Arsenal Sink United

Arsenal broke their 14 year hoodoo against United by beating the Red Devils at Old Trafford for the first time since 2006. In what was a largely drab 90 minutes in which both sides struggled to create many meaningful chances, the game was ultimately decided by a penalty from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored for the first time in five games. Nonetheless, the end result held in contrast two sides in very different places right now. Arsenal might have stumbled somewhat in recent weeks, but the result proved their ability to grind out resolute victories. United, however, were exposed as a side riddled with inconsistency and lacking any clear direction. Their recent victories against PSG and RB Leipzig in the Champions League have shown what is so promising about this United side, but in the league their form is woeful. Two wins from their first six Premier League games, a run which also included their 6-1 mauling at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, has left them 15th in the table with only Brighton and West Brom between them and the relegation zone. A hurried transfer window saw them bring in real quality in Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani, but with no real plan in place for how to use them. As such, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now left with a bloated squad, no defined tactical plan and comparatively limited experience on how to get out of this sticky situation. 

In Sunday’s later kick-off, Tottenham recorded their first home victory of the season thanks to a Gareth Bale winner — his first goal for the North London side for seven years since he returned in the summer. The game itself was full of controversy from start to finish. Tottenham were able to open the scoring courtesy of a Harry Kane penalty which was awarded after Kane looked to invite the foul from the onrushing Adam Lallana. The Seagulls were back on level terms in the second half, however, as Tariq Lamptey scored his first Premier League, slotting the ball cooly home following a neat Brighton move. But this too was shrouded in debate. Solly March looked to have fouled Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in the build-up to the Brighton goal, leading referee Graham Scott to consult the on-pitch monitor. But despite taking a look at the incident himself, Scott deemed it a fair challenge and Brighton were back on level terms. But it wasn’t for long as Gareth Bale finally scored his first goal for Spurs since his move from Real Madrid, and his stooped header in the 76th minute proved to be the winner, taking Spurs to 2nd in the table. 

There were also consecutive defeats for two of the league’s early high fliers, Aston Villa and Everton. Following last week’s loss to Leeds, Villa put in a far more spirited display in what was a thrilling match against Southampton but were still consigned to defeat. Two sublime free-kicks from James Ward Prowse, bookended by goals from Jannick Vestergaard and Danny Ings left Villa 4-0 down after 60 minutes, but a brave comeback led by Tyrone Mings, Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish put them within touching distance of a historic comeback. But it was not to be, as the 4-3 result saw Southampton leapfrog Villa in the table, with the Saints now sitting in 4th while the Villains will have to make do with 7th. 

Everton were without Jordan Pickford in the goal for the first time in 120 league games as a series of high profile mistakes forced the England number one onto the bench, replaced by on-loan keeper Robin Olson. Everton were also without Richarlison through suspension and James Rodriguez through injury, and their absences told. The Toffees only managed four shots on target the whole game and, as such, were consigned to a 2-1 defeat against a side they would’ve expected to beat comfortably two weeks ago. The result means that their cross-city rivals, Liverpool, were able to overtake them in the table as they sunk to 3rd, three points off top spot. Newcastle, however, rose to 10th, but with Leeds still to play on Monday, this could still yet change. 

Liverpool Equal Anfield Record

Liverpool’s hard-earned victory against West Ham was their 63rd game unbeaten at Anfield, equalling the record set by Bob Paisley’s Reds between 1978 and 1981. The win wasn’t easy to come by, however, as David Moyes’ resurgent Hammers took the lead through Pablo Fornals in the first 10 minutes, the 15th goal Liverpool have conceded this season in only seven games. Nonetheless, a heroic display from Premier League debutant Nathaniel Phillips, who played in place of the injured Virgil van Dijk, kept West Ham at bay and gave them the platform to equalise just before half time. Mohamed Salah was brought down rather easily by Arthur Masuaku in the box, earning his side a penalty which he duly converted for his 8th goal of the season. 

Liverpool were rejuvenated in the second half and eagerly pushed for the winner following the introduction of Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri. The Reds almost had the lead through Jota when he poked a loose ball home following a collision between Sadio Mane, Angelo Ogbonna and Lukas Fabianksi. But the goal was disallowed upon VAR review, as Mane was deemed to have fouled Ogbonna in his attempts to get the ball. Jota didn’t have to wait long for his second chance of grabbing the winner, however. Patient play on the edge of the box from Liverpool saw Shaqiri finally find an opening as his inch-perfect pass followed Jota’s run in behind the West Ham backline, with the Portuguese forward finding the back of the net as emphatically as ever. The win raises Liverpool to the top of the table, but with injury issues mounting in the shape of van Dijk, Fabinho and Thiago, their lead looks fragile at best. 

There were also wins for Chelsea and Manchester City who both came away with impressive away wins. Chelsea have been in inconsistent form to say the least since the arrival of their promising summer signings, but they combined on Saturday afternoon to earn the Blues an emphatic 3-0 win against Burnley. On his league debut, Hakim Ziyech grabbed himself a goal and assisted Timo Werner for another, while Kurt Zouma was on hand to head home his 3rd of the campaign from a Mason Mount corner.

City’s victory was far more efficient by comparison but no less effective. Pep Guardiola’s men ground out a 1-0 victory away to Sheffield United in a game that was decided by Kyle Walker’s long-range effort against his boyhood club. City dominated possession in their usual fashion, with the win lifting them to 8th in the table. United, however, can take some small optimism from the fact that they only let in one goal from a side that had 50% of their 16 shots on target, but both them and Burnley will nonetheless be concerned by the bluntness of their attacks. Both are winless since the start of the season with only three goals to their names so far.

Ronaldo Returns in Style

After testing positive for COVID-19 and missing four matches as a result, Cristiano Ronaldo returned to action for Juventus on Sunday in style. Coming off the bench ten minutes after half time against Spezia, the talismanic frontman found the back of the net with 180 seconds, tucking the ball away from close range. He was on target again 17 minutes later, scoring a stylish panenka penalty that was evidence enough of the confidence and drive he still possesses at 35 years old. His brace was bookended by goals from Alvaro Morata and Adrian Rabiot, earning Juventus a 4-1 win and bringing them up to 3rd in the Serie A table.  

League leaders, AC Milan, had their own veteran striker on form this weekend. Now at the age of 39, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is continuing to prove his worth as one of deadliest forwards in Europe, scoring his 7th goal of the season against Udinese in only 4 appearances. His glorious 88th overhead kick proved to be the winner, continuing Milan’s unbeaten start to the season and securing their position at the top of the table. 

In Spain, there was victory for Real Madrid against Huesca as a first goal for Eden Hazard in over a year helped guide them to a stylish 4-1 win. Their victory took them to the top of the table, but not for long. Real Sociedad have been in glorious form since the signing of David Silva from Manchester City and their fourth consecutive victory, a 4-1 away win against Celta Vigo, was all the evidence needed as to why they find themselves riding so high. Despite only leading Real Madrid by a point, their 18 goals scored compared to Madrid’s 13 shows that this promising side have the potential to cause some serious upsets this year.