So far, it has been a treat to watch the Premier League in these three weeks, with 98 goals already into the net. Leicester, Liverpool, and Everton carry 100% records as the other 17 teams chase the Premier leaders.
From penalties being provided for fun, VAR being the center of attention, and the attacking force of goals coming through are just a few talking points we have witnessed so far in the English top-flight league that lead us to analyze a few pressing questions.
Why is the handball law causing chaos?
A series of controversial handball decisions in the first three weeks has led many to question the understanding of this law and the manner in which it is being implemented on the pitch. This rule was already under fire last season, but if anything its implementation seems to have gone from bad to ridiculous. This year’s follies began with Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof suffering an accidental handball inside the box in MU’s opener against Palace. This Sunday, it was Newcastle that took advantage of this rule, when Andy Carroll’s headed into Eric Dier’s arm while the Spurs defender wasn’t even looking. The resulting penalty caused Jose Mourinho’s men to share a point with the Magpies in the last minute of the game. And, it was Crystal Palace that fell to this rule when Lucas Digne’s header touched Joel Ward’s arm to steal a penalty for Everton.
These are just a few of the incidents that have pundits talking about whether the handball rule is subjective, and how should one implement this rule? According to REUTERS, soccer’s international law-making body IFAB has given the Premier League one month notice to change the laws for next season. However, there has been no response from the Premier League or the Football Association that they plan to change the law at all this season, despite the number of handball penalties demonstrably increasing in England. Managers are furious, teams are frustrated, and the fans need answers for this change, but it seems that we will have to suffer with this rule all season.
Has VAR become better?
The technology that many claim is destroying modern football is back for the second season in England. Interestingly, about 15 goals have been caused by VAR. One spotlight that created much controversy was Manchester United facing Brighton on Sunday. During the final seconds of the game, an overturned penalty provided the Red Devils a chance to grab three points, which they converted thanks to Bruno Fernandes’ penalty spot goal.
In that same game, Aaron Connolly looked to have gone down “softly” in the box during a Paul Pogba challenge, and the referee whistled for a penalty. However, the assistant far away hesitated, allowing Jonathan Moss to rush to the monitor to review his call, which he eventually overturned, with Connolly receiving a yellow card for a dive. This was one of the great examples of how VAR is being used in a better way to push referees to analyze snap decisions and make more correct calls. This was not even considered last season, causing tons of drama.
Is there anything known as home advantage anymore?
There were only two home victories this week, but in six matches the visitors came away with all three points. With no fans in the stadiums behind their home teams, there has been a shift in the dynamics of the game that suggests home advantage means little to nothing at the moment. On Saturday’s four fixtures, there were three away wins and one of Chelsea coming back at West Brom. However, this was not the case during the ‘Restart’ campaign when 43 out of 92 (46.7 per cent) were won by the home side.
Teams such as Everton and Leicester are the only teams with more than one away victory in three fixtures, but the major change is that the traditional ‘big six’ teams have not been able to perform their best at home. Away teams have won 62% of Premier League games so far this season, but with the fixtures coming up, it seems likely to be a short-term aberration rather than a new normal.
How are the promoted teams performing?
It’s difficult to judge a team in just three matches, but losing three in a row by 3-10 aggregate score will raise eyebrows and tells us that Fulham are already in some real trouble. Despite spending £100m last time they were in the Premier League, they went straight back down. Despite that expensive lesson, it seems they just haven’t learned how to adjust. Scott Parker’s side did produce a glimpse of their typically-direct football against Chelsea, but the players look far from being together, displaying no spirit in the team. The Cottager’s ten goals conceded is the second most in the league, but at least league-worst West Brom earned a point on the way to shipping eleven.
Still, the newly promoted Baggies have not provided enough threat in front of the goal, and their shambolic defense in the early part of the season has us fantasy managers loading up on anyone-against-West Brom. Filip Krovinovic joining the club gives hope to Slaven Bilic, but he’s still far from ever being favored to grab a three point victory.
On the plus side, Leeds has been excellent so far. Their hunger and desire to dominate the ball, especially against Liverpool, are just a couple elements that drive Marcelo Bielsa’s side to go for the win. Their three matches, with two victories following the defeat to the Reds, show that their flow of attacking threat to put the ball into the net hasn’t been an issue. Patrick Bamford has bagged three and provided two in all competitions, showing he’s the man in front despite the signing of Rodrigo. This team shows how to play proper football, so Leeds could be the surprise dark horse success of the Premier League this season.
Which player looks to be bagging goals till the very end?
Jamie Vardy tops the charts and rightly so. After Vardy put three past Manchester City to top of the list of hattricks against Pep Guardiola’s side, even Lionel Messi is below the Englishman. The Foxes’ striker has the most league goals (5) alongside Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Harry Kane has chosen to play more like Roberto Firmino lately by providing five and scoring one, the manner in which Jose Mourinho plays his football. The contest between Sadio mane and Mo Salah looks to drive each for goals, and that has been visible in these three fixtures so far. Bruno Fernandes is yet another candidate expected to join the list of goals with his additional set-pieces brilliance including taking a free-kick or PK.
However, Timo Werner — a preseason favorite to race for the Golden boot this year —has struggled to cope with the Premier League so far. One might say the same about Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having a slow start early in the season, but we already know he is one to persevere till the end.
Manchester City’s Aguero has been out injured, but rest assured that the Argentine guarantees goals in the net later on. Likewise, Gareth Bale has arrived sore, but we expect him to light up the league after he heals. The question though is whether he can stay healed. What do you think? And who do you think will stand out the most? Is there anyone else you think will be in goal-scoring form till the end of the season?
Who will shine till the end?
This poll is closed
Kevin de Bryune
Others (Please mention in the comments)
[All statistics info came from the official Premier League website and official fantasy Premier League website]
What are your thoughts about the handball rule? How would you answer the questions above? Do you have any other pressing questions? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!