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Premier League: Fast and furious first quarter

The Premier League is living up to its reputation as the elite league competition in world football, however its officiating and usage of VAR continues to rank among the worst.

365Scores discusses five talking points on the campaign up until this point.

97 matches in, the 2022/23 Premier League is unravelling with twists and turns aplenty. With the season now 25 per cent complete all 20 teams in the English top flight have lost at least once each, and the same cannot be said of the Italian Serie A nor LaLiga in Spain.

Ahead of the upcoming midweek fixtures there have been 283 goals scored this Premier League season, an average of 2,9 goals per game, and one goal more than there was in the first 100 games of 2021/22. These 97 matches have also produced 48 home wins, 12 more than in the first 100 games last term.

– Citizens stumble at Anfield again

Reigning champions Manchester City have endured a satisfactory start to their second successive title defence. Pep Guardiola’s forces had seven wins from nine before a showdown away to Liverpool last time out. Sunday saw the Reds inflict a first defeat on Man City, a result which Jürgen Klopp desperately needed to kickstart Liverpool’s campaign.

City have only ever won twice at Liverpool in the Premier League era and, not for the first time, Anfield proved their undoing. Mohamed Salah notched the decisive goal and he has now scored seven times against the Sky Blues; only Ian Rush (8) has found the net more against them.

So far the Citizens’ title challengers have predominantly hailed from North London with Arsenal top of the table and Tottenham level on 23 points with the PL holders. City have 3 points more than after 10 games last season.

The result at Anfield proved a threefold victory for the league-leading Gunners, who not only won at Leeds Utd but also extended their gap over City to 4 points. Moreover, defeat for City means that Arsenal remain the only unbeaten side in Premier League history.

Guardiola and his side have three home games and one away before the season goes on pause for the FIFA World Cup. They host Brighton, Fulham, and Brentford, surrounding a trip to Leicester City at the end of this month. The Citizens have won all five home fixtures and are averaging 4,8 goals per game at the Etihad Stadium.

Erling Haaland has scored a league-high 15 goals in 10 matches and the Liverpool game was the first in 11 (all competitions) that the 22-year-old failed to hit the target. Kevin De Bruyne has registered 9 assists this term – more than double anyone else in the league – and he recently soared into the top five for most assists in PL history, with 95 to his name.

De Bruyne & Haaland have 16 goals and 12 assists between them.
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

– Liverpool at sixes and sevens

Up until they claimed a massive 3 points against Man City, Liverpool had been the obvious underachievers in the Premier League. Klopp’s men took just two wins from their opening eight league outings and they were in the bottom half of the table before meeting the champions. Following that result Liverpool climbed to 8th on the table, 10 points shy of 4th-placed Chelsea.

For the most part of this season, Klopp’s star players in recent years Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk have been shadows of their former selves, but both players were on top form against Man City. Salah scored the winner while Van Dijk successfully stopped a rambunctious Haaland in his tracks.

The very fact they grinded out a result against the best team in the land – after failing to beat the likes of Brighton, Crystal Palace, Everton, and Fulham – is telling of the strength of character in the Liverpool dressing room. Now Klopp ought to jell his squad together again for an important run-in before the season interval next month.

Last season Liverpool’s first nine matches saw them unbeaten and one point off the league summit, but now the Reds are 8 points worse having picked up half the amount of wins. That crucial victory last time out could be the exact confidence booster Liverpool have needed, and this period leading up to the World Cup can be of utmost importance to the Merseysiders.

Liverpool entertain West Ham on Wednesday evening before travelling to newly-promoted Nottingham Forest at the weekend. The Reds then tackle Leeds at Anfield, followed by a trip to Spurs and the visit of Southampton in November.

Liverpool have a fortune of ground to make up on the chasing pack but won’t yet discount themselves from the fight for top four. They are just 3 points adrift arch rivals Man United in 5th.

No Potter no party

Brighton and Hove Albion had been flying high until Chelsea came calling for manager Graham Potter in early September. The 47-year-old simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity to coach one of the best teams in the division and he left Brighton after more than three years in charge, with the Seagulls in 4th place and two points off the pace.

Following the managerial change on the south coast, Brighton have earned a single point from three matches with Roberto De Zerbi still seeking victory since taking the reigns at the Amex Stadium. At the time of Potter’s switch to Stamford Bridge, Brighton were 3 points above Chelsea but now the Blues are 5 points north of their manager’s former team.

Potter was appointed September 8 but only managed his first league game at the start of this month, meaning he had more than three full weeks to drill his philosophy into an underperforming squad. Chelsea continue to go from strength to strength under its new boss with three consecutive wins and back-to-back clean sheets, which sees the Blues up into the top four.

The six-time PL winners are 4 points off Man City and Spurs, with a game in hand over both, but leading up to the World Cup they have a few meetings of huge significance. Chelsea host Man United and Arsenal in between trips to Brentford, Brighton, and finally Newcastle.

Graham Potter is having a great start to life at Chelsea
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

– Leicester being outfoxed

Leicester City have endured a nightmarish first quarter of the season in which the Foxes collected one win out of 10 and they have lost seven times already half the amount of defeats Leicester incurred all of last season.

Brendan Rodgers is under fire and running out of time to save his job, with his side punching well below its weight. The Northern Irishman has been at the helm of the East Midlands club for three-and-a-half years and his train appears to be running out of steam.

Scott Parker, Thomas Tuchel, and Bruno Lage have all been dismissed this season and unless Leicester’s form improves, Rodgers may well be the next managerial casualty although Steven Gerrard is getting closer to being axed by Aston Villa.

The current table sees Leicester 4 points from safety and they are second-bottom with a superior goal difference to Nottingham Forest. Them two clubs have earned one win apiece and both must urgently pull up their socks in the second quarter of the campaign.

Patience is wearing thin with Rodgers.
(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

– VAR MIA

Each year stakeholders are hopeful of vast improvements to the usage of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the English top flight, but to no avail. Almost every week the Premier League is subjected to some genuinely shocking calls made by officials.

Despite the plea for better use of VAR in the Premier League, it only continues to get progressively worse. The technology itself works efficiently but the problem lies with incompetency among the operators of the system. There is also an obvious lack of consistency from one instance to the next, with contrasting rulings made for different teams.

Anthony Taylor took charge of Liverpool versus Man City in a contest which saw him chalk off a goal after reviewing the pitchside monitor, and Klopp was later shown a red card by referee Taylor.

Veteran refs Martin Atkinson, Mike Dean and Jon Moss all called time on their professional refereeing careers and in turn four new officials were promoted by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).

In addition, ex-referee Howard Webb was appointed the first Chief Refereeing Officer after Mike Riley stepped down as the general manager of PGMOL during the off-season. Webb has a considerable task on his hands in enforcing optimal usage of the VAR system.

UEFA have shown in its club and international competitions that officials have the knack of working with VAR and it is expected FIFA will do likewise at the upcoming World Cup finals in Qatar.

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