Match Week Six kicked off on Friday as AFC Bournemouth beat their uptown rivals Southampton 3-1 at St. Mary’s for the first time in the Premier League. Sheffield United continued to look like they belong, upsetting the Toffees at Goodison Park 2-0, while Leicester City made their case for breaking into the top four at the expense of the struggling Spurs 2-1. Chelsea’s youth movement put up a good fight against Liverpool but the Reds took care of business 2-1. And Wolves’ Diogo Jota opened his account for the season with literally the last kick of the match to draw level with a pesky Crystal Palace 1-1 and finish the weekend with a bang.
Eight is Enough
It took Manchester City less than a minute to wash away the taste of last week’s shocking upset at Carrow Road. Hosting winless Watford, the Sky Blue’s first foray into their opponents’ territory ended when Kevin Debruyne sent a guided missile cross to the boot of a charging David Silva, who put it away for the first goal of his last season in Manchester.
The Hornets made a show of responding quickly three minutes later, but Gerard Deulofeu’s shot was easily saved by Ederson. Watford would never really threaten again. In the seventh minute, Sergio Aguero converted from the penalty spot for his 100th goal in front of the home fans. Five minutes after that Riyad Mahrez was fouled just outside the box and clinically deposited the free-kick off the face of a helpless Tom Cleverly and into the net.
By the 17th minute, Bernardo Silva and last week’s defensive goat Nicolás Otamendi had registered to make the game 5-0. It was the fastest run to five goals in the Premier League era, and the biggest ever halftime lead. Bernardo Silva would complete his hat trick in the second half and Debruyne would cap off the 8-0 rout in the 85th minute. City would end the match with 68% possession, 11 of their 28 shots on target against Watford’s four out of five. Combined with last years FA Cup final the Citizens have outscored Watford 14-0 the last two games.
Watford should be ashamed of this performance, they put next to no pressure on the same impoverished backline that Norwich exploited last week. On defense they put up no resistance, allowing City ridiculous amounts of time on the ball. I think it’s too early to write off a team, but Watford look lost right now.
Gunners Persevere Shorthanded Against Villains
Last week I dismissed Aston Villa for being “boring.” They must have heard me because they were anything but boring on Sunday. Of course, they were at Unai Emery’s Home of Discount Scoring Opportunities, facing an Arsenal squad that had already allowed nine goals. The general lack of defense from either side led to a thrilling, back and forth first half of open play. Villa took the lead at the 20-minute mark when young Scot John McGinn collected a cross from Anwar El Ghazi and deposited it in the back of the net.
Arsenal’s woes multiplied just before halftime when Ainsley Maitland-Niles flew in for a reckless sliding challenge of Neil Taylor and was sent off (limping,) for a second yellow card. Now shorthanded, the Gunners spirits were raised when newcomer Nicolas Pépe put away a penalty just before the hour, but were quickly cast down when homegrown Villain Jack Grealish zoomed past the entire befuddled Arsenal defense after a lazy David Luiz clearance and found Wesley with a cutback pass to retake the lead an entire 60 seconds later as Luiz flailed uselessly nearby.
If the game had ended there we would be talking about Aston Villa’s first step out of the relegation zone and Arsenal’s stumble out of the top six. But unfortunately for the boys in claret and blue, there was still a half an hour of match to play. After a couple of attempts to nab a comfort goal, Villa settled back and tried to weather the Arsenal assault. But fullback Callum Chambers collected his own scraps in front of goal at 80 minutes, then Pierre Emerick Aubameyang completed the comeback three minutes later, curling a sweet spot-kick around the wall and sending the Emirates faithful home happy.
The loss further mires Aston Villa in the bottom three, however they showed a lot of spirit this week and hosting Burnley next, a team unlikely to make a big comeback, they might have something to build on. The win jumps Arsenal into 4th place for now, joining the scrum of teams at 11 points fighting over the third and forth Champions League spot and watching Liverpool and City race ahead of them. Next Monday they will visit Old Trafford to face Manchester United, another struggling top team.
Is Manchester United Still a Top Team?
We knew Manchester United were a bit of a mess going into this season, but I don’t think anyone expected them to struggle this much. But maybe we should have? Their 0-2 loss to West Ham United at London Stadium was the kind of listless road performance you’d expect from a mid-table denizen like Everton, not the most decorated and profitable franchise in English Football.
The last United team to win the league was the 2012/13 team that capped off the career of the teams legendary skipper Sir Alex Ferguson. A succession of managers have attempted to steer the Red Devils since then, but they have only managed two top four spots since. They have gone from a team that effortlessly signed and deployed top talent during the transfer window to a team that squandered millions of pounds on Alexis Sanchez. Ole Gunnar Solskjær is doing his best to deploy the talent he has, but the decision to ship out Romelu Lukaku after two seasons with no replacement striker on hand nor bringing in a new top scorer was puzzling. Marcus Rashford appears misplaced in the #9 role, nor has the young Englishman flourished as a team leader. No United player has cracked 20 goals since Robin Van Persie’s 26, and inexcusable output in a league where two players from the same team shared the Golden Boot last year with 22.
Paul Pogba gets a lot of headlines for his “will he or won’t he leave,” drama, and he often looks lackadaisical on the pitch. But his work-rate is actually quite good and he leads the league in regaining possession in the middle third. He’s the kind of midfielder you can build around if you have a plan. Harry Macguire was a good use of the clubs surfeit of cash, but they need to be equally savvy at the other end of the pitch this winter if they want to stay in Europa League contention let alone a top-four spot.
“From our Haus to Yours”