Football

Liverpool delight, Man Utd’s reality check and Chelsea strike gold – 10 things we learned from Premier League



Liverpool remained perfect after three games to top the Premier League after a scintillating display against Arsenal

Manchester City returned with three points on Sunday after somehow coming unstuck against Tottenham Hotspur the week before, meaning the gap is just two points between the main two title contenders. 

While Spurs themselves look to have convinced everybody they will be engrossed in a top four battle alongside Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United

Their defeat at home to Newcastle United handed Steve Bruce’s side confidence they can beat the drop, while Crystal Palace’s win at Old Trafford and Aston Villa’s first three points of the season over Everton suggests the relegation battle could be the most intriguing subplot of the campaign. 

Here are 10 things we learned from the weekend in the Premier League. 

Liverpool and Manchester City remain in a different class

Last season’s top two finished a long way clear of the rest and already look primed to turn the title battle into a two-horse race. European champions Liverpool eased to a 3-1 win over previously unbeaten Arsenal on Saturday and City bounced back from their home draw with Tottenham to enjoy victory by the same scoreline at Bournemouth on Sunday. It is early days of course, but it is tough to see the Premier League trophy heading anywhere but Anfield or the Etihad Stadium come the end of the season.

Raheem Sterling made it two for City at Bournemouth (Getty)

Are Leicester set to shake things up again?

Anyone fancying a bet on Leicester to win the title could probably get similar odds to the 5,000-1 on offer before their remarkable success in the 2015-16 season, especially given the strength of title favourites Liverpool and Manchester City. But even if that sounds a little far-fetched, Brendan Rodgers’s side have made an impressive start to the season with two draws and a win and it will be interesting to see how they come through the next few games, which include a trip to Old Trafford and a home tie with Tottenham.

Wolves could be feeling effects of European adventure

Three draws to start the Premier League season is hardly the stuff of nightmares, but Wolves could be paying the price for trying to qualify for the Europa League this season, just as Sunday’s opponents Burnley did in the last campaign. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side beat Torino 3-2 in Italy on Thursday night to take a major step towards the group stages of Europe’s second tier competition, but struggled to raise their game at Molineux on Sunday and needed a last-gasp penalty to salvage a point.

Lampard rewarded for faith in youth

Frank Lampard picked up his first win as Chelsea manager, but it will be the circumstances of how it arrived which will please him almost as much. 

Mason Mount had already sparkled, scoring his first Blues goal against Leicester, but Tammy Abraham had endured a turbulent start to the season, despite winning the starting role initially at Old Trafford in the opening weekend. 

There had been neat build-up play with his back to goal, far from the opponent’s penalty area, but it was at Carrow Road where Abraham truly arrived: two clinical finishes, one instinctive and another with a precise idea after picking the ball up from deep. 

The bar is low this season, with a top four finish likely to be hailed as a success, but the impact and legacy could be as significant as anything after Munich in the Roman Abramovich era. 

Tammy Abraham celebrates his first goal with Frank Lampard (Getty)

Joelinton could lead Newcastle to safety

Newcastle got the win they and their manager so desperately needed with a dogged away display at Tottenham. Steve Bruce, under fire from the moment the ink dried on his contract at St James’ Park, will have been particularly pleased with the performance of Joelinton up top, whose well-taken goal proved the difference between the sides at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Subject to almost as much criticism as his boss since his club-record move this summer the Brazilian led the line superbly occupying both Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez manfully throughout as well taking his winner, a typical lone striker’s goal, with accomplished ease. A big three points and a crucial first goal to boot.

Pochettino decision-making in question again 

All doesn’t look quite right for Tottenham. This squad has been crying out for refreshment for two summers but despite the new faces everything feels a little end-to-last-season so far. They’ve already been behind longer at home (against Aston Villa and Newcastle) than they were the whole of last term and look a team crying out for something different.

The manager enforced exile of Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen looks more perplexing by the week while the snap that makes them so dangerous going forward appears lost. Work to do for Mauricio Pochettino.

Bruce and Hodgson earn lifelines

Steve Bruce and Roy Hodgson, both under intense pressure this season, secured lifelines this weekend: Crystal Palace raided Manchester United with a stoppage time winner, while Newcastle stunned Tottenham thanks to Joelinton’s first goal in black and white. 

It shifts the dynamic of the sack race, with Marco Silva’s Everton desperately disappointing at Aston Villa on Friday night, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer himself must be feeling the pressure. 

The United boss has now won just three times in his last 12 matches in charge, losing six and drawing three. That record will need to change and fast if he is to remain the man to lead United’s seemingly never ending rebuild since Sir Alex Ferguson departed. 

Steve Bruce boosted his hopes of keeping Newcastle up (EPA)

Luiz a liability for Arsenal

Sometimes it feels there is no middle ground where David Luiz is concerned. His best is very good. His worst is rotten and, because he is so conspicuous, there is no hiding place. At half-time, there was a case for arguing Luiz had excelled.

A quarter of an hour into the second half, very different conclusions could be drawn. His duel with Mohamed Salah was a comprehensive victory for the Liverpool forward. David Luiz was twice caught out of position inside 10 minutes, tugging Salah back to concede a penalty and hurtling in, rather needlessly, when Salah met Fabinho’s pass and darted away from him to add Liverpool’s third goal.

It showed more enthusiasm than judgement. It is scarcely the only moment in David Luiz’s career when that accusation can be levelled at him.

Solskjaer gets a reality check

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is experienced enough not to have been carried away by the win over Chelsea on the opening weekend, but subsequent results will have hammered home just how much work remains to be done to get his side back into the title picture. A draw at Wolves was overshadowed by the row over who should take penalties and United missed another against Crystal Palace as the visitors walked away with their first win at Old Trafford in 30 years.

David Luiz endured a game to forget against Liverpool (Getty)

Watford are in trouble

Including last season’s 6-0 FA Cup final hammering by Manchester City, Watford have lost seven games in succession following the 3-1 home loss to West Ham. Javi Gracia’s side have also not kept a clean sheet in 18 games and lie bottom of the Premier League table after what had looked a relatively easy start to the season.

PA Sport contributed to this report



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