Premier League talking points: Smiling Spurs, stopping Man City and VAR blunders

The international break is over and the English top-flight is back in action this weekend

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland signed off before the international break with a hat-trick against Fulham. AFP
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Can anyone stop Man City machine?

New Premier League season but the same old story so far: Manchester City top, Erling Haaland banging in the goals.

Since losing the Community Shield to Arsenal on penalties, treble-winners City have steamrollered their way to four league victories on the spin – scoring 11 goals, conceding just two – as well as securing their fourth trophy this year when they defeated Sevilla to win the Uefa Super Cup.

City now have the only remaining 100 per cent record in England's top six divisions and while Saturday's opposition, West Ham United, are themselves unbeaten, Pep Guardiola's mean machine heads to the London Stadium as firm favourites.

And leading their early season charge has once again been Norwegian goal monster Haaland who already has six goals from four games – including a hat-trick against Fulham.

“I'm back. No problem for me. I am always hungry,” said Haaland after his fifth treble for the club. “Important win, we go into the international break having won four in four. Good start to the season. We will only get better and better from here.”

Postecoglou aims to keep Spurs smiling

After the misery, moaning and dire defensive displays under previous managers Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, Tottenham Hotspur players and fans alike must be finding life under Ange Postecoglou a breath of fresh air.

The first Australian to manage in the English top flight has made an immediate impact at the North London club following years of negativity on and off the pitch.

Postecoglou's first win in charge was an impressive 2-0 defeat of Manchester United but the goals were free-flowing before the international break when Burnley were battered 5-2 at Turf Moor, with Son Heung-min grabbing a hat-trick.

“There is not a football manager or player on this planet who doesn't want to win. My thing is that it's not just about the winning, it is about the way we play,” the Australian told TalkSPORT radio. Music to Spurs fans' ears as they look forward to Saturday's game at home to Sheffield United.

VAR hope for controversy free week

When VAR was introduced at the start of the 2019/20 season, it was accepted that it would take a while for players, coaches, fans and even the officials themselves to become comfortable with the new technology.

But here we are, three full seasons later, and the VAR blunders are still coming thick and fast; from the opening weekend of the season, when Wolves were somehow not given a late penalty at Manchester United, through to a Manchester City goal not being disallowed for offside against Fulham before the international break.

“It looked like the goalkeeper tried to take the centre-forward’s head off,” said a disbelieving Wolves manager Gary O'Neil after the match at Old Trafford when United's Andre Onana clattered into Sasa Kalajdzic without touching the ball.

“It was offside,” admitted City striker Haaland after VAR had failed to spot Manuel Akanji clearly in an offside position as Nathan Ake's header bounced past him and into the net. “I feel bad for them – I would be fuming after this as well.”

For the sanity of all concerned, it would be nice to have a controversy-free week from the VAR officials at Stockley Park.

Newcastle in need of Euro tonic

It was always going to be a tricky campaign for Newcastle United after last season's fourth-place finish ended a 20-year wait for Champions League football.

The squad was strengthened over the summer to cope with the extra burden of European football, with Lewis Hall, Tino Livramento, Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes all arriving on Tyneside. And all looked well in the world after their opening weekend 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa.

But Eddie Howe's side have since had a tough run of games with defeat to Manchester City, Liverpool and Brighton.

If they lose at home to Brentford on Saturday, it will be the first time the Magpies have lost four league games in a row since January 2021 when the much-maligned Steve Bruce was in charge and the club was still owned by Mike Ashley.

“The tale is very similar to last week [against Liverpool] we had chances to score and we didn't take them and at this level you can get punished the other way and that's what happened,” said Newcastle manager Howe after the Brighton defeat.

A win against the Bees would end that losing streak and also be the perfect tonic ahead of their opening Champions League group-stage game against AC Milan at St James' Park on Tuesday.

Promoted sides struggling to make a point

Last season was an all too rare one for the Premier League when all three promoted clubs managed to secure their top-flight status.

Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest became the first trio since Newcastle, Brighton, and Huddersfield Town in 2018 to achieve the feat.

In fact, this has only been done in two other seasons: Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers all secured a second year in the top flight in 2001/02, while 2011/12 saw Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City stay up.

This time round, things are not looking good for Luton Town, Burnley and Sheffield United. The three newcomers currently occupy three of the bottom four places, with no wins from 10 games, one point between them and having conceded 27 goals.

Respectively, they face away games against Fulham, Spurs and Forest this week and it would not be a surprise if there were no more points on the board between them by Monday night, never mind that elusive first win.

“To be good enough for the Premier League, just take a look at the teams that went down last year and the international players they had – being good enough is a very high threshold,” admitted Burnley manager Vincent Kompany.

Updated: September 14, 2023, 6:33 AM