3 Up, 3 Down: Featuring Arsenal and Manchester United stars
There’s a title battle brewing in the Premier League.
It may only be August, but Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have started the season in ominous form, each winning for the third straight weekend to put themselves in a three way tie at the top of the fledgling Premier League table.
Arsenal will be wishing to join the top three at some point this season, and finally got their season moving with a 3-1 win over Watford. Champions Leicester City also picked up their first victory of 2016/17 in a deluge at the King Power Stadium.
Elsewhere, Middlesbrough and Tottenham kept up their unbeaten starts to the season, whilst Stoke City, Watford Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Southampton all remained winless after more disappointing results.
So who has had a particularly good or bad weekend on Matchday 3 in the Premier League?
Up: Marcus Rashford
After failing to make an appearance in the first two weeks of the season, it seemed as if many of the naysayers were right and game time would be hard to come by for the precocious 18-year-old.
However, although he had to wait until the 70th minute of the third game of the season to get onto the pitch, it hasn’t stopped Rashford already playing an important role in Manchester United’s winning start to the season.
They had made hard work of a stubborn Hull City side, but Rashford’s introduction transformed the game. He willingly ran at defenders, caused no end of problems and capped his excellent cameo with the winning goal.
In doing so, he became the first teenager ever to score for a Jose Mourinho team in the Premier League. Some record. We may be seeing a lot more of Rashford this season.
Up: Jay Rodriguez
In 2014 Jay Rodriguez was flying. He was one of the form forwards in the Premier League and was almost certainly a shoe-in for the England World Cup squad.
However, a horrific injury put pay to that, and the next two years of his career, and all of a sudden, Rodriguez is now 27 and facing a real struggle to ever fully recover from the knee problem that has wrecked the best years of his footballing life.
But Rodriguez is not the kind to let that keep him down, and has persevered in his recovery. He was finally rewarded for all of the hard work with a goal against Sunderland, earning his team an important point. Admittedly, Jordan Pickford should have done better, but it was a fierce strike from the edge of the box, and if anyone deserves a bit of luck, it’s Rodriguez.
It was his first goal since March 2o14, and a richly deserved one.
Up: Mesut Özil
How much have Arsenal missed this man?
Allowed time to rest after his European Championship exploits, Arsenal looked disjointed and fairly blunt up front in their first two games of the season, but the return of the German resulted in a dramatic return to form.
Özil was pulling all of the strings in attack, pulling Watford apart and allowing Arsenal to burst into a 2-0 lead. He then put the icing on the cake of a virtuoso display by launching a late run into the box and firing a bullet header past Heurelho Gomes.
If he keeps playing like this, Arsenal will not be far off again this season.
Down: Riyad Mahrez
Leicester City won their first game of the season on Saturday, defeating Swansea (and the rain) to kick start their campaign.
Riyad Mahrez was his typically classy self on the wing, but now has an unenviable stat thanks to yet another missed penalty.
Although he scored a penalty on the first game of the season at Hull, Mahrez’s tame effort that was saved by Lukasz Fabianski was the third out of his last four efforts from 12 yards out that he has failed to convert.
Whilst his languid style used to fool goalkeepers, Mahrez’s penalties now look downright awful. It is time to put someone else on penalty duty.
There are plenty of new rules in the Premier League this season, so there was always going to be a period of confusion, but the supposed clamp down on holding in the penalty area is being handled very poorly this far.
Some decisions were right. Alexis Sanchez was bundled over unceremoniously in the box and a penalty was awarded. Ashley Williams and Christian Benteke were also given spot kicks for some fairly tame grappling in the box. That’s fine, they’re the new rules.
However, why was Joel Matip not awarded a penalty when Jan Vertonghen wrestled him to the ground? Why was Robert Huth not given a penalty for the same reason? If there is going to be a new rule, it needs to be policed properly, otherwise it will be abandoned and the holding will come back in. Sort it out now, refs.
Down: Shay Given
The unluckiest member of the down category, but it can’t be denied that Shay Given had a bad weekend.
After saving Leighton Baines penalty, awarded for a trip in the box from a corner by Phil Bardsley, 40-year-old Given got a strong palm on the ball to push it onto the post. Unfortunately, the ball cannoned back off the post, hit him on the head and ended up in the back of the net for the winning goal.
This was a goal as unfortunate as they come. Unlucky Shay.
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