Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
London rivalry reignited
Chelsea and Tottenham have had some fierce encounters in recent seasons, with the latest capital clash between the sides exploding during the second half.
An entertaining game ended 2-2 at Stamford Bridge, but it was the off-field actions which dominated the headlines as Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte clashed.
Conte celebrated wildly in front of Tuchel following Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s first equaliser, before Tuchel channelled his inner-Jose Mourinho with a touchline sprint past Conte after Chelsea regained the lead.
TUCHEL VS CONTE: ROUND TWO!!! 🤬🤬 pic.twitter.com/XhWuOU4fwD
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 14, 2022
The rival coaches went head-to-head once again at full-time following an aggressive handshake, the touch paper having been well and truly lit in London. Add in a stunning goal from Kalidou Koulibaly, stoppage-time equaliser from Harry Kane and anger from Chelsea over refereeing decisions, this was a capital classic that could set the tone for the season.
With Arsenal also on the march, is this perhaps the most even that London’s big three clubs have been in the Premier League era?
Martinez’s height exposed?
Thomas Frank was open in his admission that Brentford targeted Lisandro Martinez this weekend. The defender arrived from Ajax this summer with a fine reputation, but his lack of stature has already led to doubts over his suitability to the Premier League.
Having seen a direct approach cause problems for Manchester United last weekend, the Bees chose to follow the Brighton blueprint this weekend with spectacular results.
Brentford’s high-pressing and directness blew United apart in the opening exchanges, while a number of set-piece deliveries caused panic inside the Red Devils’ area. The lack of height in the visitor’s backline, coupled with David de Gea’s reluctance to come for high crosses, led to a battering which will take some recovering from.
🗣 “We knew more likely that we would either win it or have the second ball around it.”
Thomas Frank on being asked if his side targeted the 5’9 central defender Lisandro Martínez during their 4-0 win over Manchester United. pic.twitter.com/ILdF9V0HSk
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 13, 2022
Ivan Toney won five aerial duels and continually pulled onto Martinez, who in the early stages of his Premier League career looks unsuited to a back four. Brentford abandoned their usual plan of playing out from the back to send direct balls towards the diminutive defender. Martinez competed and won some duels, but the third goal saw him overpowered as Ben Mee nodded in from close range.
At half-time Erik ten Hag had seen enough. Martinez was hooked at break and the doubts are louder than ever. It’s too soon to make a judgement on the 24-year-old, but having been signed as a £57m upgrade at the back, he has instead become a weakness opposition sides look to exploit.
Liverpool will no doubt be keen to do the same, should Ten Hag leave the centre-back in the firing line.
Everton heading towards relegation dogfight
After a narrow escape from relegation last season, Everton appear to be heading towards another battle at the bottom.
The Toffees are without a point after two fixtures with only goal difference keeping the club outside the Premier League’s bottom three at present. Injuries are already beginning to decimate Frank Lampard’s squad, with Abdoulaye Doucoure joining the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey on the treatment table.
"I thought there was some good and bad in the performance. It was a pretty even game, apart from the transition goals we gave away. The overriding feeling is that we shouldn't have lost the game, especially after three or four chances at the end."#AVLEVE
— Everton (@Everton) August 13, 2022
Calvert-Lewin’s absence and the sale of Richarlison has left Everton without goals and the experiment of using Anthony Gordon as a false nine has failed to work as planned. Amadou Onana’s introduction off the bench at Aston Villa was encouraging, but more additions – and crucially goals – are required if Everton are to survive.
The pressure is on for Lampard to find answers and quickly. With Nottingham Forest (H), Brentford (A) and Leeds (A) next, Everton are already heading towards a defining run of games.
Xhaka sends statement
Granit Xhaka’s career with Arsenal as been a curious case of ups and downs. Whenever it appears he is set to move on, he finds another gear to force his way back into the Gunners plans.
The Switzerland international has been an understated component of Arsenal’s recent improvement and was excellent this weekend as the north Londoners won 4-2 against Leicester at the Emirates.
Xhaka was granted greater freedom in midfield and responded with a goal and assist, while his passing over long-range was pinpoint as he looked to send Arsenal forward.
💬 “It’s always good when you score and it’s always good when you can help the team.” – Granit Xhaka #ARSLEI
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 13, 2022
His intelligence to cover the space vacated by Oleksandr Zinchenko’s attacking runs is also appreciated by Arteta, who has handed Xhaka – stripped of the club captaincy in 2019 under Unai Emery – a leadership role this season.
Arsenal’s squad is in need of an additional midfielder to provide depth and the club have been linked with a move for Youri Tielemans, who was in direct opposition this weekend. Xhaka, however, was keen to prove a point and produced one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt.
Gundogan back to his best?
Ilkay Gundogan has began the new season in fine form, with the midfielder on a mission to regain his role as a crucial figure in the Manchester City side.
Named as the new club captain this week, Gundogan’s contribution is well-respected in the dressing room but he spoke last season on his frustration with a reduced role at the Etihad.
Gundogan made just 20 league starts last season, but after ending the 2021/22 campaign with a dramatic role in City’s title success he has ensured their defence of the Premier League has started without hiccup.
And it's @IlkayGuendogan with his 50th goal for City! 🤩👏#ManCity pic.twitter.com/IAHJwsCaM4
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 13, 2022
Excellent at West Ham last weekend, he maintained his place in the side and opened the scoring in the 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth.
His brilliant off-ball movement led to the opener as he combined with Erling Haaland, making an incisive one-two before exploiting the space in behind. Technically superb in possession and intelligent without it, Gundogan could be set for a huge season as uncertainty surrounds the future of Bernardo Silva.
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