A Premier League weekend worth its weight in goals delivered drama, VAR controversy, and plenty of musings about the future as the first days after the summer transfer window happened upon the 2023-24 season.
And so it’s fitting that the weekend ended with one of the men who switched clubs for big money — Declan Rice — propelled one title hopeful past another as Arsenal won a game full of late flash points against Manchester United on Sunday.
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Sunday’s drama came after a Saturday with three hat tricks, which itself came mere hours after Luton Town showcased its unique ground and club to the Premier League… and came within a called handball and ensuing penalty of surprising West Ham.
It was a Premier League weekend worth a deep review, and our writers Joe Prince-Wright, Nick Mendola, and Andy Edwards got stuck into analysis on the aforementioned eight games.
Declan Rice winner gives Arsenal millions (and millions) of reason to revel
Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United
This was a day for difference makers. Marcus Rashford struck for United. Bruno Fernandes cued up what could’ve been a late winner (VAR stepped in). Martin Odegaard delivered a pinpoint equalizer. And Gabriel Jesus later salted away an emotional win. So how good must everyone at Arsenal feel — the player above all — that massive summer signing Declan Rice struck decisively in stoppage time to win one of the Premier League’s most historic rivalries? Considering his price tag, that the Gunners were coming off an uninspired draw with Fulham, and the impending international break, and Rice’s goal was worth it for the week’s worth of vibes alone. The Gunners would’ve targeted at least 10 points from this soft start to the season, and make amends for the Fulham draw by beating Man United. They would’ve remained a legit contender with a draw or a loss, but this bolds and italicizes that status. – Nicholas Mendola
Rice becomes Arsenal hero with goal v. Man United
Declan Rice’s first goal for Arsenal comes at the perfect time as he scores the go-ahead goal for the Gunners in the 96th minute to lead Manchester United at the Emirates.
Ange-ball as a system can become Tottenham’s new talisman
How do you replace your record goalscorer when they leave the club? You don’t — at least in Tottenham’s case, they simply couldn’t, because there are few strikers in the world like Harry Kane. Four games into the season, six different Tottenham players have scored a goal already, including three who have scored at least two. Last season, Kane scored 30 Premier League goals, Son scored 10 and no one else scored more than five. Ange-ball manufacturers scoring chances by the ton, not just for one or two key players but for anyone and everyone who ventures forward to join the attack. There will be some growing pains along the way, no doubt, but the combination of 1) a fast, unbeaten start, 2) no European games to take focus away from PL performances, and 3) more time for players to train Postecoglou’s system, make Tottenham a very serious top-four contender this season. – Andy Edwards
Liverpool passes center back depth test with help from attack
Liverpool 3-0 Aston Villa
Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate will have all the high-fives for Joel Matip and Joe Gomez after the deputizing center backs helped Alisson keep a clean sheet. Alisson is the key piece there — he had a few nice saves, as standard — but Villa’s 0.49 expected goals shows that danger was hard to find for a club that had cruised in all matches since the blowout at Newcastle. Liverpool fired forward in the first half and could’ve led by four or even five at the break. The Reds only found one more goal from Mohamed Salah — still in red, by the way — even as the second half opened up, but Jurgen Klopp will appreciate the comfort at least relative to the Herculean effort at Newcastle. – Nicholas Mendola
Erling Haaland takes drama and debate out of VAR controversy
Man City 5-1 Fulham
Might Fulham have fared differently had Manuel Akanji been ruled to have interfered with Bernd Leno’s judgment of Nathan Ake’s late first-half goal? Maybe. The Cottagers were cagey and game in the first 45 minutes. Erling Haaland himself said the play was offside in his opinion, but Haaland already had an assist to Julian Alvarez under his belt and the Norwegian was unplayable in the second half, scoring three times to bring his season haul to six goals from four games. He now has 42 Premier League goals in 39 games. That’s one more than a full season, and four of his appearances lasted 45 or fewer minutes. Should Ake’s goal have stood? With apologies to Marco Silva’s arguably righteous fury, Haaland made it so the question is borderline irrelevant. – Nicholas Mendola
Haaland’s hat trick for Manchester City v. Fulham
Relive Erling Haaland’s first Premier League hat-trick of the season as he guides Manchester City’s to a 5-1 win over Fulham at the Etihad.
De Zerbi’s bounce back plan bamboozles predictable Newcastle
Roberto De Zerbi and Eddie Howe took two very different avenues to bouncing back from rough weekends and De Zerbi’s plan came out looking decidedly superior. Brighton made significant changes to its XI and Newcastle’s only move was injury-demanded. The Magpies midfield was straight-up worked by Brighton. It was bad even before Howe removed steely Sandro Tonali and Joelinton, and it was hopeless with Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson joining star Bruno Guimaraes in giving Brighton’s Pascal Gross, Solly March, Kaoru Mitoma, and Billy Gilmour a one-dimensional group to traipse through for two more Ferguson goals. All the negative Newcastle notes aside, Brighton remains a fantastic football club that is passing every test sent its way. Moises who? Alexis who? Yves who? Cucu-who? Leandro who? Ben who? – Nicholas Mendola
Palace has special something, needs help from health and Hodgson
Crystal Palace 3-2 Wolves
Roy Hodgson wasn’t very pleased with Palace’s performance even if he wanted the win, and that’s saying something from a 3-2 home win that saw Edouard, Eze, and Co. show cutting edge in the final third. And it’s going to become even more difficult to feature in this Palace attack when Michael Olise and Matheus Franca are ready to go. But for Hodgson’s unit to thrive, he needs to hope for health at the back and midfield or for quick adaptation from the new signings under experienced hand Hodgson. If either or both come to light. don’t be surprised if the Eagles are flirting with a top-seven run at some point this season. – Nicholas Mendola
Steve Cooper’s made it very difficult to cut through Tricky Trees
Chelsea 0-1 Nottingham Forest
Chelsea could not find its way past Forest’s back line more than once or twice, but the Blues can take some solace in the fact that no one’s producing much danger through those Tricky Trees. The Blues’ 1.15 expected goals was the highest total conceded by Forest through four Premier League games by 0.18. Joe Worrall — eight recoveries, seven clearances — leads what’s can only be described as an angry unit. Ryan Yates in front of the back three reinforces that vibe as he plays with the edge and has a unique knack for getting away with mayhem. – Nicholas Mendola
Cooper: ‘Arsenal were excellent’
Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper speaks to the media following his side’s 2-1 loss to Arsenal to open the 2023-24 Premier League season.
Memorable night could’ve been magical with VAR help
It had been more than 30 years since top-flight football had been played at “the Kenny,” after the club was relegated the season before the Premier League began in 1992. The excitement was palpable and West Ham nearly helped add to it with a vulnerable finish. Carlton Morris headed the ball across the penalty area and Mads Andersen helped it on with another header just inside the far post to make it 2-1 and officials’ decisions to not give Luton a penalty kick almost immediately following the restart robbed the match of excess drama. Cauley Woodrow sent a corner kick into the penalty area and the ball clearly made contact with Ward-Prowse’s arm, which appeared to be raise quite high and away from his body. Referee Paul Tierney let play continue and VAR John Brooks recommended no further review upon his own assessment. –Andy Edwards
Cameron Archer ready for breakout Blades campaign
Sheffield United 2-2 Everton
Sheffield United chased Cameron Archer all summer long and based on his finishing on Saturday it is easy to see why. Archer curled home a beauty in his first Premier League appearance for the Blades and then hit the post after a brilliant bit of skill which led to the their second goal. Archer is a fine young talent and a clinical finisher. The kind of skill he has to work space in the box and finish is something you can’t really teach and that is exactly what this workmanlike Sheffield United team needs. Everton seem to have found a talent up top in Beto too and this entertaining draw will give both teams hope that if they shore things up at the back they have the attacking talents to grab plenty of wins this season. – Joe Prince-Wright
There’s a “Yeah, but” with Brentford’s unbeaten start
Brentford 2-2 Bournemouth
It comes with a bit of an asterisk, as Thomas Frank’s side has drawn three of their four games thus far, to go with the fact they held a lead in all three draws and failed to get over the finish line. Coming into Week 3, only three-time defending Premier League champions Manchester City (+1.73) had a better xGD per 90 minutes than Brentford (+1.43) this season. Three games is a small sample size, but we know that gaudy xG numbers are simply part of the furniture at Brentford these days. Bournemouth hit them for 2.02 xG on Saturday, though, and that’s where they had been much improved to begin the 2023-24 season. Still, it speaks volumes that a thrilling 2-2 draw is seenas a downright disappointment for Brentford. – Andy Edwards
10 things we learned from the Premier League — Week 4
- Declan Rice winner gives Arsenal millions (and millions) of reason to revel
- Ange-ball as a system can become Tottenham’s new talisman
- Liverpool passes center back depth test with help from attack
- Erling Haaland takes drama and debate out of VAR controversy
- De Zerbi’s bounce back plan bamboozles predictable Newcastle
- Palace has special something, needs help from health and Hodgson
- Steve Cooper’s made it very difficult to cut through Tricky Trees
- Memorable night could’ve been magical with VAR help
- Cameron Archer ready for breakout Blades campaign
- There’s a “Yeah, but” with Brentford’s unbeaten start