Sunday 24 September 2017 / 05:59 AM

BOX-TO-BOX: EPL MATCHDAY 3

Talking points and analysis from Premier League Week 3

Welcome to the party

It’s better late than never. Liverpool’s attack finally came together in a blistering display, netting four times against a lifeless Arsenal outfit.

The Reds’ first competent offensive display will breathe life into their campaign, but how they were able to dominate should force Klopp’s tactical hand moving forward. Their stagnation through the first two weeks came largely in the final third, without the creative options to progress the ball and open up scoring chances. Even then, they looked far more confident building from their own end, but the risk is understandable — their counterattack is downright deadly, but their defence is weak.

Inviting teams into their own end may be digging their own grave, but it opens up the best opportunity to score whilst masking their lack of creators. Three goals from their own end against the Gunners solidified that notion, and now they must find a way to incorporate that game-plan without risking their vulnerable defence.

That being said, Arsenal’s attack was toothless and their transition defence was awful, so whether Liverpool’s fortunes were reflective of their oppositions woes or a turnaround themselves will be revealed in time. Arsenal haven’t won any of their last 13 league games against top-six opposition, which stifles hopes of a turnaround – bleak situation with Alexis Sanchez having one foot out the door already.

Chelsea find their groove

Championship credentials aside, Chelsea look rugged: comfortable when Everton attacked, composed when things break down and opportunistic when it falls their way. They haven’t hit top gear, but the way in which they dismantled the Toffees is a great template to build from.

They took Everton out of the game earlier and held court for the full 90 — no Everton player touched the ball inside the box before the 49th minute and none thereafter; Chelsea keeper Courtois wasn’t asked to do anything all day. They haven’t come out of the gates firing, but Chelsea are slowly trending in the right direction.

Willian is simply terrific, a constant presence and far and away their best player through three weeks.

Spurs, spurring

A 1-1 draw with Burnley in which they dominated possession and territory without finding an effective route to goal. Sound familiar?

Tottenham have no chance to make a dent in the competition if they can’t get out of their own way. Their only goal came from a corner, and that aside, they failed to generate any genuine opportunities: they fired off 28 shots, but only landed four on target. Of the 28 shots, 17 were blocked, an indicator that they are unable to break down the defence for clean looks.

The problem isn’t Wembley (although one win from their last 11 isn’t exactly encouraging) but a lack of direction in converting field position into repeated scoring opportunities. With a win, a draw and a loss, the Spurs haven’t been bad, but the flaws that held them just short last year have intensified. They have to readjust to hold pace.

City get out of jail

Drama at Vitality Stadium as the Citizens stole victory from a lively and competitive Bournemouth side with an injury time goal by way of Raheem Sterling. The wild scenes that followed were something to behold, from the crowd erupting onto the pitch to Sterling being marched for the nature of his celebration.

It was a different City than the one that opened the season, the relaxed over-passing replaced with a frenetic pace where they attempted to break through the AFC defence without their usual measured approach. The lack of control or patience constantly blew opportunities with City failing to build anything substantial, choosing to go back and forth with their inferior opponents.

It nearly cost them: after Daniels’ stunning opener, Defoe came within an inch of putting away a second shortly after, which would have completely turned the momentum of the game. Whether the ‘fire-with-fire’ approach was an intentional tactical tweak from Pep is unknown, but it didn’t work; some clutch work from Sterling and plenty of luck bailed them out of a subpar performance.

It hasn’t come together for City quite yet, their relatively soft draw masking what has been a slow start. Bournemouth were unlucky not to come away with their first points of the season. Striker Josh King was best on ground, providing a constant presence that the City backline had trouble shutting down.

Mat Ryan watch

Brighton finally got on the board with a 0-0 draw against Watford, the first time the two teams have clashed in the top flight since 1983. It was a rare occasion where Brighton controlled proceedings, due to a nasty tackle from Miguel Britos that lead to a straight red, meaning that Aussie keeper Ryan had an unexpectedly quiet day at the office. Handled the eight shots well, but assume that will be the lowest total for the season.

Quick thoughts

  • West Brom, Huddersfield, Southampton and Watford all remain unbeaten.
    Charlie Daniels’ pearler against City will be tough to beat for goal of the year.
  • Sterling’s red card means he’ll be unavailable for the Liverpool clash. Bitterly disappointing.
  • United stayed the course with another win. Leicester look so comfortable sitting in their own end that it’s fair to be impressed with the victory.
  • Whether their crazy shot-to-goal ratio will continue is another story.
    Mane, Firminho and Salah are all on the upswing, both individually and as a tandem. If Coutinho stays, him sitting in behind feeding the front three will be a treat.
  • Chris Wood’s maiden goal for Burnley was a memorable one. Stole a point with a superbly-timed run.
  • Harry Kane remains scoreless in 13 August games, despite 42 attempts.
  • Morata is slowly getting there — comparing him to the likes of Lukaku (who had been in the league his whole career) is unfair. The more time he has to get comfortable, the better he’ll be. His hold-up play towards the backend of the Everton clash was inviting.
    Burnley continue to be a nuisance to the top teams. Caught both Chelsea and Tottenham off guard already. They need to convert the form into wins seperate themselves from their tier of teams to finish higher than expected.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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