriving for big money, so they look like they will be more dangerous. Moving on players has been tough but they managed to sell Charlie Austin, Matt Targett and a couple of others to balance the books. Steady summer.


Tottenham Hotspur: A-

Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele are two superstars, while youngsters Jack Clarke and Ryan Sessegnon have arrived too. What a good summer for Spurs. They also kept Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen, for now, and they will try and get both to sign new deals. In the case of Eriksen it seems like a lost cause as he could still leave for Real Madrid or elsewhere in the final weeks of the European window. If he does, and Danny Rose joins him in moving to a club outside the PL, Spurs are set with their additions this summer. Lo Celso is initially a loan deal but is expected to sign permanently and the fact they were linked with Dybala and Coutinho shows the caliber of players Spurs are now going for.


Watford: B+
A wonderful end to the window for Watford, who brought in Danny Welbeck and Ismaila Sarr in the final 24 hours. Sarr is a club-record signing and a hugely talented winger, while Welbeck will compete with Gray and Deeney for minutes up top. If Welbeck can stay fit, that is a great buy. Craig Dawson is a steady head in defense and Watford do need to shore things up at the back a little. Javi Gracia has done well to add to his squad which did so well last season.


West Ham United: B+
Sebastian Haller and Pablo Fornals strengthen West Ham’s already strong attack and they managed to move on Marko Arnautovic who finally sealed his move to China. Manuel Pellegrini‘s squad is a little top-heavy but keeping hold of Diop and Rice was crucial to their defensive unit. The Hammers are primed for a European push, with plenty of attacking options the envy of their rivals.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: C
Probably should have done a little more to add to their squad given their European campaign. Patrick Cutrone will challenge Raul Jimenez in attack and allow Nuno Espirito Santo to rest the Mexican star from time to time. That is crucial. But apart from that they’ve only brought in youngsters after signing Leander Dendoncker and Jimenez permanently. A solid enough window, but their lack of signings could impact their PL form after a Thursday-Sunday slog due to the Europa League.