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What did we learn from PL Saturday?

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What did we learn from the eight Premier League games on Saturday?

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Below is a look at the key takeaways.

Chelsea is back, Liverpool’s real, the title race is a thing

In theory, it takes at least a dozen serious matches for a club to find its identity under a manager, which makes what Chelsea is doing after 10 with Maurizio Sarri something pretty special.

Even if his club’s ex-striker amazing late hit (VIDEO) stopped the Blues from going atop the Premier League in Saturday’s 1-1 draw, both Sarri’s Chelsea and his opponents underscored the fact that several teams can lay claim to contender status this early season.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool ]

Prior to Saturday, the Blues had lost points just twice under Sarri, once in the Community Shield against Manchester City and the other occasion last weekend’s scoreless draw with West Ham.

How would they react to that disappointment? Chelsea responded with a comeback win against the Reds at Anfield in the League Cup before taking a smaller bite out of Liverpool’s ambitions on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea needed a pair of goal line clearances to get there, and it wouldn’t be wrong to judge the result the same way many viewed the 3-2 home win over Arsenal early in the season. Though that one was said to have shown the holes in both sides’ defense, perhaps like this match it just shows that there are a number of teams who can rightly make a claim to contender status (especially given Arsenal’s rise up the table).

The fact that between Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, Man City, and Arsenal, we’ve seen just a handful of their fixtures against each other opens up plenty of excitement and open-minded thinking as to who can survive the season and come out on top. It also, however, may point to Man City retaining its crown considering Pep Guardiola’s men are properly weathering the absence of Kevin De Bruyne (and won’t have to rush him back).

The point is better for Liverpool than Chelsea, but both will feel every bit the threat to Man City’s throne after Saturday in London.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Manchester City 7 6 1 0 21 3 18 4-0-0 2-1-0 19
 Liverpool 7 6 1 0 15 3 12 3-0-0 3-1-0 19
 Chelsea 7 5 2 0 15 5 10 3-1-0 2-1-0 17
 Tottenham Hotspur 7 5 0 2 14 7 7 1-0-1 4-0-1 15
 Arsenal 7 5 0 2 14 9 5 3-0-1 2-0-1 15

Manchester United has a top-to-bottom problem

There is not a single figure actively involved in Manchester United who can dodge responsibility for the club’s current mess following a 3-1 defeat at West Ham United.

Chairman Ed Woodward failed to supply manager Jose Mourinho with his top targets this summer, while the boss has seemingly been more interested in excuses and intrasquad squabbles than tactically moving the Red Devils forward.

For the most part, star player Paul Pogba has performed despite such obstacles. The Frenchman, however, was quite poor on Saturday and Mourinho removed him before the match was complete.

When it’s going wrong for Mourinho, even seemingly innocuous lines seem to call for concern. Was he really praising West Ham’s recruitment policies when he complimented their scouting, or taking a jab at United’s? When starting Anthony Martial over struggling Alexis Sanchez is a topic, even if the former has earned the opportunity.

It’s a top-to-bottom mess at Manchester United right now, and the club badly needs a rudder. Can Mourinho or Pogba be that piece, or are both too far gone? A loss to Valencia next week could eliminate the former’s chances.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Leicester has set itself up well for trio of litmus tests

It isn’t exactly a feather in your cap to keep Newcastle United off the scoreboard, but Leicester City’s win comfortable 2-0 win showed exactly why the Foxes will compete for a Top Seven spot (perhaps better should Manchester United not right its ship).

Claude Puel‘s men are four points off the Top Four, having lost to Liverpool, Manchester United, and Bournemouth. You could argue they deserved points in the first two (There’s no argument they should’ve lifted a point from a clunker at the Vitality Stadium, however). More importantly, the Foxes are taking three points almost every time it’s expected of them.

The club has successfully transitioned from the old group that won the title to a mix of experience and youthful energy. They’ve sold Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez while replacing them with a number of pieces able to do their jobs.

Thriving in, or at least surviving, the next three fixtures versus Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham United will shows us whether the Foxes will be more of a factor in the Top Six or just the top half.

The January transfer window will again decide the relegation race

Is your struggling club willing to spend?

This isn’t the only solution for point-starved clubs, but both Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town can only lean on their managers’ tactical acumen for so long.

Fulham is finding goals no problem but has already conceded 16 times and remarkably has allowed two or more goals in all but one league match this season.

The Magpies are punchless up top, missing something between the long-field vision of Jonjo Shelvey and the crafty but unpredictable work of Ayoze Perez.

The Terriers, too, need an answer in attack. At a time where it looks like wins, not draws, will decide which few teams are involved in a relegation scrap, goals will very much be at a premium for Newcastle, Huddersfield, Cardiff City, and the teams which may also be fighting for their lives (Southampton? Burnley? Brighton and Hove Albion?).

Newcastle win dampened by Saint-Maximin injury

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Steve Bruce has seen Newcastle up to 10th in the table after topping Southampton 2-1, but the news wasn’t all good at St. James Park after the victory.

The Magpies boss confirmed that Allan Saint-Maximin  could be out “for weeks” after pulling up deep into stoppage time, coming off in the 96th minute after all three Newcastle substitutes had been used.

Bruce partly blamed himself for the injury, claiming he nearly rested the Frenchman for the match. “I nearly left him out today,” Bruce said after the game, “and, now, I wish I had done because he could be out for weeks. I’m disappointed with myself. We don’t know how serious it is. I kick myself if he is out for a long time. The way he pulled up – let’s hope it’s not too serious.”

The manager claims Saint-Maximin was “fatigued” but risked him anyways. He could have brought the 22-year-old off at some point during the second half, but with the game level until Federico Fernandez’s 87th minute winner, he chose to risk it further looking for a winner. Bruce used his third and final substitute in the 85th minute to haul off Miguel Almiron still two minutes before the eventual winning goal was scored. And it wasn’t just Steve Bruce who thought he could miss significant time.

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Saint-Maximin struggled with a muscle injuries earlier in the season, missing games against Norwich City, Watford, and Liverpool while getting treatment. Since returning in full in early October, Saint-Maximin has played in every Premier League game for Newcastle, completing at least 80 minutes in eight of those nine games and finishing 90 minutes four times.

The injury is poorly timed with Newcastle set to begin a heavy set of fixtures. They take on Burnley next weekend before games against Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Everton, and Leicester City all in an eleven-day span through the holiday season. Saint-Maximin is a critical player to have go down, with a 7.07 WhoScored rating, ranking third on the team in that metric. He has completed 4.5 dribbles a game this season, which ranks second in the Premier League behind Wilfried Zaha‘s 4.6 despite having played five fewer games and 550 fewer minutes.

Ciaran Clark also went down during the game, with the Newcastle defender hauled off at halftime after suffering a calf injury.

Wolves, Seagulls split spoils at the Amex

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Wolves failed in a bid to pull within three points of fourth place, drawing Brighton 2-2 at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Diogo Jota scored twice in a 4-goal first half, with Neal Maupay and Davy Propper bagging goals for Brighton. The Seagulls remain 12th with 19 points.


Three things we learned

1. Wolves’ blink at Top Four chance: Wolves entered the day with a chance to close to within three points of fourth place Chelsea, and Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men next face Spurs, Norwich City, Man City, and Liverpool. They needed three points here. Not for lack of effort, they couldn’t conjure the magic.

2. Jota calm in the finish: Jota scored his second and third Premier League goals of the season, joining his Europa League success to give him six. He added five assists in the UEL, and is averaging 2.5 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per contest.

 

3. Maupay paying off faith: The French center forward has blossoming into a steady Premier League contributor after his outlandish production in the Championship earned him a big money move to the Amex Stadium. His sixth goal in 16 matches now includes goals against Wolves, Spurs, Everton, and Arsenal.

Man of the Match: Jota.


Brighton had most of the ball for the first half hour, but could’ve solve the Wolves back line.

Jota put Wolves ahead via a clever 1-2 with Raul Jimenez to get behind the line, prodding home for 1-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The lead lasted all of six minutes, as Maupay and Propper struck two minutes apart.

Maupay’s was a fine finish of a long Dale Stephens assist, while Propper headed a Leandro Trossard cross past Rui Patricio in the 36th.

Propper then fell from grace with a miserable pass stolen by Jonny Otto, the wingback finding Jota for his second goal of the night.

Wolves thought VAR might give them a penalty for handball in the 62nd minute, to no avail.

It was Wolves’ turn to give away a huge chance, but Stephens curled the effort wide of the far post in the 72nd minute.

Forster stars as 10-man Celtic beat Rangers, claim 10th-straight trophy

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At some point, Rangers supporters will be forgiven for thinking Celtic doesn’t have all the luck in Scotland.

The Bhoys, second best for most of the day, scored a 60th minute goal and then overcame a red card three minutes later to claim their 10th successive piece of Scottish silverware with a 1-0 win the Scottish League Cup.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Celtic’s Chris Jullien prodded home a free kick before 18-year-old Jeremie Frimpong was sent off, and Rangers had already controlled the proceedings before seeing a 16-5 edge in shot attempts at the final whistle.

Goalkeeper Fraser Forster, the former Saints and Newcastle man, was outstanding in the win, even stopping an Alfredo Morelos penalty as the Rangers star failed to deliver.

From the BBC:

“It was just one of them days, it went my way today. I’m buzzing. There’s been days when it’s not gone my way, today it has. I can’t say how much it means to me. I didn’t really think about the penalty to be honest. I picked the way it went. I’ll take it.

“That’s why I came back; to play in games like this, to win silverware, to play European football.”

Rodgers: “Historic day” as Leicester City extends win streak

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Of course it’s early, but it looks like Leicester City is the Premier League’s lone bright hope of challenging Liverpool for the title.

And yeah, that’s a big deal, even after the Foxes claimed the most inexplicable title in top flight history just four seasons ago.

[ RECAP: Villa 1-4 Leicester City ]

But the Foxes remain leery about embracing their title credentials, even after setting a club record by winning their eight-straight via a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.

“I thought they were amazing,” said Brendan Rodgers. “It is a historical day for the club and the performance warranted that. It really does mean something special, it puts the team in the history books of Leicester City.”

Okay, but… just a little bit about the title fight, Brendan? No?

Perhaps goal scoring defender Jonny Evans would take the bait.

“We are up there and it shows we are playing well. Our performance was good, against one of the best Villa teams I faced in years. It shows we are capable of coming away and getting results. It is nice people are talking about us, we’re enjoying it and there’s great spirit in the club.”

Leicester is eight points back of first, the only team within 10 points of Liverpool. Man City is 14 back and Chelsea 17.

The Foxes host Norwich City before its next stretch of proving ground arrives via a League Cup quarterfinal at Everton prefaces league matches versus Man City and Liverpool.