5 Things We Learned From Week Four in the EPL (2021)
The EPL returned from the first international break of the 2021/22 season with a bang. The big news was Cristiano Ronaldo coming back to Old Trafford – but he was just one of the biggest EPL transfers in 2021.
There also are already some worried faces at the bottom of the league, but most of the big teams have started off brightly. Hopefully that will mean we have another tight title race this season.
The EPL continues to throw up a number of interesting storylines in the early stages of the new campaign – and here are five things I noticed from match day four.
Romelu Lukaku Made Sure No One Has Forgotten About Him
Most of the headlines in the days preceding the weekend’s fixtures were about a certain Portuguese player returning to a former club.
But Lukaku obviously wanted to make sure that people remembered that he has also come back to one of his old stomping grounds.
Lukaku couldn’t turn down a return to Stamford Bridge in the summer and is continuing to make his misjudged critics eat their words as he performs at the height of his talents.
Chelsea won the Champions League last season but Thomas Tuchel knew that he needed someone like Lukaku if the club was to challenge for the league title this season.
It was another fine display from the Belgium striker against Villa. The 3-0 scoreline probably flatters the west London club, but Lukaku was unplayable as he helped himself to another two goals.
There are some very good strikers in the EPL this season but Lukaku must be an option when it comes to predicting the winner of the Golden Boot.
The Return of Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo would probably not like that I have given him second billing in this EPL recap – and he certainly delivered as he returned to Manchester United and English soccer during the weekend.
Two goals in the thrashing of Newcastle United proved that he has lost nothing and is still playing at the very top of the game.
The home fans at Old Trafford were deliriously happy with the way Ronaldo’s return went, with the global superstar opening his new account with a poacher’s tap-in in the first half and a decisive run and finish for his second. There seems to be no doubt that there will be further goals to celebrate this season.
Manchester United was not overly convincing – even with the large margin of victory at the end. But Ronaldo will do for the Red Devils what he has done for every other side he has played for – add that extra piece of quality that suggests something will happen soon.
He might not be the final piece of the jigsaw when it comes to United’s dreams of winning the league again – but his arrival has caused a stir in the EPL.
The Seagulls Are Soaring
Brighton entered its fifth consecutive season of Premier League action as one of the favorites to be relegated once again.
For a club its size, that may not be much of a surprise. But Graham Potter was brought in by the owners to push the club forward after the work of Chris Hughton seemed to have reached its limit.
Potter’s tactical nous and insight have never really been questioned. But his best work had always been at a much lower level than the English top flight.
The Seagulls go into this weekend’s fixtures in sixth place having celebrated three victories in just four games so far.
The win away at Brentford on Saturday was the type of result that Brighton would not have been able to achieve before.
The home side had been looking very impressive in its first season in the EPL but Potter oversaw a performance that suggested that this could be a good year for Brighton. The fixture list has been kind so far though.
This weekend’s game against Leicester might turn out to be a bit more informative.
Something Is Wrong with Harry Kane
Harry Kane made no secret of his desire to move away from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer.
But Daniel Levy’s refusal to allow the England captain to leave the club for Manchester City meant that Kane had to back down on his protest and commit himself to another season in north London.
His actions before the start of the season may have caused some ill feeling with the fans – and seemed like a huge PR mistake – but he was still expected to play his part once he returned to the pitch.
But, his non-performance on Saturday against Crystal Palace made it four games without a goal as the Spurs looked woeful.
Kane wasn’t helped by his side going down to ten men in the first half – or the absence of Heung-min Son, his main source of goal scoring chances.
But he looked ineffectual as he dropped deeper and deeper to retrieve the ball and failed to even touch the ball in the opposing penalty box, let alone create a chance.
At this rate Pep Guardiola may feel as though he got off lightly when Kane’s transfer failed to materialize in the offseason.
0 – For the very first time in his Premier League career, Tottenham's Harry Kane has had neither a shot nor a touch in the opposition's box in a game where he completed the full 90 minutes. Isolated. pic.twitter.com/KiPNybiOI8— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 11, 2021
Mikel Arteta Enjoys a Stay of Execution
It was only the fourth game of the campaign – against a promoted club that had not won a single point this season – but Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta knew the fixture against Norwich on Saturday was a must-win.
Arsenal had not even scored a goal before the weekend, so the scruffy finish from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was greeted with relief more than anything by the crowd in the Emirates.
Arteta had made several changes to his side for this game and was rewarded with a vital three points that took the Gunners out of the relegation zone.
But Arsenal fans will be demanding much more than that from their team.
The new look starting eleven did at least suggest that there are better times ahead. Ben White was given a home debut and Takehiro Tomiyasu started after his move from Bologna. Both players added a defensive presence that wasn’t evident previously.
There is a long way to go until Arteta is trusted to see the season out – but this was a start.
The EPL Continues
It is always a little jarring for the EPL to get its season started and almost immediately be interrupted by the international break.
But now it has another month before any further stoppages – allowing everyone to get a little more settled.
There are some interesting fixtures once again this weekend and there are sure to be some more stories to chew over this time next week. Look out for my round up of the news from match day five in the EPL.
In the meantime, get some more soccer updates with the 6 things we learned from week 24 in MLS.