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Goals, goals and more goals

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Big games, late goals, new superstars, and VAR controversy. These are the words that can be used to describe the game week four of the 2023-24 Premier League season. Across the ten games this weekend, we saw a whooping 41 goals, the most in any game week this season. The current season has seen plenty of the so-called ‘mid-table’ and ‘lower-table’ teams ditch their defensive style of football for attacking flair.

These teams have also deployed this strategy against stronger teams, giving us some incredible games. After 40 games, one thing is certain: no matter how big a team is, they will have to back their talent on the pitch to win points, as now other clubs have shown that they are equipped to punish any lapse in concentration.

Only five teams in the league are unbeaten at this point, with only one boasting a 100 per cent winning rate, showcasing how cutthroat the fight for places will be this season. And with the transfer window also closing, teams only have their current squad to help them should their form flounder or injuries rise.

So, what did we learn from game week four of the Premier League?

Arsenal get the bragging rights over Manchester United at Emirates 

The biggest clash of the week was undoubtedly Arsenal vs. Manchester United. The Gunners desperately needed the three points after their dismal performance against Fulham last week. Arsenal started the game on the front foot and created several chances but failed to find the finishing touch.

United’s strategy was simple: absorb the pressure and hit the team on the counterattack. And this is what got them the opening goal as Marcus Rashford bamboozled Arsenal’s defence to score from a stunning curler past Aaron Ramsdale. The goal hit a switch inside Arsenal, who only took 35 seconds to equalise.

The second half was much the same, with both sides struggling to find the winning goal. United scored, but Alejandro Garnacho was offside by the finest of margins. In the end, it was record-signing Declan Rice who scored his maiden goal from a scruffy finish to beat Andre Onana at his near post.

The goal meant that United had to go on the offensive with minutes to go. This opened spaces for the Gunners, and in one such chance, Gabriel Jesus found himself through on goal. The Brazilian produced a quick cutback that embarrassed Johnny Evans before slotting the ball past Onana to confirm his team’s victory.

 

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Manchester City win, but VAR makes headlines

Manchester City thrashed Fulham 5-1 to win their fourth straight victory, with Erling Haaland scoring his first hattrick of the Premier League season. However, the game was marred by a controversial VAR decision that allowed a Manchester City goal to stand. Despite playing against a star-studded side, Fulham came out all guns blazing, matching City in intensity.

The Cottagers also managed to equalise within two minutes after going down. Towards the end of the first half, the hosts won a corner, which was swung in by Cole Palmer, with Nathan Ake getting on the end of it and scoring past Bernd Leno. However, City defender Manuel Akanji was just ahead of Leno, and according to Law 11 of the FA handbook, a goal will be deemed offside if an opposition player is blocking the goalkeeper’s view.

Despite this, both referee Michael Oliver and the VAR allowed the goal to stand. This goal deflated Fulham’s spirits as Haaland ran riot in the second half.

 

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Brighton and West Ham are not to be taken lightly

Before the start of the season, Brighton and West Ham lost several top players in the transfer market. However, both clubs moved swiftly and promoted new players into the role. And the transition has been so smooth that both clubs have become even better despite losing their star players.

West Ham United have won three and drew one, which includes wins over Chelsea and Brighton. David Moyes, who has been the master of defensive football, has created a perfect system that uses fast counterattacks by physical players to overwhelm the opposition. Their game against Brighton is a perfect example where the Hammers scored three goals despite having 22 per cent of possession. They continued their form this week, winning 2-1 away against newly promoted Luton Town.

Meanwhile, Brighton bounced back in style after their defeat to West Ham United as they took three points at home against Newcastle United. Led by their rising star Evan Ferguson, who scored a hattrick, the Seagulls were at their best in attack. Under Roberto de Zerbi, the club have improved by leaps and bounds in the last few seasons.

With 12 goals, Brighton are the most scoring team across the top five leagues after AS Monaco, which shows how perfect of a system they have built.

Tottenham Hotspur look as good even without Harry Kane 

Ange Postecoglou had a massive job at his hands when he took charge as the boss at White Hart Lane. On top of that, he also had to see his top player, Harry Kane, depart for Bayern Munich. However, the Austrian known for his tactical genius has managed to turn things around at the London club within months.

The recent 5-2 away win over Burnley showed their brilliance, with skipper Son Heung Min scoring a hattrick. However, the star of the show has been James Maddison, who has been the lynchpin of the side. The English attacker currently ranks second in the league for Expected Threats (xT) and fourth in Expected Offensive Value Added (xOVA). He also has won 11 fouls, the fourth most in the league.

Tottenham also managed to add Brennan Johnson to their squad before the transfer window closed. While the Welsh international is clearly not as lethal as Kane in the role, he does have a vast potential and will give Postecoglou a new dimension in the attack.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool show adaptation is key to survival 

The biggest void that Liverpool needed to fill in the transfer window was in the middle of the park. While Alexis MacAllister and Dominik Szoboszlai were added to increase the quality in the attacking midfield areas, Liverpool failed to add an elite holding midfielder, failing to sign any one of Jude Bellingham, Moises Caicedo, and Romeo Lavia.

They did manage to sign Ryan Garvenberch on deadline day, but he is not a true holding midfielder; despite this, Jurgen Klopp had said that with these world-class midfielders at his disposal, he could adapt his team in such a way that negates the need for a number six.

And till now, we are starting to see signs of that with Liverpool playing quick one-touch passing combined with high intense Gegenpressing to suffocate the opposition off the ball. The attack is in fine form, with Darwin Nunez starting to justify his fee and Szoboszlai scoring his first goal for the club to help his team capture the third spot on the table.

Chelsea keep hitting new lows every week

If one had to put their money on which manager is likely to be sacked in the Premier League, then Mauricio Pochetiino’s would fetch a large number of bets. After having a dream transfer window where they added several players that took their total spending in the last year over one billion, Chelsea have incredible managed to become even worse.

In fact, seeing their performance so far this season, it looks like the team needs another one billion investment to improve. After four games, the Blues sit 12th on the table. Their recent games saw them lose 1-0 to Nottingham Forest at home. This was in a game where they had 21 shots on target with an xG of 2.13 (according to Opta) as compared to 0.71 of their rivals.

Star signing Mykhailo Mudryk has yet to score his first goal after 20 games, while the lack of finishing and the eros in defence keep mounting. Pochettino is yet to find his best starting 11, and his tactics till now look clueless, with players unable to string a reasonable period of dominance in any of the games so far. 

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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