10 thoughts from the weekend's Premier League action
theScore examines the most important Premier League developments from the weekend, dissecting the biggest talking points after a busy slate of action.
Xhaka: The unwanted face of Arsenal
The Kroenke family's inattentive ownership is at the very core of Arsenal's failings. The all-around negligence dates back to Arsene Wenger's over-indulgence of inconsistent attacking players and continues into the modern day, where Aaron Ramsdale - a goalkeeper who could cost as much as £30 million - watched from the bench as Manchester City's £25-million attacker Ferran Torres scored two past No. 1 shot-stopper Bernd Leno on Saturday.
While a single person can't be scapegoated, certain individuals have become ugly figureheads of this dire period. Granit Xhaka's destructive presence - both his tactical and behavioral indiscipline - has been one of the few things you can rely on at Arsenal over the past five years. Xhaka's on-field concentration has actually improved under Mikel Arteta, but addressing his anger and self-centeredness may be too much to ask of any manager.
Xhaka's two-footed lunge on Joao Cancelo was mindless, yet not surprising in the slightest. The 28-year-old has cost his teammates in so many matches during his time with the club, but the Gunners' rudderless regime has rewarded such stupidity with the captain's armband and a contract extension in recent times.
The Swiss international isn't solely responsible for Arsenal's struggles, but his peculiarly elevated status in the first-team squad neatly represents the club's woeful mismanagement from top to bottom.
Childish Richarlison creates unnecessary drama
If there's a handbook on how to engineer a transfer away from any given club, it surely has a chapter explaining the thought process behind Richarlison's unprovoked squabble with his teammates Saturday amid speculation that he wants out of Everton.
As Seamus Coleman writhed in pain after winning a penalty, the Paris Saint-Germain-linked Richarlison was busy throwing a tantrum after designated penalty taker Dominic Calvert-Lewin rightly tried to collect the ball. The awkward situation heightened when the Brazilian attacker refused to give up the ball before Coleman hobbled over to intervene and put an end to the needless display.
Richarlison's selfishness only added to an already pressure-packed situation for Calvert-Lewin. Luckily, the English forward scored, and the good times continued to roll for an Everton side that is unbeaten through three games.
With just days before the transfer window closes, Richarlison could soon find out if his antics worked.
Caglar Soyuncu's at-times impulsive defending wasn't a huge issue for Leicester City. Defenders Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana were often there to cover the positional lapses and over-exuberance of the Turkish center-half with their mature, composed graft at the back.
However, following a lengthy run with no notable mistakes, Soyuncu has made a string of errors in a matter of days.
Soyuncu had a torrid time in last Monday's landslide defeat to West Ham United - he dove into tackles, gifted a goal with a wayward backpass, and was easily turned by Michail Antonio. Leicester fared better on Saturday with a 2-1 win at Norwich City, but Soyuncu was a liability once more as he conceded a penalty with an ill-advised challenge on Pierre Lees-Melou.
Daniel Amartey was meant to be the weakness in Brendan Rodgers' backline during Evans' and Fofana's injury absences, but it may now be Soyuncu who surrenders his spot in the backline to recent arrival Jannik Vestergaard.
'We want Brucie out!'
Steve Bruce, his captain Jamaal Lascelles, goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, and makeshift wing-back Jacob Murphy all acknowledged the importance of Saturday's visit from Southampton. Newcastle United's season needed to get started after two Premier League defeats and elimination from the League Cup at the hands of Burnley.
Actions speak louder than words, though, and most of the first-half action took place in Newcastle's half. Soon, after more Magpies passes went astray and the Saints increased the pressure on Woodman's goal, choruses of "We want Brucie out!" rung around St. James' Park for the first time this campaign.
Newcastle started to perform better near the end of the opening period, but it was destined to be a disappointing afternoon for the hosts. After referee Paul Tierney consulted the monitor and ruled Lascelles illegally upended Adam Armstrong in the box, James Ward-Prowse converted a 96th-minute penalty to make it 2-2.
Bruce used last season's final international break to great effect, changing his formation and triggering an upturn in results to end the campaign. Over the next two weeks, he needs to do something similar.
Organized display boosts Chelsea's title credentials
The outcome of Saturday's game was only worth one point, but no one's batting an eye at Chelsea for celebrating a draw at Anfield like it was a win.
Liverpool looked like a lock to collect three points after Chelsea lost Reece James to a red card and Mohamed Salah scored the ensuing penalty in the final moments of the first half. But Thomas Tuchel's men persevered with a superb defensive performance in hostile territory, preventing Liverpool's elite attacking unit from finding the winner.
The organized and calm display was no fluke, as Tuchel's tactical substitutions at halftime helped offset James' absence. The Blues' impenetrable defensive scheme - anchored by Jorginho, Antonio Rudiger, and Edouard Mendy - frustrated Liverpool throughout the second half, as Jurgen Klopp's men seemingly couldn't figure out how to take advantage after the visitors were reduced to 10 men.
The performance not only deserves to be celebrated but also proves why Chelsea are one of the best-coached and disciplined teams in the Premier League.
Elliott at home in Liverpool's midfield
Harvey Elliott displayed maturity and poise in just his second career Premier League start, and more importantly, a growing understanding with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Salah on the right flank. Though his job became easier once Chelsea went down a man, the 18-year-old managed the game well in a position he has only recently tested out. A winger by trade, Elliott has embraced the workload in midfield, parlaying an impressive series of preseason matches into a spot in Jurgen Klopp's XI.
Elliott was confident in virtually all areas of the pitch. Liverpool looked more positive whenever he was in possession, and Chelsea's midfielders backpedaled, showing him respect despite his tender years. Elliott completed a team-high 75 passes, won possession 11 times, and covered a game-high 11.88 kilometers.
"When you are old enough to drive a car, you should be old enough to play football games," Klopp told the BBC afterward. "He's in the right place. He's a smart player. He didn't look tired for a second and kept going."
Taylor made excellent call on James
The decision to send off James for a deliberate handball seemed harsh at the time. Referee Anthony Taylor didn't even take more than a second to review the incident on the pitchside monitor. But despite the initial outrage, further replays proved Taylor correct.
The International Football Association Board, which lays out the laws of the game, is clear: When a handball offense denies a clear goal-scoring opportunity, it always results in a red card, no matter where it occurs on the pitch. James was just unlucky that it happened right on the goal line. While the ball did brush off of his thigh before hitting his arm, he ultimately motioned his hand toward the ball and kept it from going in.
Tuchel said afterward that he doesn't like it when referees give out early red cards, arguing it kills otherwise great contests. But that's beside the point. If it's a red-card offense, there's no asterisk. It simply is.
Taylor, however, could've sold the call a little bit more. The official only consulted a second of footage, raising doubts that he'd judged the incident too quickly. And he only ever saw a still shot of James handling the ball, not the entire play. Maybe he knew it right away, but to everyone else, it was unclear until further examination.
Cornet should offer Burnley injection of creativity
Burnley earned their first point of the Premier League season, but Sean Dyche's men will be disappointed they didn't collect all three after a hard-fought encounter against Leeds United. Overall, it was the type of gritty performance - featuring two horrendous first-half tackles that could have resulted in red cards for the hosts - commonly associated with a Dyche-led Burnley squad.
But change could be on the way, as the Clarets are getting a much-needed injection of creativity in the form of Maxwel Cornet. The Ivorian international, who joined the club from Lyon for €15 million ahead of Sunday's game, could prove invaluable to Dyche and offer Burnley a new weapon on the flank capable of generating opportunities in attack.
The versatile 24-year-old can also be deployed in defense, but chances are he will likely find himself in more advanced positions given Burnley's lack of creative assets.
Watford are under construction
There could be no clearer demonstration that Watford are entering a new era: Troy Deeney, one of English football's most influential captains over the past few years, is in talks to join boyhood club Birmingham City after 11 full seasons with the Hornets, according to The Athletic's Adam Leventhal and Gregg Evans.
To further underline Watford's fresh identity, Will Hughes left for Crystal Palace on Saturday after a four-year residency in the Hornets' midfield.
Xisco Munoz is also working it out as he goes along, tweaking the starting lineup each week to try to work out his best team and most effective tactical approach.
|EPL matches||Changes from previous league outing||Result|
|Aston Villa (h)||8||3-2 win|
|Brighton & Hove Albion (a)||2||2-0 loss|
|Tottenham Hotspur (a)||4||1-0 loss|
There's no doubt that the Hertfordshire club needed strengthening for its top-flight return, but if Xisco doesn't get a clearer idea of his best XI soon, a squad refresh could lurch into an identity crisis reminiscent of those Fulham suffered in their two recent relegations from the Premier League.
Seven of Watford's 13 summer signings are yet to start a Premier League match, so we could still be a few weeks away from knowing what this team really looks like.
Greenwood can't lose place when CR7 arrives
Mason Greenwood will likely lose playing time when Cristiano Ronaldo makes his triumphant return to Manchester United, and that's a great shame. With three goals already - including the winner Sunday at Wolverhampton Wanderers - the 19-year-old has stood out as United's best player of the early season.
What more can he do to earn a permanent spot in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's starting XI? When available, six players - Greenwood, Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial - will vie for minutes in three positions. That's a good problem to have, but Greenwood's development is too important to simply cast him aside. Maybe Rashford will play fewer minutes when he returns from injury, because Greenwood arguably has a higher ceiling than even his 23-year-old teammate.
Greenwood's striking ability is as good as any of his teammates, and as only the second teenager in Premier League history to score in the first three games of a campaign, he has undeniable momentum right now. Making sure he continues to grow is Solskjaer's biggest task to date.
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