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Premier League: 10 Talking Points from the Weekend’s Action | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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From left to right: Roy Hodgson, Ronald Koeman, Antonio Conte, Chris Hughton , Jamie Vardy, Jürgen Klopp, Mauricio Pellegrino and Aaron Mooy. Composite: Getty Images, PA, Reuters

London – 1) Hughton hankers after firepower

Chris Hughton, the Brighton & Hove Albion manager, said it all when he highlighted how his team had not been “out of sight” against Arsenal, just as they had not been against Manchester City on the opening weekend of the season. On both occasions, the final scoreline of 0-2 hinted at respectability. Which, in truth, was Brighton’s priority. The gap to the Premier League’s top six clubs yawns like a chasm and Hughton’s approach at the Emirates Stadium – an approach born out of necessity – was characterised by damage limitation. Hughton used a 4-5-1 system and, even after Nacho Monreal’s early opener, Brighton did not come out. Their lack of firepower remains a worry. It was the fourth time in seven league matches that they had drawn a blank. However, their season will not be defined by away games like this. David Hytner

2) Vardy’s body needs some respite

After an uneasy start to the season, in which Leicester City have earned a meagre five points, Craig Shakespeare can find some respite before they host West Bromwich Albion on 16 October. The same applies for Jamie Vardy – omitted from the England squad – who will be given a steroid injection to solve his hip problem this week. His manager defended the striker’s decision to play through the pain barrier for his club but not country. “The idea for us and for England is he comes back once he’s had that little bit of a break raring to go again,” Shakespeare said, adding that medical staff from both parties had discussed the issue. “It’s never been questioned, Jamie wants to play for England and for Leicester. The time now: it’s right to give him this break, just to give a little bit of a rest, to fully recover from this injury.” Ben Fisher

3) Conte needs to find a plan B

Antonio Conte returns home to Italy for a few days over the international window seeking “a rest”, but he will spend the next fortnight stewing on the defeat to Manchester City. He has retained a league title as a manager before, though never in a division where the elite are quite this reinforced. At Juventus in 2012 he had been braced for a renewed challenge from Milan. “But, instead, they sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain, so they became weaker,” he said. “It wasn’t simple second time, but it was easier. Here, from last season to this, you have big teams becoming bigger.” Manchester City demonstrated as much at Chelsea’s expense on Saturday, and Manchester United, only off the top on goal difference, appear just as imposing. Therein lies the justification for Conte’s frustration, aired within Stamford Bridge over the summer, at the need for more significant squad strengthening to keep ahead of the rest. The head coach always knew life was going to be harder this time round. Saturday proved it. Dominic Fifield

4) Everton need to go back to basics

Everton’s struggles continue. While not replacing Romelu Lukaku’s clinical finishing is obviously a problem so, too, is Ronald Koeman’s defence. Michael Keane was signed in the summer from Burnley for £30m. But statuesque defending made Burnley look more like Barcelona as they combined for a total of 24 passes through nine players for Jeff Hendrick to apply the finishing touch past Jordan Pickford. Morgan Schneiderlin allowed Hendrick to ease past him, leaving Pickford stranded, and the lack of desire from the Frenchman and the unit as a whole shows a defence badly out of form. At this stage last season Everton had conceded four goals and kept three clean sheets. They have now conceded 12. If Koeman cannot bring his side back to basing their success on being difficult to beat then, regardless of how well his expensive attacking force play, Everton will continue the struggle. Graham Searles

5) Huddersfield crash back down to earth

Amid a cornucopia of perks, the downside to being a footballer is that you have to do your growing-up in public. So far in his short career Dele Alli has attracted derision for some naughty challenges, a rude gesture and, on Saturday against Huddersfield Town, a devious dive. Those deeds were varying degrees of bad. But if they are the worst things that this 21-year-old has done while rising to the top of a fiercely competitive profession, and if he learns from them, then who among us can honestly hold them against him for long? As for Huddersfield, they entered this match with the second best defensive record in the Premier League, but ended with their first home defeat in the league this season. “They’re one of the best teams in the league. You could tell that,” the Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy said after the defeat. Paul Doyle

6) Hodgson wants his players to show their mettle

Crystal Palace’s hammering at Manchester United makes it seven defeats from as many Premier League games, 17 goals conceded and none scored. Chelsea visit Selhurst Park on 14 October. So, how is the spirit among Roy Hodgson’s players? “It’s been excellent,” he said. “Obviously, it’s going to get more fractious because we put our messages across quite strongly and there will be some on the field who don’t pick up those messages as quickly as others. But that’s nothing I can’t deal with.” Yet the manager will again be without three key figures for Chelsea’s visit. “[Christian] Benteke won’t be back for a few weeks, so we still won’t have a recognised centre forward. Wilf Zaha probably won’t be back [each has a knee problem]. Ruben Loftus-Cheek [ineligible] can’t play. So it’s got to be the lads I put out there who go out there and run their bollocks off, if you excuse my expression, to try to do the best job they can possibly do,” Hodgson says. It may get worse before it gets any better. Jamie Jackson

7) Lack of finishing power haunting Klopp’s men

Time was when Newcastle v Liverpool was a match anticipated like no other. Two aggressive teams who were seemingly interested only in attacking and with centre-forwards who could be relied upon to deliver in front of goal. The thing is that time was more than 20 years ago. While Liverpool’s aspirations have not changed much in that time, namely a first league title since 1990, Newcastle had to recalibrate theirs long ago. The death of Freddy Shepherd last week, and his commemoration at this match, served as a reminder of the Magpies’ Icarus-like brush with the Premier League title in 1996. For Newcastle, this draw will have given them encouragement in their ability to hold out against better sides. For Liverpool, the failure to convert chances, once again, haunts them, like that clock that has been ticking for 27 years. Conrad Leach

8) Pellegrino needs a rethink on forward options

There is an argument that Southampton’s attackers lost so much confidence under Claude Puel last season that it will take time for Mauricio Pellegrino’s ideas to take hold. But after this defeat by Stoke City, concern is growing about Pellegrino’s flexibility. Southampton’s two wins have come against Crystal Palace and a 10-man West Ham, and scoring five goals in seven matches has not exactly set pulses racing at St Mary’s. Pellegrino has favoured a 4-2-3-1 system and Shane Long started as a lone striker against Stoke, with Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini both on the bench. Long’s tireless running can be useful in that role, but his selflessness is rendered ineffective by the inability of Southampton’s creative players to take advantage of the space created by the Irish forward. Might it be time for Pellegrino to think about pairing Long with Austin or Gabbiadini? Jacob Steinberg

9) West Brom treading water despite money spent
There was a feeling that West Brom had made some brilliant signings when the transfer window closed, and the excitement around the Hawthorns was tangible. A month later the view about Albion’s activity in the market has not changed but the same cannot be said for the mood. Albion sit 10th, which is respectable enough, but the broader picture shows only three wins from 19 league matches and, perhaps most frustratingly for the supporters, no shift in the way the team plays, despite £40m being spent. Tony Pulis is never going to ask his teams to open up and play gung-ho, but it is hard to escape the feeling that the group of players at his disposal should be capable of coming up with a better way of holding on to a 2-1 lead than time-wasting almost throughout the second half. The tactics were overly negative and came back to bite Albion when Watford scored a 95th-minute equaliser. Stuart James

10) Clement’s cupboard is bare in attack

It was always likely to be a difficult season for Swansea after the departures of Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Their combination was pivotal in Swansea’s fight to stay up and it is no surprise they are toiling without them. Paul Clement could not hide his frustration after the defeat to West Ham, which pushed Swansea into the bottom three. The manager was pleased with his team’s composed passing in midfield but he was unhappy with their decisions in the final third and critical of his forwards for their timidity. Wilfried Bony had one effort before being taken off at half-time, while Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew were quiet. Yet Clement must also shoulder some of the blame. Swansea created nothing at the London Stadium and three goals in seven games is damning. They lack imagination and width and will be in huge trouble if nothing changes. Jacob Steinberg

The Guardian Sport