The table is slowly taking shape as teams are starting to hit their stride, just in time to be thrown off again by the international break. Here’s a closer look at a few of this weekend’s big matchups.
The Gunners finally snatched their first goals, along with their first win, of the season on a road trip to Anfield, courtesy of new signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. And yet, despite the initial focus falling on the resumption of business as usual for the Arsenal attack, the real story here is in defense.
Arsenal conceded a total of 49 goals last season, more than any other team in the top eight save Newcastle United. In fact, at this point last season, the Gunners had already bled 10 of those goals.
This year, though, is a different story. Three games in, the North London club has yet to see the ball hit the back of their net (legally, for all you Stoke fans), a stat largely chalked up to the level of opposition. Even against Liverpool, it’s true that Arsenal faced a team not exactly ruthless in front of goal. Still, the home side launched 19 shots goalward, while the defense stood strong, something not often seen in Arsenal sides of late.
Possession highlights another change in this Arsenal team, for whom victory would usually accompany domination on the ball. Liverpool, though, took the majority of possession, if slightly, revealing Arsenal’s willingness to sit back more after taking the lead. We may be looking at a much more pragmatic Arsenal side this season, and one that has set Liverpool on its worst start in 50 years.
Saints fans must still be scratching their heads as to how they didn’t take something from their game against Manchester United. Holding a 2-1 lead with just seven minutes left, including two minutes of stoppage time, the home fans couldn’t have been faulted for expecting at least a draw, especially after Robin van Persie’s saved penalty seemed to indicate fate might just be on their side.
The Dutchman wasn’t done, though. Having tallied United’s first goal in the 23rd minute he would go on to snag two more, claiming his first hat-trick for the Manchester side and ensuring that the Red Devils took all three points home with them.
Statistically, United was probably due, having taken 20 shots throughout the game, five more than the home side, and putting seven of them on target, compared with Southampton’s four. They dominated possession as well, taking 55 percent of the ball. The numbers all read in Manchester United’s favor, but Southampton must have thought they were living a promoted team’s dream for a while.
The Saints weren’t the only team to be devastated by a late goal. Moussa Dembele thought he’d conjured up Andres Villas-Boas’ first win as Tottenham manager, but Spurs gave up a second consecutive late goal to walk away with only a draw.
Playing at home, there was no reason why Tottenham shouldn’t have been able to snatch their first three points of the season against Norwich City. The match started optimistically, and Spurs owned possession, taking 62 percent of the ball. Despite dry spells, they weren’t even terrible in front of goal, creating 15 opportunities, five of which found the target. The home side did lack creativity in midfield, though, as Luka Modric’s former teammates surely felt his absence.
What’s particularly interesting is that Villas-Boas seems to have recognized the problems and actively adjusted his strategy to avoid a replay of last week’s result against West Bromwich Albion. He introduced Dembele and Emmanual Adebayor in the second half to liven things up, and dropped Tom Huddleston into the midfield after taking a 1-0 lead in an attempt to close out the game.
The move blew up in his face. Not only did Robert Snodgrass equalize in the 85th minute, but Huddleston, on the field for just seven minutes, was given a straight red card in the 89th minute for his tackle on Jonathan Howson.
Spurs fans greeted the final whistle with boos. Perhaps the only bright side to Tottenham’s horrendous start (they now reside in 14th place, with two points from three games) is an opportunity for new American midfielder, Clint Dempsey.
What are your thoughts on Week 3 of Premiere League action? Tell us in the comments.