Premier League talking points: Lost midfield battles give Hammers another dilemma

Despite four consecutive league defeats to begin his tenure, there have been changes at West Ham under Manuel Pellegrini.

Premier League talking points: Lost midfield battles give Hammers another dilemma

By Daniel Storey

West Ham closing in on just another crisis

Despite four consecutive league defeats to begin his tenure, there have been changes at West Ham under Manuel Pellegrini. His team are passing the ball more, creating more chances, and getting players closer to the centre-forward to stop him becoming isolated.

But they’re also losing matches, and nothing speaks louder than a club’s results. For all Pellegrini’s attempts to change the mood, the central midfield issue has not been solved by the signing of Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez. The former is more comfortable in an advanced role, while the latter was robbed of possession for Wolves’ winner.

If the cliche that matches are won and lost in the midfield battle rings true, West Ham face a long few months until January.

For the owners, a true test of faith. Having appointed Pellegrini on a long contract and allowed him to play a role in choosing the new director of football Mario Husillos, a panicky reaction would cause the club to again be plunged into short-termist chaos.

Then again, how long do you leave it?

Aleksandar Mitrovic: The Jekyll and Hyde footballer

Given their own problems in front of goal, there are some Newcastle United supporters who feel a little aggrieved at Mitrovic’s early-season form. Having sold the striker to a newly promoted team for a fee of €18m and only bringing in a new striker on loan, Rafael Benitez’s strained relationship with Mitrovic potentially painted the manager in a poor light. No Premier League player has scored more goals than Mitrovic.

Yet Benitez’s problem with the Serbian was that he considered his behaviour erratic to the point that he could not rely upon Mitrovic not to do something silly.

In the last ten minutes at the Amex on Saturday, Mitrovic inexplicably brought down a high ball with his arm and conceded the penalty from which Brighton equalised.

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic was quick to defend Mitrovic after the game, pointing to the striker’s goal record rather than his mistake.

But these are precisely the type of incidents that make Mitrovic so infuriating. For better or for worse, he’ll continue to make headlines.

No player more crucial to their team than Zaha

With Christian Benteke a shadow of a Premier League striker — two goals from open play in 35 league games — and Andros Townsend substituted to a number of boos from the Selhurst Park crowd, it’s frightening just how toothless Crystal Palace look when Wilfried Zaha is not on the pitch.

It is now almost two years since Palace avoided defeat in a Premier League game without him, all ten games lost and only three games scored in those matches. His new contract might well be what keeps them in the division.

“I don’t quite know what I can do about it until such time as we play a game without Wilf and win,” Roy Hodgson said after the game, alarmingly defeatist.

It’s a fact. Again he didn’t play today and again we didn’t win. It’s a pure fact that we have to learn to live with.

Hodgson isn’t the only one at Selhurst praying for Zaha’s speedy recovery from a groin injury.

Hazard happiness excellent news for Sarri

Eden Hazard is typically a reserved person, rarely saying anything that could be deemed controversial.

Every time he was asked about his immediate future this summer, the answer was unerringly similar: “We will see what the future brings.”

But on Saturday evening, after he had scored the second goal in Chelsea’s fourth consecutive league win to start the season, Hazard heaped praise on Maurizio Sarri’s system.

“I like to have the ball. Not in my own half, but in the last 30m,” Hazard told Chelsea TV.

I like this type of game, it’s completely different from Antonio Conte or Mourinho before. Like I say, we have more of the ball so for me it’s not bad.

Cynics might suggest Hazard is happy under every Chelsea manager until it goes wrong, but Sarri must be delighted to hear his best player being so effusive with his praise after being kept at Stamford Bridge this summer. Having become only the sixth manager in Premier League history to win his first four games, all looks rosy in his corner of west London.

Manchester United still find ways to twist the headlines

Manchester United could not have hoped for a more comfortable first half. Burnley had endured an energy-sapping Thursday evening assignment against Olympiakos, but were still woefully laissez-faire yesterday.

On this evidence, Sean Dyche may be secretly glad his team will not play Europa League group-stage football.

A team built on defensive resilience has conceded nine times in four matches, and only faced one team who was in the top half last season.

Romelu Lukaku was not the only one to delight in the space afforded, scoring more than once in a Premier League game for the first time since his Manchester United debut. Paul Pogba was able to spray crossfield passes, Alexis Sanchez finally had some joy on the left and Jesse Lingard was again excellent drifting in from the right.

But Manchester United seem intent on ending on bad news. Pogba’s penalty was weak and Mourinho’s subsequent facial expression a picture, but Marcus Rashford’s red card for a stupid headbutt will cause longer-lasting anger.

Rashford is desperate for regular minutes, and three-match bans are hardly likely to help.

Silly boy.

In the last ten minutes at the Amex on Saturday , Mitrovic inexplicably brought down a high ball with his arm and conceded the penalty from which Brighton equalised

Rashford is desperate for regular minutes and three-match bans are hardly likely to help. Silly boy.

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