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Premier League Gameweek 5 roundup: Back to the basics


 This weekend, in-game management came to the fore once again – and two teams learned how a single substitution can hurt you in the hardest way possible, writes Shivam Pathak

Chelsea’s final goal against Tottenham Hotspur seemed to encapsulate everything that had gone right for the Blues – and all that could have gone wrong for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side. Timo Werner, who had come on from the bench midway through the second half, hadn’t had a great cameo up until that point: taking a poor touch to end a bulldozing counter-attack earlier, but that didn’t matter. From a corner, the forward was able to identify some space in the right channel, before looking up and noticing that his compatriot, Antonio Rüdiger, had drawn back away from his marker. One German player found another, and with a tidy finish, two centre-backs had got on the scoresheet. A clever routine had worked, while Tottenham lost grasp of their defensive ABC’s.

Thomas Tuchel tried to hide it, but smiled coyly as he shook hands with his opposite number at full-time, before beaming broadly as he greeted his players on-field. He got it right. With both sides in stalemate at the half, he made a seemingly inconspicuous change – Kanté for Mount. Hang on: they’re looking for a goal. Removing an attacking midfielder for more central control? Why? Twitter frothed with alternative suggestions. Yet of course, the Frenchman’s presence created plenty of 3-on-2 situations, and the fact that he scored just “had to be”.

 

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After going three wins from three, Tottenham look at two consecutive Premier League defeats, with a European draw against Rennes lodged in-between. With Arsenal on the horizon this weekend, Santo will know that he has to draw some energy from somewhere to feed the front three. His side are early favourites with the bookies, but not by much.

Just 45 minutes before kick-off in N17, West Ham were forced to swallow a bitter pill. Martin Atkinson’s refereeing made himself an obvious discussion point, and debates raged regarding whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo should have earned a spot-kick on more than one occasion. With the Hammers awarded a last-gasp penalty kick, David Moyes took the decision to send on Mark Noble (whose penalty conversion rate was only bettered by Robert Lewandowski in 2020) to try and put his side level. There were some serious shades of the Euro 2020 final here, though. He was cold, physically and mentally. Despite his prowess from 12 yards, for him to take a kick on which the outcome of the game lied with added time all but over in front of the fans was always going to be an anomaly from his statistics.

 

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Indeed, things were slightly better for their North London rivals. Unconvincing at points, but they came away with all three of them, with a moment of inspiration from Martin Ødegaard putting their side into a lead that they were able to hold onto, though with some better decision making in the final third, it could have been more. Takehiro Tomiyasu is already appearing to get settled at right-back, with Gabriel and Ben White in front of Aaron Ramsdale – the goalkeeping situation still unclear. With six points in the last two, Arsenal propel themselves out of the bottom of the table, but there’s plenty to be done. The front line aren’t quite on the same wave-length at this period of time, but Mikel Arteta knows there’s signs that that can be remedied with the right coaching.

There’s no reason for Manchester City to be overly concerned about how they played yesterday – more that there was cause for Southampton celebration. The Saints were condemned to defeat long before kick-off, by predictors, odds and writers (myself included), something that I can only hold my hand up and say that I got wrong. Ralph Hassenhüttl was vocal and raucous on the sideline, and got his reward. Tino Livramento dug in at right-back, dealing with the ever-dangerous Jack Grealish who looked to pounce off the shoulder. Jan Bednarek showed all of his experience leading his defence, and came out with a clean sheet and without a yellow card.

Guardiola put out of all of his cavalry. Riyad Mahrez, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden were all tasked with working up a bit of magic, but while of course the home side dominated possession of the ball, they failed to get into incisive spaces – having to in fact wait until the 90th minute just to have a shot on target. The Sky Blues have never been a side that go on runs of consistently fail to create chances, more that it just seems to happen erratically.  In the case of the Champions League final,  for example, it was at the worst possible time.

The question that naturally sat on everyone’s lips was again about City’s striker situation – with Romelu Lukaku’s presence up front causing Tottenham numerous problems on Sunday, even if he didn’t score. You can’t excuse a lack of chances from the City side because of this, though – there’s more than enough firepower in this side to blow sides away without a traditional centre-forward. Yet until January, when the next opportunity to recruit arises, Pep will need to imbue a killer instinct into his side, with the ante-post outright odds for the League title that had his side as clear favourites already beginning to lengthen.

A team that are arguably playing with too much instinct is Norwich City, who are looking pitiful at the foot of the table. Watford was, simply put, a game they had to take a point or more from. Despite this, Daniel Farke attempted to play ball that his team just can’t sustain. Adaptation to the requirements of the Premier League from the Championship is a key aspect of survival or better – as Brentford did remarkably against Wolves, bringing men back and forth when needed, before defending valliantly after a red card. Billy Gilmour and Kenny McLean strained to work the midfield, but they simply had too much to do.

Nothing is sealed at this part of the season: teams are still learning and adapting. Yet there’s plenty of food of thought for managers on both sides of the standings – and for the sides chasing objectives like survival or trophies, the window in which you’re allowed to make mistakes is starting to expire.

This article was written by Shivam Pathak. To check out their other work click here or you can leave them a comment below.

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