MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Daniel Storey looks at what this weekend’s Premier League action thought us.
Mane and Liverpool can have no complaints
In attempting to offer a defence of Sadio Mane’s actions, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp actually provided further evidence for the prosecution.
“I think everyone knows Sadio did not see the goalie,” Klopp said. “It was not for one second that he had a look at the goalie or whatever, he just wanted to get the ball as soon as possible.” That may have been exactly the same conclusion that Jon Moss reached when he chose to send Mane from the field. The laws of the game stipulate that a tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play, and that serious foul play must be punished by a red card.
Whatever Klopp might say, intent is not relevant. Whatever other pundits might say, it doesn’t matter if Mane “had to go for the ball”. Players have a greater right to stay safe than they do to go for the ball. If you raise your foot to the height of a goalkeeper’s head and connect with your studs, you are guilty of putting the safety of another player in danger. The red card was the correct call.
Welbeck form only poses further questions
There was dismay amongst Arsenal supporters when Alexis Sanchez was named on the bench against Bournemouth, but Danny Welbeck was the beneficiary of that team selection. Welbeck has now scored three goals and assisted another in 330 Premier League minutes this season.
Suddenly Arsene Wenger has another headache. Assuming Sanchez is fit for the trip to Chelsea Sunday, does Wenger recall his best player, trusting Sanchez is fully motivated after his failed move to Man City - or stick with the forward in form?
Another option would be to shift Welbeck’s position to accommodate Sanchez, but that would necessitate leaving Lacazette or Ozil on the bench. Even if Ozil seems the most likely fall guy, will Wenger really play with three out-and- out forwards at Stamford Bridge?
Chelsea’s squad crisis was nothing but a mirage
If 2016/17 was the Premier League campaign of manufactured crises, with each top-six manager supposedly in disarray at least once between August and May, this season started early. Chelsea’s home defeat to Burnley on the opening weekend was met with stories of player unrest and a manager at war with his club over transfers.
If there really was a conflict, Chelsea’s peace talks went smoothly. Antonio Conte’s side have now won three straight league games against difficult opponents to move up to third in the table.
The most instructive indicator of Chelsea’s new-found strength came on their substitutes bench at the King Power Stadium. On the opening Saturday of the season, Kenedy, Charly Musonda, Kyle Scott and Fikayo Tomori all made the matchday squad. On Saturday, the seven on the bench comprised of three summer signings, a highly-rated central defender in Andreas Christensen, Michy Batshuayi, Willian and Eden Hazard. Suddenly this title-winning squad doesn’t look so light on options.
Watford enjoying that Silva lining
Marco Silva was attacked by a section of English pundits when he was appointed by Hull City, and that continued after Watford chose to keep the former Olympiakos manager in the Premier League. Yet his record since arriving in England speak far louder than any dissenting words.
Silva has now taken more points than all but eight Premier League managers in 2017. Having shaped Watford’s recruitment processes this summer to buy a core of English players and supplement them with South American style, Silva now has Watford as one of only three Premier League teams unbeaten in their first four matches. Watford have not conceded since the 57th minute of their opening game.
On Saturday, Watford dominated with far higher pre season ambitions. They limited Southampton to a single shot on target and had 12 shots of their own. That’s even more impressive when you consider that six of their starting line-up joined the club on permanent or loan deals this summer. Watford are likely to get better, not worse.
Everton have a way to go
Ronald Koeman will reasonably argue that facing Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City in your first four league matches is enough to make any club stutter. Yet there are worrying signs in Everton’s last two performances, brushed aside without even laying a punch. For all Everton’s summer recruitment, there is an abject lack of pace through midfield and attack.
You probably could pick a slower strikeforce that Sandro Ramirez and Wayne Rooney, but it might require a journey into Sunday League football. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen have their attributes, but as wide midfielders in a 4-2- 3-1 are hardly likely to overlap at speed.
The result is that Everton are stodgy going forward, reliant on Dominic Calvert-Lewin for pace until Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman return from injuries. That makes them easy for any competent defensive unit to thwart. Everton had three shots on target in as many games against Tottenham, Chelsea and City.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved