While goals rained down last weekend it was drama that dominated the menu this time round in the Premier League. There was a penalty AFTER the final whistle at Brighton, a farcical handball in the fifth minute of stoppage time at Tottenham, Chelsea shipping three before a heroic fightback at West Brom and Manchester City being hit for five at home.
Defending has clearly become something of a second class citizen in the Premier League with three clean sheets from eight games. Chuck in last weekend and it is six from 18 matches.
Manchester City were humiliated on their own patch as Leicester hit them for five on Sunday
It was a weekend littered with storylines, memorable quotes and sublime individual performances.
Sportsmail picks out 10 that got us talking on Monday…
City need more than Dias to fix this mess
Pep Guardiola has spent more than £300million on defenders at Manchester City.
John Stones, Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Danilo, Joao Cancelo, Angelino and Nathan Ake have all walked through the door.
Three – Mendy, Walker and Ake – started Sunday’s 5-2 humiliation by Leicester. They cost a combined £146m.
So if Guardiola thinks incoming £65m defender Ruben Dias will take all of their problems away, it’s time to return to the real world for Leicester exposed far more than shaky defending.
Pep Guardiola was left scratching his head but it will take more than new signings to fix City
Guardiola is as animated as they come on the touchline, like a new children’s toy racing around with fresh batteries.
But as he stood forlorn in his technical area, head in hands, turning to teenage striker Liam Delap to save the day from the bench, viewers were witnessing a different City, a less intense City, a less suffocating press from City, a vulnerable City.
Leicester are no pushover, that much is even clearer now. But rivals in the shape of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United will have relished the demolition job the Foxes put on at the Etihad.
City are down to 13 fit senior players, Guardiola revealed pre-match. It just about covers it but they looked, in his own words, ‘anxious’ and void of ideas.
Kevin De Bruyne was stifled in the middle, Phil Foden’s influence was unmemorable and Raheem Sterling, while great, is not in the mould of the injured Sergio Aguero.
Ruben Dias is joining in a £65m deal but Leicester exposed a multitude of holes in City’s side
Dias and Laporte as the preferred centre back pairing will improve this side’s defensive capabilities.
But with Leeds next up and then a visit from Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, who beat them in the FA Cup semi-finals last season, things may get worse before they get better.
Liverpool’s well-oiled machine looks to have plenty left in the tank after winning the league last season and now Guardiola must show he can coach his young players out of this rut.
Beating Wolves was a strong start but Leicester departed with gaping wounds in City’s ranks.
Rivals will believe this incarnation of City are there for the taking with or without Dias.
Leicester aren’t going anywhere
It was probably hope rather than expectation among the traditional ‘Big Six’ that Leicester would fall back and natural order would be resumed.
Unfortunately for them, Leicester are once again ready to spoil the fun.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were magnificent once they got up and running on Sunday in Manchester.
Mustering just 30 per cent possession in the early exchanges, it appeared the gulf in class was going to tell. But in the end Leicester toyed with City, bullied them and wore them down like a boxer with an accomplished jab.
Jamie Vardy got a hat-trick and was rightly the game’s Man of the Match but this Leicester side has talent in all areas.
Any hope that Leicester would give up on pushing for Champions League were extinguished
Timothy Castagne and James Justin look accomplished in the full-back roles, Kasper Schmeichel is as good as they come in goal, Youri Tielemans is a gem in midfield and Daniel Amartey, back after a long period out, looks like a fresh signing.
They only had themselves to blame last season for their collapse to miss out on the top four.
Rodgers appears to have recalibrated, tweaked and they have returned with a vengeance.
Don’t think Leicester are once again serious candidates for the Champions League spots? Think again…
Chelsea STILL haven’t sorted their defensive woes
As impressive as Frank Lampard’s maiden campaign in charge was, it was hard to escape just how poor Chelsea looked defensively.
They finished fourth with 54 goals against, the worst of any side in the top 10.
A transfer ban hindered them but Lampard secured Champions League football. Overall, it was a successful first season.
Thiago Silva’s Premier League debut was met with a three-goal haul from West Brom
Questions will be asked of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea’s defence if problems persist there
But now in his second season, big money spent to get Ben Chilwell from Leicester and Thiago Silva brought in at 36 from Paris Saint-Germain, the expectation was this year would be different, Lampard was building to stop the rot.
Ditching goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, as Sportsmail alluded to last week in our talking points, is a start but shipping three to newly-promoted West Brom should be setting alarm bells off.
That’s not to discredit West Brom, any side can hit a purple patch over a run of games, or even just 90 minutes, but Chelsea don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes.
Silva’s mistake caught the eye given his status as one of the world’s most accomplished defenders but he has just arrived. The inability within the group to harden up defensively runs deeper and rests with Lampard.
Willy Caballero replaced Kepa Arriazabalaga and that was one call Lampard did get right
In 21 Premier League away games, Chelsea have kept just one clean sheet, despite trying different personnel and formations.
And if problems persist, questions will be asked as to whether individual errors are a symptom of systemic failings of Lampard, rather than his players.
For all the glitz and glamour of the summer signings, it is the same old problems for Chelsea.
How many more times will United get out of jail?
Make no mistake about it, it was a penalty. But Manchester United know the victory was undeserved. They, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put it afterwards, got ‘away with one’.
They saw Chris Kavanagh overturn a penalty against them, Brighton rattled the post and the crossbar and miss a number of gilt-edged chances. If they felt anything other than pure relief at having been handed a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card, they were kidding themselves.
Once again United had been outplayed by a side that they should be beating if their ambitions are to challenge the top order.
Bruno Fernandes stepped up in stoppage time to fire home a spot kick to win it for United
Brighton are a good side, really well coached by Graham Potter, and they’ll give most sides a real go this season.
But United just don’t look right, don’t feel right just now. The Fernandes-Paul Pogba tandem in midfield feels exposing. Defensively Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire remain unconvincing and Anthony Martial is yet to get going as the out-and-out No 9 for this side.
It was a frankly ridiculous game.
The full-time whistle blown before a post-game VAR review adjudged Neal Maupay, scorer of the first goal, to have handled in the area and a 100th minute penalty was converted by Fernandes to win the game.
Victory spared Solskjaer and his players an excruciating post-mortem but with Tottenham, Newcastle, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton in the next five league games, United are in murky waters if they think they can carry on as it is.
Next time they end up locked up by an opponent they may not get a chance like this one to break free.
Neal Maupay was penalised after full-time for using his arm to stop Harry Maguire’s header
Carragher is right, the handball rule is a DISGRACE
The Maupay one felt like the right call, if not in the most ludicrous of circumstances.
But that is an isolated finale. The big talking point from this weekend was with the handball rule. Roy Hodgson kicked off, Gary Lineker chimed in and other former players spoke up too.
Jamie Carragher, on commentary for Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle was left enraged, and who could blame him? In the words of the former Liverpool defender, the current rule ‘is a disgrace’.
At what stage are players practising in training to clip the ball onto the hands of a defender who cannot go anywhere? At what stage does this stop being headline news and just a reality of how the game is now?
VAR intervened in the 95th minute to hand Newcastle a farcical penalty away to Tottenham
Even Steve Bruce, the beneficiary as his side were awarded a penalty to in the fifth minute of stoppage time to equalise following Eric Dier’s handling of Andy Carroll’s header, called the decision out for the nonsense it was.
‘The whole VAR thing and handball in particular this year is a total nonsense,’ admitted Bruce.
‘Maybe we can all get together and stop it because we’re ruining the spectacle. We’ve got away with one today, but it could have quite easily been at our end.’
Bruce is right, too. It probably will bite Newcastle sooner or later. It is not a one-off this season with Victor Lindelof and Joel Ward already falling victim to the harsh calls.
Carragher was enraged and was pleading on air for authorities to get a grip of it.
Jamie Carragher slammed the decision on commentary, calling for drastic changes to be made
‘It’s an absolute disgrace. An absolute joke,’ the Liverpool legend fumed over Sky Sports commentary.
‘Newcastle fans will be ecstatic, I can understand that. But everyone else in this country will say exactly what I am saying and what I am thinking.
‘Eric Dier jumps for the ball, has no control of where his arms are going, there is a header half a yard away from him, hits him on the back of the arm, has no idea what is going on.’
It felt as a viewer that this was a seismic weekend around the handball rule. But if nothing gives, if nothing changes, prepare for ‘hit the hand’ training to become the fashionable new training ground rondo.
Everton are the real deal… Europe is right there for the taking
Seeing their bitter rivals Liverpool lift the Premier League title was painful for Everton supporters.
They had another less-than-impressive campaign but were showing signs of life under Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian has not just got the car back on the road, he has got them racing clear of rivals with three wins from three and for the first time in recent years, Europe feels right there for the taking.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (right) and Richarlison have Everton dreaming of Europe again
Wolves have been the best of the rest of late but their 4-0 hammering by West Ham, coupled with significant departures and a squad no doubt feeling the effects of an extremely long 2019-20 season, Everton look best placed to step up.
In Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ancelotti has a stream of goals.
The pair’s strikes against an in-form Crystal Palace were crucial and keeping them fit is the biggest challenge for Ancelotti and his staff.
It is Brighton next and then a Merseyside derby but the Toffees’ need not hold any fear when they are in this kind of form.
Not since 2013-14 have Everton finished in the top six, but a 100 per cent start to thee season, a revived James Rodriguez and strikers who cannot stop scoring, it is no surprise supporters are daring to dream of European football back at Goodison.
Mourinho cannot wait long for Bale
As if Jose Mourinho’s day wasn’t bad enough when VAR snatched victory away from him with that Dier handball, he was left to reflect on a hamstring injury to Son Heung-min.
The South Korean is vital to this side, one of the few who can consistently chip in with goals to ease the burden on Harry Kane.
He got four against Southampton last week and now he’s sidelined for weeks. When it rains in north London, it pours.
And so Mourinho can no longer wait for Gareth Bale. Not with Chelsea in the Carabao Cup. Not with Maccabi Haifa in the Europa League. Not with Manchester United to come in the league.
Gareth Bale could smile in the stands but Tottenham need him on the pitch sooner than later
Son’s absence is massive to Mourinho, second probably to losing Kane for an extended period.
Bale showed a smile that had become a rare sight in Madrid as he watched from the stands on Sunday but all eyes will be on him to prove his fitness now – and prove it fast.
Mourinho wants to deliver trophies and restore Tottenham to the top four, something Bale will hope to have a major say in.
Michael Dawson, who played alongside Bale during his first spell at the club, echoed the sentiments that time is of the essence for the Welshman to get himself involved in the wake of the Son injury.
Jose Mourinho now contends with losing Son Heung-min to injury and he needs Bale now
‘He needs to get up to speed,’ Dawson told Sky Sports.
‘I wouldn’t want him going away with Wales, I’d want him to get in as soon as possible. He will go in and let the football do the talking, that’s for sure.
‘He is an amazing signing for Spurs. Not just for Spurs but for the Premier League. He can really make Spurs now challenge for the top four. The goals he scores are just incredible.’
What a difference a year makes for Sheffield United
Well, well, well. How the tables turn.
Sheffield United sat back and reflected with glee at the end of the season when reporters had to eat humble pie for predicting the Blades would go down on their return to the top flight. They finished ninth.
But three games into the new season and alarm bells are sounding at Bramall Lane.
Three games, three defeats, no goals scored, and bottom of the division.
Patrick Bamford’s late strike to seal a 1-0 win for Leeds this weekend felt significant to the players. It knocked the stuffing out of them. Heads buried in shirts, hands on knees, crouching down in the style of Marcelo Bielsa. It dawned just how long a season this could be for Chris Wilder’s side.
Sheffield United’s players looked weary in the third game after a third consecutive defeat
Losing Jack O’Connell for the remainder of the season is devastating for them defensively.
The 26-year-old was vital to their solidity at the back last year as they conceded just 39 goals across 38 games. They’ve shipped four in three already.
Things don’t get any easier. In fact things get a damn sight harder from here.
Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea form four of the next five league games and three of those come away from home.
The dreaded second season syndrome was no doubt a banned phrase around the training ground and in the dressing room but it remains very much real.
With the element of surprise fading and injuries mounting, the Blades look blunted as the ‘big six’ lie in wait.
The body language did not look good and it looks set to be a long season for the blunted Blades
West Ham FINALLY show signs of life
When West Ham trudged off having been thoroughly outplayed by Newcastle on the opening day, the word ‘relegation’ was not far away from most conversations.
It was turgid, sluggish and devoid of fight.
Losing to Arsenal is a fate that will befall many but since then, something has clicked.
Carabao Cup wins against Charlton, and then Hull, brought eight goals and allowed confidence to build. As Wolves visited east London on Sunday night, David Moyes side surprisingly added four more.
West Ham showed signs of life against a Wolves side that were well below par on Sunday night
Five points was all that separated them from the relegation zone last season and while there have been disagreements off the pitch over incomings and outgoings, the Hammers are going to have to dig deep to mirror last season’s survival this time round.
In Jarrod Bowen the club have a special talent and he simply has to be the man that attacks are built through; he, unlike a lot in the side, can make things happen.
Leicester, Tottenham, City and Liverpool in the next four could see the champagne put back on ice but these are the kind of games where they are playing with house money.
Will the Golden Boot end up outside the traditional ‘Big Six’?
As it stands, this is how the Premier League scoring chart reads: Calvert-Lewin (5), Vardy (5), Son (4), Ings (3), Salah (3).
For now, no Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, no Martial, no Marcus Rashford, no Timo Werner, no Roberto Firmino, no Sadio Mane, and no Harry Kane.
So the question becomes, will the Golden Boot remain back outside the clutches of the traditional ‘big six’?
Vardy took the title home for his mantelpiece last season but prior to that you have to go back to 1999-2000 up in Sunderland when Kevin Phillips took the title.
Danny Ings (left) and Jamie Vardy will push the big hitters for the Golden Boot award
Since Phillips was the recipient, the winning player has been at Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Chelsea, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Liverpool, Liverpool.
Vardy again is right there, and will be if he can stay fit for the remainder of the campaign.
Calvert-Lewin is spearheading this exciting new era at Everton and will be targeting a 20-plus goal tally for the league campaign.
But what about Danny Ings? He scored the winner against Burnley this weekend and looks to be in supreme form again. He is two adrift of the leaders but with West Brom next up, the side that has conceded the most of anyone in the league so far this season, don’t bet against him strengthening his case next weekend.