24/04/2024

Gabriel Martinelli celebrates scoring the winner against Manchester City (Image: Gabriel Martinelli on X)

The two teams from North London top the table after another enthralling weekend of Premier League football, which saw plenty of points shared and some struggling sides finally get some reward for their efforts.

Rodri is Manchester City’s most important player, and has been sorely missed

For the first time since 2015, Arsenal have defeated Manchester City in a Premier League fixture as they narrowly edged past the defending champions 1-0 at Emirates Stadium.  

Fans and pundits will wax lyrical about what an achievement it is for the Gunners to finally get that monkey off their backs, but an underlying narrative could prove just as important.

This is the first time since 2018 that City have lost two league games on the bounce, and the Sky Blues have now lost their last three domestic fixtures. The common denominator in all of those defeats: the absence of Rodri from the line-up.

The Spaniard had been able to keep things ticking in the absence of Kevin de Bruyne, but his three game suspension has seen the new look midfield struggle for the Citizens.

Pep Guardiola has tinkered with his personnel and formations to account for the hole left by Rodri, but nothing has worked. No combination of Matteo Kovacic, Matheus Nunes, Rico Lewis, Kalvin Phillips or Bernardo Silva has been able to account for the stability 27-year-old provides in the City midfield.

As deserved as the plaudits are for the de Bruyne’s, Haaland’s and Dias’ in the City team, the recent results are clear evidence that defensive midfielder is indeed the glue that holds everything together.

Guardiola’s City side have always been able to fall back on their incredibly deep squad during their reign of dominance over the past six years, but this could be a legitimate cause for concern.

The absence of Rodri has seen a midfield devoid of the same creative output and unable to control the game like the treble winners usually do with such imperious conviction.

Fortunately for City fans, he’s back after the international break.

More Football News

Chelsea are starting to cook

Chelsea have strung two wins together in the league for the first time since March.

While that particular statistic paints a rather bleak initial picture, there is plenty of optimism around the Chelsea camp.

The comprehensive 4-1 away victory over Burnley saw the Blues finally deliver on a lot of the promise that the majority of their performances have shown so far this season.

In all competitions, Chelsea are the only side to have won every game on expected goals (xG) this season. Simply put, while the poise in front of goal may have been lacking, the chance creation was that of a successful football team.

An aspect often overlooked in all the media noise about the exorbitant spending on the current squad is how long it will take so many new players to become a cohesive unit.

The results may not have been as consistent, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side had been some better finishing away from a much better league position after eight games.

Looking deeper into advanced metrics, the Blues are third on the expected points table.

Indicating that based on the amount of goalscoring opportunities they have both created and conceded in games to start the season, their position in the table does not reflect how they have played.

By the law of averages, underperforming so dramatically in these statistics can only last for so long. Based on the last two weeks it seems as if the side from West London are starting to put it all together.

The only caveat on Chelsea’s performances to date is that they have not had a particularly difficult fixture list.

In two weeks a match against Arsenal awaits, which should pose as a good yard stick by which to measure if Pochettino’s side have truly turned a corner.

Have Bournemouth backed the wrong manager?

In June, Bournemouth sacked manager Gary O’Neil weeks after he had just steered the Cherries to safety in the 2022/23 season.

Considering the quality of the squad O’Neil had inherited, after taking over mid-season from Scott Parker, the achievement of Premier League survival was seen as nothing short of a miracle.

This made it all the more baffling to many that before the paint had even dried on the previous campaign, O’Neil was being replaced by Spanish manager Andoni Iraola.

Iraola came with an impressive resumé from his time in Spain and reputation for playing exciting football. However, as many managers have found out over the years, the Premier League can be unforgiving.

With nearly a quarter of the season played, that bold decision to move on from O’Neil is so far looking like the wrong one.

The 40-year-old was appointed to manage Wolverhampton after the departure of Julian Lopetegui, a job considered a poisoned chalice, as many saw the Wanderers as relegation candidates.

Eight games in and they have amassed eight points already, and in the last two weeks have defeated Manchester City and taken a point from Aston Villa.

Meanwhile, Iraola is yet to register his first win as Bournemouth boss. The Cherries are sitting second last in the table with three points to their name

After an tough slate of fixtures, they were given a golden opportunity to pick up three points against an Everton side suffering from similar struggles.

The side from the South Coast of England were played off the park on Merseyside and early season optimism is starting to wane.  

After the international break, Bournemouth host Wolves at the Vitality Stadium.

A match that could prove a defining moment in both managers’ seasons.

The Declan Rice transfer is looking like a win-win for both sides

Arsenal procured the services of Declan Rice from West Ham in July for what was, at the time, a British record transfer fee of £105m ($201m).

After the Hammers’ worst league campaign in the last five years, which saw them finish 14th, there was concern that things could get worse after parting with their best player.

However, the money from the sale has been reinvested wisely and the club appears to be back on track this season.

Edson Alvarez, James Ward-Prowse and Mohammed Kudus were brought in for a collective amount just shy of what West Ham received for Rice.

The first two of those names have hit the ground running, proving to be integral first team members already, while Kudus has also impressed in his smaller cameos to date.

The East Londoners sit seventh in the table having enjoyed wins against Chelsea and Brighton and most recently a point against Newcastle at the weekend.

Across town, Rice has been a revelation for the Gunners.

The 24-year-old has started every league game this season and has already won the club’s player of the month for August.

Arsenal fans have been raving about the defensive midfielders ability to break up play and nullify the oppositions’ attempts to counter attack.

He was once again in imperious form in Arsenal’s first league victory over Manchester City since 2015 on Sunday, with fan’s voting him player of the match yet again.

For many, the England international is seen as the missing piece of the puzzle that can potentially see the Premier League trophy return to North London again after 20 years.

As so many players have failed to meet expectations placed on them by enormous transfer fees, for once the Rice deal seems to be working out for both parties.

Team of the Week

Defence was the name of the game for the two sides from North London which sees them well represented in the Team of the Week, as selected by Inner Sanctum writers Liam McMahon and Jasper Woodcock

About Author