London on top, Manchester City in dire straits, and Liverpool play another blinder. The gameweek 8 of the 2023-24 Premier League season provided us with another set of brilliant games. The Premier League table is starting to take shape with eight games played. Arsenal and Tottenham are in the top two spots (Tottenham on top courtesy goal difference).
Despite intense competition, the teams in the top four look a level or two above the rest, and this is why other teams harbouring top-four dreams will have to elevate their game if they are to stay in contention.
Twenty-seven goals were scored a tad low according to standards set in the earlier game weeks. We also saw two red cards, which this time, though, didn’t affect the results of the particular game.
So, what did we learn from gameweek 8 of the 2023-24 Premier League season?
Chelsea, Manchester United finally win
If there are two teams that have had the most pressure on their shoulders in recent weeks, it is undoubtedly Chelsea and Manchester United. Chelsea, in particular, had been woeful despite spending over €1 billion in the past 12 months. At one point, they were hovering over the relegation zone. However, Chelsea weren’t playing badly; they were just missing their shooting boots.
Data from Soccerment shows that Chelsea were top in Gegenpressing in the league. They were also second-best in possession, total passes, passing accuracy, and Passes Allowed per Defensive Action (PPDA). And finally, against Burnley, the team backed these stats with a wonderful performance.
Goals from Cole Palmer, Nicolas Jackson, Raheem Sterling, and an own goal from Ameen Al-Dakhil helped Chelsea to get valuable three points before the international break.
Manchester United also got a win, though in far more dramatic circumstances, with Scott McTominay scoring two injury-time goals to get Erik Ten Hag a much-needed three points. However, United’s win was far more scrappy, with the team unable to find a way past an inspired Thomas Strakosha in Brentford’s goal.
United, though, will take the win and hope that this win provides them with momentum after their players return from international duties.
Arsenal get a champions’ win
Ever since their incredible resurgence last season, Arsenal have been brilliant. However, one area where they have attracted criticism is their liability to get wins when under pressure or when they are not at their best. And when they went into the game against Manchester City without their star players Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in the starting lineup up, things looked bleak.
On top of that, City midfielder Mateo Kovacic also escaped what looked like a certain red card. However, with their backs against the wall, Arsenal came roaring back in the second half. Martinelli, who Mikel Arteta sent in, created all the chances. And finally, the Brazilian scored the winning goal, which went in off a deflection from Nathan Ake, which left Ederson wrong-footed. This was a lucky goal, but this is the type of win that a champion’s team accumulates, and come May, these three points may be the difference between winning the title or finishing second.
For Pep Guardiola, it has been two back-to-back losses. The common theme in both games is the unavailability of defensive midfielder Rodri, who is on a three-game suspension, the second of which was against the Gunners. This explains the importance of the Spaniard in the team, and Guardiola will be hoping that Rodri remains available for the rest of the season if they are to win four titles in a row.
Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham are a team no one wants to face
Could selling Harry Kane be a masterstroke by Tottenham Hotspur? After eight games, it does appear as the North Londoners are on top of the table and are also yet to lose a single game. Ange Postecoglou, who took charge only this summer, has already ingrained his tactics into his players. Tottenham are not just winning but also playing attacking football, pressing the opponents in their half.
Tottenham have the most shots on target in the league and are also first in the Buildup Disruption Percentage (BDP), second in Gegenpressing Intensity, and third in Field Tilt. This is a massive change for a squad who were massively struggling just seven months back.
With Kane gone, Son Heung Min has taken the responsibility for the attack scoring goals while the onus for creating them has been taken over by James Maddison. The English midfielder has five assists (the most in the league) and is also ranked as the best-played on the Expected Threat (xT) metric.
Another Liverpool game, another VAR controversy
After a horror show by VAR officials in Liverpool’s game against Tottenham, the spotlight was back on them in the next game for the Reds. With the game tied at 1-1, Brighton lost the ball near their goal, and in a desperate moment, Pascal Gross brought Dominik Szoboszlai down in the penalty area. While the referee did award the spot kick, Gross escaped a red card even though he wasn’t challenging for the ball, which, under the rules of The International Football Association Board (IFAB), is deemed a red card.
This did help Birghton come back in the second half, with Lewis Dunk scoring the equaliser off a Solly March cross.