The Premier League is back with Liverpool looking to retain their title but they could face a challenge from Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Express Sport’s Matthew Dunn returns with his Talking Points column every week.
HUGE BATTLE FOR THE TITLE BUT KEPA LACKS THE PUNCH
Manchester United and Manchester City have not even kicked a ball in anger, and already Chelsea’s trip to Brighton yesterday felt like a must-win game for Frank Lampard’s side.
That’s a big ask for a side under construction, but as Arsenal had shown in the very first fixture of 2020-21, you just have to click instantly.
Kai Havertz’ 30-yard pass to an invisible team-mate midway through the game at the Amex illustrated how much on edge these newbies are; thankfully his team-mate Timo Werner was making a much more encouraging start to his Chelsea career.
Chelsea are going to need everybody firing on all cylinders, though, if Lampard fails to address his goalkeeping crisis. Kepa Arrizabalaga won his place back only to yet let another goal squirm in through his arms, and he would not have smudged lipstick with a weak punch to a corner that nearly landed Chelsea in even more trouble.
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YOU DON’T NEED A PAIR OF BINOCULARS TO SEE SOME EARLY JITTERS AT LIVERPOOL
Marcelo Bielsa did everything he could to live up to his and Leeds’ reputation with a valiant and exciting display which ultimately ended in a near-miss.
But four times Liverpool were in a position to kill the game off and in the end it was only the final whistle that saved them from themselves.
Eight minutes, 10 minutes and then finally 33 minutes was all they could manage to hold onto a lead for and Leeds continued to push every time they went behind.
Virgil Van Dijk looked mortal; Trent Alexander-Arnold even put the ball in his own net, albeit from a chance later ruled out for offside.
Jurgen Klopp has not freshened things up and suddenly his side is one who have kept just one clean sheet in nine games since they won the Premier League title.
A lot of that is down to organisation and staying on the toes. When it is just he same voices you are hearing, though, there is a temptation to switch off.
For that reason alone, Klopp needs to sign somebody soon.
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DARE ALL OR DO NOTHING
Day one and already Jose Mourinho is laying into his players, describing them as lazy and having bad attitude.
The worrying thing for the Spurs manager is that by Day Two, Ben Davies was happy to be quoted all over the newspapers saying how he thought the squad had given their all against Everton on Sunday.
The problem with the timing of the release of the Amazon Prime Video documentary is that it feels like Mourinho has been laying into his players all month. He’s been demanding All and getting Nothing.
Tottenham’s players need to be hearing a new message – one about rediscovering the devil-may-care exuberance in their game that took them on their journey under Mauricio Pochettino.
How can a side with Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and Harry Kane be boring?
The choice of the documentary title may be designed to fit into the canon, but Spurs are not about “All or Nothing”. They are about “Daring” and “Doing”.
Mourinho right now seems woefully short of meeting either of those two demands.
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WEST HAM DECAYED BEFORE THE DECADE
The only people benefitting from games being played behind closed doors at the moment have to be David Sullivan and David Gold.
With the help of Karren Brady, they sold themselves as much as the West Ham fans a dream they lacked the wherewithal to afford when they smooth-talked their way from the gritty East End into a palatial new home.
Other teams like to come and play at the London Stadium, and unfortunately the club’s owners cannot afford to sign the players good enough to stop them.
Now even Newcastle – with all the turmoil around that club – were too well organised and much too good on the day.
March 2023 is a big and – for now – distant date in West Ham’s history. It is when the current owners can sell the club without incurring a giant back-dated tax bill from Inland Revenue under the 10-year terms set out when they took over the venue.
Then, rather than amid takeover speculation now, is when West Ham fans can think about getting new owners who can afford to give their adopted the stage the team the environment.
The terrify fly in the ointment for the current owners is that by then they may only have a Championship club to sell by then.
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NOW WE CAN LAUGH AND NOT CRY AT VAR’S INDIVIDUALITY
The reason why subjective decisions have to be down to one person – the man in the middle – could not have been better highlighted than they were on the opening day of the season.
With FIFA showing the path Mike Riley got so badly lost on, referees are now being told themselves to check with pitchside monitor.
So when Jon Moss showed a red card to Kyle Walker-Peters during Southampton’s game, he was invited to look at it again.
His jog across the Selhurst Park pitch gave former referee Dermot Gallagher time to say to BT Sport: “He’s gone in so high and missed the ball. He’s caught him on the bottom of the foot. He’s got no chance of getting the ball and he’s led with the studs.
“I think Jon Moss has seen all the boxes ticked and decided it is a red card. If you see this angle here, you can’t really argue.”
At which point, Moss scrubbed the red and produced a yellow card.
Because, you see, it was his decision to make. And unlike Gallagher, many feel he got it right.
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