Premier League - The Big Interview - Episode 8Sep 28
Chelsea 2-5 West Bromich Albion
Hands up who saw this one coming? Hands down at the back, there. Chelsea conceded as many goals in a 45 minute period than they have in their last 16 matches. Thomas Tuchel’s side had achieved seven clean sheets in a row coming into this one, and yet the team second bottom of the table treated us to some ruthless finishing.
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Matheus Pereira and Callum Robinson struck twice each, each of them a quite brilliant effort showcasing power as well as finesse. Thiago Silva’s first-half red card seemed to throw Chelsea completely out of sync and Kurt Zouma has been in for particular criticism. But, really, the focus should be on the goals themselves. West Brom’s five amassed an expected goals total of just 1.6 - in fact, they were outgunned by Chelsea’s 2.6 despite the home side comfortably losing the contest.
And that’s what Tuchel will be conscious of. There’s no need to rip up the excellent work done to organise a team when match circumstances conspire against him. Football sometimes produces results like this and each one doesn’t call for an extreme reaction.
Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool
Mikel Arteta’s gaze could have burned through metal as his error-strewn Arsenal team drifted to a 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool. Many are convinced that Arteta has a ‘project’ and that there’s visible signs of progress, but quite often the results suggest the contrary.
Arteta branded the performance ‘extremely poor’ and apologised to fans afterwards. This was a massive regression from the Gunners; just three shots with an Expected Goals totalling 0.16 against Liverpool’s 16 efforts, with their own xG of 2.5. No side on Saturday made more clearances (24) or attempted more long balls (65), showcasing the pattern of play as Liverpool dominated the ball and Arsenal simply cleared their lines.
The most galling thing for Arteta will be that Liverpool didn’t play that well. They controlled possession but lacked cutting edge until the arrival of Diogo Jota, which changed everything. The Portuguese international was in ruthless form for his national team, scoring three times in two matches, and here he transformed the contest with his two goals off the bench.
The front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah were largely passive until his injection of energy, and with him now fully fit after a knee injury, it will become more and more difficult to leave him out of the side; he has, by far, the best non-penalty goal P90 rate of any Liverpool forward.
Leicester 0-2 Manchester City
Around the half-hour mark here, there was a spell where possession for the previous five minutes read Leicester 0% - 100% Manchester City, and that’s a perfect snapshot not just for City’s domination here, but for the past four months en route to their fifth Premier League title.
Pep Guardiola has always been a huge advocate of keeping the ball not just to create space for his team to score, but knowing that the opponent can’t score when his team has it. And so it was, with City patiently biding their time before striking.
The brutal inevitability of their results almost makes this team better than Pep’s 100-point incarnation of three seasons ago. That team scored 107 times in 38 matches, or 2.82 per match. The season after, 95 goals in 38 games as they held off Liverpool in the run-in - the equivalent of 2.5 goals per game.
And yet at the moment, they’ve only scored 66 goals in 31 games - or 2.13 per game. This is an altogether different - and more frightening - incarnation of football, Guardiola style, one where goals are a means to an end rather than for the purposes of entertainment.
It was their 16th ‘win to nil’ Premier League victory of the season, highlighting the improvement of defensive structure coinciding with the arrival of Ruben Dias. And what’s more, Pep seems able to make changes - a number of players on international duty were given a break - and the efficiency of the unit doesn’t miss a beat.
Manchester United 2-1 Brighton
A weird match in which Manchester United and Brighton’s seasons were summed up nicely in a 90 minute period.
For the visitors, a superb first half and the type of performance which vindicated their admirers, before a second-half concession of their good ideas in the face of defensive pressure.
And for United, it was a win which came as a result of moments of individual brilliance rather than any coherent game plan - as has been the case for much of the season. Bruno Fernandes to Marcus Rashford has been the combination on five occasions in the league this season, and once again a measured pass and sublime finish brought United into a game where they had failed to register a shot in the entire first half.
And so Brighton have to wonder how they start to convert good performances to points, while United fans ponder whether this team will start to produce a series of consistently good performances - exactly where they were before the weekend.