Category: Match Reports- Premier League 17/18

My Match Reports from the Premier League season 2017/18

Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal: Wenger proves a point

So far this Arsenal have won all their home games and lost both their away matches without scoring and given their record at Stamford Bridge this looked a home banker, but we were about to see a very different Arsenal.

Antonio Conte went with tried and tested with the recovering Hazard kept on the bench, whilst Arsenal Wenger resisted the temptation to start Sanchez which looked odd given the absence of Ozil.

In the early states Arsenal stayed compact but Willian’s pace from deep threatened to undo them. Fabregas & Kante probed but Arsenal appear to have learned from their shelling at Anfield.

On 15 minutes a quick Arsenal counter sae Bellerin pick out Welbeck on the edge of the box but his glancing header fell just wide and then Bellerin again got in behind and almost set Lacazette up but Luiz got in front of the Frenchman.

Then on 21 minutes a beautiful Fabregas pass saw Pedro through who beat the offside trap only to fire an effort straight at Cech. As the first half wore on it became apparent that Arsenal weren’t going to be outmuscled by Chelsea as has often been the case in recent meetings between these two with Xhaka and Ramsey showing resolute discipline in midfield.

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Then on 41 minutes Ramsey turned Azpilicueta inside out and pushed an effort onto to the lefthand post. Chelsea were struggling to impose themselves with even Kante lacking his usual composure on the ball. But Morata always looked a danger on the countermand almost forced Monreal into an own goal before half-time but they went into the break at 0-0.

For the second half Bakayoko entered the fray for Chelsea and the game immediately became stretched. Tempers started to flare and on 52 minutes Luiz was booked for an attempted bicycle kick that (accidentally) wound up in Koscielny’s face.

5  minutes later Ramsey was teasing Chelsea again combing with Welbeck but Courtois snuffed it out. The game continued in the spirit of a derby with neither side finding the moment of quality needed to break the deadlock. On 66 minutes Sanchez was on and 2 minutes later Hazard was on. the 73rd minute saw a hefty challenge from Luiz on Welbeck saw the Arsenal forward replaced by Giroud.

Then Mustafa headed home from a free kick only to have it correctly chalked off for offside. Hazard then danced around the Arsenal backline only to shoot straight at Cech. Hazard provided the greatest threat in the last 10 minutes but on 87 Luiz followed through on Kolasnic and for the third straight time in this fixture Chelsea were down to 10 men.

With little time left Arsenal didn’t have the time to exploit their advantage and it finished 0-0. Arsenal will be the happier- a point at Stamford Bridge is always a point gained. They were disciplined and a world away from the shambles we saw at Anfield. That said without Ozil they lacked the incision to cut Chelsea open.

Chelsea themselves will not be too disappointed. For all the noise coming out of Manchester this season, The Blues are better defensively than City or United and have their most dynamic weapon coming back to fitness with only a 3 point deficit on top spot. They’ve also taken 7 points from games against Spurs, Arsenal and Everton. Would you bet against Hazard when the run in arrives?

 

 

 

 

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Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: It’s grim up North London

It’s Groundhog Day at Arsenal, after the usual loss at Stoke came the gutless first visit to a top 6 rival.

The build up was dominated by two selection shocks, Liverpool dropping of keeper Simon Mignolet and Arsenals’s of record signing Alexandre Lacazette.

The early skirmishes saw Arsenal struggle to cope with Liverpool’s pace and movement leading to an Emre Can header whilst Danny Welbeck blew a presentable chance for the gunners. On 10 minutes the ever dangerous Mo Saleh should have made the breakthrough with a close range effort saved by Petr Cech.

The inevitable Liverpool goal duly arrived after just 16 minutes, the inventive Can sent Joe Gomez away down the right and his inch perfect cross was nodded home by Roberto Firmino.

Arsenal looked toothless and Liverpool were threatening to run riot. But Arsenal got a foothold in the game via a typical Karius goalkeeping mix up that although cleared sent a shudder through the crowd and Liverpool defence.

But the nerves were short lived, on 40 minutes Liverpool broke from their own box through the power of Can then the pace of Firmino and finally the beautiful angled finish of Sadio Mane.

Coquelin came on at the start of the second half and Arsenal at least showed early bite and application, but the only threats to Karius’ goal were again self inflicted as Welbeck almost got in from a casual back pass.

But on 56 minutes Liverpool sealed the win when they broke from an Arsenal corner and the excellent Salah burned past the Arsenal defence and picked his spot 3-0.

From then on it was just a case of how many as Liverpool passed their way around the training cones in blue shirts posing as Arsenal’s midfield.

Daniel Sturridge came on after 73 minutes and 4 minutes later he’d scored after another devastating counter orchestrated by Firmino and Can and ending with a fizzing cross from Salah nodded home for Sturridge’s 99th Liverpool goal 4-0 and that’s how it finished.

For Liverpool early season scepticism has given way to euphoria having moved up to 2nd in the League and a new Champions League adventure ready to begin. If they could add a top class keeper say Jack Butland and a dominant centre half say a certain Southampton player they will be in title contention.

As for Arsenal the next phase of Groundhog Day will see a trolley dash this Thursday and the ‘Wenger Out’ banners adorning the Emirates Stadium.

There was little for Wenger to take from this, with only Welbeck showing any hunger or fight. Arsenal’s midfield simply didn’t track back and Alexis Sanchez looks to have given up.

Arsenal’s FA Cup final display illustrated there is a good side in there somewhere but whether it’s the manger, players or boardroom malaise there’s something fundamentally wrong, I doubt it can be fixed over the international break.

Man City 1-1 Everton: Rooney makes his point

The first Monday Night Game of the season started with fireworks before kick off leading to a hazy smog around the Etihad Stadium. But the expected fireworks on the pitch gave way to a tactical chess match between ex Barca teammates Guardiola & Koeman, City as expected dominated possession with Guardiola bravely opting for Leroy Sane at left wingback.

Meanwhile Koeaman shrewdly opted for a fiesty midfield dropping playmaker Davy Klaassen for the more energetic Tom Davies and relying on the pace of Dominic Calvert Lewin to break, often down City’s left in the space vacated by Sane.

Within 25 minutes both Davies and Morgan Schniederlin had picked up bookings, setting the tone for a feisty encounter. City’s first big chance came when Jordan Pickford saved a Nicolas Otamendi effort only to paw the ball into the path of Sergio Aguero who couldn’t finish clinically and Phil Jagielka tidied up.

City started to build momentum on the half hour mark and a De Bruyne break put Aguero through but Jagielka managed to keep him at bay, moments later David Silva struck a thunderous drive against the foot of the post. But Everton broke and an awful attempt at back tracking from Sane gave Calvert-Lewin space to pick out Rooney from the edge of the area, the Man United legend smacked the ball against the legs of Ederson and into the City net 0-1.

But just as the watching Gareth Southgate was preparing his Rooney recall speech for next week, Rooney gave the ball away in midfield and Silva forced a smart stop from Pickford.

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With a few minutes left in the  half City were preparing for a siege of the Everton box when Kyle Walker was harshly sent off for a second yellow. Walker backed into Calvert-Lewin, it was soft but not the smartest move from a man who’d been booked minutes earlier.

For the second half Guardiola brought on Raheem Sterling for the ineffective Gabriel Jesus. Despite their numerical disadvantage City gradually built momentum with Everton keeping them at arms length for the first 15 minutes of the second half.

Seeing his side dropping off too much Koeman took off Davies & Ashley Williams for the more dynamic Klaassen and record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson for his debut, Guardiola countered with the introduction of Danilo & Bernardo Silva.

For all the doubts over Ederson’s command of his penalty area his distribution is first class and a long clearance on 70 minutes ended in a clear sight of goal for Bernardo, 4 minutes later Sterling showed his usual composure in the box to blast over from 15 yards. Sterling almost made amends 2 minutes later with beautiful bended ball for Danilo who forced a great save from Pickford. Then On 82 minutes Sterling found his shooting range as the otherwise excellent Mason Colgate’s tame defensive header fell for Sterling who volleyed home from the edge of the box 1-1.

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On 88 minutes the heated temperature saw Schneidlerlin sent off for a challenge on Aguero. Earlier City players felt Calvert-Lewin had made a meal of the Waker challenge, if that was the case Aguero made a 5 course banquet of this clutching is leg theatrically ensuring the referee reached for his cards. As the minutes ticked down Everton almost got Calvert-Lewin clean through whilst a touch from Klaassen denied Silva a clear cut chance for City.

1-1 was ultimately a fair result that showcased City’s slick attacking play but raised other concerns for Guardiola. Ederson remains a worry in goal with City facing greater defensive examinations on the road. Another surprisingly is Aguero who continues to look short of his usual confidence in the box. One big plus for City remains the return to fitness of Kompany, Otamendi & Stones looked more secure with the club captain in the backline although the back 3 is clearly still a work in progress,  whilst Guardiola will be counting the days until Benjamin Mendy is fit to take over the left back position.

As for Everton the result confirms they are a coming force likely to challenge for the top 6 and a cup rather than the title itself. Rooney was magnetic in the first half but his powers faded in the second, the England recall debate will fill plenty of column inches this week although the pacey Calvert-Lewin might have made a stronger case for inclusion.

The fact City’s opening game lead to more talk about Guardiola’s chinos than anything that happened on the pitch spoke volumes about the routine nature of that win. This match was hardly a disaster for City but with with Mourinho’s thunderous start to the season across town there’s plenty for Pep to ponder.

 

 

 

 

 

Match Report: Newcastle 0-2 Tottenham

Newcastle’s relegation day 15 months ago was one of the oddest I can remember. With their demise already confirmed the Toon Army showed up for a party confident in the knowledge that in Rafa Benitez they had the man to take them straight back up and had he taken over from the hapless Steve McClaren earlier they’d have survived. Last season proved them right.

On that day last May Newcastle demolished a crestfallen Spurs side 5-1, the Londoners season having come to an abrupt halt in the final weeks of the campaign after their title bid fell short.  So this match was always going to be about how far both sides have come. Both have endured frustrating transfer windows but it was pretty evident today it’s Newcastle who have the greater need for fresh blood.

After an early Dwight Gayle shot, Tottenham quicky assumed control with Mousa Dembele and Christian Eriksen pulling Newcastle’s midfield around the park. For the rest of the first half Newcastle were content to sit deep and win the occasional set piece on the break.

Newcastle’s deep defence had the effect of nullifying Harry Kane and restricting Spurs to a handful of pot shots from Eriksen and Newcastle saw out the first period 0-0.

Aside from the constant booing of Momo Sissoko there was little for the home crowd to get worked up about, until the third minute of the second half, when Jonjo Shelvy stupidly got himself sent off for standing on Dele Alli’s ankle.

Alli became the pantomime villain as Spurs upped the tempo, Kane should have opened the scoring 4 minutes later with a point blank shot at the keeper, but Rob Elliot produced a fine save. Inevitably it was Alli who broke the deadlock in the 61st minute, getting on the end of an Eriksson’s pass after Spurs worked the ball around Newcastle’s box.

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From then on Tottenham were in game management mode, happy to knock the ball around and make Newcastle run. In the 70th minute the Magpies defence cracked again as a long session of keep ball eventually saw Ben Davies slide home.

From then on Spurs continued their domination of possession, Kane should have made it 3-0 in injury time but struck the post, for Newcastle Christian Atsu produced a fine run and shot but Tottenham rarely looked troubled and rode out 2-0 winners.

Newcastle should have enough to survive this season, but Shelvey’s upcoming suspension combined with two first half injuries will only add to the pressure for new signings and further complicate the relationship between Benitez & Mike Ashley, if Newcastle are to avoid their customary autumn crisis they need to get the recruitment right over the next three weeks.

As for Tottenham this was a routine win from a potentially tricky opener, showcasing their defensive strength if not a fully functioning attack.  Eriksen was outstanding whilst Kyle Walker-Peters enjoyed a fine debut at right back. They’ll need to play at a greater tempo in their adopted home next week against Chelsea. But for now it’s a solid start.