Welcome to the Sports Obsessive report for the sixth week of the 20/21 Premier League season! Or, as we’re calling it, The Patrick Bamford Hat Trick Show…
There is plenty to talk about from the games post-international break. Some sides have started to improve certain aspects of their game, while for others, the problems keep mounting. There’s plenty to cover so let’s get started, shall we?
Chelsea Iron Out Their Defensive Issues
At the beginning of this season, many Chelsea fans were worried about the season going in a similar direction to the 2019/2020 season: plenty of goals scored but plenty conceded as well. As the season began, they looked to have been proven right, as Chelsea looked extremely dangerous going forward, with new signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz causing major problems for the teams they faced. But there were still glaring issues at the back, in particular with the performances of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
After some very poor performances in Chelsea’s opening games, the Blues announced the signing of Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes, who has started all matches but one since his arrival. The new man has added stability at the back and, along with fellow new arrivals Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell, has added another level of quality to Chelsea’s backline.
They were very impressive this week as they kept their first two clean sheets of the season; at home to Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League, and away to Manchester United on Saturday, their first clean sheet away from home since December 2019. Despite the two clean sheets, Chelsea failed to score in both of those games and failed to create any major chances of note in either. The key to the London side having a good season is to strike a balance between defensive solidity and ruthless attacking football, and that is something Frank Lampard will have to figure out sooner rather than later because they can’t afford to fall too far behind the early pacesetters, even at this early stage of the season.
Wilfried Zaha turns on the style
When a player like Wilfried Zaha is on top form, there’s not an awful lot you can do to stop him, and that’s exactly what Fulham had to deal with on Saturday. The Crystal Palace winger caused problems from the opening minutes of the game, torturing full-back Ola Aina and anyone else who dared come close to him. His phenomenal dribbling, close control and superb vision make him a nightmare to face for any side, and that was on full display at Craven Cottage.
In fact, the opening goal was almost all of Zaha’s making. Receiving the ball over on the left-wing, he took the ball inside and drove at Ola Aina. As he moved closer to the goal, two more defenders came to cut off any passing angle, so Zaha decided to go alone and take the ball past all three. He very nearly scored at the near post before the ball was cleared. He got the ball back on the edge of the box and slid an absolutely magnificent reverse pass through for Jairo Riedewald to score his first Crystal Palace goal.
Zaha would score himself in the second half, with a tap in from a Michy Batshuayi cross after a well-worked attack down the right-wing. Palace went on to win the game 2-1, and Wilfried Zaha stole all the headlines once again. He is a man on top of his game at the moment, and when he’s at his best he’s one of the Premier League’s most exciting players.
It’s been a very promising start for Crystal Palace, and if things keep going well they could find themselves pushing into the top half of the league come the end of the season.
However, on the other side of the result, Fulham look to be in serious trouble. There have been no wins in their opening six games, with just one point to show for it all. They added some quality towards the end of the transfer window, but they still look blunt in attack, and if they don’t find goals from somewhere soon, they will find themselves in deep trouble.
Burnley Frustrations Continue
Throughout their time in the Premier League, Burnley have always exceeded expectations. Despite operating on a shoestring budget year after year, Sean Dyche always manages to get the most out of his squad.
This season though, things are tougher than ever. There was obvious tension between the board and the manager at the end of last season, with Dyche voicing his frustration at the club allowing Aaron Lennon and key midfielder Jeff Hendrick to leave the club at the end of their contracts. It was thought that the club would invest in the summer and add quality to the squad, but the only new player Dyche was given was Dale Stephens from Brighton, who is a significant downgrade to Hendrick.
That has been evident in Burnley’s first five games, as they’ve picked up just one point against West Brom whilst losing their other four league games. Burnley still have good quality upfront, with the likes of Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez offering a great aerial threat, but make no mistake about it, this will be one of Burnley’s most difficult seasons in the Premier League. But if anyone can turn it around, it’s Sean Dyche.
Performance of the Week
Leeds United travelled to Villa Park on Friday night, with many expecting a very tough game for Marcelo Bielsa’s side against the in-form Aston Villa, but it was anything but that thanks to the Leeds number nine Patrick Bamford.
Until this season, Bamford had just one Premier League goal to his name from all his spells at Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Burnley. Under Marcelo Bielsa’s guidance though, he has become a confident, clinical Premier League striker.
After a relatively quiet first half, Bamford and Leeds exploded into life, with the frontman scoring a nineteen-minute hat-trick. The first was a typical Bielsa team goal, a quick counter-attack getting the ball to the byline to cut back for Bamford to finish.
Bamford’s other two goals were absolutely phenomenal. The second of the three was a rocket from the edge of the box into the roof of the net, before a final goal where he wriggled his way between three Villa defenders before curling the ball into the far corner. It was a sumptuous hat-trick from a man who has been on top of his game this season, and it is very much deserved from the hard work he has put in for the team throughout Bielsa’s time in charge.