Big spenders Chelsea are in a real fight for the top four, Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott show the future of Liverpool’s midfield, and struggling Son Heung-min needs a rest… 10 THINGS WE LEARNED from midweek Premier League action
- It was another exciting and intriguing midweek round of Premier League action
- Erling Haaland bagged his second hat-trick in as many games for Man City
- Chelsea took a tumble at Southampton as they try to play their way into form
- It is time for Antonio Conte to take Son Heung-min out of Spurs’ firing line
- Manchester United’s revival continues but they face leaders Arsenal next
Thick and fast. The games just keep coming and if you’re Manchester City, so do the goals.
Two at West Ham, then four against Bournemouth, then three at Newcastle, add four more in the comeback against Crystal Palace and now six of the best against Nottingham Forest.
Goals are not as easy to come by for others though – we’re looking at you Chelsea and Wolves.
Manchester City thrashed newly-promoted Nottingham Forest 6-0 on Wednesday evening
Meanwhile, Liverpool beat Newcastle 2-1 as Fabio Carvalho netted a 98th-minute winner
Thomas Tuchel’s Blues fell to a shock defeat at Southampton while Wolves’ anemic attack continued to show few green shoots of life in a stalemate at Bournemouth.
As for Liverpool, who can ever count them out from a late winner when they have Anfield to roar them on? Newcastle learned the hard way the power of that home crowd on Wednesday.
Here, Sportsmail dissects the key talking points from another gripping round of action in the Premier League.
Erling Haaland is a massive problem (for everyone else)
Never mind Houston, the Premier League has a problem in the form of a 6ft 5in Norwegian.
Jokes aside, what Erling Haaland has done in his short Manchester City career to date is a worrying omen for the remainder of the campaign if you’re anyone other than Pep Guardiola.
Hat-tricks in his last two games, Haaland became the first player in the Premier League era to score nine goals in his first five games.
Andy Cole and Alan Shearer’s record high of 34 goals in a season looks well within his reach now. You wouldn’t fancy betting against him.
Erling Haaland has scored nine goals in his first five Premier League matches – a new record
Manchester City have had great strikers in the past – looking at you Sergio Aguero – but Haaland’s instinctiveness and sheer quality mean he has everything in his armory to become a legend at the Etihad Stadium.
‘Sergio is the legend. Nobody can break the position in the hearts of City fans, scoring the most important goal in the modern history,’ boss Pep Guardiola said after the 6-0 win over Nottingham Forest.
‘Erling has the quality to be there. It’s not about him or Sergio. What Sergio has done is amazing. But Erling has this talent.
‘When City bought Erling, everybody talked about what he has done in the past. What we wanted to do is help him. Hopefully he can enjoy and score more goals. What he has done in Norway, Austria and Germany he tries to do here. He’s talented, we knew it.’
The beauty of Haaland is that he doesn’t need a whole host of touches. He trusts in his movement and in his concentration so that when chances do appear, he finishes. How to stop him? Nobody seems to know, quite yet.
The Norwegian bagged his second successive hat-trick as City brushed aside Forest
Chelsea facing real fight for top four spot
Manchester City look like champions in waiting, Arsenal have made a 100 per cent winning start and Tottenham look in really good nick after a promising summer full of signings… but Chelsea? Things are yet to click into place.
Defeat to Southampton is just one game, sure, but even boss Thomas Tuchel noticed trends that he had seen in the defeat up at Leeds previously.
Chelsea have become too easy to play against – and that’s a massive problem.
‘We are humble enough to accept we can lose football matches. We hate it,’ the German said.
‘But it is too easy to push us off the track, it is too easy to win challenges, it is too easy to bully us.’
Thomas Tuchel faces a battle to earn a top four spot at Chelsea despite heavy investment
The issue Tuchel has is that he cannot point to a lack of investment from above this summer. They have spent an enormous amount – over £270m – on Kalidou Koulibaly, Raheem Sterling, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and others, and so Tuchel will be under real pressure is results continue to slide.
Collapsing 3-0 at Leeds and then throwing away a lead to go down 2-1 at Southampton on Tuesday night won’t cut it.
If the top four is on the agenda in west London, Tuchel needs a formula that works – and fast.
Martinelli is Arsenal’s difference maker
For all the praise being heaped on Gabriel Jesus – and much of it is warranted – it is Gabriel Martinelli who is arguably the biggest difference maker in Arsenal’s side.
His winner against Aston Villa on Wednesday night made it three goals in five games for him and in Martinelli the Gunners have one of the most direct and positive wide players in the division.
Much was made about Arsenal uncovering a ‘diamond’ in the rough having plucked him from the Brazilian fourth division as a teenager and transforming him into one of the most potent attackers in the Premier League.
The best part about Martinelli’s game is that he is constantly improving.
In 2019-20 he managed three league goals. In 2020-21 he managed two. In 2021-22 he managed six. And he has three already this season. The target, and it is an achievable one, is to see the Brazilian reach double figures for goals and assists as the primary option off the left.
Mikel Arteta praised Arsenal’s matchwinner Gabriel Martinelli after victory over Aston Villa
‘The goal of Gabi Martinelli is a really difficult technique,’ boss Mikel Arteta said on Wednesday after a 2-1 win over Villa.
‘The height of the ball, the angle he’s getting, the way he’s approaching the ball, he still managed to hit the target and that always gives you a chance.’
One of the most obvious notes this season is that Martinelli has a natural chemistry playing with and alongside compatriot Jesus.
There appears an almost telepathic link-up and it is no surprise to see many of their attacks building down the left.
‘He’s phenomenal, in and out of the pitch he’s very humble and hardworking,’ Martinelli said of Jesus. ‘Not only me but all the other boys, even the older players were surprised and are mirroring the hard work.’
Jesus has been a game-changer but it is Martinelli that has the magic in his boots.
Elliott and Carvalho show why Klopp is staying patient
Arthur Melo on loan represents another body to help Liverpool contend with mounting injuries in midfield but Klopp would be wise to lean more on Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho.
It was Elliott who, at the final whistle of a breathtaking game against Newcastle in which they won 2-1, raced over to celebrate with Carvalho, the matchwinner in the 98th minute.
Elliott was one of the most impressive players on the pitch against Newcastle for large spells and in Carvalho, Liverpool have quietly picked up one of the hottest young prospects in the country.
Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho add a youthful edge to Liverpool’s struggling midfield
The biggest compliment that can be paid to both is their level of maturity and also their awareness when under pressure.
Jordan Henderson picking up an injury triggered a deadline day move for Arthur but if Klopp is refusing to panic it is because he has quality youngsters like Elliott and Carvalho to call upon.
Carvalho has been introduced off the bench in all five matches this season and his influence is growing by the game.
Arthur showed at Juventus he is far from Mr Reliable when it comes to form and fitness and so midfield woes? The long-term answer is much closer to home.
Sasa Kalajdzic MUST hit the ground running for Wolves
There isn’t a team in the league that has scored fewer goals than Wolves this season.
Fans are disgruntled with life under Bruno Lage but, on the face of it, they have a lot of players that can win a lot of matches.
Pedro Neto and Goncalo Guedes are successes in wide areas while Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves and club record signing Matheus Nunes look a brilliantly technical midfield trio.
Take the goalkeeper, Jose Sa, too. He’s considered among the finest in the division.
But they worryingly lack goals and was clear in a stalemate at Bournemouth, who were still licking their wounds from the 9-0 loss to Liverpool and the axing of boss Scott Parker.
Wolves had 17 shots and Bournemouth still left with a clean sheet.
Wolves are in dire need of goals and will be desperate for new arrival Sasa Kalajdzic to hit form
Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that new signing Sasa Kalajdzic hits the ground running.
A replacement for Raul Jimenez or a partner to play alongside him, Wolves need to cure their goals problem and will hope the shiny new arrival has the answers to their many, many questions.
‘I’m two metres tall, but also not bad with my feet. I’m just hungry to score goals,’ he said.
‘I want to play good football and score many goals. I want to play attractive football. I’m a team player, I want to help the team, that’s the most important thing in the end. When the team is looking good, I’m looking good as well. This is my aim for the upcoming matches.’
For Wolves’ sake, they’ll hope his hunger for goals doesn’t go on for long.
Andreas Pereira proves a steal for Fulham
Rid of the shadow of failing to make it at Manchester United, say it quietly but Andreas Pereira has emerged as one of the signings of the summer.
Some will scoff at that, naturally, but his £10m signing from United is brilliant business for Fulham.
The 26-year-old looks refreshed and totally different to the player who spent the previous two season on loan with Lazio, where he struggled for opportunities to play, and Flamengo in Brazil.
In a free role behind striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Brazilian is thriving and is proving a threat from both open play and on set pieces.
‘He is a player I wanted to get because he’s a player I knew really well,’ boss Marco Silva told Sky recently. ‘I know his qualities on the ball, off the ball, set pieces, everything.
Fulham signing Andreas Pereira for £10million is one of the best bits of business this summer
‘He’s a really good player and he was really hungry to have this type of challenge as well, at a club that trusts him and with people around him who trust him and want to get the best from him.
‘I think he is a player who has something to prove but has the quality to do it. For me, it is so important when a player has the quality for me to get the best from them.’
Two assists in his opening five games is a solid start but Pereira needs watching to really appreciate the quality he is injecting into this Fulham team.
He looks a master technician, cool and calm on the ball and he has the final pass and delivery to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Mitrovic mania is sweeping the Cottage but don’t sleep on Pereira.
Time to take Son out of the firing line
First point of order: Son Heung-min is a fabulous footballer, one of the best in the Premier League.
And yet things aren’t clicking at the start of this season as they were at the end of last one.
There was a moment away at West Ham where he headed on a lofted ball in a bid to set himself clear one v one, only to get it wrong and the chance was swallowed up. It summed up his bad breaks at the moment.
Son’s quality mean he is always a threat and were it not for Thilo Kehrer putting into his own net he would have had a tap-in for 1-0 on Wednesday.
But with so many games on the horizon it is time for Antonio Conte to take Son out of the firing line for a game, hand a start to Richarlison and let the South Korean hit the reset button.
Once Son gets that first goal to get him going, the rest of the league will be on red alert. But in a week when their Champions League campaign will get underway, now is the time to shuffle the deck.
Son Heung-Min is one of the Premier League’s best players but has struggled so far this term
Things will get worse for Villa before they get better… and that’s bad news for Gerrard
It just had to be Manchester City next up for Aston Villa. Sometimes you just cannot catch a break.
And so it looks like things are going to get worse – potentially a lot worse if Haaland feasts – before they get better.
The question externally will be how much longer has Steven Gerrard got? Heck, even he accepted after defeat at Arsenal that he’s growing worried.
When asked if he had any concerns over his future, Gerrard said in his post-match press conference: ‘Of course I do.
‘I am being honest and critical of myself. I will do my job the best I can do. I will step forward and take responsibility as best I can.
Aston Villa have lost their last three matches and face champions Manchester City next
‘But if I stood here and said I wasn’t concerned you’d look at me as if I was from a different planet.’
Villa just look too easy to play through, which wasn’t what they were expected to become with such a legendary midfielder in Gerrard now in their dugout.
John McGinn has lots of quality but Villa have chopped and changed defensively and at Arsenal they often looked far too narrow to cause any real danger.
Leicester City, Southampton, Leeds and Nottingham Forest are the four games that follow the Man City meeting. That run, even at this early stage, could well be season defining.
Man United are firmly back on track… but big tests are to come
The humiliating 4-0 defeat away at Brentford seems like a long time ago now for Manchester United fans, as they watched their team’s revival continue with a 1-0 win over Leicester on Thursday.
It is now three consecutive victories for Erik ten Hag’s side – their best run of league form since December last year – and they are up to fifth in the table.
Victory against Leicester was not especially stylish and they actually had less of the possession, but they worked tirelessly and were impressively efficient – exactly the sort of qualities that many have been crying out for them to show.
Jadon Sancho was the matchwinner and the winger’s form has been particularly exciting after a difficult first season in the Premier League. He has scored two goals in his last three league games, as many as he had in his previous 21.
Jadon Sancho has found form at Manchester United and Erik ten Hag’s side look on the up
‘Jadon has the capabilities,’ Ten Hag said last night. ‘He did it in a different league but this is the Premier League. He has to adapt mentally and physically, but he has the skills.’
But perhaps the true test of how much United have turned a corner will come this weekend as they host Arsenal – the only side in the Premier League left with a perfect record after five games.
Then they face Real Sociedad in the Europa League as the fixtures begin to pile up. United now have a midweek game every week up until the World Cup. Can they keep up this consistency?
Leicester are sleepwalking towards relegation
While United were celebrating at the King Power Stadium on Thursday, the hosts’ worries were mounting.
Leicester remain bottom of the Premier League with just one point from five games, which they picked up on the opening day against Brentford.
‘This isn’t the club that it was a couple of years ago,’ Brendan Rodgers sighed after their fourth successive defeat.
It’s hard to disagree. It was only last year that the Foxes won the FA Cup and finished a point off the top four, but they are now a shadow of that team.
Leicester’s problems in the transfer market this summer have been well-documented as they lost key men Kasper Schmeichel and Wesley Fofana. Goalkeeper Alex Smithies was signed on a free and the club only spent money for the first time on deadline day as Belgian centre-back Wout Faes arrived for £15million.
Leicester City remain bottom of the Premier League with just one point from five games
Jamie Vardy, now 35, can no longer scare defences as he used to, while James Maddison and Youri Tielemans continue to be linked with the exit door.
There were boos at full-time on Thursday and Rodgers had no complaints: ‘I understand the fans’ frustration. They see all their rivals getting players in and we’re not getting any.
‘With the greatest respect, we have not had the help in the market this team needed. To watch clubs in the top five leagues add players and we haven’t been able to do that has been difficult. We needed help and we haven’t been able to do that.’
The former Liverpool boss must rediscover that Foxes spark or one of two things will happen – he gets the sack or Leicester go down. Perhaps both.
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