The 2023/24 Premier League season has exploded into life in its early stages, with drama at every corner. The international break now gives us an opportunity to catch our breath.
In the final round of matches before the intermission, the 20 sides gave us a series of crackers. Ten matches, 41 goals and plenty to unpack.
Here are the main talking points from the weekend just gone.
Treble of hat-tricks
After a run of zero hat-tricks from the first three weeks, THREE players managed to take home the match ball in the space of two days.
It will come as no surprise that Erling Braut Haaland was one of the trio. He struck his treble in the second half as Manchester City cruised to victory over Fulham.
There were never many doubts over the Norwegian’s goalscoring prowess, but he hadn’t been at his prolific best in recent outings. This could be the game to spark him back into life.
Heung-min Son was another who got in on the action. He got his first, second and third of the season in Tottenham Hotspur’s resounding win against Burnley.
When Harry Kane was sold, many at Spurs were concerned about where the goals may come from. Richarlison’s early season form did little to quell these fears.
But in Son, they have a proven goalscorer – a Golden Boot winner, and a member of the ‘100 club’. If he keeps his place through the middle, they can rely on him to produce the numbers.
Finally, completing the trio of hat-tricks was Brighton & Hove Albion’s Evan Ferguson. His three strikes against Newcastle United took the Seagulls back into the top six.
The 18-year-old is proving to be one of the most promising young strikers in world football. Brighton will be expecting plenty of interest in him next summer – but they won’t sell him cheap.
Erik ten Hag’s away day troubles
For the most part, Erik ten Hag enjoyed a positive debut campaign at Manchester United.
He took over at a difficult time, steadied the ship, took them back into the top four and ended their five-year trophy drought.
But the Dutchman has been far from flawless, most notably on his travels. Last season, the Red Devils picked up just one point against the top nine away from home.
Ten Hag has had two opportunities to rectify that this term, but has only added two more losses to his record. This weekend’s loss to Arsenal was a tight one, but it’s becoming a concerning pattern.
Ten games. Zero wins. One draw. Nine defeats. Nine goals scored. 33 (yes, THIRTY THREE) goals conceded. If Ten Hag hopes to bring Utd back to the top, he needs to turn this around.
Boehly’s billion-pound boys below par
Since Todd Boehly’s takeover back in May 2022, Chelsea have spent a LOT of money. 27 senior players have come in over the last year, costing up to £1 BILLION in transfer fees.
The Blues have taken an immense risk in the transfer market. Boehly has utilised bookkeeping tricks to remain in line with Financial Fair Play for now, but this won’t be sustainable in the long term.
Champions League qualification will become essential in the near future if they wish to continue spending.
At this rate, they can forget about it. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have won just one of their opening four games, and currently sit in 12th place in the Premier League table.
Nottingham Forest were the latest team to take three points from Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Club record signing Moises Caicedo carelessly lost the ball in midfield, allowing Taiwo Awoniyi to play Anthony Elanga through for the only goal of the afternoon.
Down the other end, the hosts were guilty of squandering several opportunities. Summer recruit Nicolas Jackson – who was handed an eight-year contract – spurned one over the bar from inside the six-yard box.
It may take time for these new signings to settle in. Over time, Pochettino could build a formidable team. But right now, Boehly’s reckless approach isn’t looking too promising.
Wheels falling off at Newcastle United?
Last season was an enjoyable one for Newcastle United fans. They achieved their best Premier League finish for 20 years and reached their first cup final of the 21st century.
With new arrivals and Champions League football on the horizon, the Magpies entered the campaign in high spirits. And, after demolishing Aston Villa on the opening day, the fans had every reason to dream.
Since then, their celebrations have been dampened. A 1-0 defeat at Man City is nothing to be ashamed of, but the following two games have done significant damage.
Having had the game seemingly in the palm of their hands against Liverpool, they somehow came away empty-handed thanks to Darwin Nunez’s late brace.
The defeat would have been mentally draining for Eddie Howe’s side, but could they bounce back against Brighton & Hove Albion?
The answer to that question was a convincing ‘no’. It was a dire performance from Newcastle, who were thoroughly outplayed from start to finish.
It’s too early to write Newcastle off – they’ve been handed an extremely tough set of opening matches.
On paper, their fixture list gets kinder after the international break. But if things don’t pick up soon, Howe may begin to worry about his job.
More VAR drama
Every single week, it feels like referees are at the centre of attention. Already this season, we’ve seen countless questionable decisions come under intense scrutiny.
The Arsenal vs Manchester United game showed VAR at its best. Despite the minimal contact, Kai Havertz was not fouled by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and referee Anthony Taylor correctly overturned the decision. And, while it was very tight, Alejandro Garnacho’s goal was just offside.
Unfortunately, it can’t always be this way. This week’s leading victims of refereeing failure were Fulham, who conceded a goal that should not have stood.
Yes, Manuel Akanji didn’t get a touch on the ball, and he’s not in the eyeline of Bernd Leno – but that’s not the point.
Leno clearly delays his dive because of the Switzerland international’s presence. Ultimately, the incident shows a sheer lack of understanding from the officials.
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