Soccer

Premier League grades: Lukaku shines for Chelsea; Man United fail to produce; Antonio sets West Ham record

Premier League’s Matchday 2 is nearly in the books with one match left on the slate as West Ham United takes on Leicester City on Monday. The nine matches that have already been played featured 21 goals, with only one match producing the dreaded 0-0 result. Some teams were hoping to rebound from opening day losses like Manchester City and Arsenal, while some of the big boys were hoping to repeat their emphatic wins on Matchday 1. As always, there were some surprises, upsets and wild moments. Here’s a look at our grades for Matchday 2.

Liverpool 2, Burnley 0

Liverpool
More positive vibes early on, despite the win not being quite as clean as you’d want. Diogo Jota is in fine form scoring his second of the season on 0.78 expected goals, but Alisson is still having to come up big when he really shouldn’t have to, making three saves in this one. Defensively in the middle, things need to improve sooner rather than later. Still, they’ll take this perfect start to the season, though they should have killed this off much earlier than Mane’s 68th minute goal to end the scoring.
Grade: B+

Burnley
They feel headed for a relegation battle at the very least. The defense shouldn’t be all that bad, and they’ll just hope it is early bad luck (and facing Liverpool) that has them at 2.3 xG conceded per match, the second worst mark in the Premier League. Jota’s goal could have been prevented, and Ben Mee knew where he was, but dealing with pace has been a problem. It’s not getting any better with Leeds, Everton, Arsenal and Leicester to come.
Grade: D

Aston Villa 2, Newcastle 0

Aston Villa
What a way to bounce back from a disappointing opener. Danny Ings continues to deliver with two goals in two games (including a stunner in this one) though it’s a little concerning that he’s only managed three total shots, and the defense was much more composed than against Watford last week. There were definitely encouraging signs here and even though it’s only Newcastle, winning the xG battle 1.48-0.69 is solid. 
Grade: A

Newcastle
Abysmal. With some quality in attack on paper, they registered just one shot on goal from nine and missed some good chances, like Callum Wilson’s opportunity five minutes in which would have changed the complexion of the match. It was a disappointing showing where sharpness was missing when it was most needed. 
Grade: C

Crystal Palace 0, Brentford 0

Crystal Palace
Outplayed at home and somewhat fortunate to have gotten a point. In the end, it wasn’t a bad result all things considered, but they showed very little, producing an xG of 0.53 on seven shots. Zero goals through two games, with more questions than answers for Patrick Vieira’s side.
Grade: C

Brentford
The Bees continue to impress and will take that point on the road, though it could have been three. They play inspired, together and don’t show selfishness for a second. They made the extra pass to get better looks, but they just left their scoring boots across town. But on the road they outshot Palace 14-7 and between the two sides were the ones that looked less likely to get relegated.
Grade: B

Leeds United 2, Everton 2

Leeds
The defense remains a disaster, but no team is more entertaining to watch in the Premier League. Still, it wasn’t all that bad. Conceding the penalty was foolish, while the second goal was a bit of misfortune on what was a good hit from Demarai Gray. The attack still delivered as usual, thanks to wonderful hits from Mateusz Klich and Raphinha but they need to get Patrick Bamford going.
Grade: B

Everton
A decent result overall, but Rafa Benitez would like a bit more possession to dictate the pace of the game. They don’t need to have a lot of the ball, but only playing 30% of the passes in a match isn’t going to cut it. That’s a result that they can live with though, as they hope to make a run for European qualification this season. There was no stopping that Raphinha equalizer, but four points from the first two is a good start. 
Grade: B

Manchester City 5, Norwich City 0

Manchester City
As easy as it could be for City, which was expected but it was still good to see them bounce back from an opening loss to Spurs with a win to create some positive momentum in front of their fans. It was over from the opening whistle, but it’s important to not take much from this match against a struggling Norwich.
Grade: B+

Norwich City
I don’t want to be too harsh with the Canaries, taking their circumstances into account. They’ve opened with Liverpool and Manchester City, and it doesn’t get much more difficult than that. I’ll give them at least one more match before drawing any conclusions, but there is no doubt the attack needs a spark, producing an xG of 0.07 on one shot in this one. Josh Sargent, maybe?
Grade: Inc

Brighton 2, Watford 1

Brighton
What an encouraging start to the season. Defensively they’ve been quite sound, and Yves Bissouma has been absolutely excellent in the middle of the park. For a team that figured to be in the relegation conversation, they are well on their way to safety. 
Grade: A

Watford
Not the best performance, but the passing in the attacking third was off. Brighton defended well and the visitors just gave the match away with the poor passing leading to the turnover and the second goal., Shooting themselves in the foot ultimately did them in, though you could understand their desperation. They simply couldn’t break Brighton down to get good looks. Ten shots isn’t terrible, but when it only amounts to 0.45 xG it’s simply not good enough. 
Grade: D

Southampton 1, Manchester United 1

Southampton
They will take that point. Sometimes you ride your luck. They had their moments, were dangerous on set pieces and defended with cohesion but ultimately they scored a deflected goal and then benefitted from an out of sorts United attack. They still figure to be relegation contenders, but there are positives to take out of this, and hopefully for them, some momentum too.
Grade: A

Manchester United
Of course they failed to win here. Haven’t we learned a lesson? A tiger never changes its stripes, right? Just disappointing for most of the game. Anthony Martial did nothing, changes were needed sooner, and this is one of those games where they take a step back and seemingly taking a few forward just a week ago. And sure, United are without much of their first choice attack (all of Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and Jaden Sancho figure to be starting sooner rather than later) but teams that contend for a title find ways to win while rotating.
Grade: C

Tottenham 1, Wolves 0

Tottenham
Had 17 less shots than Wolves, but they had the one that mattered with Dele Alli scoring a penalty kick. Their style under Nuno appears clear. They defend and then look to spring forward at pace. You can’t deny results so far, and they appear to be trending in the right direction. Now let’s see what happens with Harry Kane.
Grade: A

Wolves 
No goals through two games, but it wasn’t like they didn’t have chances. An xG of 1.66 on 25 shots means they really should have gotten at least a goal in this one, but instead they lacked precision at vital moments. It’s still early, and Raul Jimenez needs a bit more time to get back into the flow of things, but the little bit of good fortune has been absent. This is also the second week in a row where Adama Traore has put up big shooting numbers with nothing to show for it, and on the season he now has 10 shots and 1.45 xG with nothing to show for it.
Grade: D

Chelsea 2, Arsenal 0

Chelsea
Just dominant. It really could have been 4-0 or 5-0 (as their dominant xG of 2.90 makes clear). They took it to the Gunners for nearly 90 minutes and showed that they are the top team in London by far. Romelu Lukaku looks comfortable despite having just gotten there, and they look like in better form than last season already, especially in attack. Sky is the limit after conquering Europe a season ago.
Grade: A

Arsenal
An xG of 0.34 tells you all you need to know. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench, the Gunners looked lost for the first hour or so, but after it wasn’t much better. No goals, no wins and very little hope in this side as it is now, with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka as the only bright spots. Thierry Henry ain’t walking through that door, but Mikel Arteta might be, in the opposite direction, before long. 
Grade: F

West Ham 4, Leicester 1

West Ham
Boy, oh boy. The Hammers are rolling. Top of the table with four goals in each of their first two games, both of which were victories. Michail Antonio continues to star. He became the team’s all-time Premier League goals leader with his first goal Monday against Leicester City and then added another goal for good matter minutes later. They are playing with such confidence in the middle, Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma are starting to deliver, and the expectations haven’t been higher. What a convincing win over Leicester, outshooting the Foxes 19-5.
Grade: A+

Leicester City
That was horrific. The reaction time in defense was off, and the game appeared over when Ayoze Perez was sent off in the 40th minute for a really bad, yet unintentional challenge. They really miss the injured Wesley Fofana and were too mistake prone. They’ll bounce back and be fine, and expect that to happen on Saturday at Norwich.
Grade: D

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