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Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action – The Guardian

Ten talking points from the weekend football

Trevoh Chalobah impresses for Chelsea, Rafa Benítez’s warm reception and Mason Greenwood looks ready to step up

Mon 16 Aug 2021 03.00 EDT

1) Tanganga outshines City’s superstars

When in the opening minutes it became clear that clear Manchester City’s gameplan was to overload the left flank – with Benjamin Mendy raiding forward, Raheem Sterling cutting inside and Jack Grealish drifting wide – it was hard to avoid feelings of extreme sympathy for Japhet Tanganga, the rookie right-back faced with repelling the City swarm. Eighty-two minutes later Tanganga was departing the field to a hero’s ovation, with Spurs in the lead and a clean sheet in the post. The 22-year-old had been making inroads into the first team before a string of injuries disrupted his momentum last term and he looked poised to join Galatasaray on loan just a week ago. But that display will surely have written him into Nuno Espírito Santo’s plans for the season, not least because the coach’s favoured back-three setup looks ready-made for a defender who is best as a right-sided centre-back. Spurs’ summer has centred on the potential departure of one home-grown hero; perhaps on Sunday we saw the arrival of another. Alex Hess
• Match report: Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City

2) Ice-cool Chalobah has makings of Chelsea mainstay

There has been plenty of fretting over academy players leaving Chelsea this summer – one of them, Marc Guéhi, even lined up for Crystal Palace on Saturday – but the flow to the first team has not stopped. Mason Mount was Chelsea’s best player during their comfortable win over Palace and there was a show-stopping moment from another youngster when Trevoh Chalobah marked his Premier League debut by scoring from 25 yards. It was an excellent strike from the 22-year-old, who been on loan at Lorient, Huddersfield and Ipswich, and a reminder that Thomas Tuchel will promote young players in the right circumstances. Confident on the ball, Chalobah impressed Tuchel during pre-season and has delivered assured performances on the right of Chelsea’s back three during their wins over Villarreal and Palace. On this evidence Chalobah, who can play in defence and midfield, could have a surprisingly influential role this season. Jacob Steinberg
• Match report: Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace

3) Thrilling Traoré needs to go to finishing school

Adama Traoré is one of the most exciting players in the Premier League and also the subject of one of the most ridiculous statistics: his total top-flight goal tally, at the age of 25, is seven. His decision-making has improved greatly in the last couple of seasons, as have his passing and crossing, his attitude is faultless and his dribbling has always been a joy. But his finishing still needs serious fine-tuning. Wolves would have begun the Bruno Lage era with a draw at least if Traoré had been able to take any of his chances on Saturday. On the plus side, Wolves have embraced the new manager’s attacking philosophy and will cause problems to all defences this season, especially when Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence return. And Raúl Jiménez, although understandably not at his sharpest, did well for 90 minutes on his first competitive outing since fracturing his skull. Paul Doyle
• Match report: Leicester 1-0 Wolves

4) Subs offer Villa a source of light

“Are you talking about Jack?” sighed Dean Smith as he prepared to answer the question he has fielded countless times since the departure of Aston Villa’s talisman to Manchester City. “We’re over Jack – he’s not here any more. The players are fully aware and have moved on from that already. And the fans have had to move on as well.” Leaving the Grealish era behind was never likely to be easy for Villa and the disappointing performance against newly promoted Watford was exactly what Smith didn’t need. But after all three substitutes, including new £30m signing Leon Bailey, made a real impact in the second half, their manager could at least find some positives. “We have got a lot more depth this season and we can change games from the bench,” added Smith. Ed Aarons
• Match report: Watford 3-2 Aston Villa

5) Benítez’s welcome makes nonsense of social media babble

The refreshing contrast between social media and real life was demonstrated vividly when Rafael Benítez was introduced to the Everton fans at Goodison Park. Where the former had predicted vitriol, the reality was a rousing reception for a new manager whose tactical switches underpinned a stirring comeback against Southampton. That was something Carlo Ancelotti repeatedly failed to do at home last season. Of course it is only one game and results will determine the levels of support for Benítez who, ever the professional, just wants to get on with the business of winning. “We have been talking too much about that,” he said of the reservations over his Liverpool background. “In the end I think the fans appreciate that I am a professional and I will fight for the team, I will fight for the club and I will fight for them until the end. They know that is my way, and hopefully they will be happy for the rest of the season. In football the way to keep people happy is to win games.” Andy Hunter
• Match report: Everton 3-1 Southampton

6) Carefree Canaries must tighten up at the back

Nobody doubts Norwich’s commitment to expansive football and it was evident again on Saturday, even if they ultimately fell well short against Liverpool. They play some scintillating stuff but, just as when they were comprehensively relegated two seasons ago, their achilles heel may lie at the back. Their distribution from central defence did not match the composure on show in midfield and there was a scratchy feel to their work at the back, although there is mitigation for Grant Hanley in particular given he did not play a minute in pre-season. Norwich will need to find defensive solidity quickly, even if next week’s visit to Manchester City might make that tricky. They may also require extra authority in midfield, where Billy Gilmour showed tantalising glimpses of his lavish potential but could perhaps use some experienced help. Daniel Farke’s side seem better placed than in two years ago, but there is work to do. Nick Ames
• Match report: Norwich 0-3 Liverpool

‘Imagine if we would have to buy this boy now’: Klopp delights in new Van Dijk contract – video

7) United’s next great striker may already be at Old Trafford

Ask Ole Gunnar Solskjær if Mason Greenwood is developing into Manchester United’s next No 9 and he tends to stress the versatility that equips the teenager to operate across the forward line. “I think he enjoyed taking corners,” the United manager said. In a sense, though, Greenwood has grown into the role of the focal point. “He is more than capable of using his body. He has filled out. He can play down the middle, dealing with bigger centre-backs,” Solskjær said. Factor in the pace to score United’s brilliant counterattacking second, and the skill and impudence when he nutmegged Pascal Struijk in the first half, and it amounts to a wonderful combination of attributes. Now Jadon Sancho has arrived, the reality is United have less need for a winger. With Edinson Cavani probably leaving next summer, there is a theory Solskjær should target a striker. Greenwood could ensure he does not need to. Richard Jolly
• Match report: Manchester United 5-1 Leeds

8) Have Brighton put their wastefulness behind them?

Brighton’s profligacy in front of goal became something of a running joke last season and badly hamstrung a team – and a manager – that should be taken seriously. Indeed, if games were decided on expected goals rather than real ones then Brighton would apparently have finished fifth. It will have pleased Graham Potter, then, that his team managed to kick the habit on day one of the new campaign, outperforming their xG to see off a moderately wasteful Burnley side with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency. Time will tell whether this newly businesslike Brighton side is here to stay – they still lack the most obvious mode of turning chances into goals: a decent striker – but the fact that their comeback was sparked by two introductions from the bench will not be lost on Sean Dyche, whose substitutes included two academy graduates without a senior start between them. The last fortnight of the summer transfer window represents a chance that Burnley really cannot afford to miss. Alex Hess
• Match report: Burnley 1-2 Brighton

9) Frank’s no-nonsense Bees right at home

On their journey from the Championship, Brentford were rightly lauded for the bright and inventive attacking football that often blew teams away. Plenty of that was in evidence in their convincing win over Arsenal, particularly through the trickery of Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canós, but they showed rather more besides. Thomas Frank’s side looked streetwise, unafraid to mix things up with direct balls to Ivan Toney or to hit the channels when required, and scored their second goal through a classic blocking manoeuvre from a long throw-in. Many newly promoted sides thrill with their bright football but ultimately fall short in knowhow; on Friday night’s evidence, though, an outwardly inexperienced Brentford can both handle themselves and pack a punch. While it is true that a miserable Arsenal were perfect fodder, there are clear signs that the Bees will make a genuine fist of survival – and perhaps even more. Nick Ames
• Match report: Brentford 2-0 Arsenal

10) Newcastle’s engine room needs an overhaul

As Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek exerted control over midfield, Steve Bruce must have rued Newcastle’s failure to register Joe Willock’s £22m move from Arsenal in time for the new boy to be involved. Willock made a habit of scoring important late goals from the bench during a loan stint at St James’ Park last spring and his game-changing skills were badly needed as his new side ran out of ideas and energy. Yet if Newcastle crave Willock’s advances between the lines, West Ham’s ruthless counterattacking ability will surely have convinced Bruce of the need to sign another, more defensive-minded midfielder before the transfer window slams shut. A semi-fit Jonjo Shelvey is no enforcer at the best of times and his struggles emphasised one of his team’s principal weaknesses. A lot of games are won and lost in central midfield and, without added steel in this department Bruce’s side will struggle. Louise Taylor
• Match report: Newcastle 2-4 West Ham

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