Redemption, Dominance, and Misery - EPL

The second match week of the English Premier League was filled with stories of redemption, dominance, and sustained misery. Brentford handed the once-glorious Manchester United the (undoubtedly) most devastating result of the weekend - one which they and their fans will remember. We will get to the Red Devil's sustained misery later, but let's recap what happened in the other games.


Aston Villa vs. Everton, Gerrard's Redemption on Multiple Levels:

The opening match of the second week saw Aston Villa hosting Everton. Both teams came from defeats last week and looked to this game as their opportunity to make a comeback. Gerrard and Lampard had faced off as players for Liverpool and Chelsea, respectively. Most of their match-ups had gone in Lampard's favor. Gerrard, the manager, took his revenge as his Aston Villa side defeated Lampard's Everton with two goals to one. Everton's only goal came two minutes after conceding for the second time from Luca Digne's unfortunate own goal.


Arsenal vs. Leicester City, Jesus on Full, Ward not Ready:

If anything, Leicester City's takeaway from their clash with Arsenal must be that their new goalkeeper is not a wholesome replacement for Schmeichel. Jesus scored twice to put Arsenal ahead before the half-time whistle. Leicester's hopes to come back in the second half were short-lived. It took two minutes after Saliba's 53rd-minute own goal for Xhaka to give Arsenal a two-goal advantage. Just one minute after Maddison scored Leicester's second goal to revive their hopes of a comeback, Martinelli's strike changed the score to a 4-2 win for the Gunners. Arsenal exerted dominance for most of the game with nineteen shots, six of which were on target. However, both teams had almost equal possession of the ball.


Manchester City vs. Bournemouth, Consistent Champions:

As expected, Manchester City did not have a difficult time against Bournemouth, who had stunned Villa last week. Man City were dominant from the beginning of the match, although their first goal came nineteen minutes after kick-off by Gündogan. De Bruyne and Foden scored City's second and third to give them a comfortable win before half-time. Bournemouth's Lerma scored an own goal to extend City's win to four. Manchester City maintained more than 67% possession of the ball and produced 19 shots against the visitors' 3. Manchester City remained the only team that have not conceded a goal this season yet.


Brighton vs. Newcastle, Magpies Got Lucky:

The other three 10-o'clock games on Saturday were close and ended in draws. Newcastle were lucky to survive their face-off against Brighton with one point. The goal-line technology correctly decided that the hosts' ball had not wholly crossed the goal line. Brighton maintained almost 55% possession of the ball and produced thirteen shots, seven of which were on target. On the other hand, Newcastle, under their new wealthy ownership, only made four shots with one on target.


Wolves vs. Fulham, Clash on Equal Grounds:

The match between Wolves and Fulham was the other close game of Saturday. While Wolves had almost 60% possession of the ball, they could only make seven shots with one on target. On the other hand, the visitors who had less of the ball produced nine shots with three on target. None of the opportunities saw the ball in the back of either side's net, and this face-off also ended in a 0-0 draw.


Southampton vs. Leeds United, A Taste of Leeds' Medicine:

Leeds United, who had turned a 0-1 defeat into a 2-1 victory against Wolves last week, visited Southampton, who were looking for redemption after their 4-1 loss to Spurs in week one. The first half of this predictably close game ended 0-0. However, Leeds took the lead in the second half thanks to Rodrigo's two goals in the 46th and 60th minutes. What looked like a seemingly comfortable win for the White Roses failed to sustain. Eleven minutes after coming in, Southampton's substitute, Aribo, revived the home side's hopes to salvage the game. Walker-Peters equalized the match nine minutes later, and the two sides shared the points. It was probably a redemption statement for Southampton to come back from behind to get something from their first home game of the season.


Brentford vs. Manchester United, A Case Against the Glazers:

After a horrendous defeat at home in week one, Manchester United were expected to make a redemption statement. Not only did they fail to do that, but they also showed a shambolic, lackluster, aimless game full of individual and collective mistakes against a Brentford side who had not won this fixture for over eighty years. The Bees' first goal came in the tenth minute as De Gea's unbelievable mistake saw the ball at the back of United's net. That began a series of dreadful errors by the Red Devils.

De Gea was at the center of another mistake as he passed the ball to under-pressure Erikson right at the edge of the danger zone. The hungry Brentford strikers took advantage of the situation and gained a two-goal victory at the eighteenth minute.

A poorly defended corner kick saw the ball in United's net for the third time in the 30th minute. While almost every United player was in Brentford's half, Sancho lost the ball, which turned into a quick counterattack and, consequently, the fourth goal for the hosts in the 35th minute. With the first half ending 4-0, United had a high mountain to climb to salvage something or, at least, save face. However, it is hard to believe that even words like dreadful, woeful, shambolic, and awful do justice to explain Man Utd's current state.


Since Sir Alex Ferguson departed from the most decorative club of the EPL in 2013, they have failed to assign a manager who could replicate his glorious days at the Theater of Dreams. Manager after manager has failed to win the EPL for nearly a decade. Jose Mourinho, the very Mr. Special, was the most vocal of post-SAF managers at the Red Devils, who could only win the Europa League once in his almost-three-year tenure at the club.


The problem with Manchester United is not so much the managers but the ownership. The Glazers' ownership of the club since 2005 initiated their downfall. The American family took over the British club and turned it into a business that could not perform. One of the significant problems with United has been their low-quality recruitments. While rivals like Liverpool and Manchester City sign star players and produce quality academy youngsters, the Red Devils have only signed mediocre-at-best players under the Glazers' oversight. Their academy players have failed to impress as well. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford are the best examples of United's failed young players emerging from their academy. The best of them was, perhaps, Greenwood, who fell from grace after revelations of his sexual assault.


In the eyes of all Manchester United fans, the Glazers don't have the club's best interest in mind. They're there for the money, and it is time for them to sell the club. If United look to reproduce their glorious days, they need to spend money on better players, enhance their training grounds, hire better scouting staff, etc. None of these seem to satisfy the Glazers' greed, making this "A Case Against the Glazers," demanded by the United supporters to leave the club alone.


Nottingham Forst vs. West Ham United, Henderson to the Rescue:

It is safe to say that even the most optimistic Nottingham Forest fans thought their side would beat the West Ham team, who finished in the top seven for the last two years. The hosts began the match without fear and threatened the Hammers' goal. The visitors had their chances in the first half and saw their goal disallowed by VAR for a foul by Antonio on the hosts' defender. A few minutes later, Lingard's half-hearted shot was deflected into West Ham's net by Awoniyi.


West Ham's attempts in the second half to get at least one point from the game led to nothing. Goal-line technology came to the Forests' rescue. The hosts owe their precious victory to the goalkeeper, Henderson, who's on loan from Manchester United. Henderson made a few crucial saves. Yet, saving Declan Rice's penalty paved the way for Nottingham Forest's first victory in their return to EPL after over two decades and crowned Henderson "Man of the Match."


Chelsea vs. Tottenham, A Familiar Tale of the Angry London Derby:

The promised must-watch game of the week was the London Derby between Chelsea and Tottenham. Chelsea had beaten Everton, and Spurs had scored four times against Southampton in week 1. This was expected to be an exciting game, and it was but to an extent. Spurs began the game on the back foot. They were seemingly happy to sit back and try to create opportunities from counterattacks. Chelsea were determined to make two wins out of two games. Koulibaly turned Cucurella's corner into the hosts' first goal with a blasting strike. Spurs did not end the first half on a good level.


The introduction of Richarlison in the 57th minute changed the game's dynamics. Spurs started to find scoring opportunities. Harry Kane's 61st-minute shot was just a bit wide. Seven minutes later, Højbjerg's strike canceled Chelsea's lead. The Chelsea bench and squad were outraged as they believed Spurs had taken possession of the ball from a foul.


Reece James received the ball from Sterling to put Chelsea ahead again in the 77th minute following a few mistakes by the Spurs in their defensive third. Things didn't seem to improve for Spurs until Harry Kane scored a header from a late-minute corner to equalize the heated London Derby. A point to note is that none of Chelsea's strikers scored today, which may harm them in the future if they don't fix that.


Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace, Two More Points Slip The Reds' Hands:

Having already seen a blow to their title race ambitions, Liverpool needed to get all three points from their home game against Crystal Palace. They started the game well and were dominant for most of the first half. The Reds had 17 shots and 75% ball possession in the first forty-five minutes. In soccer, however, the only thing that matters is the scoreline. What Liverpool made in possession and creating opportunities, they lacked in power and quality in their final shots. That was punished by Zaha 32 minutes in the game.

Liverpool had to come back from behind again to get something in the second half. Patrick Viera, who had given the likes of Liverpool nightmares as an Arsenal player, brought back memories as the Palace manager in Anfield. The pressure of multiple failed attempts took the best of Núñez, and he was sent off for violent conduct. Four minutes later, Díaz equalized the game for the Reds. The result remained at 1-1, increasing the gap between Liverpool and Man City to four points.

 

A Preview of Match Week Three:

The third match week is not short of adrenaline-rushing games to look for. The weekend will kick off with Spurs hosting Wolves. Spurs stunned Chelsea with a late equalizer, while Wolves was held to a draw against Fulham at home. Although the last match-up between these teams went in Wolves' favor, Spurs are in a better position this time around and are the favorite to snatch another home victory.

The face-off between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa will see Viera facing Gerrard, both of whom showed beautiful games as Arsenal and Liverpool players. This promises to be a close game as both teams are in good form. Villa's defensive issue is Mings, which Palace's Zaha can exploit. On the other hand, Villa have Ings' and Watkins' scoring power. The two sides will likely share the points.


Everton will host Nottingham Forest for the first time since 1999. The home side are not in good shape, whereas Forest stunned West Ham. Everton may struggle again in this game, but the game will probably end in a hard-fought draw.


Brentford will visit Fulham after their thrashing victory against Man United. The Bees are in very good form, sitting in third place on the table. This will be a tough test for the home side, and they may suffer a couple of stings from the Bees at full time.

Leicester and Southampton will face off in a match that sees both sides out of form. They got one point from their first two games, albeit they both played against difficult opponents. However, this game will likely have a winner by a small margin. Leicester are the favorites to win this one.


Bournemouth, who defeated Villa but lost to City, will have a hard test at home against an Arsenal side who are in top form thanks to their new recruitments. Ambitious to expand on their winning streak, the Gunners should see this game through with a two-goal margin.


Off the back of a heated draw against Spurs at home, Chelsea will visit Leeds in hopes of getting back to the title race. The home side were impressive against Wolves but saw a 2-0 victory turn into a 2-2 draw against Southampton. Chelsea are stronger, although they lack striker quality. That wasn't a problem against Tottenham and shouldn't be an issue here either, as they are likely to earn the three points.


West Ham's match-up against Brighton has often been a stunner. The Hammers are the favorites on paper but have not come victorious from any of the past five face-offs. The two sides shared the points in their last four head-to-heads, and their previous game went for Brighton. This close match-up will likely end up in a draw again.


Newcastle will face a tough challenge at home against Manchester City. The visitors have won all the last five head-to-head games with flying results, and their current excellent form doesn't suggest anything less. City will win this one to increase pressure on their title-race rivals.


The final game of the week will see the out-of-shape Manchester United facing struggling Liverpool at Old Trafford. The most exciting rivalry in the world's soccer has failed to be so in recent times due to the Red Devils' demise. Liverpool will not have their star signing Núñez for his red card against Palace. Both sides desperately need their first campaign win, and both have shown weakness on the pitch. The most optimistic result for Man United fans is a draw. Still, Liverpool are the favorite to add to United's misery at the end of the third march week.

 

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