Premier League hits and misses: Ivan Toney and Ben Chilwell stake claims for World Cup spots with England but VAR dominates | Football News
Premier League hits and misses: Ivan Toney and Ben Chilwell stake claims for World Cup spots with England but VAR dominates | Football News

Is VAR in crisis?

The introduction of VAR has unsurprisingly failed to remove all questionable incidents from the game, but this was a weekend where the technology seemed to cause the controversy rather than reduce it.

A series of decisions that were either overturned thanks to the intervention of VAR or not given despite the presence of the review system infuriated managers of multiple teams, who were unable to contain their feelings post-match.

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David Moyes says he has "lost faith in VAR" after Maxwel Cornet's late equaliser was contentiously chalked off to ensure Chelsea won 2-1 after a frantic finale at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The incidents included:

  • Maxwel Cornet's late equaliser for West Ham at Chelsea being overturned for a foul on Edouard Mendy by Jarrod Bowen.
  • Newcastle's winning goal being overturned for a foul by Joe Willock on Vicente Guaita despite Tyrick Mitchell pushing the midfielder into the Crystal Palace goalkeeper.
  • Leeds not being awarded a penalty for a tackle on Crysencio Summerville by Aaron Hickey in their defeat at Brentford.
  • Philippe Coutinho's goal against Manchester City being disallowed after the assistant referee incorrectly flagged for offside, with VAR unable to overturn the decision as the whistle was blown before the ball went in.

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David Moyes said it was a scandalous decision to rule out his side's late equaliser against Chelsea, while Thomas Tuchel believed it was a clear foul on the goalkeeper

The decision to disallow Cornet's goal was particularly egregious, given it appeared Mendy was barely touched by Bowen as he fumbled the ball into Hammers possession.

David Moyes called it "a ridiculously bad decision," while Declan Rice tweeted it was "one of the worst VAR decisions made since it's come into the game."

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe was more understated when discussing the call that went against his side, but was still unhappy with the decision, saying: "It was a perfectly good goal in my opinion.

"Willock is pushed in the back by a Crystal Palace player before his collision with the goalkeeper."

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Newcastle boss Eddie Howe thinks Tyrick Mitchell's own-goal should of stood because Joe Willock was pushed in the back

Jesse Marsch wasn't able to remain as cool as Howe, however, and was sent off for his protestations in the wake of Summerville's clash with Hickey.

The Leeds boss later said he was not sure why he was dismissed and that the VAR's decision not to advise the referee to review the non-award of a penalty was "baffling".

While VAR was unable to intervene in the case of Coutinho's disallowed strike, Steven Gerrard was still frustrated, labelling it a "legitimate goal" and accusing the referee of being "desperate on the whistle."

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Jesse Marsch blamed a "lack of respect" from VAR decisions for the angry reaction which saw him sent off during Leeds' 5-2 defeat at Brentford.

The anger with VAR hasn't appeared as if from nowhere - instead, it has been building after several flashpoints over the first weeks of the season.

Chelsea were the victims of an incorrect call last month, with Mike Dean - who was on VAR duty at the time - later admitting he should have advised a red card for Spurs defender Cristian Romero after he pulled Marc Cucurella's hair at a corner.

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Marc Cucurella and Cristian Romero clashed at Stamford Bridge, with the Tottenham defender escaping punishment for pulling the hair of the Chelsea player

Dean claimed in a newspaper column he had just a "few seconds" to review the incident, despite taking more than a minute to decide Romero had no case to answer.

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Leeds manager Jesse Marsch said his side need to learn from their mistakes in their defeat to Brentford

Antonio Conte was left perplexed by VAR decisions that went against his side against both Nottingham Forest and West Ham, with the Spurs boss questioning whether the Premier League should get rid of the system completely as "no one is happy" with it.

Criticising officials can often feel slightly unfair given they are unable to publicly defend their on-pitch decisions - unless, like in Dean's case, they have a newspaper column - but Conte is right when he complains of universal dissatisfaction with the way that VAR currently operates.

If VARs continue to make calls as curious as those seen this weekend - and referees continue to feel powerless to ignore the questionable advice they're being given - then it's hard to see how faith in the system can be restored.
Joe Shread

Toney for England?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brentford’s win against Leeds

When then 18-year-old Ivan Toney's final-day goal helped keep Northampton Town in the Football League in 2014, he posted a celebratory tweet which became briefly iconic in Cobblers circles.

"Guess who's staying up, yes it's Northampton Town, and guess who's buzzing, yes it's Ivan Toney."

Some things have changed in eight years, while others haven't. Northampton remain in League Two, and after a second Premier League hat-trick to beat Leeds, the now 26-year-old Toney is, presumably, still buzzing.

But what a rise from a player swiftly plucked from obscurity by Newcastle ahead of his time, only to drop back to the lower leagues in 2018 to rebuild the reputation his early promise had earned.

His stock has risen so far we can now ask the question of whether he could be on Gareth Southgate's England plane to Qatar and mean it. After 12 goals in his Premier League season, Toney is at it again.

After such a starring individual performance from his talisman, Brentford manager Thomas Frank was always going to have to fend questions over his international credentials.

His answer was emphatic: "Off the top of my head, there isn't a better English striker right now apart from Kane. England have been in a few penalty shoot-outs; if they want to win one, they should pick Ivan!"

The 26-year-old is sensational from 12 yards - the best in the world, in Frank's eyes - but far more than that too.

Brentford were unfortunate not to add another to their tally from Toney's defensive work, tracking back to beat a Leeds centre-back to a pass and launch a dangerous counter. The second goal of his hat-trick was the first free-kick goal of his career, something Frank said came after hours of work on the training ground.

It's the kind of commitment which will be music to the ears of Southgate, whose demands on work-rate have hindered some clearly talented players during his England tenure.

With Toney in attack, Brentford are already considering waving away any worries of second-season syndrome. With Toney on the plane to Qatar, might England have a secret weapon?
Ron Walker

Chilwell takes pole in England left-back race

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s win against West Ham

All in all, Thomas Tuchel's substitutions changed the tide against West Ham when it looked for all the world that Chelsea were set for another defeat.

Armando Broja's directness was influential against West Ham's centre-backs, Kai Havertz popped up with the winner while Jorginho and Mason Mount managed to dictate a midfield that had struggled against the likes of Declan Rice and Lucas Paqueta.

Yet while it did not appear significant at the time the substitution was made, it was Ben Chilwell's introduction that was the real pulling force behind Chelsea's comeback to a 2-1 win.

Chelsea's Ben Chilwell celebrates after making it 1-1
Image: Chelsea's Ben Chilwell celebrates after making it 1-1

Chilwell reminded Premier League audiences about the attacking qualities he can bring to an England side. The left-sided full-back is more of a wing-back than a central defender, the latter being a quality more associated with Marc Cucurella - who has started ahead of the 25-year-old in recent weeks.

Just why was Chilwell playing in a near centre-forward role for his goal? Because that's what he brings that is different to his left-back rivals. Instead of worrying about things behind him, Chilwell is focused on what's ahead of him. The way he never gave up to prod past Lukasz Fabianski epitomises that.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s win against West Ham

There will be bigger consequences of Chilwell's impeccable cameo on Saturday afternoon. In an England left-back race that no one apparently wants to win, the Chelsea man has now stepped ahead of the likes of Luke Shaw, Kieran Trippier and Tyrick Mitchell.

Whether the left-back can gain the consistency to become England's first-choice left-back this summer, is a different question. His manager, Thomas Tuchel, knows that too.

"He lacks a bit of rhythm and feeling for the game," said the German after the game. "The player feels he's ready but there are still some things missing. The wing-back is his best position in my point of view, he gives a lot of energy, deliveries and runs."
Sam Blitz

Zouma shines on Stamford Bridge return

Most of the talk before the game on Saturday was about Chelsea's new £75m centre-back signing Wesley Fofana as he made his debut following his move from Leicester.

But it was another French defender that impressed most at Stamford Bridge. Former Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma.

He was a man mountain for West Ham and kept Chelsea's chances to a minimum until a late onslaught following Thomas Tuchel's introduction of the five substitutes.

The France defender, who was sold to West Ham for £29.8m last summer, had 12 clearances - as many as the entire Chelsea team combined.

Zouma also won all five of his aerial duels as he quelled Chelsea's threat from wide areas, leaving his old side looking toothless for large parts of the game.
Zinny Boswell

De Bruyne-Haaland axis causing carnage

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Aston Villa’s draw against Manchester City in the Premier League.

Manchester City's goal to open the scoring against Aston Villa, arguably, involved the best midfielder in the world passing to the best striker in the world. Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland. The new deadly double act.

It was very un-Manchester City-like though in its execution. There was no pretty passing. No fancy pattern of play. It was direct, to the point, ruthless, and showed a different edge to Pep Guardiola's side that will send alarm bells ringing for opposition managers. It must actually feel a little dirty for Guardiola to be in charge of a team now that can score these types of goals. Inside he could be recoiling. But it might just be the key to winning that elusive Champions League title. He'd take that.

City don't just score perfect goals anymore. They can score ugly ones. City can now punish you from deep crosses such is the quality on show from the assister, this one from De Bruyne, and the devastating finishing ability of Haaland. It's a frightening combo that is likely to cause so much damage this season.

Jamie Carragher, on co-commentary, said: "It was all about that man for the goal, De Bruyne. I said he produced a cross in the first half that was world-class, but not just world-class, the best in the world, and here is the evidence again.

"He doesn't even need to look up, he knows where Haaland is."

Here we have two world-class players singing from the same hymn sheet, dialling the same number. There is a chemistry there - one that almost brought a Haaland assist for a De Bruyne goal in the second half but for the Belgian's finish whistling past the post.

The pair currently stand on two goal combinations so far but on what we've seen, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son's record of 14 goal combinations in a single season (20/21) could be seriously under threat.
Lewis Jones

Liverpool lethargic for far too long again

Jurgen Klopp accepted his side were not at their best
Image: Jurgen Klopp accepted his side were not at their best

There was a calmness to Jurgen Klopp's demeanour during Saturday's post-match press conference, but a frustration must be growing inside the Liverpool manager.

For large periods of this frantic 0-0 draw with Everton, his opponents were winning the midfield battle, creating too many chances on the transition and for the second time in a matter of days, a very tight offside call came to Liverpool's rescue.

Klopp felt he had little option but to start Fabio Carvalho in midfield given the absences of Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara, but it was only after the Portuguese was forced off at half-time with a dead leg that Klopp's team looked anywhere near their most menacing best.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton’s draw against Liverpool

Roberto Firmino brought that chaos and the move to a more conventional 4-4-2 contributed to an end-to-end second half which could easily have swung either way were it not for the heroics of both Alisson and Jordan Pickford.

Klopp said: "We have to get through this period, that's how it is. We have players coming back but they must be re-integrated. We're looking at how we can become more dynamic."

The result kept Everton winless to start the Premier League season though they were probably happier with the result than Liverpool, who are still yet to win away this campaign and have already dropped nine points from their opening six games.

Their tally is their lowest at this stage under Klopp, having last had as few or fewer points from their first six in 2015/16 - eight under Brendan Rodgers.

Liverpool only dropped 22 points in the whole of last season. With the Champions League group stages starting this week, Klopp knows he cannot afford too many more lethargic starts to matches in the hope that at some point, the results will come.
Ben Grounds

Shoots of Everton improvement stemming from midfield

Frank Lampard was proud of his Everton side
Image: Frank Lampard was proud of his Everton side

Three points from their opening five games represented Everton's worst Premier League start in 12 years. They took just three points from their first six games in the 2010/11 season, which was also the last campaign they won a home Merseyside derby.

While that particular wait goes on, there are signs of progress under Lampard.

In his programme notes, the Everton boss acknowledged the process of rebuilding and underlined that the side will get better - and there was plenty of determination and courage on display throughout this eventful draw.

Those are the foundations his side have shown in every game so far this season. The eight new signings will take time to gel but the quality must now come through. Against Liverpool, there were legs in midfield in Alex Iwobi and Amadou Onana alongside the impressive Tom Davies and having Idrissa Gueye to come off the bench shows that Lampard now has options.

Everton's Conor Coady reacts after his goal is ruled offside by VAR
Image: Everton's Conor Coady reacts after his goal is ruled offside by VAR

Everton had 13 points after six games last season, but strangely the feeling around the club and its supporters is a lot happier now than it was back then, during the start of Rafa Benitez's reign.

The window is finally shut, to the delight of Lampard, and there can be no more distractions. Here, unlike last season, the side competed with their neighbours and richly deserved this point.

Everton must get on with picking up wins. A victory would really have given the Lampard era lift-off, but there was a chasm between these two sides the last time they met at Goodison Park last December.

Lampard has focused his energy on building a much more solid base and here there were signs of a much brighter future.
Ben Grounds

'Warrior' Richarlison seizes his chance

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham’s win against Fulham

"You feel him on the side of the pitch," said Antonio Conte with a smile. "You feel his personality. He is a warrior, a fighter. We needed this type of player." Richarlison is, undoubtedly, his type of player.

The Brazilian was outstanding as he made his first start for Spurs in their 2-1 win over Fulham, a whirlwind of energy and ferocious aggression, and with no shortage of quality either.

The completeness of his performance could be seen in the statistics.

Richarlison created four chances, including his cushioned assist for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's opener. He had 10 touches in the opposition box, three more than anyone else. He had three shots, and would have had a goal, too, had it not been for a marginal VAR call which ruled out his late strike for offside.

He caused havoc in Fulham's defence, dovetailing with Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son as if he had been there for years, but it was what he did out of possession that truly excited Conte.

"Many players with talent, they don't want to work for the ball," added the Spurs boss in his press conference.

Richarlison is plainly not one of them.

His appetite for the dirty work could be seen in the moments after the VAR call which cost him his goal. Richarlison held his head in his hands, but only for a second. Then, he was off again, chasing, hustling and harrying the Fulham defenders ahead of him.

By the end of the game, Premier League tracking data showed nobody in a Spurs shirt had recorded more high-intensity sprints (26), made more tackles (four) or won more duels (nine), while only Rodrigo Bentancur ran further than his 11.3km.

"For me, he played in an amazing way, honestly," continued Conte.

Some baulked at the £60m fee Spurs paid to sign him from Everton but the early evidence suggests it will prove money well spent. Richarlison, the ultimate Conte player, will fight to make sure of it.
Nick Wright

Leno proving a bargain for Fulham

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Marco Silva felt Fulham didn't start well enough and conceded that Tottenham deserved to win the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

"Top, top, top goalkeeper," said Marco Silva when asked about Bernd Leno in the wake of Fulham's 2-1 loss to Tottenham. "I probably repeat the same thing every week," he added with a smile.

The German, a summer signing from Arsenal, has been excellent this season and produced arguably his best performance yet on Saturday, keeping Spurs at bay almost single-handedly at times, much as he did their north London rivals last weekend.

In total, there were eight saves, taking his total in a Fulham shirt to 19. Since his debut in their 3-2 win over Brentford two weeks ago, only two goalkeepers, Nick Pope and Jordan Pickford, have made more.

The underlying data shows how important they have been.

Leno has conceded seven times in his four appearances so far, but Opta's expected goals model says he should have conceded nine, based on the quality of shots he has faced.

"When he needs to make a statement in a game, he is always there," added Silva. The Fulham boss also praised the 30-year-old's maturity and his ability to transmit "calmness" to the defenders in front of him.

Indeed, the shot-stopping is only one part of his offering. Leno arrived at Fulham having lost his place at Arsenal but the deal that took him there, worth a maximum of £8m including add-ons, looks like a bargain already.
Nick Wright

Newcastle on the right path despite one win

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Newcastle’s draw against Crystal Palace

Don't be fooled by Newcastle's seven points from their first six games - they deserve more.

Eddie Howe's side have lost just once this season - to Liverpool's 98th-minute winner - having drawn with Brighton, Manchester City, Wolves and Crystal Palace after beating Nottingham Forest on the opening day. They're 11th but could quite easily be fourth.

They were once again frustrated against Palace as a mixture of sublime goalkeeping, poor finishing and VAR controversy denied them. But they're on the right path.

This is a Newcastle side playing without their three best players: Bruno Guimaraes, Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin. Jonjo Shelvey's long-term injury has also left them short in central midfield.

St James' Park has become a fortress under Howe. Newcastle have lost just one of their last 13 at home in the Premier League (W8 D4), keeping a clean sheet in six of their last 10. With fixtures against West Ham, Bournemouth, Fulham and Brentford to come expect to see more points.

Kalajdzic left bloodied and bruised on debut

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Wolves’ win against Southampton

Intrigue was high when Sasa Kalajdzic was named in the Wolves starting XI to take on Southampton at the expense of Raul Jimenez, who was initially on the bench but dropped out of the squad after the warm-up.

But despite his imposing physique, the 25-year-old was handed a bruising welcome to the Premier League and ended up being replaced at half-time.

Kalajdzic was seeking medical attention just minutes into his debut after being sandwiched between Armel Bella-Kotchap and Mohammed Salisu as the Southampton centre-backs sought to beat him to a high ball.

Shortly after, Kalajdzic - now sporting a bloodied lip - had his shirt ripped as a result of more robust defending, before seeking out the physios again after appearing to twist his knee awkwardly shortly before half-time.

Kalajdzic failed to reappear for the second half, meaning he ended the game with the underwhelming total of eight touches and two successful passes across his first 45 minutes in English football.

In fairness, Kalajdzic should have been presented with an open goal by Daniel Podence, but the Wolves winger instead went for goal instead of passing to his unmarked team-mate and would have been relieved to see his shot trickle past Gavin Bazunu for the game's only goal.

Kalajdzic also has to deal with the fact he has been parachuted into a notoriously low-scoring team - Wolves have failed to reach 40 league goals in each of the last two seasons - but he and his team-mates will have to find a way of involving him more if he is to succeed where Wolves' forwards have been struggling for so long.
Joe Shread

O'Neil's Bournemouth proving point

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Bournemouth's win over Nottingham Forest

What started as a tumultuous week for Bournemouth has ended as a positive one. A 9-0 hammering at Liverpool last Saturday was followed by Scott Parker becoming the first Premier League manager of the season to lose his job.

Gary O'Neil took interim charge and it would have been no surprise to see the Cherries devoid of confidence and ideas as they tried to regroup for tricky fixtures against Wolves and Nottingham Forest.

But as O'Neil puts his feet up this weekend and reflects on his first two games, he can be proud of the fight and spirit - and at times quality - his side have shown. Four points out of six and the manner of their outstanding comeback at the City Ground on Saturday proves they can throw their weight around at this level.

"They are an incredible group - so relentless, so committed," O'Neil said afterwards. If they are "ill-equipped" to compete in the top flight this term, they certainly haven't shown it so far under the 39-year-old. He's making a case to be Parker's permanent replacement.
Dan Sansom

Anthony, Bournemouth
Image: Jaidon Anthony scored the winner for Bournemouth as they completed a magnificent comeback

Big-spending Forest given reality check

Steve Cooper described Nottingham Forest's 6-0 loss at Premier League champions Manchester City on Wednesday as "a massive learning curve." The scoreline was a demoralising one, but not many expected his side to get a result at the Etihad.

Saturday's game at home to struggling Bournemouth, however, was a "must-win" according to Sky Sports pundit Michael Dawson. They failed the assignment.

Losing in the manner they did - having led 2-0 at half-time - will worry Cooper. After six matches, his side have now lost three in a row and find themselves in the relegation zone.

A "unique transfer window", he said after the club brought in 21 players - a British record - to aid their bid for survival. With Leeds and Fulham up next, he will be desperately hoping Forest's second-half capitulation against Bournemouth was a rare blip.
Dan Sansom

Nottingham Forest's summer signings
Image: Nottingham Forest's summer signings


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