SOCCER

Warne: It’s Goal Madness As Premier League Continues To Heat Up

Aug 27, 2021, 11:40 AM
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool during the Premier League match...
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield on August 21, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As the Premier League season continues to blaze in its opening weeks, last weekend we got goals galore—AGAIN! It’s certainly been a bright and entertaining start.

This weekend’s round of fixtures will be the last before the international break as World Cup qualifying kicks off. Every team will look for some positivity before various players leave. The EPL teams will want to pragmatically have enough points queued up to avoid putting undue pressure on the squad who will continue to train without the international players.

In addition, there is pressure on several teams to maintain their 100% records, West Ham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Brighton, and Spurs all getting maximum points through the first two rounds. Of the players that would normally leave for international games, there will be almost 60 that won’t be traveling to play for their nations as they’re on U.K.’s Covid-19 restricted travel list and would require a 10-day-quarantine period once they returned. They’ve been notified well in advance of course, but the road to Qatar 2022 starts regardless.

Next Tuesday the transfer window will slam shut, and I expect a flurry of activity before it closes at 11:00 p.m. U.K. time. One player who looks destined to stay put is Harry Kane at Spurs, speculation over the summer has been rife, and the money was on Man City to make a move for his services, but with a few days left the writing was on the wall, and Kane announced on his social media that he would be staying at Tottenham “this summer”.

Liverpool v. Chelsea

Two heavyweights go for it on Saturday as KSL 5 gets their first premiere match of the season. A 10:30 a.m. kick-off. Both teams with 100% records. Both teams have scored five goals and both teams are yet to concede a goal. Something has to give on Saturday.

Liverpool has been very quiet in the transfer market, adding French international defender, Ibrahima Konaté very early in the window to address a glaring need, creating center defense depth. They’ve focused on re-upping numerous players’ contracts and shifting fringe players out the door. With a full complement of players now at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal it will be interesting if they can once again go, and fight for the Champions League and the Premier League titles with what is a very tried and tested squad.

Players that are in their prime. Mo Salah will once again be the go-to man against his former club Chelsea. The Egyptian continues to thrive in a three-man attack that allows him to press, pull wide and pinch in to find all the pockets of space to put himself in 1v1 situations. Liverpool has come out the gate hot and the press they’ve employed in the midfield areas has been a platform for the Reds. Injury-prone midfielder Naby Keïta taking the biggest opportunity to show what he’s about. Being able to win the ball frequently and progress the attack is exactly what he was brought in for, Liverpool looks good going forward but is yet to be tested properly in defense. The center backs of Joël Matip and Vrigil van Djik are back and will hopefully renew the backline that saw off all comers two and three years ago.

Romelu Lukaku will likely once again lead the attack for the Blues, and his return to Chelsea after leaving in his early 20’s feels like it was a natural progression. His ruthless finishing and his channeled power are now aided by intelligence that has been honed over the years away. It now feels like he’s in the right place at the right time. The Chelsea 3-4-3 is one that Thomas Tuchel has employed since he took over last season, and it feels like they have the piece at the top to potentially fire them to a Champions League title defense and challenge for a Premier League title. Inconsistencies last season meant Chelsea faded towards the season’s end, but a full preseason and the solid addition of Lukaku mean that I have no such questions coming into this campaign.

Prediction: The power and pace of both teams along with a desire to keep the ball and stay on the front foot means we could be in for a real spectacle. But often when two giants meet, they stifle each other, but these two coaches aren’t built that way. Both are intelligent but with a philosophy to entertain. I’m all for it. I’m here to drink it in, the soccer, the atmosphere and it might just be the home team and the influence of Anfield that’ll sneak it.

Manchester City v. Arsenal

It’s the early one on Saturday for the reigning Premier League champs, Man City. You can catch them on Peacock TV at 5:30 a.m.

It should be an interesting one, as the champions bounced back from an opening weekend loss to Spurs, to then come back to the Etihad and wallop Norwich. Guardiola announced this week that he will leave the Citizens at the end of his current contract, after the 2022/23 season. And he’ll look to win as much silverware as possible.

City are City, they are quick, they constantly probe and dominate the ball and run teams ragged. When they are in full flow it is thoroughly entertaining, but their undoing at times is the lack of a true striker. It remains to be seen if they will make a move before Monday.

Arsenal has lost their opening two games and although they had a resounding league cup win against W.B.A. midweek, the Championship team played a load of U23 players. But take nothing away from the Gunners, it was good and maybe what Mikael Arteta needed to get his players ready for a huge weekend. The Spaniard is under pressure and opening the season with three league losses would put the writing on the wall, especially with loads of proven coaches available.

When Arteta took over it was clear who he wanted in his squad and how he wanted the lads to play. But last season it fell away, and with this season’s start against Brentford and Chelsea, I can no longer see what Arsenal were trying to achieve. I do realize that they are missing a fair few players due to COVID issues and some injuries, but even with that said, their identity isn’t clear. I think they are very close to being a very good team, a Europa League team at the least. The younger players at their disposal, if they continue to develop, will be special. But coming up against the experience of Man City, they will need to go up another level with their discipline, particularly in the midfield. I’m not sure the formation that Arteta has used this season should be the long-term formation. They may have used a back four because of lack of options. I think to get the best out of the expensive center-back Ben White he will need to be in a three.

Prediction: City is a beautiful team to watch. I can’t see Arsenal having the legs to keep up. Arteta needs to get his troops organized and becomes difficult to break down and use the counter to their full advantage. There is no point going toe to toe with City when it comes to ball possession, they’ll have to be smarter than that. Even then, I just think City will have the run of the game and run out winners.

That’ll do it for this week, and whilst the Premier League shuts down for the international break, keep an eye for the last-minute transfers this coming Tuesday. I will get you all caught up with those moves before the EPL restarts.

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Warne: It’s Goal Madness As Premier League Continues To Heat Up