Another weekend of Premier League football has gone by. And, as ever, there’s plenty of incidents to dissect.
It was a largely frustrating weekend for the neutrals. The Manchester Derby underwhelmed, and none of the ‘big six’ won – sabotaging accumulators and fantasy football teams all over the country.
Here are ten talking points from the latest round of Premier League fixtures.
Leeds lead! ⚪️
Klich missed his first penalty but gets to retake after Fabianski was adjudged to be off his line
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 11, 2020
Another week, another set of VAR decisions to analyse.
It took just five minutes for our first slice of VAR nonsense. After keeping out Mateusz Klich’s penalty, West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was penalised for being no more than a few centimetres off his line. Klich converted the retake.
Then at Craven Cottage, more controversy arose, as the VAR team spent three minutes on a possible Fulham penalty, only to come to the seemingly wrong decision.
It’s a shame that we’re talking about technology again, but something needs to improve.
It wasn’t a complete horror show for VAR, however. Replays spotted obvious offsides to both Marcus Rashford and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, preventing the Englishmen from winning unfair penalties. Just a bit of consistency is all we’re asking for.
West Ham Are Going Under the Radar
West Ham United + David Moyes doesn’t exactly seem like a recipe for success. However, the Hammers are quietly going about their business this season.
On Friday, they came from behind away at Leeds United to claim another three points, ending the round of fixtures in sixth place, above Manchester United, Manchester City, and Everton, and just five points off top spot.
The win made it four victories in five, and just two defeats in their last ten. Whether they can sustain this form remains to be seen, but it’s an encouraging time to be a West Ham fan.
Toothless Man City
One would assume that, after last season’s unsuccessful attempt, Pep Guardiola would like to get back in among the contenders. Well, his side will have to step it up if they wish to mount a title charge.
It was an uncharacteristically lethargic performance from Man City, who are usually so free-flowing and potent. Aside from one lovely move which saw Riyad Mahrez’s effort saved, Man City’s deadly buildup play was nowhere to be seen. Guardiola’s decision to start both Rodri and Fernandinho was certainly not backed up by what we saw on the pitch.
However, some credit has to go to the Man Utd backline, who performed excellently for 90 minutes. The likes of Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire have come under intense scrutiny over the last few months, but they kept some of the best attackers in the league quiet.
Is the Manchester Derby Losing its Edge?
🗣"Really poor, we got 2 booking in a derby game, I have never seen so many hugs and chats, I don't get it" 🤣
Roy Keane was shocked about the Manchester Derby today between both teams pic.twitter.com/PkzRxPBe32
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) December 12, 2020
“DE Bruyne, DE Gea, DE…rby”
It really says it all when this abysmal piece of Martin Tyler commentary was the most talked-about incident after the game.
Just four shots on target, only two yellow cards, hugs and smiles after the game – what happened to the blood sweat and tears that we’ve seen in this fixture? Where’s the sheer emotion of Robin van Persie’s injury-time free-kick, or Vincent Kompany’s bullet header?
Roy Keane was not impressed with the friendliness of the game. And, while he’s rarely happy about anything, anyone who watched that will surely be able to see where he’s coming from.
Is it the absence of fans in the ground? Or has the Manchester Derby just lost its touch in recent times?
The Continuous Growth of Dominic Calvert-Lewin
It wasn’t long ago that Dominic Calvert-Lewin was doubted by many of the game’s spectators. However, the arrival of manager Carlo Ancelotti has done wonders for the 23-year-old.
The Englishman is currently the Premier League’s top scorer, with 11 in his opening 12 games. And, when he’s not scoring, he’s still having an influence on the game, as seen in Everton’s 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.
Despite not getting much of a sniff at goal, Calvert-Lewin bullied Chelsea’s back four all game, most notably to win the decisive penalty in the first half.
He managed to beat Thiago Silva to an aerial ball, shrug off the attention of the Brazilian, and then nick the ball away from the onrushing Edouard Mendy, before being clattered to the ground by the goalkeeper. Gylfi Sigurdsson coolly converted from the spot.
The forward later appeared to win another penalty off Ben Chilwell, before VAR intervened due to an offside in the build-up. Nonetheless, it was another well-rounded display from a constantly developing young forward.
More Misery For Chelsea Against Top Half Sides
It was a defeat for Frank Lampard’s men on Saturday, preventing them from climbing to the top of the table.
The summer’s biggest spenders have been touted as one of the favourites for a title charge. Despite this, they are still yet to beat a team in the current top half of the division.
The Blues have played against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Southampton, Everton, and Manchester United so far this campaign. In these five fixtures, they have failed to win a single one, picking up three draws and two defeats. Furthermore, they have struck just three goals in these five games – all of them coming against Southampton.
In contrast, Chelsea have got 19 points from seven outings against bottom-half teams.
While they’re rarely slipping up against the lesser sides, they’ll need to step it up in the big games if they wish to be considered as serious title challengers.
Another Defeat For Sheffield United
What on Earth has happened to Sheffield United?
Last season, having been written off by many before a ball had been kicked, the Blades shocked us all, becoming outsiders for a Champions League place before eventually settling in ninth.
This year, everything is different. Their 3-0 loss at the hands of Southampton piled more misery on the Yorkshire club, leaving them with just one point from their opening 12 games.
Attacking threat? None. Defensive solidity? Nope. Hopes of improvement? Bleak.
Chris Wilder has done so much at Sheffield United, taking them from League One to the top flight in three seasons, then keeping them up with ease. The owner has recently come out in support of the 53-year-old, insisting he will stay even if they are relegated. However, their current run is difficult to ignore, and one has to wonder whether Wilder’s job is as secure as the owner claims.
If they need any encouragement to stick with the manager, perhaps Sunday’s opponents are the right example.
Southampton once looked in trouble under Ralph Hassenhuttl. However, the Austrian was kept at the Saints, and they are now reaping the rewards, sitting in fourth place after another stellar performance.
Vicente Guaita’s Heroics
The meeting between Crystal Palace and Tottenham at Selhurst Park presented us with a masterclass in redemption from Spanish goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
He started his afternoon well, making two fine stops from Tanguy Ndombele and Harry Kane. However, in the 23rd minute, the latter opened the scoring with a long-distance shot that Guaita really should’ve dealt with.
Despite this, he ended the game as the hero. After Jeffrey Schlupp bundled in an equaliser from close range, the former Getafe man denied Spurs from taking all three points, firstly with an instinctive save from Kane’s close-range header, and then with a breathtaking stop from Eric Dier’s late free-kick.
Things Looking Up For Fulham
"It shows how far we've come." 💪
Fulham boss Scott Parker admits he's slightly disappointed to not be leaving today's match with all 3 points but explains how his team can use that as a positive…➕ pic.twitter.com/2zgEs1AfKI
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 13, 2020
Back in September, things were looking very ominous for Fulham. They had lost their opening three games while conceding ten goals. Jamie Carragher claimed that he had “never been more certain” of anything than Fulham’s relegation.
And…sure, they’re still in the bottom three at the time of writing, but Sunday’s showing against champions Liverpool gave plenty of positives for Scott Parker’s men.
Going forward, they looked dangerous, forcing Alisson into several saves. They were unlucky not to be given a penalty in the first half when Fabinho appeared to bring down Ivan Cavaleiro. Not to mention, Bobby Decordova-Reid produced a fine finish to open the scoring.
And, aside from a moment of idiocy by substitute Aboubakar Kamara, the Whites defended well against one of Europe’s most acclaimed front threes.
If they can keep up this level of performance, then Fulham should have no trouble surviving.
Arsenal – the Architects of Their Own Downfall
🟥 | RED CARD!
Granit Xhaka is sent off for violent conduct after grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat! 😳
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 13, 2020
Is it still funny what’s happening to Arsenal, or is it quite sad?
Sunday evening saw struggling Burnley travel to the Emirates, most likely with the intention of snatching a point. They left with all three.
How do you end up losing to a team that isn’t even trying to win? You win it for them, that’s how.
The Gunners were playing some positive football, with Nick Pope denying Bukayo Saka on two occasions, as well as Alexandre Lacazette in the first half. It all seemed set up for the hosts to find the net and take the three points.
Then along came Granit Xhaka, who decided it would be best to grab Burnley’s Ashley Westwood by the neck. After a VAR check, referee Graham Scott sent off the Switzerland international.
15 minutes later, Gunners captain and talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led by example, glancing Westwood’s corner into his own net at the front post. It was his first goal at the Emirates this term – which really says it all about Arsenal’s current state.
Another defeat, another game without a goal, and more shooting themselves in the foot – you have to wonder how much time Mikel Arteta has remaining.