10 things we learned in the Premier League

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What did we learn in the Premier League over the weekend?

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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nick Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent 10 Premier League games.

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Let’s get to it.


1. Liverpool’s aggressive formation flummoxed Man City

Jurgen Klopp wanted to squeeze both Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota in his starting lineup so he changed his formation. Klopp never changes his formation. He switched from a 4-3-3 to what was essentially a 4-2-4 and it worked, especially in the first half. Mane and Jota played well and Salah and Firmino played centrally, as the latter tactic worked to starve Man City’s midfield duo of Rodri and Gunodgan the ball. Even when Firmino was brought off, Xherdan Shaqiri came on and Klopp kept the 4-2-4 formation. At times it left them more open on the counter, but it also meant that when they won the ball back on the halfway line they had one more attacking option centrally which gave Man City all kinds of problem. The 4-2-4 flummoxed Man City and even Pep Guardiola, a man who often opts for wild formation changes for big games, would have been surprised to see this change. JPW


2. Che Adams shouldering the load without Ings

Che Adams has been the perfect partner for Danny Ings, who is now set to miss four to six weeks with a knee injury, potentially leaving a massive hole in the Southampton attack without Adams’ stylistically adept running mate. Whether or not Adams can shoulder a larger chunk of the goal-scoring load — not just the chance creation, where he’s been so strong to begin 2020-21 — will go a long way toward Southampton keeping their heads above water until the talisman returns. Through 90 minutes of life without Ings, Adams is passing with flying colors as he scored against Newcastle as Southampton briefly went top of the Premier League table. AE


3. Bruno Fernandes sparks fluidity

He scored twice and was a constant pest, popping up in dangerous areas in midfield and attack. Fernandes has scored 10 times in his last 10 away PL games and when United are playing on the counter, they are at their best. That allows Fernandes to get in more space and his creativity sparked United’s attack into life on multiple occasions in the 3-1 win at Everton. The fact that Fred and Scott McTominay sat in defensively helped him push high up the pitch and get in more dangerous areas. The balance and fluidity was much better because Fernandes was allowed to roam and take risks. JPW


4. Weary Spurs bailed out

Sometimes the most simple answer is the correct one, and Tottenham returned from Bulgaria and just didn’t have it against West Brom. There was still good vision and decent chances, but the cutting edge was missing against a West Brom team fighting for its life until Matt Doherty’s hopeful serve into the box was nodded home by Kane. The big teams in the Premier League are very bitter with the European schedule this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if we hear Jose Mourinho echo Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jurgen Klopp, and others after this one. Tottenham found winning performances against Burnley and Brighton. Perhaps a let-down draw was inevitable, yet a Kane goal even more so. NM


5. Ziyech arrives on the scene

Chelsea fans have been waiting for the impact of Moroccon winger Hakim Ziyech, and the 27-year-old picked up another two assists on Saturday in the 4-1 win against Sheffield United. He is flying. Ziyech has two goals and three assists in his first 373 minutes for Frank Lampard, which will make it even easier to let stars like Christian Pulisic find their fitness. NM


6. Luxury of James Rodriguez a problem

He’s great in attack but defensively he causes his own team problems. James Rodriguez is a luxury player and teams have figured out they can double up on Seamus Coleman at right back because James just doesn’t track back and when he does it is a token effort. Luke Shaw crossed for the first goal and he was a constant threat as United overloaded their left flank. James may have to be played centrally for Everton to keep their balance. When they have the ball and press high he is a threat but when they sit deep and he has to track back, they may as well play down a man. JPW


7. Boring, boring Arsenal

Perhaps Mikel Arteta is attempting a “hard reset” of the club’s tactical identity, attempting to move out from beneath the massive shadow of Arsene Wenger and put his own mark on the team as he builds his own long-term project. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, this isn’t Wenger’s Arsenal — it’s the furthest thing from it. To Arteta’s credit, Arsenal entered the weekend with the fewest goals conceded in the Premier League (7 in 7 games). There’s nothing wrong with pragmatically, assuming you’re happy to finish somewhere between 10th and 7th every season. With the talent Arsenal possess, Arteta is doing his team a disservice as currently deployed and that came to the fore during their dour attacking display in the 3-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa. AE


8. Jesus gives Man City much-needed focal point

It’s easy to forget that Man City have played for much of this season without a recognized striker and are just four points off the top four with a game in-hand. Sergio Aguero has been out long-term, while Jesus returned in midweek against Olympiacos and has scored in his first two games back. He gives Man City a focal point, someone Kevin de Bruyne and Sterling can work off, and he scored a great solo goal and should have headed home a second. Is Jesus the long-term answer for Man City, with Aguero likely to leave next summer? The jury is still out but his return is a timely one and it made a big difference to their entire attacking unit. JPW


9. Dull Blades in big trouble but fixtures will relent

David McGoldrick’s goal was wonderful but how quickly things soured for Chris Wilder’s Blades. Rhian Brewster’s big-money move has started very poorly, the ex-Liverpool man hauled off in the 63rd minute, and United had 30 percent of the ball while being outshot 20-6. Losing to Chelsea happens, but the Blades’ 1-point start to the season also includes three-straight matches against big boys. Wilder will now target points from West Ham and West Brom. NM


10. VAR leads Leicester’s penalty man

The Premier League’s reigning Golden Boot winner, Jamie Vardy, is going to destroy his total if Leicester keeps winning penalties at this rate (even if Patricio saved his second). Vardy converted his fifth PL penalty of the season when VAR and referee Anthony Taylor awarded a controversial penalty to the Foxes early in the 1-0 win against Wolves. Why was Max Kilman’s hand, away from his body but at a short distance from crossing Dennis Praet, deemed to be a penalty offense? NM