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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?).

Solskjaer: Pogba ‘desperate to play, fed up of being injured’

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Paul Pogba is “desperate to play” and “fed up of being injured” nearly two-thirds of the way through a season in which he has made just eight appearances in all competitions, says Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

After missing three months with an ankle injury earlier in the season, Pogba recently made the decision to undergo surgery. The 26-year-old Frenchman recently had his post-operation cast removed and is expected to return sometime after the upcoming winter break. The days aren’t flying by quickly enough, according to Solskjaer  — quotes from Sky Sports:

“Paul’s had a terrible season with injuries, he’s desperate to play football.

“It’s hard to put timescales on long-term injuries. He loves playing and he loves just being out there training as well, and it’s been playing on his mind.

“I see a boy that is fed up of being injured. Paul has always been a top professional. I don’t have any doubts when he comes back he’s going to enjoy himself.”

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

For all of the injuries they’ve encountered this season, including those of Pogba, Man United currently sit fifth in the Premier League table and are only six points off the top-four. With a little more luck on the injury front, a signing or two before the transfer window closes and a few world-class performances from Pogba in the final 14 games of the season, United have a fairly straightforward patch back into the Champions League next season.

Of course, it’s just as likely — if not more so — that everything continues in the same vein — if not worse — and Pogba finally gets his wish to leave United after making every effort to do so last summer. There’s one thing you can say about United with absolute certainty these days: They sure aren’t boring.

China’s women’s team quarantined in Australia over virus fears

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BRISBANE, Australia (AP) China’s national women’s soccer team has been quarantined in Australia ahead of an Olympic qualifying tournament as fears spread about the outbreak of a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

Health officials in Queensland state said on Wednesday that 32 people, including players, coaches and staff, traveled through the virus-effected Chinese city of Wuhan a week ago. The team was placed in isolation by border officials after arriving in Brisbane from Shanghai on Tuesday, and will be confined to a Brisbane hotel until Feb. 5.

Queensland Health said the squad was traveling with a team doctor and none has shown symptoms.

The Olympic regional qualifying tournament had been relocated from Wuhan to Nanjing before the Asian Football Confederation moved it to Sydney, Australia, because of concerns over the deadly coronavirus. Now it likely will be delayed.

The tournament had been scheduled to kick off next Monday with a double-header of China against Thailand followed by Australia against Taiwan.

It’s the final stage of regional qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, which begin in July. The top two teams were supposed to advance to a home-and-away playoff for the last spot at the Olympic tournament.

Football Federation Australia on Wednesday placed a hold on ticket sales for the tournament.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

The Chinese team trained in isolation before departing for Australia and players and staff all underwent testing before departure.

“They went through all the same checks that any Chinese national flying in from China would have gone through,” FFA chief executive James Johnson was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press. “We’re confident in the government’s checks and balances.”

The FFA said it was notified of the latest advice from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, that health experts believe the coronavirus is contagious before people show symptoms, and contacts of any confirmed cases must be isolated following exposure.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad. British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Seoul Air have suspended flights to China and other airlines are reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak.

Arsenal sign defender Mari on loan from Flamengo

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Amid an ongoing and injury crisis at center back, Arsenal have signed defender Pablo Mari on loan from Brazilian club Flamengo until the end of the season.

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

Th 26-year-old Spaniard spent three seasons on the books at Manchester City, where he never made a first-team appearance and instead was sent out on loan three times, before moving to Flamengo last summer. Flamengo won both the Brazilian league title and the Copa Libertadores during his six months at the club.

Mari’s loan agreement has an option to make the move permanent this summer.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

Arsenal have been without defenders Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney, for quite some time due to injuries. Shkodran Mustafi went down with an ankle injury during Monday’s FA Cup victory over Bournemouth and will miss some time as well.

Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV

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After 18 months without signing a single player, Tottenham Hotspur sure are making up for lost time.

[ MORE: Woodward’s house attacked by Man United fans with flares ]

The club announced on Wednesday that 22-year-old Dutch winger Steven Bergwijn has been signed from PSV Eindhoven, marking Tottenham’s second signing of the January transfer window. Midfielder Gedson Fernandes arrived from Benfica earlier this month.

Bergwijn is a dynamic wide attacking player who put together the best season of his younger career last term (14 goals in 33 league appearances) and followed it up with another solid six months at PSV (5 goals in 16) before Spurs came calling. He arrives a day after Christian Eriksen officially departed Spurs for Inter Milan, and Bergwijn will wear the no. 23 shirt, which stood vacant for less the 24 hours in Eriksen’s wake.

The fee for Bergwijn has been reported at $32 million, making him a relatively low-risk signing in the world of today’s transfers, though his mere presence signals a significant departure from the club’s standard operating practices of the past.

[ MORE: Report: Chelsea may ask Abraham to play through injury

Do Spurs fans have Jose Mourinho to thank for chairman Daniel Levy’s newfound free-spending ways? Not even Harry Redknapp could convince Spurs’ frugal owner to spend in this manner, let alone the likes of Mauricio Pochettino or an Andre Villas-Boas. While requesting and demanding — and getting — big-money signings has been a common theme of Mourinho’s management career, Spurs didn’t seem like a place he’d simply continue to operate in that way.

Rather than learn a new trick himself, it would appear Mourinho taught Levy one instead.