Another week of Premier League football, and plenty more talking points to address in our latest round up.
Beginning with the game at the newly named Bet365 stadium, Pep Guardiola registered his second victory as Manchester City boss, with a 1-4 win away at Stoke, although the scoreline was somewhat flattering in a game that, whilst it never looked like Stoke would draw level, City were never fully comfortable.
Sergio Aguero, who had missed two penalties in midweek against Steaua Bucharest (whilst also notching an impressive hat-trick) was given the chance to redeem himself when, for the first time under the new laws, we saw a penalty given for grappling inside the box.
This can only be a good thing, as corners will no longer be about deceiving the referee with sneaky shirt-pulling to gain an advantage as refs, like Mike Dean was, will be on high alert to stop these incidents.
Previously, corners had been pretty much about how much you were holding the opposition player’s shirt, thus allowing the offending player to easily get to 50-50 balls first, but now defenders will have to be far more careful, as Ryan Shawcross was penalized when Dean caught him in the act.
This could mean that we will say an increase in headed goals, and the chance of scoring from set-pieces like corners will be far more threatening.
Hopefully this enforcement will allow more skill to be involved in headed goals, where timing of the run and leap power will play a much bigger part.
Aguero, despite his previous misses, tucked away the penalty with ease, making Shawcross and Stoke pay for their error, and the Argentinian striker, who I said in last week’s round will be top scorer if kept fit, bagged a brace with a clever header later on the first half.
Remarkably in the second half, despite the earlier penalty being given, City conceded a spot-kick of their own when Raheem Sterling was caught holding Shawcross from a corner, and Bojan tucked away the resulting opportunity.
Still, even though Sterling didn’t learn, it will certainly be just a matter of time before players realise that shirt-pulling will no longer be tolerated – I’m looking at you, Chris Smalling.
The game was set for a tense finish in the final minutes with the score 1-2, but a late double from substitute Nolito put the game out of sight for Pep and City.
Elsewhere, Burnley took a leaf out of Leicester’s book and showed Liverpool that possession isn’t everything. In a game where Jurgen Klopp’s side had 81% of the ball, they still failed to score, whilst Burnley scored twice, and therefore won 2-0.
Whilst being without the distraction of European football this season, and the fact that Klopp has now got a full pre-season under his belt, the German needs his side to find consistency – one week they can be dazzling, the next awful – highlighted no better than by their 3-4 win away at Arsenal followed by their 2-0 loss at Burnley.
As for Sean Dyche’s side, it could be third time lucky for Burnley, after their last two promotions to the top division have seen them be relegated both times.
This time, Sean Dyche has a season of Premier League experience, aswell as a balanced and organised squad that do the basics to perfection.
Meanwhile, other 3 o’clock kick-offs saw Chelsea turn it around to win 1-2 at Watford, Everton turn it around to win 1-2 at West Brom, Tottenham nick a late winner against Crystal Palace, and Hull record a second successive win away to Swansea.
The Tigers, with an extremely limited squad due to a mixture of departures and injuries, are upsetting the odds, but whilst Mike Phelan has got the place organised, the lack of certainty regarding his future is concerning, but at the moment they will aim to just take each game as it comes.
As for Spurs, they left it late with a goal from Victor Wanyama stealing the win against Pardew’s Palace who have now signed Christian Benteke. The Belgian, who failed to deliver in his first and ultimately only season at Liverpool last time out, could be the answer to Palace’s goal-scoring problems, but the Eagles may well rely on him heavily in order to steer clear of a relegation battle this season.
The late kick-off saw Leicester entertain Arsenal, and after the first 0-0 draw of the season, we are left wondering – why have Arsenal not bought a new centre-back and a new centre-forward – well, in the form of Shkodran Mustafi and Lukas Perez, it looks like they will – although we are still left scratching our heads as to why it is so overdue – is it Wenger’s reluctancy to spend, or is it Stan Kroenke’s decision, or is it the fault of chief executive Ivan Gazidis? We would all love to know.
Sunday saw Middlesbrough beat Sunderland 2-1, and it looks as if Aitor Karanka’s solid Premier League squad could survive, whilst West Ham played their first Premier League game at their new Olympic stadium – although it was an awful game, with the only real things of note being the red card of Harry Arter and the winner from Michail Antonio.
Finally, we saw the birth of Friday night football on sky, as Manchester United welcomed Southampton to Old Trafford on Paul Pogba’s debut, but despite the £89million man’s impressive performance, it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who stole the headlines again with a brace that secured a 2-0 win for Mourinho’s Red Devils.
Zlatan, who turns 35 in October, will continue to score goals despite his age – the creativity of Pogba, Rooney, Mkhitaryan and Martial will create chances for him, and his clever positioning will see him carry on finding the net.