Premier League takeaways: Haaland 'smells goals', Chelsea miss Kante class, Mitrovic magic

The big talking points from the English top-flight's midweek games

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Chelsea missing qualities of Kante

After Chelsea lost 2-1 at Southampton on Tuesday, manager Thomas Tuchel bemoaned the “soft, soft, soft defending” of his team after they fell to a second defeat in five games.

The arrival of £70m centre-half Wesley Fofana from Leicester City should be the remedy to the problem highlighted by Tuchel, although it might also take a while for other new signings to bed in after a spending spree of more than £270m this summer.

This was always going to be a time of transition for the Blues after a change in ownership and the exit of big-name players such as Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku.

But it is the absence of N'Golo Kante, the man who makes the midfield engine room purr, that has been a particular issue for Chelsea. “He makes players simply better around him,” Tuchel has admitted. “That’s why he is a key player.” And it is no coincidence that the Frenchman has been out injured for both defeats so far.

N'Golo Kante has not played for Chelsea since the 2-2 draw with Spurs on August 14 due to a hamstring injury. AFP

Fulham and Mitrovic finding their top-flight feet

The signs are already promising that yo-yo club Fulham might actually have the quality and mental strength to avoid a third relegation from the Premier League in five seasons.

Tuesday's 2-1 win over unbeaten Brighton saw the Cottagers temporarily rise to the dizzy heights of sixth in the table. It also meant they have already secured as many home victories this campaign than they managed in their entire 2020-21 relegation season.

Putting them on the way to three points at Craven Cottage was striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who reached 100 goals for Fulham, with his fifth in five games and his 48th strike in 49 games since the start of last season.

Scoring in the second-tier has never been a problem for Mitrovic, but goals in the top-flight have been harder to come by for the Serb – at Fulham and previous club Newcastle. If he can maintain this early form, then any doubts about his abilities will be blown away and Fulham should be safe from the drop this time round.

Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates after scoring Fulham's opening goal against Brighton. Getty

Bournemouth look doomed already

While Fulham are enjoying life looking up rather than down, it is fair to say fellow newly-promoted club Bournemouth are already looking over their shoulders at the relegation battle.

After their catastrophic 9-0 battering at Liverpool, a debacle that saw manager Scott Parker relieved of his duties, the Cherries at least showed some fight under caretaker boss Gary O'Neil in Wednesday's goalless draw at home to Wolves.

And while O'Neil hailed the “incredible bravery and determination” of his players, the main problem that Parker flagged up loud and clear before his sacking remains all too obvious. Bournemouth's lack of action in the transfer market has left the squad woefully short of quality and needs strengthening if they want any chance of avoiding relegation.

Compare and contrast to the third and final side just promoted from the Championship, Nottingham Forest, who have gone the other way and could well have reached a remarkable 20 new signings before the transfer window closes.

It remains to be seen whether either method is the correct one for survival.

Scott Parker was sacked as Bournemouth manager following their 9-0 defeat at Liverpool. AFP

Haaland and City have the 'smell for goals'

The early form of goals monster Erling Haaland is ominous for Manchester City's title rivals, after the big Norwegian grabbed his second hat-trick in a row with a treble against Nottingham Forest.

Any theories that it might take time for the 22-year-old to adapt to the rigours of English football have quickly proven hopelessly inaccurate after Haaland followed up his 19-minute trio against Crystal Palace at the weekend with a mere 26-minute treble on Wednesday.

It meant he joined illustrious names such as Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane in scoring a hat-trick in successive Premier League games.

Haaland now has nine goals in five games and, after strike partner and fellow summer arrival Julian Alvarez found the net twice in the 6-0 thrashing of Forest, manager Pep Guardiola admitted his team are looking strong in the attacking department.

“We have incredible strikers, incredible sense of smell for goals,” said the Spaniard.

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland celebrates completing his hat-trick against Nottingham Forest. Getty

Jesus and Arsenal set for 'Big Six' test

Table-topping Arsenal made it five wins from five following their 2-1 victory over struggling Aston Villa that saw Gabriel Jesus continue his fine form.

While Haaland is off to a flyer up at City, Jesus has made a huge impression since quitting Manchester for North London this summer.

The Brazilian has been involved in six goals in his first five games (three goals, three assists), although none of those were against 'Big Six' opposition. Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday will be a litmus test for Arsenal and Jesus's progress.

Gabriel Jesus puts Arsenal in front against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium. EPA
Updated: September 02, 2022, 7:34 AM
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