Premier League Preview - Matchday 7Sep 29
The Premier League continued to provide thrills and spills as the first midweek matchday of the season got underway.
Chelsea's stuttering start to the campaign continued as they lost at Southampton after taking the lead, meaning Thomas Tuchel's men are in real danger of slipping into the bottom half once all the teams have played their fifth match.
Aleksandar Mitrovic continued his phenomenal start to the season with the opener at Craven Cottage as Fulham beat Brighton 2-1 to end the Seagulls' unbeaten run.
Elsewhere, Wilfried Zaha's moment of magic was not enough to guide Crystal Palace to victory over Brentford as Yoane Wissa's late equaliser meant the points were shared.
And Luis Sinisterra bagged his first goal in a Leeds shirt, cancelling out Anthony Gordon's opener as the Everton youngster's future remains in doubt amid rumours of a possible late move to Stamford Bridge.
Here, we round up all the big talking points from anther captivating Premier League weekend.
Chelsea woes in defence and attack
One of the most damning aspects of Chelsea's loss at St Mary's Stadium was that the result did not come as a huge surprise.
The west Londoners had not mustered more than four shots on target in any of their past three games going into this encounter and were similarly lacking in cutting edge on the south coast.
Raheem Sterling seems the only reliable source of goals and even his finishing is sketchy at times.
With Kai Havertz and Mason Mount out of form, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech sidelined and Romelu Lukaku out on loan, Sterling has borne a huge amount of responsibility in the early stages of his time at Stamford Bridge.
Following a scuffed shot, the 27-year-old put the visitors in front shortly afterwards, nicking the ball away from Romain Perraud in the box and cleverly waiting for the defender to attempt a block before slotting the ball home.
However, Chelsea's defensive vulnerabilities - seen when they were pegged back by Tottenham and mauled by Leeds - were painfully evident again as Romeo Lavia had an abundance of time and space to curl in from the edge of the box despite the dive of Edouard Mendy, who should probably have kept out the strike.
Just before the break, the turnaround was complete and it was Adam Armstrong this time who found himself completely free, and the striker's finish deflected in off Kalidou Koulibaly, who ill-advisedly turned his back.
The last time Chelsea scored only six times in their first five league games was 2015/16, when they finished 10th.
The expected addition of Leicester addition Wesley Fofana will be a welcome option at the back, but it's a creative force (and another goalscorer) that the team is crying out for.
The last two players to score at least 15 league goals for Chelsea in a season were Tammy Abraham and Eden Hazard in 2019/20 and 2018/19 respectively.
The club has been linked with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Wilfried Zaha and Ivan Toney in recent weeks, although a deal to sign Everton winger Anthony Gordon appears dead in the water.
If none of those players make the move, Tuchel will have draw on all his tactical knowhow and motivational abilities to return this team to top-four form.
Mitrovic flames continue to spread
There is no player more key to his side than Aleksandar Mitrovic right now.
The Serbian arrived back in the Premier League with some questioning whether he would deliver having scored 43 goals in Fulham's promotion-winning campaign.
Those critics have been well and truly silenced. Mitrovic bagged his fifth goal in as many games, tucking in unmarked at the back post following Neeskens Kebano's drilled cross, and then instigated the attack that resulted in the second, dispossessing Pervis Estupinan before picking up a knock for his troubles (that he quickly shook off).
While the 27-year-old is well known for his predatory finishing, it is the sheer amount of work he gets through that is most remarkable.
He won an incredible 17 duels - the second-best total in the league this season by any player, after his 18 against Liverpool on the opening day.
The frontman can often be found mopping up in defence and relieving the pressure on his team by carrying the ball out, as seen by his extremely impressive five successful dribbles against the Seagulls.
Under Marco Silva, his link-up play has also improved, meaning he drop into the pocket - creating space for runners to exploit - and sprays passes out to the wingers before steaming into the box to get on the end of the resulting cross.
Given Mitrovic's age, his unselfish all-round game and his goalscoring pedigree, there will no doubt be many admiring glances from clubs across Europe.
However, given his monumental importance to Fulham, it would take a bid approaching world-record status to take him away from the banks of the Thames.
Gordon & Zaha excel amid specualtion
Eyebrows were raised when it was reported that Chelsea were looking to poach Anthony Gordon from Everton for around £60m.
The 21-year-old is exciting on the ball and provides much of the Toffees' attacking thrust, but last season was the only previous campaign when he'd enjoyed regular Premier League football (when his performances were good rather than spectacular).
Ever since the news broke about him linked with the two-time Champions League winners though, the winger has shone, latching onto Conor Coady's through ball before sliding his effort beyond David Raya into the far corner to break the deadlock at Brentford.
Gordon then opened the scoring at Leeds three days later, continuing to drive into the box after being dispossessed. His determination paid off as Dwight McNeil regained the ball and laid it off to Alex Iwobi, who slipped it in for the Scouser. Gordon still had a lot to do, but took a soft touch to shake off the recovering Diego Llorente and coolly slot past Illan Meslier.
Sadly for Gordon and Everton, both those matches ended in 1-1 draws, but the youngster's influence goes to demonstrate that the media talk about him departing Goodison Park did not affect him one bit.
It now seems likely that Chelsea will need to wait beyond this transfer window to get their man, but when they next have a chance to sign him, they may have a significantly higher bid to secure his services.
Another player contributing hugely to his side despite rumours linking him with a move to Stamford Bridge is Wilfried Zaha.
The Ivorian has been Crystal Palace's talisman for season after season and has hit the ground running again this campaign, producing two beautifully measured finishes against Liverpool and Aston Villa, scoring a penalty against Steven Gerrard's men and then bringing Selhurst Park to its feet against Brentford as he cut inside Aaron Hickey and whipped a vicious curling strike in off the far post.
Speaking to BT Sport after the match, the 29-year-old bemoaned his side's cautious approach after they threw away their advantage.
"Just one lapse in concentration ruins all the hard work," he said.
"We literally just had to keep it tight. As soon as we went into the lead, we just started to defend. I don't see why we do that.
"If we'd just continued to press on, I feel like we could have got a second and ended the game. We just killed ourselves in the end."
Neither Gordon nor Zaha look set to leave their current homes before Thursday's deadline, but Chelsea could certainly do with either of them (or perhaps both).