If Match Day 3 was anything to go by, then it’s going to be a long, hard season for defenders. The interpretation of the handball law has led to many controversial decisions already this season, which came to a head last weekend.
At the Amex Stadium, an overturned decision in the 10th minute of injury time, after the full-time whistle, allowed Manchester United to earn their first win of the season from the spot, before Everton maintained their perfect start to the season thanks to an extremely harsh handball call that went in their favour at Selhurst Park.
The worst of the lot however came at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on the Sunday, which needed to be seen to be believed.
The current rate of penalties means the Premier League is on course for a record amount come the end of the season for both total and ones given for handball; an issue that needs rectifying sooner rather than later.
Premier League Match of the Round: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur
Jose Mourinho going back to an old club always brings about an added level of attention to a game, but the not-so-subtle barbs from himself and current Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to one another only adds to the hype surrounding the contest.
Following their 3-2 win over Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend, a game that saw the hosts hit the woodwork five times, Solskjaer said after the game: “We have to be grateful Jose is not here to measure the goalposts, it might have been smaller goals!” He was referencing Mourinho’s request to change the goalposts in Spurs’ Europa League qualifier against Shkendija after appearing too small.
That didn’t escape Mourinho, who fired back: “I don’t think he [Solskjaer] will concern himself with the size of the goal but the size of the penalty box. He will not play with an 18 yard box, only 22 yards.” United received 14 penalties last season, while their first league win this season came as a result of a spot-kick.
Despite the off-field talk, the only thing that matters is getting a result on Sunday, although Mourinho’s away record against sides he’s previously managed is far from special. He hasn’t won any of his last six away league games (D2 L4), while United have won two of the last three league meetings with Spurs (D1).
Spurs are also set to be without Son Heung-min due to a hamstring injury, while Gareth Bale still isn’t match fit, meaning a lot of the attacking onus will be on Harry Kane, who has one goal and five assists already this season.
United meanwhile have no new injury concerns, meaning the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes, who has been involved in 17 league goals in 16 games for United (9 goals, 8 assists), are all set to start.
Rest of the Weekend
There’s a London derby to start the round off as Chelsea host Crytal Palace, while Everton hope to maintain their perfect start against Brighton.
Leeds United face Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola comes up against a man he’s spoken glowingly of in the past in Marcelo Bielsa.
Saturday is rounded off with Burnley’s trip to Newcastle.
Sunday begins from the King Power Stadium, as another side that has made a perfect start to the season in Leicester City host West Ham United.
Southampton face West Bromwich Albion at the same time, while Arsenal host Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers host a winless Fulham.
The round concludes from Villa Park, as the only side yet to concede so far this season in Aston Villa take on Liverpool.
Premier League Player to Watch: Danny Ings – Southampton – £1.35
After a blank on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, Danny Ings has been back amongst the goals in each of Southampton’s last two Premier League games.
He followed up his brace against Tottenham with the winner against Burnley to get the Saints’ first points of the season, and the 28-year-old will certainly fancy his chances of improving on his tally against West Brom on Sunday.
Since their return to the top-flight, the Baggies have conceded 11 goals in their first three league games, while their last league game saw them relinquish a three-goal lead, meaning their porous defence is something Ings can take advantage of.