18/05/2024

Tottenham players celebrate their last minute win over Sheffield United (Image: Tottenham Hotspur on X)

Matchday Five of the Premier League served up plenty of drama and intrigue, here are the five key story lines from all the action.

Almost time for panic stations at Manchester United?

Brighton and Hove Albion defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League for the second year running, and have now had the wood over the 20-time champions in their last four league meetings.

The hosts were soundly beaten to the tune of three goals to one, and have now lost three of their opening five league matches for the first time in the Premier League era.

The Red Devils sit 13th on the league table and despite their two wins against Wolves and Nottingham Forrest, they are yet to put in a convincing performance in any fixture this season.

Gone is the optimism that followed after a successful 2022/23 season, where Erik ten Hag’s side finished third in the league and secured silverware in the Carabao Cup.

Ten Hag has seemingly hit the same hurdle almost every manager since Sir Alex Ferguson has hit after a full season in the job. After an initial period of success, old on-field problems are starting to creep back in as United find themselves in an increasingly familiar position.

Ten Hag was out coached by Roberto De Zerbi in the Brighton dugout, who was able to orchestrate the victory with a starting line-up that cost just £17.5m ($27.2m).

Considering Manchester United have spent an eye-watering £991.7m ($1.9bn) on their current squad, more than any other side in the league, expectations are far from being met.

To make matters worse, the injuries continue to mount up for Ten Hag’s side, and numerous off-field distractions further exacerbate the situation they find themselves in.

The displeasure around the stands at Old Trafford was palpable on Saturday and the noise of frustration will only increase until the results start to take a turn.

The new kids on the block are alright

Fans and pundits have commonly held the scepticism that prolific players from external leagues fall flat when they arrive to the Premier League. One needs to look no further than the signings of players such as Nicholas Pepe, Timo Werner and Jadon Sancho.

Despite this, the influx of talent from other countries to the Premier League has never been greater, and so far a host of new players are already having an impact.

After Jeremy Doku and Zeki Amdouni’s first goals of their Premier League careers this weekend, 11 new signings from other leagues have scored. It’s an impressive number that doesn’t even begin to encompass the positive impact these signings are having on their teams outside of finding their names on the scoresheet.

(Zeki Amdouni (right) celebrates after scoring)

Defenders Micky van de Ven and Pau Torres have hit the ground running for Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively, while Edson Alvarez has looked assured in the Hammers midfield.

While the ‘Premier League proven’ trope will likely remain when judging future transfers, the new crop of additions to the competition are impressing greatly so far.

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New timekeeping rules a success

During the offseason, it was announced that new timekeeping methods, similar to those used in the World Cup, would be employed by Premier League referees in an attempt to combat time-wasting.

Five rounds into the season and fans have already seen injury-time numbers consistently hit double figures, both at the end of the first half, and in crunch time at the end of matches.

The lengthy spells of additional time have already seen stadiums of fans in raptures as their team nets an late equaliser or winner. Arsenal’s last gasp victory over Manchester United two weeks ago is still fresh in the memory, and over the weekend Tottenham were a beneficiary of a similar situation.

Spurs were staring down the barrel of a shock 1-0 loss to Sheffield United when the fourth official’s board went up signalling 12 minutes of injury time.

An equaliser in the 98th minute from RIcharlison was followed by a winner from Dejan Kulusevski in the 100th minute, resulting in wild scenes inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Already in season 2023/24, there have been 18 goals scored in injury time during the second half from the 49 games played. Last season, in the first 50 games only two goals were scored after the 90th minute.

For opposing teams and fans, they may not always see the positive side of the new timekeeping practices. As for everyone else, the late drama makes for an even better spectacle in what is already the most entertaining league in the world.  

Manchester City already in mid-season form

After greatly impressing in the opening four games of the season, West Ham United’s unbeaten start was brought to an abrupt holt at the hands of Manchester City.

The Hammers couldn’t be faulted for having an off day, as they put in a typically resolute defensive performance and even hit the champions on the break to hold a lead at half time.

But in the end, as is so often the case, Pep Guardiola’s side were just too good.

It seemed inevitable that they would score and less than a minute into the second half they had their equaliser. A first City goal for new signing Jeremy Doku, who had his way with West Ham’s Vladamír Coufal all game.

Had it not been for some inspired goalkeeping from Alphonse Areola and Erling Haaland having an uncharacteristically wayward day in front of goal, the scoreline could have been much worse.

In the end, the Citizens would run out convincing 3-1 winners, and as it stands after five rounds they are the only team left with a perfect record.

Having lost Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez over the summer and with Kevin De Bruyne out for at least three months with injury, some wondered if the same creative output would be maintained. Although there is still a long road ahead this season, so far the treble winners have not missed a step, showing no signs of slowing down.

Everton may need a miracle to survive this season

Following its 1-0 loss to Arsenal on Sunday, Everton are winless to start the season with just one point on the board from their five games.

It was the fourth league game the Toffees have failed to score in, as the two goals against Sheffield United before the international break are all they have registered so far.

Finding the back of the net has continually been an issue for Sean Dyche’s side, making it bleak viewing for Everton supporters. The home side hardly threatened against a Gunners side that barely got out of second gear in their 1-0 defeat.

Off the pitch, the situation at Everton is beginning to look dire. Former Everton owner Farhad Moshiri lost hundreds of millions of pounds due to the construction of the new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock, and has recently sold the club.

New owners, American investment firm 777 Partners, saw fans of another club in their portfolio, Hertha Berlin, protest against their ownership after being relegated from the Bundesliga last season.

So far this season, three other clubs (Sevilla, Standard Liege and Vasco de Gama) owned by 777 Partners are in or around the relegation zone, which does not instil confidence for the Everton project moving forward.

The club must also operate with a positive net spend as they try and tip the financial fair play scales back in their favour, pending an investigation over their finances during the COVID years.

Everton’s status as the team with second longest tenure in the Premier League is seriously at risk already.

Team of the Week

After another week of excellent individual performances, here is the team of the week for Matchday Five. Selected by Inner Sanctum writers Jasper Woodcock and Liam McMahon.

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