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English Premier League talking points

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Premier League - Chelsea v Liverpool - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - August 13, 2023 A big screen displays a VAR decision message Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Talking points from the opening weekend of the Premier League season:

HAALAND HUNGRY FOR MORE RECORDS

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland needed only four minutes to open his account for the new season and ended up with a brace in a 3-0 win for the champions at Burnley on Friday.

After ripping up the record books last season with 36 goals in the Premier League and 52 in all competitions, logic suggested he may find his second season a little tougher as teams figure out ways to shackle the Norwegian.

But on the evidence of his display at Turf Moor, Haaland will again be almost impossible to stop.

Not that it spared him a reprimand from manager Pep Guardiola at halftime, with the Spaniard annoyed that Haaland had risked losing possession, but those are the standards that make it hard to bet against City mounting another treble run.

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OLD HABITS DIE HARD FOR ARSENAL

One of Arsenal’s major problems last season as they let the Premier League title slip from their grasp was an inability to kill off games after taking the lead.

Arsenal saw two-goal advantages slip in consecutive draws against Liverpool and West Ham United in April which allowed Manchester City to catch up and overhaul them.

They made things frantic for themselves again in a 2-1 home win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday despite cruising for most of their league opener.

“When you are 2-0 up and have some chances to kill the game, we didn’t,” Arteta said.

“It was more about the feeling than actually what happens. The reality is we didn’t concede anything but you are running the clock down and in this league that’s a very dangerous thing to do.”

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If they are to mount a title challenge again this season Arsenal will have to make sure they shut games down.

POCHETTINO FINDS A WAY TO CHEER UP THE BLUES

New Chelsea coach Mauricio Pochettino said Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool was “just the start” of the turnaround he wants to engineer at Stamford Bridge after last season’s shocking slump in form for the high-spending Blues.

The Argentine, who used to manage rivals Tottenham Hotspur, gave Chelsea debuts to four of his starting 11 and the way the side grew in confidence, after conceding an 18th minute Luis Diaz opener, suggested the club might be getting back on track.

Axel Disasi marked his first Chelsea game with a goal while fellow debutant Nicolas Jackson, a striker, used his power to create chances. Academy graduate Levi Colwill recovered from a testing first few minutes in a Chelsea shirt to frustrate Mohamed Salah and goalkeeper Robert Sanchez looked confident.

Chelsea fans responded with the kind of vocal support that became increasingly rare last season as the team misfired, and the team were applauded off at the final whistle as they looked forward to a more promising season under their new coach.

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TONALI SETS THE TONE AS NEWCASTLE THRASH VILLA

Newcastle United’s new signing Sandro Tonali set the tone with a goal after six minutes, instantly showcasing what he can contribute to the Tyneside club as they seek to compete for the Premier League title.

The 23-year-old arrived in England on the back of a brilliant season for AC Milan where he combined creative passing and crunching tackles, and he showed the full register in his first league appearance in front of his new home crowd.

Alexander Isak may have scored twice, including a tremendous second-half chip to make it 3-1, but that Tonali was still given the man of the match award for his work in the centre says everything about his performance.

The 5-1 win puts the Magpies top of the table for now; whether or not they can stay there will depend greatly on how well Italy international Tonali can continue to shoulder the role of midfield motor as well as he did on Saturday.

TOTTENHAM SHOW THERE IS LIFE AFTER KANE

Club record scorer Harry Kane’s move to Bayern Munich on the eve of Tottenham Hotspur’s first game of the season left fans crestfallen but a 2-2 draw at Brentford offered some hope of better things to come for the north London club.

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New manager Ange Postecoglou said he had planned for a season without the England striker as he looks to put his thumb print on the club and a new-look Spurs side responded well to the departure of their talisman.

Playmaker James Maddison impressed on his debut, setting up the opening goal for Cristian Romero, while Yves Bissouma offered the sort of high-energy midfield performance that Australian Postecoglou demands from his teams.

Only time will tell, however, if Brazil forward Richarlison, who was a bit-part player last season, can fill the gap left by Kane. On the evidence of Sunday that looks unlikely.

-Reuters

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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