Confident Arsenal have the belief to shrug off setbacks
Arsenal have been pegged back by Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa in their last three home games. Each time they’ve responded to win. Previously they had to come from behind against Fulham at the Emirates, while in their first game here this season, Leicester twice threatened to get back into the match and were twice put back in their place.
For all the brilliant attacking play of this Arsenal team, it is their resolve which stands out. Their opening-minute goal against Liverpool was stunning but their second on the stroke of half-time, after Liverpool had claimed control of the contest, was crucial. They didn’t allow Roberto Firmino’s goal early in the second half to derail the momentum they’d found.
Arteta talked up the spirit and atmosphere generated by the Arsenal supporters. “I’ve never seen it like this,” he said afterwards. “You can not imagine how much it helps the players.” There is certainly a different feeling around the ground this year.
There’s belief at Arsenal. Whatever the setback they have the confidence they’ll come back. It’s taken them to the top of the Premier League table – and could take them a long way this season.
Are Liverpool out of title race already?
“We’re not in the title race.” Few would argue with Jurgen Klopp’s assessment after Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at Arsenal left Liverpool 14 points off the leaders, and 13 adrift of champions Manchester City, just eight games into the season.
The devil is, of course, in the detail, and Klopp’s carefully-phrased post-match analysis left the door open to the prospect of Liverpool rising out of this early-season slump and back into contention at a later date.
Question is: if Liverpool are not in the title race at present, is there anything to suggest they can force themselves back into the picture? Their setback at the Emirates would suggest not.
Klopp has tinkered with his team in a bid to increase Liverpool’s defensive surety and yet it took all of 58 seconds for Gabriel Martinelli to open the scoring – the 10th time the Reds have conceded first in their last 12 Premier League games.
Liverpool have not turned into a bad side overnight, and there were glimpses of the swashbuckling team of old, notably how they twice hauled themselves back on level terms, but in the championship rounds of Sunday’s absorbing contest they were found wanting, with their famous high-press, high-octane style of football noticeably absent when the time came to mount a late onslaught.
With their defeat compounded by injuries to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Luis Diaz, the time needed to regroup may come too late to salvage their fading title chances, which will surely be extinguished once and for all if Manchester City leave Anfield with a victory next Sunday.
Casemiro’s eventful debut shows his value
Casemiro has had to wait for his first Premier League start. He first came off the bench in August but after four substitute appearances, here he was in the starting line-up. He helped make the difference in the end but only after some difficult moments at Everton.
Bundled off the ball in the build-up to Alex Iwobi’s opening goal, he also surrendered possession before what turned out to be Manchester United’s winner. Fortunately, he quickly retrieved it before measuring his pass through for Cristiano Ronaldo to score.
The Brazilian has produced more convincing performances in his long and distinguished career but this was as an important one for his new manager Erik ten Hag because it hinted at the greater stability that he might provide when he is fully up to speed.
Casemiro made four tackles in the game at Goodison Park – twice as many as anyone else on the pitch. That ability to provide a defensive screen ahead of the defence will be crucial if Ten Hag is to succeed. Passes such as the one for Ronaldo’s winner? They will help too.
Everton receive reality check
Everton entered the tie boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League but were undone all too easily by a familiar foe, with Goodison Park shrouded in misplaced hope. They conceded as many goals against Man United as they had done in their first four home games combined. Dreams of a third clean sheet of the campaign dashed by high-flying Antony after only 15 minutes.
History will tell you that Everton regularly struggle against their northwest rivals. They’ve conceded a total of 51 times in top-flight competition against United at home – the first opponent they have shipped 50+ goals against at Goodison.
It was a reality check. Progress has been made under Frank Lampard, no doubt about that, but Everton are by no means the finished article. Their display against Erik ten Hag’s side can be characterised by two issues: high possession turnover and a lack of potency in attack.
They lost the ball carelessly, in dangerous areas, twice leading to goals. Mistakes that cost points. While the Man United goalmouth enjoyed a relatively pressure-free evening, bar a wonder strike from Alex Iwobi that caught David de Gea unsighted.
“We have been moving in the right direction and we just get checked,” Lampard conceded after full-time. The hosts retreated deep too cheaply, and too often, gifting United free territory. They were tentative and frightened to press. “The tactical application of the team I wasn’t in love with,” their manager summarised.
In truth, there wasn’t a lot to love about the display, bar the late reintroduction of Dominic Calvert-Lewin – back from injury. That should apprehend some of Everton’s attacking woe, but won’t solve every problem. Much more is needed from Anthony Gordon, Demarai Gray and Neal Maupay to ensure early-season promise doesn’t peter into a mid-season slump.
Leeds’ youngsters must grow up
Leeds managed to be drawing a match at half-time that looked to be heading only one way – and then ended up losing it, not for the first time.
Jesse Marsch’s side dominated at Selhurst Park in the first half yet managed to concede from Crystal Palace’s only attempt on target. Their inability to be ahead at the break having not made more of their pressure ultimately cost them three points.
Since the start of last season, only Leicester (23) have dropped more points from winning positions than Leeds (15) away from home in the Premier League. Marsch may have a talented young squad but they need to learn fast how to manage games better and become more street-wise.
“When you play teams in this league, they’re so clever and the players are very experienced, they know what the games require,” he said, alluding to Leeds’ slack in-game management.
When Palace started to play more direct in the second half to bypass the visitors’ press, Leeds did not come up with any answers. Their substitutes made no impact in stopping Palace from grabbing the inevitable winner. It’s time for Leeds to grow up.
Eze getting back to best after positional switch
Eberechi Eze made his return from the nasty Achilles injury he suffered in May 2021 last November but it has taken until the start of this season for the 24-year-old to finally return to something approaching his best form.
It’s hard to blame Eze for that, given the seriousness of the injury he suffered and the fact that, when he returned to fitness, Palace had changed managers and he had a number of new team-mates from which to win back his starting place.
But Patrick Vieira has never seemed to doubt the talent Eze has at his disposal, with the manager easing him back into the starting XI at the end of last season and then handing him a regular berth this campaign.
Vieira has been rewarded for that patience, with Eze now back to dazzling opponents and fans alike with the skill he so often showed during his debut campaign at Selhurst Park after arriving from QPR.
But Vieira is also being rewarded for a tactical switch, with his decision to deploy Eze – previously used as a winger or No 10 – as part of a midfield three paying dividends.
The move is allowing Eze to use his undoubted technical skill to exert more influence on games, as shown by him ranking second for touches and accurate passes among all players in Palace’s win over Leeds.
Vieira spoke after the game about how Eze has yet more potential to unlock and how the key to doing so is for the former England U21 international to effect games more in the final third.
Eze certainly showed he is capable of doing that against Leeds, with his 16 final-third passes the most among all Palace players and his brilliant goal coming after he ventured towards the opposition area to exchange passes with Zaha.
For so long the attacking burden has often fallen on Zaha but, with Eze finding his feet again and being encouraged to play further forward, the Palace crowd favourite may have a team-mate to help share the load.
West Ham’s new deadly duo clicking
Then it went click. That was the sound emanating from the London Stadium as Gianluca Scamacca and Lucas Paqueta started a partnership that could be about to take the Premier League by storm.
West Ham splashed over £85m for the pair over the summer but David Moyes has been careful not to overload both players as they adapt to their new surroundings and a different type of football. It was a move criticised by some parts of a fanbase that were desperate to see their big-money purchases in action.
However, Moyes – with all his experience – knows the game better than most and this slowly, slowly approach to both players is now delivering rewards.
Scamacca and Paqueta were a class apart in the 3-1 win over Fulham. Moyes unleashed Paqueta in a free role off the striker – a position a player of his silk and savviness is going to enjoy greatly. He floated around the pitch like a man in his element.
Scamacca was the beneficiary of his service but could not take advantage of the supply in the first half, pulling a shot wide after a Paqueta pass down the line and heading an even better chance straight at Bernd Leno – again from some majestic wide play from the Brazilian. Scamacca did not need a third invite to come to the party though and finally he gave Paqueta the assist his play deserved by looping home the contentious winner.
Premier League defences beware.
Fulham pay penalty for ill-discipline
“We had a chat in the managers’ meeting to say you couldn’t put two arms round the player. It was a stonewall penalty, it was more of an American Football challenge,” David Moyes said afterwards.
For Fulham’s Andreas Pereira, the message wasn’t clear enough. Not from his manager in the summer, and certainly still not after three separate conversations with referee Chris Kavanagh as West Ham were handed a route back following a groggy start.
Pereira was booked, and so too was Marco Silva following Scamacca’s controversial winner. In fear of being fined, Silva refused to speak on the game’s major incidents but his team could ultimately have few complaints.
Up until Jarrod Bowen’s equaliser, Fulham had been the better side – as Silva pointed out – but they offered very little after Dan James had struck the crossbar quarter of an hour in.
The question mark hanging over his players before kick-off was to what degree Aleksandar Mitrovic would be missed but their encouraging start evaporated to leave that topic still lingering.
With Bournemouth and Aston Villa next at Craven Cottage, it is precisely this run of fixtures where the club’s talisman is needed to make the difference.
Fulham remain winless in their last 16 London derbies in the Premier League away from home, losing all three this season and only collecting three draws in that run. The Serbian’s return cannot come soon enough.