Solskjaer must be bold and ditch Pogba, Werner can be a Premier League great, Spurs must break the bank to secure Son and pragmatic Pep is echoing Fergie’s ‘win at all costs’ mentality… 10 things we learned from the weekend
- It was another weekend of intrigue and controversy in the Premier League
- VAR officials failing to send off Jordan Pickford has set a troubling precedent
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s respite will be short-lived as Pogba dilemma looms
- Pep Guardiola has been forced to be more pragmatic and it could be a success
- Timo Werner’s brilliance for Chelsea shows he will be a brilliant signing
- It really is surprising that Son Heung-min hasn’t attracted bids from elite clubs
While it didn’t quite measure up to the avalanche of goals last time out, the weekend’s Premier League action certainly didn’t want for controversy and talking points.
The fifth matchday of the season saw Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham colours coincide with an embarrassing collapse, contentious decisions galore in a pulsating Merseyside derby and some relief for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Oh, and we also saw the first goalless draw of the season… at the 47th time of asking.
Sportsmail takes a closer look at the Premier League action in our weekly 10 Things we learned feature.
VAR NOT UNDERSTANDING THE RULES IS TRULY WORRYING
There were so many unanswered questions after the dust settled on Saturday’s frenetic Merseyside derby.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was accepted in the Premier League on the proviso that it should be tweaked and improved whenever incidents highlight a need.
Sportsmail’s revelation on Tuesday that VAR David Coote didn’t realise he could have sent off Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for his horrendous scissor challenge on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is alarming.
The VAR in charge of the Merseyside derby did not check for a red card for Jordan Pickford
Coote didn’t check the seriousness of Pickford’s challenge, which was absolutely worthy of a straight red, because he was too busy figuring out whether Van Dijk was offside.
If the VAR, with their screens, lines and multiple replays supposedly a fail-safe for those officials on the pitch, don’t know what they’re doing then what’s their purpose?
Since when should an offside call essentially nullify a season-ending tackle that comes a second or two afterwards?
It appears that Coote either forgot or didn’t double check the rules, which state the challenge could still have been checked despite the offside.
In which case, why didn’t he consult assistant VAR Lee Betts on the guidelines? And why couldn’t he recommend on-pitch referee Michael Oliver use his pitchside monitor to check the incident as well?
The VAR David Coote thought offside which he checked forensically nullified the horror foul
Surely in such a pivotal moment of a high-profile game such as this three minds are better than one?
The fact Pickford got away with this one should also not obscure another shocking misjudgement from the England keeper.
It was the latest in a growing collection of rushes of blood and Carlo Ancelotti needs to think twice about whether he plays the next game.
Unfortunately, we’re only going to get a perfect VAR system by learning from moments such as this and Coote’s error. The system should be under constant review and certainly after this.
For Liverpool, this time it’s come at the heavy cost of losing their top defender probably for the remainder of the season.
Van Dijk is likely to be ruled out for the remainder of the season in a huge blow for Liverpool
SOLSKJAER’S RESPITE WILL BE SHORT-LIVED (ESPECIALLY WITH POGBA CALL)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer allowed himself a smile after Manchester United’s 4-1 win at Newcastle on Saturday night and it would have been one of relief.
It was the perfect response to that truly abysmal 6-1 thrashing by Tottenham as his side finally broke down Newcastle’s resilience with three late goals in their finest counter-attacking tradition.
United created 28 shots on goal though that is really irrelevant given Newcastle have allowed 86 shots to be fired in during their opening five games.
Paul Pogba was benched against Newcastle and didn’t make much impact when introduced
But while is was pleasing to see Harry Maguire respond admirably to a difficult few weeks and the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford excel, nobody should kid themselves into thinking a corner has been turned.
Newcastle was merely a warm-up for a demanding run of games that sees Solskjaer’s side play Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, RB Leipzig and Arsenal.
Solskjaer is no safer in his position than he was at the end of that 6-1 drubbing. If United fail to win any of those games – which is possible – then he’ll still be in serious trouble.
Mind you, Solskjaer has shown the tactical innovation and backs-to-the-wall mentality in the past to steer United successfully through tricky sets of fixtures.
One decision that he can’t put off forever is what to do with Paul Pogba, who came on for Fred with 21 minutes left at St James’ Park and failed to make much of an impression.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to decide whether Pogba belongs in his team
United may have triggered the 12-month extension clause in his contract but that’s merely to prevent losing the Frenchman for nothing.
Pogba wants to play the No 10 role currently occupied and performed so adeptly by Fernandes and seem to scoff at any notion of converting himself into a holding midfielder, even though he’d be good at it.
On many occasions last season, United demonstrated they can perform well without Pogba. It’s debatable whether he features in their most effective XI any more.
Solskjaer has more steel than his youthful looks suggest. It will be a bold call to consign Pogba to the United bench for the foreseeable – but it could well be the correct one.
PRAGMATIC PEP COULD WELL DELIVER CITY THE TITLE
The best managers know when to curb their instincts and adapt to keep their team on track. They may not want to, but it’s often necessary.
Following a series of injury setbacks and positive Covid-19 tests, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City squad – as deep as it is – was cut to the bone.
And that’s before the impact of such a short pre-season following their run in the Champions League. Guardiola had just a week with his players on the training ground in pre-season.
Pep Guardiola is showing a more pragmatic side with his Man City squad short of personnel
The Premier League has already shown elements of chaos in the early weeks of the season, so those teams that can remove as many variables as possible will prosper.
Look at the way City overcame Arsenal on Saturday. It was far from their free-flowing peak, there was no playing out from the back, fewer chances were taken.
Instead, Guardiola set up his team with strength and solidity in mind and they ground out a 1-0 victory thanks to Raheem Sterling’s first-half goal.
When these two teams met just after the restart in June, City swept Arsenal aside 3-0. This time it was less spectacular, but the returns were identical.
Raheem Sterling’s goal against Arsenal crowned a City performance of substance and solidity
Guardiola will face more injuries as they play in every midweek and every weekend until the New Year. We will see more of this low-risk, more-resolute approach.
It might seem like a City-lite, but you simply cannot expect to play your usual free-flowing game in such demanding circumstances.
There’s actually an echo of Sir Alex Ferguson’s great Manchester United teams here. It doesn’t matter how you win, just win.
WERNER COULD BE A PREMIER LEAGUE GREAT
We all know that Chelsea’s leaky defence is going to prevent them mounting a title challenge.
Manager Frank Lampard himself reeled off the statistic that they’ve conceded 63 goals in 43 matches during his tenure to ask questions of his defence.
With so many goals being conceded – such as the three against Southampton on Saturday – Chelsea’s lavishly-assembled front line is going to have to work doubly hard to compensate.
Timo Werner showed his class with two well taken goals in Chelsea’s draw with Southampton
Luckily, as their latest defensive shambles stole the headlines in Saturday’s 3-3 draw, Timo Werner was showing precisely why he is a £48million striker.
Having seen an early near-post header disallowed for offside, the German opened his Premier League account with an outrageous dummy that left Jan Bednarek well upstream without a paddle before cutting inside three defenders to finish clinically.
His second saw Werner get in behind Bednarek again, deftly scoop the ball over keeper Alex McCarthy’s head and nod home from close range.
And as if to prove his qualities don’t exclusively revolve around goalscoring, Werner laid on the pass for Kai Havertz to score Chelsea’s third.
You suspect those two top quality goals will be the first of a great many in English football.
Werner nods home his second of the game after expertly lobbing over Alex McCarthy
LEVY SHOULD BREAK THE BANK FOR SON
Tottenham enjoyed a great summer transfer window but their smartest move may be still to come.
There was plenty of focus on their collapse from three goals up and coasting to a three-all draw in Sunday’s thrilling London derby with West Ham.
And naturally Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham action in a late cameo attracted plenty of attention.
But let’s not forget the stylish manner in which Tottenham surged into that three-goal lead and all within the opening 16 minutes.
Son Heung-min was instrumental as he so often is, scoring a nicely-taken opening goal before being involved in both of Harry Kane’s strikes.
Son Heung-min is central to all Tottenham do well and his new contract would be deserved
It comes as little surprise to learn that Tottenham will move to tie Son down to a long-term contract with an increase on his current £150,000-a-week.
Though he will have two years to run on his contract at the end of this season, Spurs must anticipate interest in the South Korean from the European elite.
Indeed, it’s a surprise there hasn’t been more interest from the top European clubs for Son in the past given his brilliance.
He has now scored eight goals in seven games this season and 18 since Jose Mourinho came in as manager almost 12 months ago.
Son and Harry Kane are among the Premier League’s most effective pairings ever
Son and Kane have now combined for 28 Premier League goals and are fast closing in on the record of 36 set by Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba in Mourinho’s great Chelsea teams.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy must be prepared to offer Son a top contract to reflect his importance. Forget Bale, this could be the best business they do this year.
GREAT TO SEE LOOKMAN GETTING A LOOK-IN
Ademola Lookman was a key member of the England team that won the Under-20 World Cup back in 2017.
At that point, not long after he signed for Everton from Charlton Athletic and scoring on his debut against Manchester City, Lookman appeared to have the world at his feet.
Even when Sam Allardyce decided to loan the youngster out in January 2018, he produced some brilliant performances for German side RB Leipzig.
Ademola Lookman celebrates his goal for Fulham against Sheffield United on Sunday
But rather than that being his launchpad, Lookman spent a frustrating 2018-19 season largely warming the bench for Everton.
It didn’t prevent Leipzig paying £22.5m to sign him permanently but he wasn’t able to make quite the same impact on the Bundesliga as his compatriot Jadon Sancho.
Which is why his loan move to Fulham, which guarantees much more game time, looks a smart one.
Lookman was excellent in their 1-1 draw at Sheffield United on Sunday and scored the second Premier League goal of his career, some three years and 37 appearances after that first one against City.
Scott Parker clearly rates him highly, describing his ‘unbelievable quality’, and Lookman will be highly valuable to Fulham as they fight relegation.
Lookman’s quality wasn’t appreciated at Leipzig but could keep Fulham in the Premier League
WORRYING SIGNS FOR HODGSON
Crystal Palace’s back-to-back wins over Southampton and Manchester United to open the Premier League season already feel a long time ago.
They were surprisingly lacklustre in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton, mustering just one shot on goal and that a Wilfried Zaha penalty.
Brighton were allowed to enjoy 66 per cent of possession and almost twice as many passes and it really was a surprise it took them until the last minute to equalise.
Palace’s defence allowed Brighton 20 shots on goal and if it wasn’t for poor decision-making by the visiting attackers, they would certainly have lost.
Roy Hodgson wouldn’t have been too impressed by Palace’s lack of creativity against Brighton
It’s not exactly panic stations for Roy Hodgson but you sense that had there been a crowd inside Selhurst Park, it would have been an angry one.
Hodgson was without Jordan Ayew, who returned a positive coronavirus test, but the lack of creativity is a concern and will lead to a season of struggle if not addressed.
All the while, summer signing Ebere Eze sat unemployed on the Palace bench.
FOFANA LOOKS A GOOD BET FOR LEICESTER’S FUTURE
Brendan Rodgers probably wanted to wait a little longer before throwing 19-year-old summer signing Wesley Fofana into the Premier League fray.
But an injury to regular centre-back Caglar Soyuncu left him with little choice in Sunday’s game with Aston Villa.
The teenager signed from Saint-Etienne earlier this month, who could ultimately cost Leicester £36.5m, was more than up to the challenge, however.
19-year-old Wesley Fofana looked solid on his Leicester debut against Aston Villa
His composed performance kept a Villa side who’d memorably scored seven against Liverpool in their last outings at bay until stoppage time, when Ross Barkley maintained their 100 per cent start.
Fofana kept Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish fairly quiet and considering he only had half-a-season of Ligue 1 football under his belt, it augurs well for Leicester’s hope he’ll become a defensive mainstay for many years to come.
WOLVES SHOW THE BLUEPRINT TO BEAT BIELSA’S LEEDS
Leeds had the opportunity to move up to third with victory over Wolves on Monday night and for most of the night it appeared a certainty.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side strangled the life out of their visitors throughout the first-half but couldn’t make the pressure pay.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side had just 29 per cent possession and had little choice but to sit back and dig in. This they did, restricting Leeds to only a couple of chances.
Then, in a tactical switch that Bielsa himself would have been quietly satisfied with, Wolves started playing long diagonal balls to get in behind the Leeds defence.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo (foreground) outsmarted Marcelo Bielsa on Monday night
It exploited the gaps in the corners with Leeds setting up a three-man defence and Wolves’ forward Raul Jimenez had the wherewithal to take advantage.
After Roman Saiss saw a goal disallowed for offside shortly after half-time, Wolves persisted with their tactic and it led to Jimenez winning it with a heavily deflected shot.
Taking on Bielsa’s Leeds will be the Rubik Cube test for Premier League bosses this season but Nuno has perhaps shown them the way with this direct approach.
BURNLEY NEED THE UPLIFT OF A TAKEOVER
How much would you have lumped on West Brom vs Burnley being the Premier League’s first goalless draw of the season?
Perhaps the £14.95 required to watch Monday night’s bore draw on pay-per-view.
While the estimated number of goals in this season’s top-flight remains on course to smash all previous records, this contest was only fodder for those Project Big Picture fans who want the league reduced to 18 teams.
If Burnley’s prospective new owner Alan Pace, of American investors ALK Capital, was watching on he wouldn’t have been entertained.
West Bromwich Albion vs Burnley was, predictably, the first goalless draw of the campaign
At least the Clarets avoided a fourth straight loss to start the season but this drawn-out takeover and some much-needed investment in January, would offer the club a lift.
And that’s certainly the case with demanding fixtures against Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton and Arsenal on the horizon for Sean Dyche’s threadbare squad.
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