With the third Premier League weekend in the books, theScore breaks down some of the winners and losers in England’s top flight:
Winner: VAR advocates
Parties who support the use of video assistant referees (VAR) in England’s top flight are buzzing after a pair of questionable decisions on Saturday highlighted the need for technology-aided checks and balances. First, Wolves’ opener in a 1-1 draw with Manchester City should have been ruled out after Willy Boly handled the ball. Hours later, Everton goal-machine Richarlison saw red for a tame meeting of heads with Bournemouth’s Adam Smith.
Loris Karius’ plane had barely touched down in Istanbul before Alisson registered his third clean sheet in three outings for Liverpool courtesy of Saturday’s narrow victory over Brighton. While the Brazil No. 1 has only been forced to make a half-dozen saves this season, his distribution and ability to quickly come off the line make him a massive upgrade for the Reds, while his dink to evade a surging Anthony Knockaert in the 68th minute was utterly sensual.
Winner: Eddie Howe
From the English tabloids’ penchant for lionizing bang-average gaffers who resemble the bar fly at your local pub, to being considered relegation fodder short on ideas, Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has experienced it all in the Premier League. But despite being a popular pick for the drop this season, the Cherries have shown heaps of fight under their crimson-mane manager, coming back from two down to draw with Everton a week after topping West Ham on the road.
Winner: Eden Hazard
Maurizio Sarri elected to throw Eden Hazard’s name onto his starting XI for the first time this season, and Chelsea’s Belgian maestro predictably seized the opportunity. A lively threat all match against Newcastle, Hazard calmly buried a 76th-minute penalty for his first goal of the campaign and his 70th in the Premier League with the Blues. The mark broke a tie with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for third on Chelsea’s all-time goal-scorer list in the EPL, leaving Hazard behind only Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.
Loser: Manuel Pellegrini
New Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini was given envious leeway with the club’s transfer budget, but the Argentine manager has yet to repay the trust bestowed upon him by the team’s higher-ups. Staring down Arsenal and Liverpool in the first three weeks of the season would be a daunting task for any side, but with zero points to their name in August (despite scoring first against the Gunners on Saturday), West Ham’s start to the campaign is casting early doubts on Pellegrini’s (expensive) project at London Stadium.
Loser(s): Cardiff City and Huddersfield
If there was a match this month for two relegation candidates to reasonably vie for three points, it was Saturday’s drab encounter between Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town. Instead, the 0-0 draw was a blow to both clubs, which each have loaded fixtures on the horizon. Huddersfield will now prepare for Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, and Tottenham, while Cardiff is set to face a looming three-headed gauntlet of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City. You could argue Saturday’s draw was exponentially worse for Neil Warnock’s side, as Huddersfield played down a man for nearly half an hour after Jonathan Hogg was sent off.
Loser: Crystal Palace
Setting a club record should be a mirthful moment for any player, but doing so in a losing effort quickly sucks the joy out of the occasion – a deflating feeling that Wilfried Zaha experienced Sunday after netting his 24th Premier League goal for Crystal Palace. The Ivorian forward passed Chris Armstrong to become the Eagles’ highest goal-scorer in the EPL, but Roy Hodgson’s men failed to complete their comeback against Watford, falling 2-1 and muting Zaha’s celebration.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)