Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Saliba is the real deal
It’s been impossible not to have been impressed with William Saliba’s start in the Premier League, with the defender having underlined the change in Arsenal this season.
After three consecutive loan spells the centre-back has been given a chance and has enjoyed a near-immaculate start to the campaign for the Gunners.
Last season Mikel Arteta’s team fluctuated in performances, undoing their best work with poor results in which their character was questioned. The opening weekend loss at Brentford best summarised that fragility, but on their return to west London this season Arsenal made light work of the Bees.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank is in William Saliba’s increasing fan club 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/VhDOtixuCG
— The Football Faithful (@FootyFaithfuI) September 19, 2022
Saliba was central to that success as the Gunners breezed to a 3-0 win, dealing with the threat of Ivan Toney without as much as a sweat broken. The 21-year-old opened the scoring with a fine header and Thomas Frank was gushing in his praise for Saliba post-match, with the Bees boss outlining his belief that the centre-back will soon become a key figure for club and country.
There’s an air of Virgil van Dijk in how Saliba deals with opponents with an effortless grace and while still early into his English football career, the signs so far are that the Frenchman is the real deal.
De Bruyne and Haaland chasing records
Manchester City’s machine cruised to a 3-0 win at Wolves, brushing aside Bruno Lage’s toothless team to take all three points at Molineux.
Erling Haaland scored his customary goal to make it 11 in just seven league games, the question marks over how he would adapt to both City and the Premier League gone and replaced with pondering over which records are safe.
Erling Haaland has scored or assisted in every single Premier League game he's played:
⚽️⚽️ vs. West Ham
🅰️ vs. Bournemouth
⚽️ vs. Newcastle
⚽️⚽️⚽️ vs. Crystal Palace
⚽️⚽️⚽️ vs. Nottingham Forest
⚽️ vs. Aston Villa
⚽️ vs. Wolves
It's ridiculous. 🤖 pic.twitter.com/JHZ8uDVD03
— Squawka (@Squawka) September 17, 2022
The Norwegian is already a third of the way to breaking Mohamed Salah’s single season Premier League record (32), while the 44-goal all competition record held by the Egyptian and Ruud van Nistelrooy is also in his sights.
If Haaland can maintain anywhere close to his current form across a full season, both will surely fall. The 22-year-old is not the only player who will be eyeing up individual records however, with Kevin De Bruyne sure to have hopes of breaking the Premier League’s assist landmark.
He has six from six starts so far, with the current record for a single season 20. De Bruyne shares that record with Thierry Henry, but will no doubt take pride in claiming it outright this time around.
De Bruyne levelled Steven Gerrard’s record of 92 Premier League assists on Saturday, achieving the mark in a staggering 288 games less than the former Liverpool captain. David Silva (93) and Dennis Bergkamp (94) are next up on the all-time chart as he closes in on the top five.
Son silences critics
Much of the pre-game talk surrounding Spurs centred on Son Heung-min, who entered this weekend’s clash with Leicester without a goal in eight games.
Whether punished for his poor form or taken out of the firing line for a rest, the South Korean started on the bench against the Foxes.
He was introduced just before the hour and proceeded to prove a point in spectacular fashion, scoring a stunning hat-trick to become just the Premier League’s seventh treble scorer off the bench.
What a photo 💙 pic.twitter.com/ixjiq5Muwk
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 18, 2022
Son’s hat-trick came in less than 14 minutes, as he silenced his critics with a performance of world-class efficiency.
Leicester had been the better team during the opening exchanges, but were punished in ruthless fashion during the second period with Son in superb form. His first two goals were things of beauty, trademark finishes which appeared destined for the goal as soon as they were struck.
What’s going wrong at West Ham?
West Ham’s momentum has stalled and there are some alarm bells at the London Stadium after just one win in seven. The Hammers are in the Premier League’s bottom three after their stuttering start, while it’s just nine points from their last 13 games dating back to last season.
After successive finishes in the European places and a summer spend topped by only Chelsea and Manchester United, much more was expected from a team with all the tools to challenge once again.
West Ham go into the international break in the bottom three after their joint worst start to a Premier League season! 😳 pic.twitter.com/j5ABs5dLJn
— 90min (@90min_Football) September 18, 2022
Jarrod Bowen has looked a shadow of the player who shone last season, while Moyes has persisted with Michail Antonio as his centre-forward despite a return of three goals in his last 23 league appearances.
Gianlucca Scamacca – who has three goals in four Europa Conference League games – must surely earn an extended run in the side, while Moyes must find a system that can utilise fellow summer arrivals Maxwel Cornet and Lucas Paqueta.
Wilson return can turn tide at Newcastle
Newcastle are a hard team to assess following a start to the season dominated by draws. The Magpies have won one, drawn five and lost just one of their seven Premier League fixtures to date.
Those draws must be turned into wins if Eddie Howe’s team are to challenge for Europe this season, with the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth at the weekend a setback among increased ambitions.
Newcastle lacked creative spark and cutting edge in the absence of Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson, though the latter is expected to return after the international break. Wilson’s return can help improve Newcastle in the final third, with the Magpies having failed to bring the best from Alexander Isak to date.
The draw with Bournemouth saw Newcastle repeatedly fire crosses into the penalty area, but Isak – despite his frame – is not a forward renown for his aerial prowess. Wilson’s presence as an out-and-out number nine could allow Isak to drift into wide channels, simultaneously aiding Newcastle’s issues with both making and taking clear-cut chances.
Newcastle face Fulham, Brentford and Everton in their next four games and the prospect of the two in tandem will be one welcomed on Tyneside.
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