Hits and misses: Growing pains for big-spending Chelsea | Son shines as No 9

Big-spending Chelsea still a work in progress

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Nottingham Forest’s win over Chelsea in the Premier League

In Chelsea’s matchday programme ahead of Nottingham Forest’s visit to Stamford Bridge, Mauricio Pochettino insisted he is “pleased with the progress” his new side is making. And after a slow start to his reign, consecutive wins over Luton and AFC Wimbledon suggested the Argentine had a point.

Those are hardly inspiring results, but there were small signs of encouragement in each fixture to give Pochettino optimism about the direction Chelsea are heading in. But Saturday’s shock home defeat by Forest is a significant bump in the road and will clearly hurt the former Tottenham boss.

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Paul Merson slated Chelsea’s performance against Nottingham Forest

However, Pochettino’s project will take time as he attempts to stamp his mark on a completely new squad full of young players. Chelsea’s starting XI against Forest had an average age of 24.5, and there is nobody better than the 51-year-old to guide their development.

Pochettino will be confident of finding a winning formula and bringing his attractive style of football to Chelsea, but he won’t be naive. After spending a record amount of money in the summer transfer window and already passing the £1bn mark under the ownership of Todd Boehly, he’ll know the club’s hierarchy will want to see clear improvements sooner rather than later.
Dan Sansom

Forest will only get stronger despite Johnson’s departure

Forest's seven new signings
Nottingham Forest made seven signings on Deadline Day

Brennan Johnson has arguably been Nottingham Forest’s most important player since they returned to the Premier League. His departure on Deadline Day was a significant blow, but Steve Cooper’s side looks stronger now than it did before the 22-year-old moved to Tottenham.

But the interesting thing about this? Not one of the seven signings Forest made on Deadline Day was named in Cooper’s starting line-up as they stunned Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Only full-back Nuno Tavares was eligible to make his debut in west London. With Nicolas Dominguez, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Odysseas Vlachodimos, Ibrahim Sangare, Divock Origi and Andrew Omobamidele still to be integrated into the squad, Forest already look much better equipped to deal with the rigours of the Premier League than they did when they were promoted last season.

Despite losing a valuable asset in Johnson, Cooper will be delighted with his summer business. He was serenaded by the visiting supporters at the final whistle after masterminding Forest’s first win at Chelsea in over 28 years. He deserved this victory and now has the foundations to push on after the international break.
Dan Sansom

Son shines in number nine role

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of the Premier League clash between Burnley and Tottenham

Spurs head coach Ange Postecoglou decided to lead the line with Heung-Min Son for the first time under his management – and the decision paid off handsomely at Burnley.

Son scored a fine hat-trick at Turf Moor to keep Spurs unbeaten in the Premier League and also kick-start his campaign.

The South Korean had not scored before the trip to Burnley but the switch to the number nine position – that had been taken up by Richarlison in Spurs’ previous four games in all competitions – brought the best out of him in this fluid ‘Angeball’ system.

His captain’s display saw him have the most shots (5) and shots inside the box (4) of any player in the 5-2 win at Burnley.

Son also combined superbly with Richarlison’s replacement Manor Solomon, with the winger – taking up Son’s previous position on the left – setting up his first two goals.

Solomon created the most chances (5) in the victory and, with Son showing he can be the player to replace Harry Kane up front, Richarlison will surely remain on the bench for the next game at home to Sheffield United after the international break.
Declan Olley

Do we have to talk about VAR – again?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of the Premier League clash between Manchester City and Fulham

On a day Erling Haaland bagged another hat-trick – and a good one at that – the thing we continue to circle back to, the thing that hogs the headlines, is VAR. Contentious VAR. The system that was created to put an end to controversy, is actually serving to fuel it.

Phil Foden’s corner was promptly nodded goalwards by Nathan Ake in second-half stoppage time – nothing wrong with that. But as Manuel Akanji lept over the ball, he did so from an offside position. There is no doubt Akanji was “in the line of vision” of goalkeeper Bernd Leno, which a quick scan of the rulebook will tell you is a definite infringement. The entire episode was somehow missed by on-field referee Michael Oliver.

Sounds like a clear and obvious error, right? Wrong. “He must have put the goalkeeper off, he must be interfering with the goalkeeper,” said former referee Mike Dean on Soccer Saturday. VAR, remarkably, disagreed.

The system is fundamentally flawed – governed by judgements that are far removed from the actual nuances of any given football match.

Haaland touched the ball 17 times against Fulham. Three of those were goals. One was an assist for Julian Alvarez. It’s a truly remarkable return. Yet, all the reflections centre on an issue that isn’t going away. Haaland won’t go away either, of course, but while we celebrate his achievements, VAR continues to be a sleight on our sport.
Laura Hunter

Everton are getting more confident

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Sheffield United’s Premier League clash with Everton

The narrative of what Everton do for goals without the presence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front has been going on for too long. Perhaps the Toffees players are finally realising that now. Four goals in a week show Sean Dyche’s side are finally getting their rub of the green in front of goal.

It looked like to be a classic day for the Merseysiders, with Arnaut Danjuma spurning a host of first-half chances as the Toffees went in behind.

But unlike against Fulham and Wolves recently, Danjuma and Everton eventually found a way with the chances and xG tally piling up.

It is worth remembering that both Danjuma and Beto are new to this Everton team and Dyche recognises that “clarity” in attack still needs to be made.

But if this is the start, the finished article could look bright.
Sam Blitz

Archer can take Sheff Utd the distance in survival hunt

Cameron Archer celebrates after his shot strikes the post before hitting Jordan Pickford and rebounding in the Everton goal
Cameron Archer celebrates scoring his goal against Everton

“He couldn’t have had a better debut really.”

Paul Heckingbottom was full of praise for new goalscoring talent Cameron Archer and keeping the forward fit and firing will be key to Sheffield United’s survival hopes.

Archer played with the verve and sharpness of a player who had been impatiently waiting in the wings at Aston Villa. Opportunity given, shackles off, the 21-year-old took his chance.

What will please the Sheffield United boss is, as Everton created chance after chance and scored two close-range finishes from two yards out, that Archer’s goal and assist came from long-range stunners.

The more comfortable Archer is at creating the magic moments, the better chance the Blades can have of staying up.
Sam Blitz

Stubborn Brentford refuse to lie down

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brentford’s draw against Bournemouth in the Premier League.

“This team never dies”. Thomas Frank may have seen his team held to a third successive home draw but he could not hide his delight at the way in which they collected their point.

After spurning a collection of inviting openings and striking the post three times, Bryan Mbeumo finally showed the composure he and his side had been lacking to slide in an injury-time leveller.

Brentford had piled pressure upon Bournemouth and their equaliser came as no surprise – only Manchester City and Brighton have scored more stoppage-time goals than the Bees since they entered the Premier League.

Frank’s side are also unbeaten this season, while they have lost just one of their last 18 Premier League home games.

Bournemouth were just the latest team to discover how difficult it is to beat Frank’s Brentford.
Joe Shread

Solid foundations helping West Ham flourish

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win against Luton in the Premier League

West Ham picked up a third straight win of the season as their unbeaten start continued with a 2-1 win at Luton, and it was a victory that demonstrated not just their character, but also their quality.

David Moyes’ side were made to work hard against a Luton side playing their first home game of the season. Backed by a lively crowd, Luton came out full of energy but after weathering a bit of an early storm, West Ham showed a quality to their play that impressed Sky Sports‘ Gary Neville.

“I was really impressed with the spine of West Ham,” he told Sky Sports. “If you look at Michail Antonio at the top, then Kurt Zouma at the back, Edson Alvarez and James Ward-Prowse in the middle, Lucas Paqueta floats – that’s a really strong spine. Moyes was under massive pressure last season. He looks like he’s got something he can really build on now and have a really good season.”

This is now the Hammers’ joint-highest points tally after their opening four games of a Premier League season, having also earned 10 points in 1999/00. It is also manager Moyes’ joint-best such start in the competition, also accruing 10 points from four games with Everton in 2006/07.

The foundations look extremely solid in east London as the Hammers eye another successful season.
Oliver Yew

Hatters should take heart from determined display

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Luton Town boss Rob Edwards admits he was very disappointed with his side’s 2-1 defeat to West Ham

Luton Town’s vociferous supporters savoured every moment of their first experience of top-flight football since 1992. They made quite the noise. And while the performance of Rob Edwards’ side, certainly at the top end of the pitch, didn’t quite match its surroundings for energy and intensity, it did give enough to suggest Luton are going to make life difficult for all that frequent Kenilworth Road this season.

There is no doubt this campaign is going to be a slog for Luton. They don’t have the big money signings or flashy stadium, they haven’t spent immense amounts of millions in the transfer window, nor can they afford to – but they do have fighting spirit and tenacity.

They aren’t here to simply make up the numbers. Luton want to punch above their weight, but will have to deal with the harsh reality of the Premier League sooner rather than later.

Three games. No points. But no cause for despair. For the majority of the game against West Ham the Hatters conceded possession and territory, yet still outperformed their guests’ expected goals. Edwards has got some tidying up to do in the international break, because life in the big leagues is tough, but don’t write Luton off too early. They’ve got plenty more to give.
Laura Hunter

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