Premier League hits and misses: No Chelsea hangover without a recognised forward, Emile Smith Rowe Arsenal’s hero

Chelsea’s formidable firepower

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s win over Norwich

No Romelu Lukaku, no matter. Chelsea’s 7-0 demolition of Norwich showed that even without their £97.5m striker, and without Timo Werner too, there is still an abundance of firepower available to Thomas Tuchel.

Norwich offered little in the way of resistance, in truth, but that should take nothing away from a clinical Chelsea showing. They have been lauded primarily for their defensive prowess under Tuchel but that is 11 goals in four days following the 4-0 win over Malmo.

There is a sense of something clicking into gear for the Premier League leaders and that’s certainly true of Mount.

The 22-year-old had not found the net since May before this game but he took his first goal brilliantly, showed composure to score the retaken penalty for his second, then popped up in the right place at the right time to complete his hat-trick.

Mount was outstanding but he was not the only Chelsea player to toy with the beleaguered visitors. Callum Hudson-Odoi continued his recent revival with a clinically-taken strike in the first half while Reece James and Ben Chilwell, scorers of the third and fourth goals respectively, demonstrated their offensive qualities too.

There was no goal for Kai Havertz, who filled in for Lukaku as Chelsea’s false nine, but Mateo Kovacic underlined his creative threat with a pair of assists, taking his tally to five in the Premier League this season, and there were also eye-catching contributions from the bench.

Ross Barkley seemed determined to make an impact after replacing Havertz and the same was true of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Hakim Ziyech, who combined superbly to set up Mount’s third goal.

The competition for places seems to be bringing the best out of Chelsea’s offensive players and that’s good news for Tuchel – especially as he awaits Lukaku’s return to fitness.
Nick Wright

Newcastle battle to first point of new era

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 1-1 draw between Crystal Palace and Newcastle

Newcastle interim manger Graeme Jones summed up the feelings of a draw at Crystal Palace rather well in his post-match interview.

He told Sky Sports: “I’m delighted in the end with a draw because it gives us somewhere to start from… I’m pleased we got something out of it. We deserved that for our organisation, understanding and mentality.

“We’ll look to build and improve for as long as I’m doing this.”

After a pretty tumultuous week at Newcastle, beginning with a medical emergency against Tottenham, which ended in defeat, followed by the sacking of their manager, facing a trip to Selhurst Park would not have been an ideal fixture.

While Newcastle cannot profess to have had a plethora of chances, lots of possession or even played particularly well, they gave everything they had off the ball to restrict Crystal Palace to just one goal, coupled with a little bit of luck falling their way.

Plus the goal they did score was a moment of sensational quality from Callum Wilson. His inch-perfect overhead kick thundered into the top corner and even the best goalkeeper would not be able to keep it out.

It was that grit and determination from Newcastle that has given Jones that place to start, and now it’s time to start building. The first point under new owners and since Steve Bruce’s departure during the week is a boost, and they must now carry that on.
Charlotte Marsh

Foden hitting new heights for City

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win against Brighton

Phil Foden scored two goals and set up another in Manchester City’s 4-1 win over Brighton. The 21-year-old has long been considered a superstar-in-waiting but it seems that wait is now over.

Foden is now scoring and creating goals on a regular basis and he caused havoc in the false nine position at the Amex Stadium. There was a hint of good fortune about the finishes for his goals, but there was no doubt he deserved them.

Brighton rallied after a one-sided first half but they never got to grips with the diminutive figure in the No 47 shirt. Foden popped up just about everywhere in the final third, his movement outstanding, but the damage was done in Brighton’s box.

There, he had more touches (11) than he has had in any other game this season. His total of eight shots was the highest he has managed in a Premier League fixture. The only frustration, if there even was one, was that he could not add a hat-trick goal.

Perhaps he could have done better with one or two of his missed chances but in truth, it is difficult to find fault in a performance which married technical brilliance with extraordinary off-the-ball energy.

The pass to set up Riyad Mahrez’s fourth goal was one of 32 to find a team-mate, while only two did not. According to Premier League tracking data, he ran nearly 13km, second only to Bernardo Silva, and registered 23 sprints, second only to Kyle Walker.

It was a complete performance, and one which makes you wonder why Pep Guardiola bothered pursuing Harry Kane at all. In Phil Foden, a floating false nine blossoming into a player of brutal efficiency, he has everything he could possibly wish for.
Nick Wright

Why are Crystal Palace drawing so many games?

Emil Krafth (left) and Odsonne Edouard battle for the ball
Emil Krafth (left) and Odsonne Edouard battle for the ball

After four draws in a row, some Crystal Palace fans might be scratching their heads as to why. There has been a marked improvement under Patrick Vieira, that is clear to see, but the Eagles are four points and four places worse off than after nine Premier League games last season.

In the last few games, they have led against Brighton, Arsenal and Newcastle, but gone on to draw. It was a different story against Leicester, where they battled back for a point, but there are a few factors that have seen them unable to see out a victory.

Against Newcastle, missed chances was a big issue. Christian Benteke should have scored at least four goals – one he did score while another was ruled out by VAR. But he fired wide from close range and hit the bar in the first half with efforts that any striker must be burying.

Crystal Palace had 75 per cent possession and 14 shots against Newcastle, yet could only draw. It will be a conundrum for Patrick Vieira given the attacking talent he has at his disposal.

There is then another area for him to tackle – conceding from set-pieces. Callum Wilson’s stunning goal came from a corner. Against Liverpool, all three goals Crystal Palace conceded were from set-pieces. Arsenal’s goals both came from second phases and their first goal conceded of the season was a Marcos Alonso free-kick.

When asked about the issue in his post-match press conference, Vieira said: “It’s not a concern. We have to work on a lot of aspects of the game because we don’t win enough games.

“But on the other side, when you look at how we defended set-pieces today, I think it was much better than previously. The goal we conceded was fantastic so I can’t be frustrated with it.”

While Vieira has made Crystal Palace hard to beat, he now needs to find the winning formula to start racking up the three points their performances have deserved.
Charlotte Marsh

What a difference a week makes

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Watford’s win against Everton

Seven days after a rather pitiful re-entry back to Premier League football for Claudio Ranieri, his Watford side are sticking five goals past an Everton side who had, up to that point, looked a more solid team under Rafa Benitez. The Premier League strikes again.

This may look like a freakish game on paper, but it’s one that should concern Everton fans deeply. It was as much about their calamitous defending as it was about Watford’s clinical finishing.

Everton were dangerous in the opening stages, but happy to give up the ball to Watford, who were on 70 per cent possession inside the first 10 minutes. That the game ended on 50-50 possession said it all – from thereon Watford were less concerned with keeping possession, the hosts had little clinical edge in the middle hour of the game, and Watford destroyed them on the counter attack. They could have easily scored eight.

To boot, Everton’s zonal marking at set-pieces was poor, and they were twice punished for measily clearances, handing big chances to Watford on a plate.

Ranieri called it crazy, Benitez could not explain it, and though Josh King revealed he woke up on Saturday morning with a feeling he would score, a hat-trick was astonishing.

Watford will not have a better half this season, and Everton will not have a worse half this season.
Gerard Brand

Do Burnley have positives to take?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Southampton’s draw with Burnley

Coming back from behind to earn a point away from home is never a bad result. You wonder, though, if the individual brilliance of Maxwel Cornet is enough to convince Burnley that the tide is turning.

An outwardly optimistic Sean Dyche said he was “pleased with the performance level” of his side in their 2-2 draw at Southampton. But moments before Cornet’s brilliant 57th-minute equaliser to earn them that point, he was about to make his first change of the game because Burnley were getting overrun.

The Ivory Coast international’s goalscoring instincts and a couple of good moments papered over some real cracks in a Burnley performance not befitting the Dyche playbook. Yes, the Clarets have been here plenty of times before. Perhaps the question should be – is this just another slow start?

But when you see James Tarkowski trying Cruyff turns in his own half and then passing straight to Ibrahima Diallo to set up a goal, your first thought is to what Dyche, a man who has built his side around stoic defending, would think of that.

Every year, Burnley are condemned by predicted tables up and down the land. Every year, they confound the critics to stay up – even if they were fortunate last season that the bottom three were so bad their 11-point cushion over the relegation zone did not tell the full story. On limited investment, can they keep doing it?

It’s still early days. There’s plenty of time for Dyche’s team to go on another barnstorming run to confound the doomsayers. But even in earning a point on the road, there is plenty to be concerned about for the winless Clarets.
Ron Walker

Sky’s the limit for Arsenal’s Smith Rowe

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win over Aston Villa

“I think he’s a breath of fresh air,” said Gary Neville as he waxed lyrical about Emile Smith Rowe’s influence on Arsenal. It’s the kind of description you would often reserve for a seasoned professional lifting a squad rather than a 21-year-old academy graduate.

Smith Rowe is no normal academy graduate. There can be a certain fearlessness of youth when young players are given a chance to shine, but the influence he had, alongside Bukayo Saka, in rejuvenating a toiling Arsenal last season took more than just being fresh. His talent does the talking for itself, and his man-of-the-match performance against Aston Villa on Friday night merely added the cherry of a goal on top.

“He is as good as anyone in this league when he is running with the ball,” said Jamie Carragher during commentary, a claim he later admitted he had to mentally double-check before re-affirming just how good the Arsenal midfielder is.

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Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher heap praise on Emile Smith-Rowe following his excellent performance in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa

His display typified Arsenal, who were not too far from their best, against a hard-working but shambolically organised Aston Villa. He glided around the pitch like a Russian dancer, and made Thomas Partey’s opener with an excellent corner before scoring himself with a touch of luck – which he could argue he earned – from Tyrone Mings’ deflection.

This Arsenal side have looked uninspired in attack at times this season and before Friday’s win were on their worst goalscoring start to a season, with seven scored in eight games, since the 1986/87 season.

Performances like that will leave those statistics a distant memory, and Smith Rowe will be integral to making it happen. Carragher revealed he had spoken to the midfielder ahead of kick-off and said he needed to score more goals, and with four goals from 26 Premier League starts, it’s a fair criticism.

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Arsenal’s first-team players are doing their bit to promote local businesses and one in particular is hoping to be a cut above the rest..

But there is little doubt the drive and hunger of a player already known for his humbleness will make it happen, as he certainly has the ability.

Mikel Arteta put it well. “When you want to take your game to the next level, you can’t give percentages away that could make a big difference,” he said. “He’s done that so credit to him and his people. It will mean him only getting better.” Arsenal will have some prospect on their hands when he does.
Ron Walker

Villa’s identity blurred without the basics

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Dean Smith says his Aston Villa team got dominated in the first half as they lost 3-1 at Arsenal on Friday

While Arsenal delivered arguably their best performance under Mikel Arteta, the flipside was this was a ponderous Aston Villa side that was blown away in the opening half at Emirates Stadium.

Dean Smith admitted his side were “barely recognisable” in the first period as Villa failed to register a single shot and had just three touches inside the opposition box. A tactical reshuffle was obvious at half-time but the late concession of a penalty exacerbated the damage that needed addressing.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Smith admitted after a third consecutive Premier League defeat – the first such run his side have been on since July 2020. “We didn’t compete, and at this level you get found out.

Aston Villa have suffered indifferent results

“We can talk about tactics, we can talk about systems and styles of play, but unless you do the basics then it’s going to be a struggle.”

Smith belatedly changed his system at the break, moving away from three at the back, yet it was a change in attitude that resulted in a much-improved second-half display that will at least provide some crumbs of comfort.

Jacob Ramsey’s first goal for the club sullied Arsenal’s clean sheet, but the Villa head coach will look to address areas of weakness in the coming days; his side have conceded 11 goals in their five away games in the Premier League this season, the most in the top flight.

Aston Villa

Indeed, the Midlanders have lost six of their last nine away league matches, as many as in their previous 19 on the road, but it is not just a bout of travel sickness that appears to currently be sweeping around Villa.

Thomas Partey’s opener came from a corner, adding to the three goals conceded from set-pieces last weekend in the painful home loss to Wolves.

Austin MacPhee was praised for his impact as the club’s new set-piece coach earlier this season following a spate of goals scored through carefully constructed dead-ball situations, but he will want to address a worrying trend at the other end of the pitch.

Smith insists his side’s identity remains clear, but hopes of replicating the successes of the last campaign are being undermined by Villa’s inability to get the basics in order.
Ben Grounds

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