Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Soccer

1) McTominay takes strides forward under Ten Hag

Erik ten Hag said the reason for Casemiro being kept on the bench against Arsenal was “Scott McTominay is playing really well”. The Scotland midfielder looked set to be a victim of Casemiro’s arrival from Real Madrid but has improved under Ten Hag, a sign of what quality coaching can provide. Against Arsenal he kept things simple; in the first half he achieved 100% passing accuracy, taking 27 touches and winning two tackles. He provided the base to allow Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes freedom to make a difference further up the pitch. Casemiro’s arrival has pushed McTominay on, knowing his previous best will not be good enough to earn a starting spot. Seeing what Casemiro does in training will be helpful because he has had no role model at the club in recent years and only got his chance due to the paucity of options. Finally he looks like a United player, but he still has a fight on his hands to keep his spot. Will Unwin

2) Is Elliott ready for England?

Is Harvey Elliott ready to make the step down to international football? After all, if you’re starting for Liverpool in the Merseyside derby it’s safe to say you’re probably ready for Iran in Doha. The 19-year-old was superb in an otherwise humdrum Liverpool display at Goodison Park. If he continues in this vein then the England manager, Gareth Southgate, must surely take a look. With Jordan Henderson drifting out of contention and Kalvin Phillips not getting minutes at Manchester City, Elliott and Jude Bellingham are part of a new English midfield vanguard, equally comfortable recycling, running at defences, switching the point of attack or picking a pass through heavy traffic. Jonathan Liew

3) Gerrard hopes draw will help Villa to reset and relaunch

It almost seemed as if Manchester City’s plan was to sap Aston Villa of all optimism and then clunk through the gears en route to inflicting another one of those heavy defeats that have grown commonplace under Pep Guardiola. City looked primed to run away with victory when Erling Haaland scored his 10th goal in six games but Steven Gerrard’s side dug in to claim a draw that the Villa manager hopes proves to be a foundation on which his side can build. “It is only a big point and an important point if we reset on Monday now and go and back it up against Leicester and Southampton,” Gerrard said. “I don’t think anyone gave us a chance before a ball was kicked so it was important that inside the dressing room we had belief and courage, because against City you need it, both in and out of possession.” Ben Fisher

Steven Gerrard barks instructions at his Aston Villa players during the 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
Steven Gerrard barks instructions at his Aston Villa players during the 1-1 draw with Manchester City. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images

4) Richarlison brings new dimension to Spurs attack

Richarlison may not have capped his first Tottenham start with a goal but the former Everton forward’s dynamic performance rightfully earned him acclaim and suggested he is a strong addition to their attack. The Brazilian teed up Pierre-Emile Højbjerg for Spurs’ first goal, one of four chances he created in their dominant win over Fulham before seeing a late effort disallowed for offside. There was plenty of encouragement from the way in which he linked up with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min to wreak havoc in the Fulham defence. The early evidence bodes well and suggests Richarlison – whose contribution delighted Antonio Conte – will offer the flair and intensity to add another dimension to Spurs’ frontline. He will not play every week but with the club’s relentless schedule, including the start of their Champions League campaign on Wednesday, Richarlison looks a shrewd signing that will enhance their attacking potency. Simon Mail

5) VAR continues to disrupt matches and dismay fans

The fact Chelsea v West Ham was rescheduled a week prior to its staging, with the kick-off time only known last Monday, should perhaps have received wider prominence. That was a slap in the face for many match-going fans, so imagine how it must have felt for the visitors when an awful decision, made by a combination of the VAR and match officials, chalked off a good late equaliser from Maxwel Cornet. A rush of intense emotion dissipated just like that and, as usual, those in the paid-for seats were left with scant idea of what was actually being deduced using the technology. All football supporters deserve better than this but it is those in the stadiums who get the rawest deal. The thought occurs: VAR has helped get some big calls right but nonsensical situations like this still crop up virtually every week. The balance seems all wrong and there is certainly no improvement to the spectacle. Is it really worth all the disruption? Nick Ames

Match report: Chelsea 2-1 West Ham

Referee Andrew Madley consults the pitchside monitor for a VAR decision at Stamford Bridge.
Referee Andrew Madley consults the pitchside monitor for a VAR decision at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA

6) Cooper needs to look forward not back

Steve Cooper has received little criticism during his time in charge at Nottingham Forest but he seems unable to learn from his mistakes. He started with a back three of Joe Worrall, Steve Cook and Scott McKenna despite their struggles in recent weeks. The trio were all over the place in the second half as Forest gave up a two-goal lead against Bournemouth. The Premier League is ruthless, hence why Forest have invested in Willy Boly, among others, and Cooper needs to forget loyalty in order to move Forest forward. At the same time, Jesse Lingard, a player with the weight of Forest’s season on his shoulders, is struggling to cope with the pressure at the City Ground. He gave away the ball cheaply to help Bournemouth get back in the game. Cooper needs to make tough decisions in defence and attack to show the direction Forest need to go in order to stay up. Will Unwin

7) Brentford reaping rewards of Frank talk with Toney

Thomas Frank was not exactly taking the credit for Ivan Toney’s spectacular hat-trick against Leeds, which took him equal with Harry Kane on five Premier League goals and prompted speculation over an England call-up. But had it not been for Frank’s intervention on the final day of the August 2020 transfer window, the striker may never have been persuaded to join his side from Peterborough. “It kept dragging out, dragging out,” Frank recalled. “Then I said: ‘come on Phil [Giles, Brentford’s director of football] give me the number and then I’ll seduce him and explain why he should come here’. Standing outside my wife’s sister’s house and speaking to Ivan, I said to him: ‘Ivan what are you in doubt of?’ Since then it’s been a very, very happy marriage so far.” Ed Aarons

Match report: Brentford 5-2 Leeds

Ivan Toney (centre) takes the matchball with him after scoring a hat-trick for Brentford against Leeds.
Ivan Toney (centre) takes the matchball with him after scoring a hat-trick for Brentford against Leeds. Photograph: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

8) Rodgers must remedy Leicester’s defensive weakness

Leicester City are shipping goals at an alarming rate. Five for Brighton at the Amex made it 16 in the Foxes’ opening six matches. No one wants to extrapolate that across a season. Intriguingly, Wilfred Ndidi again partnered Jonny Evans in a back four. It was not a particularly assured performance, which is understandable given Ndidi is a holding midfielder. Desperate times, then? Except that Brendan Rodgers had two available central defenders – Çaglar Soyuncu and Jannik Vestergaard – neither of whom made the matchday squad. It appears Wout Faes is going to be the only one trusted to fill a Wesley Fofana-sized hole. Or at least attempt to. One suspects though, that the newly-signed Belgian will not be particularly upset that his visa failed to materialise in time for this match. Sam Dalling

Match report: Brighton 5-2 Leicester

9) New puzzle for upwardly mobile Newcastle

This year has been almost relentlessly positive for Newcastle. Now for the step up. Ahead of Saturday’s visit of Crystal Palace, Eddie Howe’s apparent attempt to foster a bunker mentality for extra stimulus was understandable. After a couple of tough matches on the road, ending with their late disappointment at Liverpool, Palace’s visit heralded a run of fixtures that in their current flush of optimism, Newcastle might be mainly expected to win – a newish position for them. Whether they are yet quite accomplished enough to justify that expectation – especially in the absence of Bruno Guimarães, Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson – is another question. While Howe had every right to be pleased with Saturday’s determined performance (and was), the inability to finish off a Palace team that were hanging on by their fingernails at times suggested Patrick Vieira’s post-match forecast that Newcastle could make Europe may be slightly premature. Andy Brassell

10) Kilman proving worth for Wolves

Left-footed centre-backs who are good on the ball are few and far between in England. Max Kilman is continuing to improve at Wolves, leading them to a clean sheet against Southampton. New signing Matheus Nunes is showing why the club paid so much to secure his services but Kilman is helping build the foundations to let the Wolves midfielders and forwards thrive. The former Maidenhead defender has seen off Conor Coady and Willy Boly this summer. Coady has a chance of going to the Qatar World Cup, but Bruno Lage was happy to dispense with his services because of the confidence he has in Kilman. In six games Wolves have conceded four goals on their way to three draws, and their first win of the season against Southampton. Nathan Collins was brought in from Burnley to partner Kilman for the long term, providing what seems the perfect balance in a newly designed back four. WU

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