It was yet another crazy weekend of football in the Premier League, with goals and controversial VAR decisions galore. The handball rule ended up the centre of attention, with major calls going against the likes of Brighton and Crystal Palace, while Brighton also seemed to have a stonewall penalty turned down in the same game. There’s plenty to unpack from the weekend’s games, so let’s get started.
VAR and Handball Controversy Takes Center Stage
VAR was at the center of some major moments in matches over the weekend. The first occasion was during Brighton vs. Manchester United on Saturday. VAR came into play on a number of occasions throughout the 90 minutes, disallowing two United goals for offside, as well as overturning a penalty for Brighton which, on reflection, looks to have been a definite penalty as Paul Pogba collided with Brighton striker Aaron Connolly in the box.
The most controversial moment was still to come as, in the 95th minute, Neal Maupay handled the ball in the box, which was reviewed by VAR AFTER the final whistle, after which the penalty was awarded to Manchester United, which Bruno Fernandes slotted home as the Red Devils stole a win they most definitely didn’t deserve.
The AMEX Stadium wasn’t the only place where VAR cost a team points, as Crystal Palace had a penalty given against them following a Joel Ward handball that he could do absolutely nothing about, which was then converted by Richarlison as Everton beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park. Palace manager Roy Hodgson was livid with the penalty decision after the game, pointing to the farcical handball rule as something that must be changed in the future to avoid crazy decisions like the ones we saw across the weekend’s fixtures.
There would be yet more controversy on Sunday evening as Newcastle received a ridiculous penalty in the final moments of their match with Tottenham, which gained them a point against Jose Mourinho’s side. Even though his side benefited from the decision, Steve Bruce made a passionate speech post-match about the ridiculous handball rule and the need for change as soon as possible. Considering the amount of trouble the rule has caused over the first few weeks of the season, it will surely be something the governing bodies will be keeping a close eye on over the coming weeks and months.
Chelsea Defensive Issues at the Fore Once Again
For as dangerous as Chelsea have looked when they’re attacking, they have been absolutely atrocious defensively.
Following two high profile mistakes from Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga in the opening two matches, backup Willy Caballero took his place in the starting line-up against West Brom on Saturday in a match Chelsea were expected to win convincingly.
What happened in the first half, though, was nothing short of embarrassing as the Blues found themselves 3-0 down after 27 minutes. Two moments of amateurish football from Marcos Alonso either side of a slip from Thiago Silva allowed West Brom three excellent chances which they capitalised upon, with the quality of Callum Robinson and Matheus Pereira in the attacking areas looking particularly sharp.
However, the tables turned completely in the second half following the arrivals of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Cesar Azpilicueta into proceedings at the Hawthorns. Hudson-Odoi was heavily involved in all of Chelsea’s goals as they staged an excellent second-half comeback, with the teenager himself scoring the second of the game before playing the cross that led to Tammy Abraham’s 93rd minute equaliser.
Despite that very impressive comeback in the second half, it’s clear that Chelsea have a huge amount to work on defensively, but the integration of Ben Chilwell and new goalkeeper Edouard Mendy should go a long way to solidifying their defence.
Fulham Exposed at the Back Again
Fulham were found to be lacking quality at the back again on Monday night as they suffered a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa.
Fulham found themselves behind early on as a simple ball over the top from John McGinn found Jack Grealish, whose run wasn’t tracked by any of the Fulham backline, and he smartly slotted the ball home for the opening goal of the game.
There were more gaps in the Fulham backline after good play from Watkins opened up space for McGinn to cross the ball in for Conor Hourihane’s first goal since December 2019. They found themselves 3-0 down on the 48 minute mark as a simple free-kick crossed in by Hourihane found its way to an unmarked Tyrone Mings in the box for a simple tap-in.
Bobby Reid got one back for the Cottagers just before the hour mark, only to have it disallowed for a foul from Mitrovic in the build-up. That was the only chance of note that Fulham created during the game, which will be very worrying for manager Scott Parker, who will surely be desperate for signings in both defence and attack before the transfer deadline on the 5th October
Performance of the Week
There is only one team that can say they put five goals past a side managed by Pep Guardiola, and that team is Leicester City.
Heading into this game, Brendan Rodgers had never picked up a single point against Manchester City in his time as a manager but boy did that change on Sunday. City started well, with Riyad Mahrez scoring a scorcher against his former club after just four minutes, but Leicester found themselves level as a silly challenge from Kyle Walker on Jamie Vardy allowed the Foxes to equalise.
Things were fairly even at half-time, but the game changed completely following the substitution for Fernandinho on 51 minutes, as City completely caved in and Leicester ran riot as Guardiola’s side made mistake after mistake, including the concession of another two penalties as Leicester bagged five.
It was undoubtedly one of the worst performances a Pep Guardiola team has ever put in and they have a lot to work on before they travel to Leeds next Saturday. But for Leicester, it will be a huge confidence boost as they look to challenge for the Champions League spots again this season.