Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Premier League

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Jackson and Blues lack ruthless edge

Nicolas Jackson looks a lovely footballer, an intelligent runner with soft feet, physical prowess and a lively imagination. But he is not – yet – a killer, enjoying the aesthetic beauty of the game more than the front-post runs, penalty-spot pulls and scuffed finishes that must become his stock in trade; no serious centre-forward should allow Enzo Fernández to claim what should be the certain goal of a spot-kick. Alongside him, meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is unlikely to score prolifically in any team not managed by Pep Guardiola. When you factor in Christopher Nkunku’s injury, Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke’s callowness and Mauricio Pochettino’s preferred 3-5-2 formation, it’s hard to see how Chelsea will be prolific enough to do serious damage this season. On the other hand, though, Moisés Caicedo will soon settle despite a disastrous debut cameo, and any team that has him, Fernández and Carney Chukwuemeka on the prowl in front of three centre-backs should have enough to win most games. Daniel Harris


Champions need more like Akanji

Manuel Akanji was a surprising summer signing a year ago when he arrived at Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund. Fast forward 12 months and he has become a mainstay, often picked for crucial matches whether at centre-back or what can loosely be described as a left-back marauding up the flank. Against Newcastle he played in defensive midfield, occasionally dropping into central defence but more often going forward and becoming an extra attacking midfielder. Akanji repeatedly attempted to make runs in behind the Newcastle defence. It showed his versatility and his intelligence, two key reasons he was signed. After a slow transfer window – and with a need to acquire more players – City will be hoping to find another multi-faceted and undervalued signing to add to their squad. By the treble winners’ high standards, there is limited strength in depth currently and a long season ahead, as Pep Guardiola is always happy to remind us. Will Unwin

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Richarlison remains in the shadows

There was relief at Tottenham on Saturday and also a sense of optimism. After a slightly shaky start, Ange Postecoglou had settled things down at half-time and then, following a slight wobble after Spurs had gone ahead, closed the game out with his substitutions. A win and a good performance and the indications are there will be much to enjoy this season. But there is a still a Harry Kane-shaped hole and Richarlison, at least so far, has not looked likely to fill it. In 69 minutes on Saturday, he managed 28 touches, none of them shots, in which he lost possession eight times. His reaction to being substituted didn’t suggest a player at ease with himself – although he did, in fairness, soon seem to cheer up on the bench once it became apparent the game was won. But centre-forward is an obvious area where Postecoglou has an issue to resolve. Jonathan Wilson

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Partnerships back in fashion?

Is the use of a strike partnership the next tactical step in football? Wolves and Brighton both started – and played most of the latter’s 4-1 win at Molineux – in 4-4-2 formations, with Fabio Silva recalled to play up alongside Matheus Cunha for the home team, and Julio Enciso often higher than Danny Welbeck. This led to an intense, exciting and very open game with 16 chances created by each team. Brighton’s slick interplay, built on greater use of one-touch passing and off-ball runs, and more clinical finishing earned them victory, but Gary O’Neil is convinced this is the way for Wolves to make progress How does a team retain control in the centre of midfield with a front two though? Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo have led the way as an effective front pairing for the Lionesses in the Women’s World Cup but Sarina Wiegman combined this with a three-player midfield. The 4-4-2 dominated English football for a quarter of a century before Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle changed the template in the late 1990s but with three-man midfields now established, how do teams find a new way of winning? Peter Lansley

Danny Welbeck was part of a strike partnership with Julio Enciso at Wolves.
Danny Welbeck was part of a strike partnership with Julio Enciso at Wolves. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images


Liverpool mull Mac Allister appeal

Conspiracy theorists seized on the fact that Jürgen Klopp’s bete noire, Paul Tierney, was the VAR who went along with Thomas Bramall’s decision to dismiss Alexis Mac Allister and the assistant VAR was Andy Robertson’s old adversary Constantine Hatzidakis. That two penalty shouts went for Liverpool in the win over Bournemouth undermines their argument. Liverpool were still considering whether to appeal the red card on Sunday given a watertight case is needed these days and the FA could increase Mac Allister’s three-match ban should an appeal be deemed ‘frivolous’. It was a harsh decision with a harsher punishment – Liverpool’s summer signing will not play in the Premier League again until 24 September unless the red card is rescinded – and presents a fresh midfield problem to Klopp just when he thought that department had been corrected. The benefits of an appeal surely outweigh the risks although they will be forensically examining the law on serious foul play. Andy Hunter

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Leaky defence adds to Dyche woes

An irritating dripping sound was the backdrop to Sean Dyche’s post-match press conference at Villa Park. “It’s adding to my day of woes,” he said, before comparing the torment to Chinese water torture. His Everton team had just been humiliated 4-0, “a collective down day” he hoped. Everton supporters will worry it was an ominous snapshot of a bigger problem. Arnaut Danjuma injected a bit of zest after replacing the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Lewis Dobbin was probably the only other player who could emerge from a chastening defeat with any credit. “At half-time it was like: ‘Where do I start?’” Dyche said afterwards. The anticipated £15m arrival of Che Adams from Southampton will provide welcome ammunition but is unlikely to transform the team and on recent evidence Everton are in for another painful slog. Ben Fisher

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Silva should aspire to Bees’ polish

While Fulham’s lack of firepower without the now-departed Aleksandar Mitrovic was made plain at Craven Cottage, Brentford’s strike force was full of danger even without Ivan Toney. Afterwards, Marco Silva expressed his hope that he could do the same renovation job on Raúl Jiménez that he performed on Mitrovic. He might take a leaf from Thomas Frank’s work in polishing the talents of Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa, who have already bagged five Premier League goals between them this term. “They are looking for me to score goals and to help the team to defend hard and to attack hard,” said Wissa, who had played centrally within an attacking trio, with Kevin Schade as the third wheel. “I can play right-back, I can play goalkeeper – I don’t care, I just want to help the team,” Wissa continued. That speaks to the collective spirit that has made Brentford such a welcome addition to the Premier League, and a difficult proposition to face. John Brewin

Raúl Jiménez moved to Fulham to re-find his form under Marco Silva.
Raúl Jiménez moved to Fulham to re-find his form under Marco Silva. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Action Images/Reuters


United continue listless start

Manchester United played fairly well in the first half at Tottenham, but their failure to take advantage was a familiar sight, likewise their panic after conceding. United opted to stop working spaces and opportunities in order to unleash a succession of hopeful balls and shots that wasted decent situations. It is legitimate to criticise Erik ten Hag – his squad have looked significantly less fit than opponents and Mason Mount not what his midfield needed – but this players must also take responsibility. They would do worse than listen to their new goalkeeper; André Onana spent much of Saturday’s second period urging his team to calm down then, in his interview afterwards, challenged his own role in their defeat. Having been at Old Trafford just a few weeks, it should not be incumbent upon him to change the dressing-room culture – but someone might have to. DH


Cooper cheered by Forest growth

Nottingham Forest left it late to register their first victory of the season, at home to Sheffield United on Friday, and while they did not exactly blow their opponents away it was a satisfying win for Steve Cooper. Forest had to absorb uncomfortable spells of Blades pressure and Bénie Traoré missed a chance to earn victory moments before Chris Wood headed in what Cooper termed “a Chris Wood goal”, a fine header from a delicious Serge Aurier cross. After the game Cooper spoke with the club’s owner, Evangelos Marinakis. While the manager still wants to strengthen his squad, he was delighted at some early signs of progress. “I’m not sure we win that game last year, especially at the start of last season, so maybe there is a bit of growth in the mentality of the team,” Cooper said. “I really like how we stuck to the task.” Ben Fisher


Injury woes mar Arsenal optimism

An opening weekend win for Arsenal at Selhurst Park set the stage for last season’s title challenge, but in only their second match of this season both teams bear a rather patched-up look. August has so far not gone as planned for either Mikel Arteta or Roy Hodgson, though Palace’s manager had a better news week than his Arsenal counterpart. Jurriën Timber’s cruciate knee ligament injury was a severe blow to Arteta’s best-laid plans, and means Oleksandr Zinchenko’s return is timely at left-back. Timber’s versatility across the defence will have to be mothballed until next season. Gabriel Jesus’s knee problem is less serious but a concern considering his previous problems. What looked like Arsenal’s near-perfect “winning” of the transfer window has been muddied by those early-season issues. Roy Hodgson is similarly without the hamstrung Michael Olise – but only for the short term, the winger signing a new contract and turning down the chance to join Chelsea’s brain drain. JB

  • Crystal Palace v Arsenal: Monday 8pm

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