Premier League: talking points from the weekend’s action



Premier League: talking points from the weekend’s action

Erling Haaland had an off-day in front of goal while Liverpool and Arsenal’s attacking units kept firing

Haaland’s off-day nothing to fret about

Erling Haaland had nine shots and failed to score a single goal against Chelsea. It will get many people supremely worked up, so they can knock down one of the best strikers in the world. Has Haaland lost his powers? No, he’s just had an underwhelming game. There were a couple of poor finishes, a fine save and a few last-ditch blocks to prevent Haaland adding to his 16 Premier League goals this term. How will Haaland recover from this heinous 90-minute slump? Probably by taking his frustration out against Brentford on Tuesday where he should get a similar number of chances. He is the top scorer in the league for a reason and has the best goal-to-game ratio around, so there’s little need to be too harsh. Annoyance might have taken hold on Saturday but Haaland knows how to harness that. Will Unwin

Casemiro looks a liability for United

Luton were entitled to wonder how Casemiro escaped a second yellow card as they began to overrun Manchester United towards the end of the first half. Perhaps his tackle on Ross Barkley was below the required tariff for a bookable offence but the Brazilian, struggling to replicate the influence of last season, had become a liability, his half-time substitution a necessity. A leading item for whoever becomes United’s sporting director is how to solve a midfield problem for which Casemiro cannot be the long-term answer. Sir Dave Brailsford, looking on, surely noted it down. Erik ten Hag could point to a truckload of missed chances and a five-game winning streak but his team continues to lack control. The previous week Luton were dominated in midfield by rock-bottom Sheffield United but there were spells when Ross Barkley and Albert Sambi Lokonga lorded it as Luton rained 22 shots on their visitors’ goal. John Brewin

Luton 1 - 2 Manchester United 

Havertz thrives on Arsenal’s fluency

Asked to explain Arsenal’s transformation into a rampant, dominant machine that have averaged 4.2 goals per game over the past five matches, Mikel Arteta replied: “The connection of the players is flowing.” There was no clearer demonstration of that at Burnley than the understanding between Martin Ødegaard and Kai Havertz. Arsenal’s captain deserved the plaudits but the £65m summer signing who cannot be pigeonholed was also unplayable. Havertz’s movement from his midfield pocket disrupted Burnley time and again, and Ødegaard’s ability to find him resulted in a punishing afternoon for Vincent Kompany’s outclassed side. The Germany international heads back this week to Porto, where he scored Chelsea’s winning goal in the 2021 Champions League final, in perfectly timed form. “We all trust ourselves and we know what quality we all have,” said Havertz on Arsenal’s recent improvement. “You know, it’s not the end now. We keep being focused because I know you guys – after one game without five goals you’re going to write we need a striker!” Andy Hunter

Caicedo must step up for improving Blues

Finally, Chelsea resemble a football team. This should not be a surprise ­– they have good players and Mauricio Pochettino is a good manager, just one forced to disentangle the different facets of Todd Boehly’s football genius. But three weeks ago, when they lost 4-1 at Anfield, it was impossible to see how they could even compete in Sunday’s League Cup final, and now, three decent performances and results have completely changed the complexion. Football, as the saying goes, is a simple game when underpinned by a billion pounds, and the last few weeks have shown that defending with strength and attacking with enterprise can take you a long way. The form of Moisés Caicedo, though, will be a concern, his passing unreliable, his tackling erratic. He left one of football’s best-run clubs for one of its worst, having made two huge career-steps in very little time but at Wembley his team need him near his best. Daniel Harris

Versatile Gross puts Blades to sword

For all the eye-catching wing-wizardry of Simon Adingra and Kaoru Mitoma, it was yet another Pascal Gross masterclassat the heart of Brighton’s Sunday dismantling of Sheffield United. Versatile enough to play in midfield before the break and at right-back after it, Gross completed 110 passes and created eight chances for his teammates. One such chance was a cross for Adringa that landed Gross, signed seven years ago for just £3m, his ninth league assist of the season. No one has bettered that tally for Brighton in a Premier League campaign. “I’m not surprised, because Pascal is a top player,” said Roberto De Zerbi when that statistic was put to him. “Pascal is important in terms of performances but mentality as well. He is a great, great player.” Sam Dalling

Klopp benefits from attacking ammunition

If Liverpool’s recruitment has been key to Jürgen Klopp’s successes, then loading the squad with forwards was another sensible policy. The club anxiously await injury updates on Darwin Núñez and Diogo Jota; Curtis Jones, too. In their win at Brentford, with Luis Díaz buzzing down the left, Klopp was able to bring on Cody Gakpo and Mohamed Salah. Gakpo, with a header, thus replicated the flick-on from Jota that sent away Núñez for a superb opening goal. Brentford were the latest team served a reminder that leaving space for Liverpool to go direct can be fatal. In the era of high-pressing, the route-one approach is a key weapon in beating that press; Pep Guardiola has never turned up his nose at doing so. Another reminder: Salah, back after eight matches out, his contract up in summer 2025, remains a killer goalscorer. Klopp’s successor may wish to have such a reliable outlet to hand. JB

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