theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from Saturday’s slate of action in England’s top flight.
Hat-trick of hat-tricks
The football gods spread the wealth around on Saturday. Everyone ate well.
For just the second time in Premier League history, three different players scored a hat-trick on the same day, as Erling Haaland, Son Heung-Min, and Evan Ferguson each netted trebles to replicate the feat accomplished by Robbie Fowler, Alan Shearer, and Tony Yeboah back in 1995.
The eclectic group highlights the range of talents in the Premier League.
Son, 31, is the captain at Tottenham Hotspur who went from complementary star playing alongside Harry Kane to undisputed veteran leader tasked with setting an example for his younger teammates in the wake of the Englishman’s absence. Haaland is fresh off winning the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award at just 23 years old following a record-breaking campaign. He’s a transcendent force of nature at the peak of his powers and now has seven hat-tricks since joining Manchester City last summer. Ferguson, meanwhile, is just getting started. The 18-year-old Irish phenom, who enjoyed a breakout 2022-23 campaign in his first full senior season in England, is flourishing before our eyes.
Three players, each at very different stages in their careers, will now be forever linked in the history books after shining together on the same day. Sometimes this increasingly cruel sport can be sentimental.
Superstardom beckons for Ferguson
Brighton have done it again.
The most astute scouting department in world football unearthed another gem when it recruited Ferguson from Irish club Bohemians when he was just 16. Two years later, the imposing teen looks like the sport’s next generational striker. His hat-trick in the Seagulls’ wildly impressive 3-1 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday showcased his wide array of skills; the versatile No. 9 scored three very different goals against the overwhelmed Magpies.
Ferguson, whose maturity belies his youth, opened the scoring with a classic poacher’s finish inside the box, capitalizing after Nick Pope spilled a rebound into his path. For his second marker, he dropped deep into the hole in front of the opposition backline – something Roberto De Zerbi stresses of his striker – received a pass, turned, ran at the defense and uncorked a curling effort into the bottom corner with his right foot. Luck played a big part in his third as he took a huge deflection to leave Pope rooted, but it was his ability to connect with Kaoru Mitoma and create space for himself with a quick touch in a congested area that allowed him to get the left-footed shot off at all.
Ferguson’s combination of technique, intelligence, and physical power is rare. Especially for a teenager. That blend makes the Irishman one of the most exciting – and devastating – young players in the Premier League. He can score every type of goal, and his game becomes more and more well-rounded every day playing under De Zerbi, who asks his young striker to find pockets of space, break lines, and combine with his teammates.
“He trains and plays like a senior player with many years of experience and has become an important member of the squad,” De Zerbi said earlier this year. “The aim is to help him become one of the strongest strikers in Europe.”
So far, so good.
When should Chelsea start worrying?
It’s not time to panic just yet, but Chelsea’s painfully slow start to the new season after another summer of enormous transfer expenditure will have Mauricio Pochettino a little anxious, if not outright worried.
The Blues, once again, were toothless in attack in Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest. There was tons of possession – 76%, in fact – and 21 total shots, but Chelsea failed to fashion many clear-cut chances and could only muster two on-target efforts. They have one win from their opening four league games, and, with respect, that came against a Luton Town outfit that is clearly overmatched in the top flight of English football.
Without the injured Christopher Nkunku, Chelsea lack a cutting edge up front.
With so many young players in the squad, especially up front, some wild variance is to be expected from week to week. But just how much patience Todd Boehly and the ownership group will display remains to be seen; predecessor Graham Potter was axed after just seven months in charge.
“We are building something and it is always up and down. We are unlucky because I think we deserved more against West Ham and today,” Pochettino said of Saturday’s home loss. “I have said before, it is only a matter of time.”
That’s probably true. But with roughly £380-million worth of new players signed this summer – and over £1 billion in total under Boehly – things need to click sooner rather than later for Pochettino.
What’s wrong with Newcastle?
Newcastle didn’t lose their second Premier League game until February last season en route to a surprising top-four finish. Four games into the new campaign, though, they’ve already tasted defeat three times. On the surface, losses to Manchester City, Liverpool, and Brighton shouldn’t cause too much consternation, but they were outclassed in the former, threw away a lead while playing against 10 men versus the Reds, and got overrun by the Seagulls. Last season was something of a honeymoon phase for Eddie Howe as the Magpies delighted their fans and earned plenty of plaudits along the way. Now facing increased expectations and scrutiny, the real work begins. Their next three league matches coming out of the international break all look straightforward on paper, but they’re sandwiched by taxing Champions League and domestic cup games, which adds a whole other layer of difficulty that Howe’s men didn’t have to grapple with in 2022-23. How will they respond?
Mbeumo taking his opportunity
With Ivan Toney serving a prolonged suspension, Bryan Mbeumo is making good on his chance to be the focal point of Brentford’s attack. The French-born forward, who represents Cameroon at international level, scored a dramatic 93rd-minute equalizer against Bournemouth on Saturday that earned the Bees a point and kept their unbeaten start to the season alive. Mbeumo, who scored nine goals in 38 league games last season, already has four in as many matches this campaign, a tally eclipsed by only Haaland thus far. Decent company, that. Removing Toney from the equation threatened to derail Brentford’s bid for another top-10 finish, but Mbeumo has more than answered the bell to begin the year.
Stat of the day
Just four games into his second season at Manchester City, Haaland already has more Premier League hat-tricks than the likes of Jermain Defoe, Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, and Mohamed Salah. He’s a machine.
Tweet of the day
Every rival supporter will get a kick out of any Chelsea loss this season considering how bombastic the club has been in the transfer market. But after being scorned by Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, who each ended up at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool fans will take particular pleasure in watching the Blues struggle.