Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Week 5 Review: No Mercy at Merseyside; Good Chelsea, Bad Chelsea; Putting the Hammer Down

Top of the Table

Everton In a brutal tussle, Everton defended their top spot by drawing with their crosstown rivals.  Calvert-Lewin continued his scoring binge with his seventh goal of the season as the Toffees twice came back from a goal down to share the points with Liverpool.  James Rodriguez notched another assist on Michael Keane’s first half header.  Newly acquired young defender Ben Godfrey made his Toffees’ debut, substituting in for an injured Seamus Coleman. Everton, in a game marked by physicality, was able to defend its turf as the two rivals fought to a fourth consecutive draw between the two teams at Goodison.

Aston Villa Surprising Villa sits just one point behind Everton and holds a game in hand. A third clean sheet in four matches enabled the Villans to take all three points at Leicester when Ross Barkley blasted a winner in extra time.  The versatility to win a defensive match with a good opponent a week after putting seven goals past Liverpool speaks well of this team.  Goalkeeper Emi Martinez was particularly good again and is but one of several recent shrewd acquisitions by the club.

Liverpool Disappointment in dropping points, following a highly questionable Jordan Henderson goal disallowance, was nothing compared to the concern generated from the likely season long loss of top defender Virgil van Dijk.  Van Dijk was injured on a reckless challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.  Thiago was also injured on an aggressive and red carded challenge by Everton’s Richarlison.  Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also remains sidelined.  More positively, Mohamed Salah’s second half goal was his 100th in the Premier League.

Leicester Leicester suffered a second consecutive loss and was held scoreless for a second consecutive week in their 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa.  It is never much of a party without Jamie Vardy for the Foxes who were without their star striker due to a Thursday training ground injury.  Injuries have been a big factor in dimming what had been a bright start to the season for the Foxes.  The play of recently acquired 19-year-old defender Wesley Fofona was a bright spot versus the Villans.

Arsenal Arsenal dropped its second game of the season with a 1-0 defeat at the Etihad.  The Gunners have now dropped their last seven matches against the Citizens and 2015 was the last time Arsenal defeated a top six team on the road.  There is yet encouragement for the Gunners going forward as supporters should note that the defense is holding up much better than recent seasons.  The addition of Thomas Partey should also greatly improve their link up play to their formidable attacking players. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Wolves round out the current top six, rising in the table after taking all three points from Leeds.  The win at Elland Road was a second consecutive 1-0 victory.  Center backs Max Kilman and Conor Coady were instrumental in shutting down the Leeds attack.  The Wolves are going to need more bite, however, as they are currently tied with West Brom for the fewest goals this season for a team not in the relegation zone.

Tottenham Hotspur Spurs dashed to a three-goal lead after sixteen minutes against West Ham, only to squander it in its entirety in the final stages of the game.  The turn of events was yet more painful as the West Ham comeback occurred after the second half substitution of Gareth Bale for Spurs.  While he did miss two chances, Bale could not be held responsible for the collapse.  Jose Mourinho will be thinking hard on his second half defensive tactics and how best to organize his defense going forward. The Spurs collapse overshadowed first half fireworks provided by stars Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

Chelsea  Fans again saw a tale of two Chelseas. Offensive riches were on full display with Timo Werner scoring his first two Premier League goals and adding an assist on a goal by fellow countryman and newly acquired attacker Kai Havertz. Unfortunately, as good as Chelsea is on attack, they remain highly vulnerable on the back end of the pitch. Kepa was forced back inot duty at goalkeeper due to an Edouard Mendy injury. The beleagured Kepa and his defenders looked exceedingly confused an disorinted on two first half Southampton goals. The result was a second 3-3 draw for Chelsea in the last three matches.

Mid Table

West Ham Down three goal after eighty minutes, David Moyes’ charges put the hammer down and shared points with Spurs on a tying wonder goal from outside the penalty area by Manuel Lanzini in stoppage time.  The Hammers have now scored 10 goals in their three-game unbeaten streak after managing one goal from their opening two defeats.

Leeds The Leeds attack, still vibrant for periods of games, is running into production problems.  The club has now scored only two goals in its last three games.  A good defensive effort versus Wolves was spoiled on a goal deflected into the net by Leeds defender Kalvin Philips.

Manchester City - A 1-0 home win against Arsenal restores some confidence for the Citizens. Goalkeeper Ederson was excellent in goal, particularly on a pair of Arsenal first half chances. Transfer acquisition Ruben Dias looks to be settling in comfortably at center back. Right fullback Kenny Walker also played well in making Raheem Sterling's goal stand up for victory.

Southampton Southampton were the beneficiaries of some Chelsea largesse in earning a point at Stamford Bridge.  They will gladly take it and are now undefeated in their last three games.  Theo Walcott had an assist in his return to the team after a fifteen-year absence.  Che Adams had a goal and an assist as the Saints showed they have more upfront than just Danny Ings who, nevertheless, added his fourth goal of the season.

Newcastle Newcastle collapsed at the end of its match with Manchester United, conceding three goals from the 86th minute onward.  Unfortunate in that the Magpies were competitive in a tied game before that point.  Ultimately it was the worst home defeat in six years. The Red Devil’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can certainly commiserate with Newcastle Manager Steve Bruce on that type of achievement.

Crystal Palace – Never an offensive juggernaut, Crystal Palace reached a new plateau by launching no shots whatsoever from the run of play for the entire game. A successful Zaha penalty kick, on a creatively earned penalty call courtesy of Michy Batshuayi, was enough for a point. In fact, it was almost enough for all three until Brighton equalized in the 90th minute. The Eagles, now winless in three, must be contemplating from whence they may generate some offense.

Bottom of the Table

Manchester United Manchester United got the bounce back they needed in a 4-1 defeat of Newcastle.  Despite the large score, the Red Devils left it till late before putting away the Magpies.  Four different players scored in a game played without forwards Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.  Defender Harry Maguire scored his first goal of the season.  Fellow defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka scored his first career goal in the Premier League.

Brighton & Hove Albion The Seagulls struggled to score against a Crystal Palace low block defense.  Credit their persistence, however, in pulling back a point on a closing minute equalizer.  The draw leaves Brighton continuing to sit three points below their rival in the table.  A fourth non-winning effort in five matches should be concerning for Seagull supporters.

West Bromwich Albion West Brom’s scoreless draw with Burnley was the league’s worst game of the weekend and the first scoreless match of the season.  The Baggies, one point above the relegation zone, share the worst goal differential in the league with bottom dwelling Fulham.   

Burnley The Clarets’ Chris Wood hit the woodwork twice in the scoreless draw with West Brom. Burnley currently sits in 18th position, a point behind the Baggies after posting their first point of the season in the weekend’s draw.  Sean Dyche’s crew have scored the second fewest goals in the league.    

Sheffield United Sheffield United needed an 85th minute penalty kick against Fulham to gain its first point of the season in a 1-1 draw.  The kick was the second goal the Blades have scored all season.

Fulham The Cottager goal on the weekend was an individual effort by Ademola Lookman who dribbled through two defenders.  Lookman, striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and newly acquired midfielder loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek can perhaps provide some joy for Fulham in coming weeks.  For now, they trail the field.  

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