The Premier League has come out of the starting blocks fast, and that’s great news for all of us. Joe has laid out the entire week’s matches here, but I wanted to dive a bit deeper on a couple of these clashes.
Points To The Spot
Nobody really likes complaining about refereeing… alright, who am I kidding everyone’s favorite pastime is blaming refs for things.
Why am I talking about the refs in a What To Watch For? Well, because through the first two weeks of the season there has been a substantial increase in Penalty Kicks awarded. Most of it has to do with the new wording of the handball rule, though on paper they actually lessened the criteria for where the ball can hit. The addition of VAR always checking it has seen a dramatic increase in ticky-tack calls, leading to an abundance of free kicks and penalties. And MUCH discussion about the rule.
Last season, there were 92 PKs awarded through the entire 38 gameweek PL season, for an average of 2.42 a week. So far this season, which remember is only two weeks in, there have been 13 PKs awarded, which puts us on pace for 247 PKs by season’s end. And this doesn’t even include the fact that Crystal Palace penalty above was actually awarded twice because DeGea stepped a few millimeters off his line when he saved it and Palace were awarded a rekick.
Now, not every PK awarded has been for a handball, and not every call has been controversial, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on this week. Will players start changing the way they defend to avoid these types of calls? Can the refs start to loosen up? Will Anthony Taylor ever have a good game of refereeing? So far, the answer to all three is no.
Crystal Palace vs Everton
Speaking of Anthony Taylor, he’s the VAR ref for this clash between two early “surprises.” I have surprises in quotes because in our preview piece we let you know that both of these clubs should finish in the Top 10 this year. I just don’t think even we expected both of these teams to be going into this matchup having collected all 6 points available to them. This is a great matchup to further assess these two teams.
Everton’s addition of James Rodriguez could end up being the most influential transfer of any club in a year that saw the big clubs bring in seemingly every available big name out there. He has fit right into Carlo Ancelotti’s system, (which is unsurprising), and immediately developed a dangerous link up connection with Richarlison.
On the other side, Crystal Palace seem to be winning in spite of themselves. In particular, during last week’s match against Man United, Palace missed quite a few scoring opportunities by simply not making the obvious pass in time. Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew, and Andros Townsend all appeared to be attempting to win the game on their own and that resulted in too many touches, too many times. Add into that all the noise about Zaha wanting to leave CP, which somehow resulted in him getting awarded the Captain’s armband, and you have the perfect ingredients for an explosive offense that could implode at any moment. Factor in Anthony Taylor on the VAR and this could easily be the highest scoring game all season. Or a 1-1 draw. But it’s definitely one to tune in for.
Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion
This is only here for one reason, Chelsea. As Kevin screams at his screen about me being a homer for including my club in a week where they should easily win, I’ll explain. It’s all about the signings, more specifically which ones play. Most specifically, the one between the sticks.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has had a VERY rough go of things to start the season. And Edouard Mendy has been brought in from Rennes to provide him with competition. Which is a polite way of saying, the new guy is here but we spent way too much money making an unproven Kepa the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, AND signed him to a foolish 7-year contract, and would like to recoup at least some of that since it seems apparent that was a HUGE WASTE OF MONEY. *deep breath* It’s possible Frank Lampard waits to give Mendy his debut, as he just joined the club officially on Thursday, but a GK doesn’t need as much time in practice to learn a system, and West Brom is pretty bad, so it makes sense to just throw him in there and see how he does.
The other part of this to watch for is the other new signings. Timo Werner has been fantastic the first two weeks, but not able to find the back of the net. Likewise, Kai Havertz has been incredible, but in a much less flashy way, at least prior is netting his first senior level hat trick in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. They both seem primed to open up their Premier League ledgers against West Brom, but that’s really only exciting for Chelsea fans like me. So really what to watch for will come about 45 minutes prior to kickoff when lineups are announced.
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