24/05/2024

Arsenal players celebrate their last minute win over Manchester United (Image - Arsenal on X)

There was plenty of action and drama during Round Four of the 2023/24 season of the English Premier League, but here are the five most intriguing storylines from the weekend.

Arsenal unconvincing in win, but alarm bells starting to ring for United

In the headline fixture of the weekend’s action, Arsenal survived a late scare and left it even later to secure all three points against Manchester United, running out eventual 3-1 winners Emirates Stadium.

For the Gunners, the obvious positives were the hard fought three points, the brief moments of quality for the goals to Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Jesus, and Declan Rice’s first goal and all round general play.

Yet again, however, the home side seemed to not quite click. Opening up the season with now 10 points from a possible 12 is nothing to turn ones nose up at, but it is plain to see that Mikel Arteta’s side are still trying to find that cohesion made them such a joy to watch last season.

Arsenal fans will hope that a win in such a dramatic fashion, and against a such a historic rival in Manchester United, will galvanise their side to hit the ground running after the international break.

As for the visitors, an injury plagued backline struggled to play the way the that Erik ten Hag wants them to.

United looked aimless for large portions of the contest, struggling to build out from the back or maintain possession for consistent spells. The swift counter attack finished by Marcus Rashford was a glimpse of the class they possess, but as has been the case this season, the Red Devils have been limited to fleeting moments.

Had Alejandro Garnacho’s goal not been ruled out for a narrow offside the story may have been told differently, but as it was United now find themselves in the bottom half.

Ten Hag’s injury-stricken defence was dealt another blow as Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof were both forced off. Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire playing in the centre of defence is not something most United fans would have had on their 2023 bingo card.

Klopp’s Liverpool rejuvenation starting to gain momentum

Much has been made of Liverpool’s apparent failings in the transfer market over the past two months its attempts to overhaul an aging midfield. Five players from the old guard have left, and the Reds have seen their targets in Jude Bellingham, Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia all choose big money moves to other clubs.

There has been significantly less noise about the now four midfield signings that Jurgen Klopp has acquired in Alexis Mac Aliister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataro Endo and Ryan Gravenberch. The first two of those names in particular have taken to life on Merseyside like a duck to water, and four games into the season Liverpool now find themselves sitting third on the Premier League table.

Mac Allister has so far proven to be the deep-lying playmaker that Klopp wants, while Szoboszlai has been a revelation. The Hungarian international’s combination of pace, power and technical ability is something fans have been crying out for in the middle of the park for years.

This new look midfield coupled with Trent Alexander-Arnold new role which allows his incredible range of passing to flourish saw the Reds comfortably dispatch Aston Villa 3-0 on Sunday.

Amassing 10 points having already played the likes of Chelsea, Newcastle and Villa, and with Gravenberch still to be added to the mix, there is cause for plenty of optimism on the red side of Liverpool.

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Ferguson shines as Brighton compound Newcastle’s tough start

In a weekend that saw establish stars Erling Haaland and Heung-min Son add another two hat-tricks to their collection, a player on the rise found his name in elite company. At just 18 years of age, Evan Ferguson netted all three goals for Brighton as it responded to last week’s defeat at the hands of West Ham United in some style, downing Newcastle 3-1.

The young Irishman burst onto the scene last season but his playing time has been managed by Roberto De Zerbi, who is making sure not to put too much on the striker’s plate so early in his career. The skill set was on full display on Saturday though, his second goal being the pick of the bunch as he curled an effort past Nick Pope from 25 yards.

The Seagulls’ free flowing, attack-minded play will make them exciting to watch again this season, and with the arrival of Ansu Fati on the south coast of England excitement levels have never been higher.

Newcastle have endured the toughest opening slate of games of any side in the Premier League over the first four weeks. Facing Aston Villa, Manchester City, Liverpool and Brighton was a test of its credentials as newly minted Champions League outfit.

The stakes have been raised this season but so far, since the scintillating performance on opening day against Villa, the Magpies have fallen short of expectations. Lack of defensive communication was a glaring issue against Brighton as well as an uncharacteristic lack of effort at times from Eddie Howe’s side.

Much to ponder on Tyneside over the international break as they look to get back on track.

The Blues architects of their own downfall again

Chelsea can’t seem to string two good weeks together at the moment. After impressing greatly in a 3-0 win over Luton Town last weekend, on Saturday Mauricio Pochettino’s side just seemed to get in their own way.

British transfer record breaker Moises Caicedo was placed under the microscope again, as his turnover of possession gifted Nottingham Forrest the goal that would prove enough for a 1-0 win. In their attempts to claw their way back into the contest, two golden opportunities were spurned by new front man Nicholas Jackson, as nothing seemed to be falling the Blues.

Chelsea have looked an improved product on the pitch so far under Pochettino, but with the new ownership’s spending now at well over $1billion, the pressure on results builds with every week.

Credit has to be given Steve Cooper and his Forrest side, however, who already have two wins under their belt to start the campaign. To a man, the defensive intensity and organisation was well above the standards set last season when the Tricky Trees only narrowly avoided relegation.

Anthony Elanga took his chance well, and so far the Swede has looked impressive since signing from Manchester United. His link up with Taiwo Awonyi could prove handful for plenty of sides this season.

Ange ball working wonders for Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur experienced its first minor reality check last week when they were knocked out of the League Cup by Fulham on penalties. Ange Postecoglu witnessed his heavily rotated side unable to perform to the same levels the first team had operated with in the opening three Premier League fixtures.

Fast forward to Saturday, and the mid-week cup performance seemed a distant memory as Spurs were firing on all cylinders as they put five past a hapless Burnley. Despite initially falling behind early at Turf Moor, this was easily the best Postecoglu’s side have looked so far in the early stages of his tenure.

All five of the goals were simply sublime as a hat-trick from Heung-min Son was added to by two exceptional strikes from Christian Romero and James Maddison. The three goals from the Lilywhites’ captain was an impressive way to get off the mark for the season, and fans will hope he can be the one to fill the void up front left by Harry Kane.

Tottenham sit second in the Premier League table behind only reigning champions Manchester City. With positive results on the pitch and fans signing his name to the tune of Robbie Williams classics in the stands, big Ange couldn’t have asked for a much better start to life in the Premier League.

Team of the Week

There were plenty of standout performances over the weekend, but here is the team of the week for Matchday Four, as selected by Inner Sanctum writers Jasper Woodcock and Liam McMahon.

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