LAMPARD MUST SOLVE DEFENSIVE PUZZLE
Chelsea travelled to West Bromwich Albion expecting three points to keep up with the Premier League pacesetters but found themselves three goals down after an early defensive collapse.
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Chelsea fought back to grab a 3-3 draw but all three of West Brom’s goals resulted from glaring defensive errors and, with their new Brazil defender Thiago Silva at fault for the second goal on his league debut, Lampard will have plenty on his mind.
Marcos Alonso and Silva were guilty of being careless on the ball and Kyle Bartley was left unmarked to score, suggesting there are issues of concentration that need to be dealt with.
Chelsea’s attacking talents appear to be gelling but unless they get to grips with their defensive frailties, the Blues could quickly find themselves among the league’s also-rans.
SOLSKJAER STICKS WITH POGBA DESPITE SLOW POST-COVID RECOVERY
Paul Pogba spent much of Manchester United’s short pre-season recovering from coronavirus so it was surprising to see him in the starting lineup against Brighton & Hove Albion after struggling in last week’s 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace.
The France midfielder once again looked woefully off the pace, failing to break up Brighton’s play or do much to help the attack, with Bruno Fernandes doing all the heavy lifting.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to stick with Pogba was all the more baffling given that United have a fit Donny van de Beek who is keen to impress and gave the team more energy and purpose when he did replace Pogba in the dramatic 3-2 win.
The manager admitted Pogba was still far from 100%, saying the minutes he got will help him regain full fitness, but right now the Norwegian’s willingness to get the player up to speed appears to be at the expense of his team’s fluidity.
HANDBALL LAW CHANGING THE GAME
There was more controversy surrounding the interpretation of the handball law in two of Saturday’s games — with both decisions deciding the outcomes.
Everton were awarded a penalty, which secured a 2-1 away victory, after the ball struck Crystal Palace defender Joel Ward, who appeared to be pulling his arm away from its flight.
Brighton lost after a stoppage-time penalty given to Manchester United when Neal Maupay was also ruled to have handled — a less controversial call under the current interpretation of the law but one which would probably would not have been given had the emphasis on intent remained in place.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson is not the only one in the game wondering if the lawmakers at soccer’s rule-making IFAB are creating more problems than they are solving.
“I predict what will happen is players will start flicking the ball on to a hand and screaming ‘handball!’,” he said.
“I think the rule is a nonsense… It is ruining the game of football, no question of that”. (Reporting by Richard Martin, Philip O’Connor and Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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