Takeaways from Matchweek Five in the Premier League

1. Tottenham’s Bipolar Levels of Class on Full Display

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) clashed with West Ham last weekend, facing a Hammers side that dispatched Leicester 3-0 on Matchweek Four and Wolves 4-0 on Matchweek Three. After seeing those results, the neutral eye would expect an interesting match between the two sides, despite Spurs’ 6-1 thrashing of Man United in the third Matchweek. Two sides in form, game on. 

However, the match did not start off that way. The Spurs began the match looking like a squad that is a perennial top-four contender and Champions League outfit. They scored three stunning goals within the first 16 minutes of the opening kick-off and had the Hammers on their heels. Harry Kane scored twice and assisted Heung-Min Son’s first-minute goal. The match looked to be well at hand for Spurs and perhaps even an encore of their six-goal outing against United. However, there are two halves to every football match, and with big leads often come big spells of complacency. And that is precisely what happened in the second half. 

After another 30 minutes or so of Tottenham applying pressure, West Ham’s Fabián Balbuena opened the scoring for the Hammers in the 82nd minute with a darting header from an Aaron Cresswell set piece to make the game 3-1. The comeback was on. Just three minutes later, off of a cross from West Ham’s Vladimír Coufal, Spurs’ Davinson Sánchez scored an own goal to make the game 3-2. Then, with Spurs reeling and embarrassment lurking, West Ham midfielder Manuel Lanzini ripped out the hearts of Spurs players and supporters everywhere with perhaps the goal of the season. Lanzini ripped an absolute belter off the crossbar and in after a ball bounced out to him from a set-piece. He ripped his shirt off in celebration and the scenes unfolded at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

It was an abysmal finish to an otherwise brilliant performance from Spurs. A silver lining for them is that star signing Gareth Bale came on late in the match and had a great chance on goal. For the Hammers, on the other hand, pure ecstasy. 

2. Villa Remains Unbeaten 

After a surprising 7-2 smashing of Liverpool before the International Break, many Premier League supporters wondered, just how good is this Aston Villa side? Sunday’s 1-0 win over a Jamie Vardy-less Leicester did not tell us much. 

What it did tell us, however, was that this Villa side can take three points from matches they deserve to win, which is exactly what they did Sunday. They went into the King Power Stadium and snatched a victory from the teeth of the Foxes of Leicester. They were dangerous throughout the match and deserved to win. Villa was the better side, and they benefited from Leicester missing their key man in Vardy.

What we also learned is that Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins and Ross Barkley will continue to be dangerous. Barkley may have scored the 91st-minute winner, but the other two were the main catalysts for the Villans victory at the King Power. Grealish is becoming the centerpiece of British football, and if he were to lead the Villans into the Champions League this season, he will surely be catapulted into the discussion of best midfielders of the world. Watkins wreaked havoc up front again and, although he did not repeat his hat trick performance against Liverpool, made his mark on the game. 

The Villans will enter Matchweek Six at second in the Premier League table behind only Everton, and will have a mouth-watering matchup with the boys from West Yorkshire and fellow overachievers, Leeds United. 

3. Chelsea is Still Fitting the Pieces Together

The Chelsea-Southampton match was very similar to the aforementioned Tottenham-West Ham affair. Both involved perennially top-four contending sides blowing leads to perennially mediocre sides. 

Chelsea opened the match, like the Spurs, dominating the game and scoring two quick goals. Blues forward Timo Werner opened his Premier League account in style, as he scored two wonder goals in the first half-hour of action. Chelsea was off and running. 

But just before the stroke of halftime, Southampton forward Che Adams delivered a silky through ball into the stride of Danny Ings, who rounded Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for the first of a couple embarrassing moments for the Blues’ netminder. 

Then, in the beginning of the second half, the meme of the Premier League season so far took place. In the 57th minute, on a bouncing ball in Chelsea’s defensive third, Kurt Zouma began a domino-like sequence of defensive blunders. He botched a backpass to Kepa, who then proceeded to make one of the most bizarre sliding efforts at the ball, and completely missed another clearance. Che Adams ran onto the ball and scuffed it into the post, followed by another wildly questionable failed sliding effort from Kepa and an eventual tidy finish from Adams to tie the match at two goals apiece. Mind you, Kepa cost Chelsea about 72 million pounds and was the most expensive goalkeeper in the history of world football. And yes, his mistakes were as bad as they sound, if not immeasurably worse. 

Things became a bit better for Chelsea two minutes later, as midfielder Kai Havertz scored on a beautifully worked move that led to their third goal. Havertz, American winger Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner were all involved in the goal. 

However, much like the Spurs’ debacle against West ham, in stoppage time Southampton equalized off of a set-piece. Chelsea was held to just a point from the match and displayed another shocking defensive performance. Next weekend they will have a chance at redemption as they face a Man United squad that has also had their struggles in the early portion of the 2020-2021 Premier League campaign. 

4. The Everton-Liverpool Match Was Wild and a Sign of a New Era in Merseyside Derby

A lot happened at Goodison Park on Saturday. Liverpool and Everton played in a highly-anticipated and rejuvenated Merseyside Derby. The two Liverpool-hailing sides battled in a Trojan War-esque caliber of match. There were casualties, and there were deaths. 

The hyperbolic death was Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk (we will get to that). The casualties were the seemingly thousands of players on both sides who became victims of harsh and brutal tackles throughout the match. Also, a whole lot of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) drama. 

The match began with a mercurial Liverpool start. Sadio Mané scored a second-minute goal from a brilliant assist and run from Andrew Robertson. Then, utter pandemonium.

In the sixth minute, Virgil Van Dijk was absolutely destroyed by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Pickford made a rash and clumsy challenge on the Dutch international, and after hearing some preliminary medical diagnoses, damaged his ACL. Van Dijk may miss a large chunk of the season. Van Dijk was also questionably ruled offside on the play, and the tackle from Pickford was not reviewed by VAR for a red card. This was the first of two horribly wrong decisions from the people in the booth reviewing the calls on the field. VAR is supposed to be an uncompromising eye of justice, but in this match, it was the main perpetrator of wrongdoing in refereeing. The Dutch center back was then forced to leave the pitch due to injury and was replaced by young Englishmen Joe Gomez. 

Van Dijk’s absence was felt in the 19th minute when Everton center back Michael Keane scored a towering header to level the game at one. The match then fell into a spell of chances from both sides and clumsy tackles (mostly from Everton players). 

In the 72nd minute, Mohamed Salah scored another cracker of a goal for Liverpool to regain their lead. As he seems to do every week, he smashed a bouncing ball into the back of the net and embraced his teammates in celebration. But just nine minutes later, the young, budding English superstar, forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, scored a brilliant header to level the game once again. But the game was not finished yet. Cue more madness. 

In stoppage time, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson scored what appeared to be the match-winning goal from a Sadio Mané cross. A Liverpool win at the death surely, right? Wrong. Yet again, VAR came to spoil the fun. The video refereeing tool first introduced in 2018 made a critical call for the last time in the match. VAR ruled that Sadio Mané had been offside prior to receiving the ball by the shirt sleeve. Yes, you read that correctly: a piece of Sadio Mané’s jersey was beyond the offside line and Liverpool’s winning goal was taken away. 

The match ended in a 2-2 draw that left fans on the edge of their seat, breathless. It was a strange, chaotic and exciting match that will hopefully signal a wild rest of the Premier League season.