15/04/2024

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was left fuming after controversial VAR decisions went against his favour in a 1-0 loss to Newcastle (Image Credit: Arsenal.com)

Match week 11 of the Premier League saw the only two undefeated sides left in the competition suffer their first losses, with VAR once again being a point of discussion. Here’s everything we learned from Round 11 of the Premier League.

The wheels fell off for Tottenham in spectacular fashion

Tottenham Hotspur’s unbeaten start to the season was ended on Monday as they were defeated 4-1 at home by Chelsea.

The match had everything. Five goals, four disallowed goals, nine yellow cards, two red cards, and plenty of VAR drama. It was an early contender for game of the season.

While Spurs had been playing well across the opening 10 fixtures of the season, they had been riding their luck at times. The most obvious example being beneficiary of an egregious VAR error against Liverpool.

Questions started to be asked about how long this unbeaten run could continue, and on Monday the luck finally ran out.

To put it bluntly, it was an implosion. Two players sent off, two star players injured and shipping four goals at home is a remarkable derailment of a positive start to the season.

Worryingly, it could have been a more one-sided scoreline than it was. Ange Postecoglou’s all-out offence with only nine players almost worked in his side’s favour but ultimately, they were picked apart in the end.

They were dismantled by a Chelsea team far from the best it has looked this season, which makes one think how many it could have been against a more clinical side?

This is now the first real adversity Postecoglou’s Tottenham have faced this season.

For the next three games Spurs will be without central defensive pair Christian Romero and Mickey Van de Ven, and possibly midfield star James Maddison.

How they handle this predicament will be a true test of their character.

The constant discussion around VAR is becoming an issue demanding a resolution

In what is becoming a weekly occurrence, VAR was at the forefront of discussion again over the weekend.

Majority of the noise had been around the single goal that proved to be the difference in Newcastle’s 1-0 victory over Arsenal. The goal was checked by VAR for three separate issues before eventually being cleared.

Despite the fourth official at Stockley Park giving the goal the green light, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta was furious at the decision, labelling it an “absolute disgrace”.

“The result should not be what it is. Embarrassing what happened, how this goal stands, in the Premier League, this league we say is the best in the world,” he said.

Although clubs officials defended the Spaniard’s comments, many within the footballing media and fans alike believed the comments were unhelpful.

This week has not been the first time this season a Premier League manager has expressed their disapproval of VAR. Earlier this season, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp suggested a replay of the Reds match with Tottenham was the right way forward after a VAR call incorrectly disallowing a Luis Diaz goal in an eventual 2-1 defeat.

“It’s really important that we, as big as football is and as important as football is, for us at least to deal with it in a proper way. All of the people involved, the on-field ref, linesman, fourth official, and especially in this case the VAR,” he said.

With a number of Premier League managers slamming the use of VAR, Postecoglou had a more kind-hearted approach to the situation, after his Tottenham side fell to a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea earlier in the week.

“I don’t like [VAR]. I don’t like the whole standing around. I don’t like the whole theatre around waiting for decisions”, he said.

I just think it is diminishing the authority of the referee. You can’t tell me that referees are in control of the games. They’re not.”

It’s clear that the use of VAR will need to be abandoned or changed if the situation is to improve. Although the constant outbursts of anger by managers after VAR decisions go against them is an eye-sore for the league. So to is the weekly occurrence of at least one shocking VAR or referee decision dominating media and fan discussions.

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Teams are starting to figure Brighton out

The Seagulls have been the poster boy for gaining success in the right way over recent seasons, but after two defeats and three draws in their last five Premier League fixtures, are they at risk of being found out?

Brighton have shown themselves to be a ball-playing, attacking-minded side under manager Roberto De Zerbi, having close to, if not more than 50% of possession in most games.

However, if their last two matches against Fulham and Everton are anything to go by, wins aren’t decided by statistics. Brighton had the lion share of the ball with 72% and 80% possession respectively, as both Everton and Fulham held out for 1-1 stalemates.

A low-block, counter attacking approach has been they key to unlocking Brighton’s defence.

Although there’s no immediate cause for concern, with The Albion sitting in 7th place, statistics indicate a slight decline compared to 2022-23.

De Zerbi’s men are conceding on average 1.9 goals a game already in season 2023-24, up by 0.4 from last season. It proves the loss of defensive midfielder Moisés Caicedo and goalkeeper Robert Sánchez to Chelsea in the transfer window has impacted the side.

In addition to this, Brighton, who are balancing Premier League football with the added pressure of European competition for the first time in history, have failed to keep a clean sheet so far this season.

This sees them joint 17th in the competition as one of the worst defensive sides in the league.

Despite the Seagulls sitting in 7th spot, they have been handed some heavy defeats already this season, including a 6-1 loss to Aston Villa, and a 3-1 loss at home to West Ham.

It’s obvious that a change of system, or the recruitment of players to make up for the loss of Caicedo and Sanchez will need to be made to the January transfer window to overcome this leaky defence. 

Brentford are quietly returning to good form

This week’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Hammers was Brentford’s third win in a row, going under the radar to sit in ninth position on the ladder at the end of week 11.

You could be forgiven for tipping the Bees to be fighting relegation after their marksman, Ivan Toney was handed an eight-month suspension after being found guilty to more than 200 betting charges. However, Thomas Frank and his side have carefully gone about their own business, largely untalked about.

Right winger Bryan Mbuemo has stepped up in the absence of Toney, who scored twenty goals and assisted a further four last season.

The Cameroon international has scored six goals already this season, and has looked lively even in the few games he hasn’t scored in.

With 16 points on the board after eleven games played, Brentford have done a lot to shut down any suggestion of relegation.

The January transfer window is right around the corner and the London side have the opportunity to bring in a more efficient striker, with Neal Maupay’s first goal of the season only coming this week against West Ham.

If Mbuemo and the rest of Frank’s side continue on their fine form, a top half finish and a chance at European football might very well on the cards for them. An incredible feat for a team that had never played in the Premier League before last season.

Team of the Week:

Chelsea and Manchester City feature heavily in this week’s Team of the Week, after 4-1 and 6-1 wins against Tottenham and Bournemouth. Selected by Inner Sanctum writers Jasper Woodcock and Liam McMahon.

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