It was a perfect Saturday for Liverpool, seeing off Newcastle at Anfield then watching Norwich surprise everyone by inflicting defeat on Man City. James Nalton looks back on the Premier League weekend.
When Norwich City turned up at Anfield on the opening day of the season, there were signs that they hadn’t arrived in the Premier League to merely sit back, defend, and drop so deep they end up back in the Championship.
It was a tough opening fixture for the newly-promoted side — facing the European Champions and title challengers on their own patch, and Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners, but if it’s possible to impress in a 4-1 defeat, Daniel Farke’s side did so.
There were also signs of things to come from striker Teemu Pukki who slotted one past substitute goalkeeper Adrian. An instinctive finish from the Finn who timed his run perfectly and dispatched his shot into the corner in front of the Kop.
“We played against an opponent who will cause a lot of teams problems with the way they play,” Jurgen Klopp said following that game.
“I said to Daniel before the game, I liked the analysis, I had real fun because they are cheeky like hell and do what they do no matter what happens around [them].
“They caused us problems in some moments but I’m not surprised about that, it’s completely normal.”
Klopp’s prediction that Norwich would cause a lot of teams problems was right, though he might not have expected them to cause those problems for the team his own side are looking to topple — Man City.
Pep Guardiola likes it when teams try to ‘play football’ against his side, and will come out after the game with praise for any such opposition, usually after having seen them off with ease.
Like Liverpool, Man City like facing teams who make the game more open rather than sitting back, and this usually allows his world class players to pass their way around such opposition and score a bagful of goals.
But Norwich didn’t just set out to play fashionable football, they had a plan in defence as well as attack, and rather than sit back after scoring they went looking for more, eventually scoring three.
It wasn’t until the latter stages of the game that they looked like underdogs as they held on for the win after Man City score their second in the 88th minute.
“They were so clinical,” said Guardiola, who congratulated the Norwich players on the pitch after the game.
“They destroyed the Championship last season, in terms of their football, and were promoted. A really good team with really good players.
“Football is about goals, and in the boxes they were better [than us].”
One of those really good players, Pukki, has been a revelation in the Premier League so far, and has continued the form which saw him score 29 goals in the Championship to help get Norwich promoted.
“It’s been an amazing start,” Pukki told Sky Sports.
“I believed I could score at this level, but to score against all these top teams I did not believe!”
- His Fantasy Premier League value has risen by 0.5, the highest jump on the game so far, and it will only rise further after this weekend’s heroics.
- Having defeated the defending champions, his team lined up first on Match of the Day for the second time this season (the other being the 3-2 loss against Chelsea in which he scored one and assisted another).
- Liverpool put three past Newcastle this weekend, something Pukki has already done himself this season in a 3-1 win for Norwich at Carrow Road.
- He’s just one behind Sergio Aguero at the top of the goalscoring charts, and is being praised for his work rate, unselfishness, and team-work as well as his goalscoring feats.
It’s not just about Pukki, though. That Norwich were able to effectively maintain the same style of play against Man City despite an injury crisis heading into the game showed how well drilled they are throughout the squad.
Todd Cantwell has been impressive in support of Pukki, while Emi Buendía looks like he might be well-suited to a counter-pressing side such as Liverpool.
Farke has them all on the same page tactically and all working for each other, and looks like he will be one of the more impressive of the former Dortmund coaches plying their trade around Europe, with Klopp leading the way.
Notes from the press box
- Sergio Aguero gets his name on the scoresheet despite the defeat, keeping himself at the top of the goalscoring charts.
- Son Heung-min is Spurs’ best player, and it’s no surprise they were able to win convincingly with him on top form. The South Korean scored two against Crystal Palace, and believes it’s only a matter of time before he gets his first Premier League hat-trick.
- 21-year-old English striker Tammy Abraham repaid the faith shown in him by Frank Lampard, scoring a hat-trick against Wolves, taking him level with Aguero on seven in total.
- Everton have concerns around whether Marco Silva is the man to take them forward, after losing away at Bournemouth.
Wonder when Marco Silva will get sacked, only spent £200m in the last two summers ?
— ??? (@Shannxo) September 15, 2019
- Of the 18 teams who played over the weekend only three managed to keep clean sheets (Spurs, Southampton and Man United).
- After going 2-0 up at Watford, Arsenal were lucky to even get a point in the end, with the home side dominating the xG 3.07 – 0.85 (Infogol).
* James Nalton’s Premier League column is published every weekend on This Is Anfield.