Yves Bissouma draws plaudits, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fall flat
Ed Dove
August 24, 2021
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Yves Bissouma demonstrated why he's reportedly attracting interest from some of Europe's heavyweights with a masterful display in Brighton & Hove Albion's victory over Watford last weekend, while Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were among Africa's worst performers as Arsenal were defeated by Chelsea.

Bissouma is one of the players linked with a move to Arsenal during the transfer window, but the Gunners and other potential suitors need to move quickly if they're to snare him with only a week to go until the market slams shut.

The Mali international delivered a dominant display against Tom Cleverley and Peter Etebo in Saturday's 2-0 triumph, showing he is finally bringing together his myriad qualities to become one of the Premier League's complete midfielders.

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Brighton made light work of a Watford side who had impressed with victory over Aston Villa on the opening day, with Hornets striker Emmanuel Dennis following his vibrant Premier League debut with an anonymous display.

Shane Duffy had already given the hosts the lead when Bissouma made his decisive intervention, harrying down Cleverley after William Troost-Ekong's signalled pass, snatching possession and feeding Neal Maupay to finish calmly and seal victory.

It was the highlight of a thoroughly commanding display, both defensively and offensively for Bissouma.

He made a combined 10 tackles and interceptions, prompting Brighton head coach Graham Potter to dispel any suggestion that the West African will move on before the end of the month.

"It feels like [questions about Bissouma's future have] been asked for the last few months, so we're used to it," Potter said.

"But it's good; if you're getting that talk then he's doing something well, we're doing something well.

"He's enjoying his football, he showed his qualities at the weekend. I thought he was fantastic. You can't control what people say from the outside -- it's talk -- but he's happy with us and we will keep working with him."

Brighton already appear to have a ready-made Bissouma replacement in new arrival Enock Mwepu -- who made another bright cameo off the bench -- but a top-half push looks to be on the cards although if they do keep the Malian beyond the end of August.

In contrast to Brighton's commanding, controlled and ruthless display against Watford, Arsenal were once again listless and meek as they fell to a 2-0 defeat by Chelsea.

New arrival Albert Sambi Lokonga shows promise, with a few bright midfield interplays hinting at the technical ability that saw him move to the Emirates Stadium, but Arsenal are entirely lacking the presence and the poise that Bissouma brought to the heart of the park for Brighton on Saturday.

The return of Thomas Partey from injury -- unlikely before early September -- will help, and the Ghana international could, in time, forge a fine partnership with Lokonga.

Mikel Arteta, however, has other problems in his team, who find themselves in the relegation zone on zero points after two matches.

They widely ridiculed defence might have had an easier ride had Cedric Soares received help, support or cover from the man ahead of him, Pepe, whose movement appeared confused and restless.

Offensively, the £72 million man failed to trouble Antonio Rudiger, and didn't create a single goalscoring opportunity during the course of the contest.

Arsenal were brighter after Aubameyang was introduced -- but not because of the Gabonese striker; while he attempted one shot on target, but looked worryingly similar to the toiling Auba of 2020-21 rather than the rampant Auba of 2019-20.

Chelsea's own credentials, by comparison, were impossible to miss, as they looked every bit title contenders.

Hakim Ziyech was introduced eight minutes from fulltime -- making his sooner-than-expected return to action -- in yet another boost for Thomas Tuchel.

For West Ham United, who lead the table on six points after Monday's 4-1 victory over 10-man Leicester City, Said Benrahma appears to have truly found his feet in the top flight after last season's move from Brentford.

The Algeria international failed to score last season, when he weighed in with just six assists in his 30 league appearances, having had a hand in 50 goals in his two Championship campaigns with the Bees.

This season, however, he's already scored twice and contributed two assists in two outings, and he could be primed to be the breakout star of the campaign.

Things weren't so encouraging for Wilfried Zaha, who succeeded in just 25% of his attempted dribbles in Crystal Palace's 0-0 home draw with Brentford, and was guilty of losing the ball on seven occasions.

New Eagles boss Patrick Vieira, nevertheless, offered encouraging advice for the wideman.

"Wilf had a good game," Vieira said.

"It's true at times we didn't find him, and maybe we didn't give him the ball early enough to create the one vs. one because this is one of his strengths.

"Maybe he didn't have the support around to link the game, and that was a frustration from his side, but this is something he has to get used to.

"Since he's played in the Premier League, he has been really looked at [by defenders] because of his talent, but now Wilf has to know how he can get out of a difficult situation on the field but the team will help him perform at the level we know he can do."

Palace are away at West Ham in their next Premier League game, in a tasty London derby that could offer Zaha an opportunity to get his stuttering campaign truly underway.

There were strong performances by African players across Europe's other big leagues this weekend, not least in France, where Achraf Hakimi continued his strong start to life at Paris Saint-Germain.

The right-back weighed in with an assist for Angel Di Maria as PSG defeated Brest 4-2 on Friday, and he was a lively presence in wide areas and gave his opposite number Jere Uronen a torrid time.

Hakimi has had a hand in two goals in his first three Ligue 1 outings, but it's clear that PSG still need work defensively, having conceded five goals in their first three matches.

This is despite the excellent work in front of the backline by Idrissa Gueye, who added PSG's third against Brest to cap an outstanding display in which he made more touches than any other player on the pitch, registered a 95.5% pass accuracy, and retrieved possession on five separate occasions.

Also in France, Andy Delort netted for Montpellier as they defeated Lorient 3-1, Marshall Munetsi and Habib Maiga traded goals in Stade de Reims' 1-1 draw at Metz, and Saidou Sow equalised late for...
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