3 Talking points from Leicester City’s start to the season
Leicester City claimed their first three points of the season with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane as the Foxes finished Round 3 of the Premier League placed 4th in the standings, just a point below third-placed Arsenal.
Jamie Vardy opened his account for the new campaign but it was academy wonderkid Harvey Barnes who grabbed the headlines with his stunning half-volley in the second half, which ultimately proved to be the winner.
Having played out draws against Wolves and Chelsea in their first couple of fixtures, Leicester went into the game looking for their first victory in the ongoing campaign, and Rodgers should be pleased with his team’s efforts after that result.
Leicester City have been tipped by many to break the top-six lock and challenge for a European spot this season under Rodgers following a summer of heavy investment. With that in mind, however, the Foxes are yet to live up to the hype.
Indeed, their position in the standings suggest that they are currently keeping pace with the top-six sides, but it is still very early in the season and Leicester would need to step up their game if they are really serious about achieving big things.
Rodgers has the likes of Man United, Liverpool and Spurs to contend with in his next six Premier League fixtures, so the Foxes need to put the foot on the accelerator sooner than later.
Going by what we have seen from them so far this season, the Foxes are yet to hit top gear. Nevertheless, let us jot down 3 key talking points from Leicester’s start to the campaign.
1. New signings yet to make a difference
Leicester splashed the cash to bring in Ayoze Perez from Newcastle United this summer, whilst Youri Tielemans’ loan deal from Monaco was also made permanent for a club-record fee after the Belgian’s stellar run of form in the second half of the previous campaign.
However, neither of them has hit the ground running yet. Tielemans, who was ripping defences apart for fun last season, is yet to pull out his dissecting knife, while Perez has offered next to nothing so far despite starting each of the three games.
Tielemans hasn’t been poor but going by what he showed last season, he is certainly capable of doing a lot more than just moving the ball around.
Perez, though, looks suspect and though it might be too early to write him off, he apparently doesn’t fit into Leicester’s style of play, particularly with the emphasis being on how to bring Jamie Vardy into play.
Dennis Praet was handed his first Premier League start away at Bramall Lane after playing a brief cameo against Chelsea and the Belgian, just like his compatriot Tielemans, was never close to making any telling difference.
Well, this is just the start of the season and the fans will be hoping for the new signings to acclimatise to the new surroundings eventually.
2. Vardy and Maddison could once again be the duo to watch out for
Jamie Vardy’s first goal of the Premier League this season coincided with Leicester registering their first victory of the campaign, which is a reminder of the fact that the Foxes end up as the winners more often than not when their talismanic No.9 finds the net.
Vardy lighting up the scenes with his clinical finishing has become a sight to savour for the Leicester fans since the club’s promotion to the Premier League and the Englishman, though already 32, might once again have to play a key role if they Foxes are to secure a top-six finish this term.
Despite putting in a lot of effort, the 32-year-old struggled to find his feet in the first two games and the difference was in front of everyone when he did manage to hit the ground running, albeit with a bit of help from James Maddison.
Maddison, who was one of the best creative players in the Premier League last season, has continued from where he left last season and the former Norwich City man set up Vardy with a sensational through ball on Sunday.
No longer a newbie in the top-flight, Maddison is now very much an established player in the Premier League and Leicester have every reason to look forward to some fireworks from him this season.
3. There could be some new heroes
While the new signings are yet to come to life for the Foxes, academy graduates like Hamza Choudhury and Harvey Barnes, and young centre-back Caglar Soyuncu, have already made a strong start to the campaign.
Choudhury, who has started each of Leicester’s three games so far, has looked rock-solid in central midfield, whilst also impressing with his work rate, distribution, ability to break up the play and carry the ball forward with intent.
The industrious midfielder found himself on the periphery of the first-team in the last couple of seasons but this might as well prove to be the campaign where he really comes of age under Brendan Rodgers.
Barnes, on the other hand, is yet to start a game but his net-bursting winner on Sunday is likely to have impressed Rodgers, who has looked to use the talented youngster as a game-changer off the bench since taking over at Leicester in February.
However, given his early-season heroics, Barnes might as well assume a more substantial role later on in the season.
The biggest revelation so far this term has been centre-back Caglar Soyuncu, who has looked a lot better than he did in the few games that he featured last season.
Leicester didn’t invest in a new centre-back following Harry Maguire’s sale to Man United because they apparently believed Soyuncu could do the job for them at the back.
And the Turk hasn’t disappointed the manager so far, looking calm and comfortable alongside the more experienced Jonny Evans. Assured with the ball at his feet and adept at imposing himself with his physicality and aerial prowess, Soyuncu seems to have a nice turn of pace as well.
There will be tougher tests for him over the next six games or so but Rodgers should be happy with whatever progress he has shown so far.
3 Talking points from Man United 1-0 Leicester City ahead of PL gameweek 6
3 Talking points from Man United 1-0 Leicester ahead of PL gameweek 6
Man United triumphed 1-0 over Leicester City at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday, as the Red Devils ended the Foxes’ unbeaten run and registered their first victory in the league since the 4-0 hammering of Chelsea on the opening day of the campaign.
The game, which was regarded as one of the main attractions of Round 5, turned out to be something of an anti-climax in the end, and the overall lack of creativity over the ninety minutes was quite ridiculous considering the quality of players in action.
There was hardly anything to separate the two teams in what turned out to be a rather dull and boring game of pretty ordinary standards, with Marcus Rashford making all the difference with his goal from the penalty spot early in the first half.
Overall, it was a story of how both the teams failed to live up to the hype surrounding the game, with Man United lacking the composure to keep hold of the ball long for long enough to carve out anything meaningful and Leicester just not showing enough creativity to find a way through a stubborn United backline led by Harry Maguire.
Nevertheless, Ole Gunnar Solskajer should be happy with those three valuable points and more importantly, against a side that has been tipped to overtake them in the race for the top-six. Here are 3 talking points from the dull 1-0 encounter:
1. Maguire gets the better of Vardy
This was the first time that Harry Maguire was facing his old club in the Premier League since his move to Man United earlier in the summer and the Englishman was always going to be Solskajer’s best bet in trying to keep an in-form Jamie Vardy at bay.
And the towering central defender, who seemed to be fully aware of Vardy’s tricks and strengths in the final third, didn’t allow his former teammate to even get a sniff of the goal on Saturday.
Maguire’s flawless reading of the game and his knowledge of Vardy’s strengths were instrumental in United’s efforts to drag the ultimate opportunist out of the game and though it wasn’t a very creative display from the Red Devils, they certainly deserve plenty of credit for a clean-sheet against one of the most potent attacking units in the division.
2. Soyuncu’s bubble finally bursts
Caglar Soyuncu, who has taken over the reins from Maguire at the heart of Leicester’s defence, was showered with praises for his performances in the first four league games heading into the international break but the youngster turned into a villain at Old Trafford this weekend.
Soyuncu’s needless clip on Marcus Rashford’s heels inside the box early in the first half allowed United to open the scoring from the penalty spot and that, ultimately, would go on to be the decisive moment of the game.
Indeed, he has done a fair job at the back but his sudden rush of blood on Saturday, which eventually cost the Foxes the game, would have reminded Rodgers that the Turk is still quite young and relatively inexperienced at the Premier League level.
3. Scott McTominay the standout performer for Man United
On a day where both the teams lacked creativity and finesse in the middle of the park, Scott McTominay put in arguably his best performance of the season so far and repaid Solskjaer’s faith in his abilities.
Playing alongside Nemanja Matic as a part of a double pivot in the midfield, the Scottish international completely bossed the midfield with his tireless running up and down the pitch, while his physical presence put off the likes of Hamza Choudhury and Youri Tielemans.
McTominay broke down the play really well with his tackles and interceptions, carried the ball forward with intent and was always at the right place and at the right time to safeguard United from Leicester’s forays.
The 22-year-old won 9 out of 16 duels on the ground, 3 out of 3 duels in the air, completed 2 out of his 2 attempted tackles and chipped in with 2 interceptions and 3 clearances.
Apart from that, he was instrumental in circulating possession in the midfield and switching the play, with the youngster registering 60 touches on the ball and completing 31 passes (accuracy rate of 79.5), including 6 successful long balls.
McTominay has shown signs of maturing into a powerful defensive midfielder this term and Man United have every reason to be pleased with his rapid development.
3 Realistic contenders for a 7th place finish in the Premier League including West Ham
3 Realistic contenders for a 7th place finish in the Premier League
With most of the media hype focussed on the title race in the Premier League, we often tend to forget that several other teams also compete in the division to achieve their desired goals.
Indeed, the race for the top-four or Champions League qualification, the battle for the Europa League spot and the relegation dogfight at the bottom of the table ensure that each season of Premier League football has plenty in store for all sets of fans to savour and admire.
Given the recently-established big-six hierarchy in English football involving Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs, the other clubs have found it difficult to break the top-six lock.
Instead, they have shifted their focus towards battling it out for the best-of-the-rest or the 7th spot in the Premier League standings to earn themselves a coveted spot in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League.
The likes of Southampton, Everton, West Ham, Burnley and Wolves have all secured the best-of-the-rest position in recent years and with that in mind, let us take a look at 3 potential contenders for that spot in the 2019-20 Premier League season.
1. Leicester City
Having narrowly missed out on the seventh spot last season following a late flurry since the appointment of Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City will be hoping to make a return to Europe this term.
And if the first four games of the ongoing campaign are anything to go by, few would back against the Foxes being the favourites to finish as the best-of-the-rest in the Premier League this term, with Rodgers’ side currently placed third in the standings just behind Liverpool and Man City.
It might be too early to make a call but Leicester have certainly got the firepower in all departments to mount a strong challenge for a Europa League qualification spot, especially after a summer of heavy spending which saw the club acquire the services of Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, Ayoze Perez and James Justin.
Jamie Vardy and James Maddison continue to be the club’s key driving forces in the attacking third and with youngsters like Hamza Choudhury, Caglar Soyuncu, Filip Benkovic, Wilfred Ndidi and Harvey Barnes in the ranks, Leicester certainly look strong enough for a good run this season.
Everton have always been considered as one of the odds-on favourites to finish as the best-of-the-rest in recent times but the Toffees have failed to replicate their heroics since Ronald Koeman guided them to a 7th-place finish back in the 2016-17 season.
A late flurry of positive results towards the end of last season, which included victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United, reignited hopes of replicating such a feat under Marco Silva but the Merseysiders fell agonisingly short of achieving their desired target.
Now with Silva still in charge and after a couple of summers of heavy recruitment to enrich the squad with quality signings like Richarlison, Bernard, Theo Walcott, Moise Kean, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Andre Gomes, Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph and Andre Gomes, it’s now or never for Everton to fulfil their ambitions.
The Toffees, though, will need to keep up their consistency levels to be successful in their pursuit of a Europa League qualification spot, as opposed to last season, where they dropped points against some of the lesser fancied sides in the league.
3. West Ham
West Ham did ever so well to secure a top-ten finish in their first season under Manuel Pellegrini, and the club invested heavily to bring in Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller this summer. This clearly outlines their ambitions to kick on and challenge for a European spot.
A well-oiled attacking unit consisting of Felipe Anderson, Haller, Fornals, Manuel Lanzini, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Robert Snodgrass and Michail Antonio will definitely be the key to their success, although Pellegrini should ideally look to shore up his defensive midfield and central defence in January.
With such quality attackers at their disposal, the Hammers look capable of beating any opposition on a given day but consistency in the latter stages will be the primary deciding factor in the race for a European spot.
Premier League gameweek 4: Winners and Losers from the weekend including Chelsea’s slip and Leicester’s rise
2019-20 Premier League: Winners and Losers from Round 4
There was plenty to savour and admire for all sets of fans, as Round 4 of the 2019-20 Premier League season lived up to the expectations, with none of the games failing to produce a goal.
Man United kicked off the action on Saturday away from home at Southampton, with the Red Devils looking to bounce back from a shock 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace the week before.
Daniel James continued his fine run of form early in the campaign and put United in the lead just 10 minutes into the game before Jannik Vestergaard’s headed equaliser in the second half ensured that both the teams shared the spoils.
United, though, will be bitterly disappointed for failing to break down a 10-man Southampton unit after Kevin Danso was sent off for a second bookable offence on Scott McTominay.
Elsewhere, Chelsea failed to capitalise on Tammy Abraham’s second brace of the season, as the Blues squandered a two-goal lead at home against Sheffield United to earn a 2-2 draw.
Callum Robinson’s strike followed by Kurt Zouma’s unfortunate own goal towards the dying stages of the game meant that Frank Lampard’s side went into the international break with only a solitary win in their first four games in the Premier League.
However, there weren’t any hiccups for defending champions Man City after Pep Guardiola’s side put in yet another dominant performance to claim all three points with a resounding 4-0 victory over Brighton, thanks to a brace from Sergio Aguero and goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.
Similarly, Liverpool continued their merry way with a rather straightforward 3-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor, as an own goal from Chris Wood followed by goals from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino meant that Jurgen Klopp’s side went into the international break with a perfect record.
Shifting the focus to the North London Derby, there was nothing to separate the two teams, as Arsenal and Spurs played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Emirates.
Christian Eriksen opened the scoring for the visitors and Harry Kane’s spot-kick doubled the advantage for Mauricio Pochettino’s side after Son was brought down inside the box by a reckless lunge from Granit Xhaka.
However, Lacazette handed the Gunners a lifeline just at the stroke of the interval before a lively second-half performance saw Aubameyang bag the equaliser with an intuitive finish from Guendouzi’s perfectly-weighted lobbed pass.
Meanwhile, Leicester City continued their unbeaten run in the Premier League with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Bournemouth at home, thus registering their second victory in a row after a 2-1 result against Sheffield United last week.
Jamie Vardy’s early opener was cancelled out by Callum Wilson but Youri Tielemans restored the lead for the hosts towards the end of the first-half before Vardy bagged his third goal of the season later in the game to cap off a dominant display from Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Tielemans, though, was lucky to have escaped a red card for a horrible studs-up challenge on Callum Wilson, with the VAR surprisingly not spotting a clear and obvious error in the on-field referee’s decision.
Elsewhere, Watford opened their account in the Premier League this term with a 1-1 draw away at Newcastle, registering their first points of the season after three consecutive defeats.
Will Hughes’ opener handed the Hornets an early advantage before Fabian Schar drew Newcastle level just before the interval.
The West Ham fans will be happy with what they saw from their team in the 2-0 victory over Norwich City at home, as goals from Sebastien Haller and Andriy Yarmolenko on either side of the interval handed Manuel Pellegrini’s side their second victory of the campaign.
The Hammers created plenty of opportunities and it could have been four or five in favour of them, whilst Todd Cantwell was left to rue his missed chance from just a yard out.
There weren’t any heroics from Aston Villa this weekend as Crystal Palace followed up their surprise victory over Man United with another tidy 1-0 triumph over the Lions at home, thanks to a solitary goal from Jordan Ayew midway through the second half.
Meanwhile, Wolves’ unbeaten streak came to an end at Goodison Park on Sunday as Everton bounced back from a defeat away at Aston Villa last week to register a well-deserved 3-2 win at home.
A moment of miscommunication between Rui Patricio and Conor Coady allowed Richarlison to fire home the opener before Romain Saiss equalised moments later, tapping it in off Adama Traore’s cross from the right.
Alex Iwobi then restored the lead for the Toffees before the interval, only for Raul Jimenez to make it 2-2 in the 75th minute.
It was Richarlison, though, who headed home the winner with ten minutes to go and Wolves weren’t able to muster any meaningful reply after that, as Marco Silva’s side went into the international break on a positive note. Not to mention, Wily Boly’s red card that worsened things for Nuno Santo.
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