Klopp, Guardiola, Mourinho, Ancelotti and Bielsa

The first round of Premier League action in the new 2020/21 season was unsurprisingly pulsating as hostilities returned across England, with eight games in the topflight. Football Castle takes a tactical look at the major talking points from Game week one.

Leeds and Bielsa are taking no prisoners

Leeds United might have eventually lost 4-3 to Liverpool but they have signaled their intent this season with their style of play. Marcelo Bielsa had promised his team “will not lie down” on their return to the Premier League after 16 years and kept true to his word as they were expansive and fearless at Anfield of all places.

Leeds United

The 4-1-4-1 shape meant the Yorkshire side kept going forward at will and getting in Liverpool’s faces as they exposed the Champions’ defensive worries that had crept in after their early title win last season. Indeed, no away team had tackled Klopp’s Liverpool side like they did (33 times) and the pressing game was rewarded with an equalizer each time Liverpool scored.

The Reds have now conceded three goals in consecutive home games for the first time since 1982 as Bielsa’s men seem ready to overwhelm Premier League opponents.

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Ancelotti gets one over old foe for a perfect start

Carlo Ancelotti impressively secured a new midfield trio for Everton by virtue of his pull power with the signing of Allan and James Rodríguez from his former clubs as well as Abdoulaye Doucoure. The 1-nil win against flat a Spurs side was the perfect start to his first full season on Merseyside as they totally controlled proceedings. 

Starting in a 4-1-4-1 shape, the extra midfielder for Everton frustrated José Mourinho’s side and their lack of creativity in the middle. Everton were disciplined as they worked tirelessly to squeeze Tottenham’s sole threat from the wings and on the counter, to which Doucoure was vital in a box-to-box role and Allan was solid, winning the man-of-the-match award on debut. 

Carlo Ancelotti and James Rodriguez are reunited at Everton. (Reuters)

Rodríguez’s creativity was an added dimension for Ancelotti as his sublime distribution of the ball saw him regularly switch with Richarlison on the opposite flank as he became the first Premier League debutant to create five chances since 2014. 

Everton would set up in Ancelotti’s favoured 4-4-2 diamond soon enough and James has shown enough promise to take on the creative responsibilities, the Colombian also registered two tackles and three interceptions to show he is unfazed by the physicality of the league.

Having handed Mourinho’s first opening-day loss of his career, Everton also won away to a top-six side for the first time since 2013. They just might be on to something special with Ancelotti at the helm this season.

Laboured but adequate performance sets the tone for Lampard

Much has been said about Chelsea’s emphatic £200million summer spending spree ahead of the new season, with Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Thiago Silva, Hakim Ziyech, and Ben Chilwell joining to strengthen Frank Lampard’s side after a transfer embargo in the last year. The Blues, however, didn’t play well but got maximum points with a makeshift lineup at Brighton. With injuries, suspension, and quarantine rules leaving Lampard with only two debutants and little left to pick a strong line-up against a side who caused them problems all night.

While Werner was impressive as he won the penalty for the opener and showed why he would be Chelsea’s main man for goals, Havertz was otherwise subdued in a wide-right position. One of their major problems from last season seems to have been worked on as the team showed slight improvements defensively but Kepa is still shaky and has now conceded 19 Premier League goals from outside the box since 2018.

As Tariq Lamptey was having an impressive game against his ex-employers, Reece James showed just why Lamptey had to leave Chelsea with a wonder goal (crucially 100 seconds after the equalizer) and assist a rare goal directly from a corner to seal the points. 

It was hard-fought and a disciplined win but does wonders to Chelsea’s confidence as Lampard welcomes more players for the upcoming cracker against Liverpool. Now, the returnees have a standard to meet.

The new season has been up to a flying start with renewed optimism and targets. Arsenal are showing a solidity they have been missing for years added to a ruthlessness upfront. Perhaps this season would be advantageous for new signings as they will settle in quicker due to the lack of fans at stadia.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.


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