Five things we learned in the Premier League this weekend
A new ‘tough’ side to Arsenal, N’Golo Kante comes good, Bournemouth hit Hull for six and more.
No penalty practice for Pep’s City
The old adage is 'practice makes perfect' but on Saturday afternoon Manchester City suggested that the opposite - that lack of practice makes imperfect - is also likely to be true. Long-suffering England fans, who have seen the team crash out of several major tournaments on the back of penalty shoot-out defeats, have often been annoyed by managers saying that’s there’s just no point practicing penalties.
They may, however, take some comfort that City boss Pep Guardiola believes the same thing. But his approach was called into question as both Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Agüero had penalties saved by goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg in City’s 1-1 draw against Everton. Guardiola remained steadfast, though, saying penalty training would remain off his agenda. “You can practice in training sessions, but nobody is there, no pressure,” he said.
Arsene Wenger’s new-look tough side
One sure fire way to annoy Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is to suggest that his team can be 'bullied' off the ball. He thinks that if repeated enough it becomes an excuse for his team to be on the receiving end of foul play. Wenger denies his team lacks a backbone but a lack of defensive resilience has more than played its part in the London club's failure to win the Premier League title for more than a decade.
Yet against Swansea at the Emirates the French manager's stubborn insistence did not ring quite so hollow as Arsenal clung on to a 3-2 win despite being a man down for the final 20 minutes following Granit Xhaka’s sending off. One swallow does not a summer make but Wenger will hope this is the dawn of a new, tougher Gunners outfit capable of standing firm all the way to May.
Kante comes good
N'Golo Kante showed Leicester what they are missing and repaid Antonio Conte's faith with a dominant display in Chelsea's 3-0 win against his former club on Saturday afternoon. Kante was the heart and soul of Leicester's astonishing Premier League title-winning campaign last season but Claudio Ranieri’s side haven’t been the same since the France midfielder made his summer move to Stamford Bridge.
Without Kante, Leicester lack drive in midfield and have now won just two of their first eight league games. After being criticised for a mistake in Chelsea's defeat at Arsenal last month, Kante is starting to show why Conte paid over €30 million to sign him. Controlling midfield with an understated authority, he was voted man of the match.
Referees under fire before a ball is kicked
Premier League referees have long known their decisions will be subjected to intense scrutiny. But now they can face questioning even before kick-off with Anthony Taylor in the firing line ahead of Monday's crunch match between Liverpool and Manchester United.
There have been suggestions that the fact that Taylor, a fan of non-league Altrincham, lives too close to United's Old Trafford ground and could be biased. Remarkably, that point of view has been put forward by former top flight English referee Keith Hackett, who said he feared the focus on Taylor would be “intolerable.” It might be more tolerable if the likes of Hackett at least waited until Taylor had blown his whistle.
Bournemouth, against all odds
Conventional wisdom has it that you cannot maintain a team in the Premier League for any great length of time on home crowds of just over 11,000. But with England's top division now enriched by broadcast deals totalling over €9 billion, Bournemouth, under the astute guidance of manager Eddie Howe, are doing their best to prove conventional wisdom wrong. Certainly there were no complaints from the bulk of the 11,029 crowd at Bournemouth's Dean Court ground as the south coast club thrashed Hull City 6-1.
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