There were three games in the Premier League yesterday, as Liverpool beat West Ham 4-0 at Anfield, Southampton and Burnley played out a 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s and Man City beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates. We’ll start at Anfield, where there was a rout and Liverpool went top of the league.
It took Mo Salah less than 20 minutes to open his account for the season at Anfield. Naby Keita, who had a good game on his debut, had the ball in the middle of the park. He advanced towards the West Ham goal. There was a ball on to Andy Robertson quite early that looked like the pass to make, but Keita waited and waited. He released it eventually, and it was at the perfect moment. Robertson was able to play a low cross into the box, and Salah was able to finish easily. 1-0.
Liverpool were knocking on the West Ham door before that, and had a couple of chances. There was a great ball into Mane who made a run into the box, that he was millimetres away from, but it ran through to Lukasz Fabianski in the West Ham goal. After that, there was a fantastic ball into the box by James Milner, which put it on a plate for Salah or Roberto Firmino to tap in just a few yards out. They both missed it though.
The Reds doubled their lead just before the break. Robertson picked Milner out well at the back post, and the midfielder played it back across the face of goal, where Mane was standing for a tap in. It was 2-0 at the break.
Mane added his second of the game not even 10 minutes into the second half and Liverpool were home and dry. Daniel Sturridge scored after 88 minutes with his first touch after coming on as a substitute. It was a great win for the Reds, who will hope they can produce this level of performance every week.
At the Emirates, Man City beat Arsenal 2-0. The champions were better than Arsenal, which is to be expected. Raheem Sterling opened the scoring after 14 minutes, before Bernardo Silva’s powerful left footed strike gave them a 2-0 lead in the second half.
Man City were absolutely battering Arsenal down the wings, and it was very worrying for the Gunners. Unai Emery opted to send his team out very narrow; clearly instructing Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to stay inside. This gave Riyad Mahrez and Sterling a lot of space out wide, and they made Arsenal pay.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was called into action as a makeshift left-back with Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac both out injured. He’s a really good player, and has done well at left-back in the past, but I felt sorry for him at times. He didn’t get the help required from the anonymous Mkhitaryan, and he was left two-on-one time after time with Mahrez and Kyle Walker. Maitland-Niles didn’t do anything poorly, but he was overrun out there. He landed awkwardly when challenging Kyle Walker, and had to be replaced by Stephan Lichtsteiner. Arsenal looked a bit better with the veteran right-back in their defence.
In the end, Man City were just too good for Arsenal, but Arsenal weren’t as bad as some would have you believe. They had their chances in the second half, and could have got themselves back into the game but they were squandered. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was starved of service throughout the game, had the ball in the net at one stage but it was rightly ruled out for offside. It was a brilliant finish by him though.
Mesut Ozil also had a couple of chances, but he wasted them. He also had the ball in the net, but that was chalked off for offside too. Man City knew he was off and stopped playing though; it was different to the Aubameyang one.
All in all, there are plenty of positives for Arsenal to take from the game. They could have lost by more, but they also could have got something from the game. It will take time for Emery to get these players playing the way he wants.
Manuel Pellegrini and Unai Emery both need to be given time to get their ideas across to the players. I think Emery will need a bit more time than Pellegrini, because the expectations are a lot higher at Arsenal than they are at West Ham and I think Emery has a lot more work to do to change how his players play.
A new philosophy doesn’t get into a player after just a few weeks though. Both managers were given the toughest possible starts to their reign. We would probably have been saying how good they were if they both played at home against bottom half teams. We would be raving about them both, saying that they were amazing and that we can see a huge difference in how they play. But the opposition were extremely tough and they were both beaten. There’s nothing wrong with it and it’s nothing to be ashamed about.
You don’t get all your ideas into your players and get them playing the way you want to after just a couple of months. Hector Bellerin made the point that it took Pep Guardiola a year to get going with Man City. They really weren’t great in his first season there, and it even took him, who is widely regarded as the best coach in Europe, time to get it right.
They’ll get there in the end, but patience is required with them. West Ham have a good opportunity to get their season up and running next week when they play Bournemouth at home. For Arsenal, it’s Chelsea away. Unai Emery really has been thrown in the deep end by the fixture computer, but there you go. He’ll get on with it.
I really wanted to go a bit further into this today, but I haven’t been able to. There are builder lads right outside my front garden this morning and they’re extremely loud and it’s quite distracting. I’m not sure if that’s why this post hasn’t worked out the way I wanted it or not. Maybe it’s just one of those days. I doubt this’ll be the last time I talk about Pellegrini and Emery anyway, so I’ll get another chance to go through it in better detail. I spent too much time on the Liverpool game, and that let me down, I think. Ah well.
I’d actually just like to talk about the Sky commentary for a second. I don’t mind Gary Neville when he does his analysis, but he annoyed me yesterday as co-commentator. I think he’s extremely harsh on Arsenal at times, and yesterday wasn’t the first time I have thought that. Less than 25 minutes into yesterday’s game, against last season’s champions and one of the best teams we have ever seen in England, he was saying that the players aren’t good enough to do what Emery wants and he needs a couple of transfer windows.
Maybe he does need a couple of transfer windows, but seriously, 20 minutes in, Gary. Give the team a bit of time please. After 20 games I would probably understand if Neville made that assessment, but 20 minutes isn’t enough. Man City are amazing and could have done that to anybody yesterday. And Arsenal weren’t even that bad.
There was another occasion too. Petr Cech was instructed to play out from the back, and had a couple of dodgy moments with his kicking. Ederson was actually worse than Cech, almost conceding a couple of goals because of his poor kicking. But when Ederson gave the ball away cheaply, Neville didn’t say a word about it. He just focused on Ozil’s poor finishing. He seems to have a real problem with Arsenal, and likes to stick the knife in. Maybe he had to be harsh on Arsenal in the past, because they were so bad at times, but it’s too early right now for the way he was carrying on.
Anyway, I’ll have to leave it there for now. I’ll be back tomorrow, as always, and your news will be on Twitter throughout the day. Have a good Monday.