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 Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. Ruthless Liverpool go off (Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool): They did not dominate large chunks of the first half but when they got chances they were ruthless and they showed their class in the final third as they scored with each of their first three shots on target and that trend continued. Minamino, Mane and Firmino all finished clinically in the first half and that clinical finishing was the main reason Liverpool remain top of the Premier League table. Liverpool showed their squad can still turn on the switch even when they’re stretched thin, tired and up against a team causing them problems. And oh yeah, they started with Mo Salah on the bench. Incredible squad depth. (JPW)
2. The quietest title push? (Manchester United 6-2 Leeds): Manchester United’s match-in-hand on Liverpool and Leicester City is away to Burnley, and the Red Devils will likely be heavily favored to win it. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite bombing out of the Champions League, has Man United in the title picture. That feels crazy, but see how nuts it feels if the Red Devils can manage a result at Anfield on Jan. 17 after playing Wolves, Leicester City, and Aston Villa first. This is proving ground time. (NM)
3. City wasteful, once again (Southampton 0-1 Manchester City): Despite another really good defensive display (they’ve conceded once in their last eight games in all competitions) the big problem was finishing off chances. Again. City had Sergio Aguero on the bench but didn’t risk him, and Ferran Torres, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin de Bruyne all failed to make the most of good chances. City have improved drastically at the back, but their lack of goals in attack will concern Guardiola. (JPW)
4. Lampard’s best attackers don’t quite fit together (Chelsea 3-0 West Ham): Fit matters, perhaps just as much — or more than — talent when it comes to building a cohesive and fruitful attacking unit. Frank Lampard presently has a handful of very talented attacking players who don’t fit into the same team. Tammy Abraham’s hold-up play is fantastic, but can only be used at center forward, which is where Timo Werner is best suited to play, so Werner gets pushed out to the left wing so he can remain somewhat goal-dangerous, but that means Christian Pulisic then has to move to the right wing where he’s far less involved. The tactical dominoes are falling the wrong direction for Lampard. It’s the only way to get Chelsea’s three best (healthy) attackers on the field together, but it results in half of the front-four being played out of position. (AE)
5. Steady up the spine sends Foxes second (Tottenham 0-2 Leicester): From Schmeichel in goal to Fofana and Jonny Evans at center back, Wilfred Ndidi at defensive mid, Maddison at playmaker, and Vardy up top, Leicester did its job to shut down Spurs at the back and punish them at the other end. Maddison was constantly threatening. It’s an impressive and assertive win for Rodgers and his men over a Spurs side that didn’t have an answer for going behind at home. (NM)
6. Gunners out of ideas (Everton 2-1 Arsenal): The club’s answer without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? The Gunners are still looking for that. Outside of Pepe and Maitland-Niles on the right, there was nothing cooking for Arsenal. Eddie Nketiah was kept under 30 touches over 76 minutes before being swapped for Alexandre Lacazette, who was a bit more lively but still not a true threat. It’s not so much Arsenal’s eight losses this season — okay it is very much about that — rather the Gunners’ status as boring and unglued (Dani Ceballos could’ve become Arsenal’s eighth sending off of the year on another day). (NM)
7. Aston Villa massively improved in season 2 (West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa): 12 games into their first season back in the Premier League, Aston Villa had won 11 points (17th in the table) — a pace which continued for the entirety of the 2019-20 season (35 points from 38 games) and only saw them avoid relegation on the final day of the season. 12 games into their second season in the top flight, Aston Villa are on 22 points (9th) and now have one or two games in hand over every team around them. It won’t be long before one of the “big” clubs comes calling for Dean Smith — if he (and Jack Grealish) don’t turn Aston Villa into one first. (AE)
8. Burnley back to their brutal best (Burnley 2-1 Wolves): This was vintage Burnley. They had less of the ball but didn’t look any less dangerous than Wolves, as Wood and Barnes finished their chances and were a real threat whenever the Clarets played long. They have kept three clean sheets in their last four games and have a solid foundation to build from. Sean Dyche’s side are now four games unbeaten and have lifted themselves out of the relegation zone, as they’ve gone back to doing what they do best. (JPW)
9. Parker’s Cottagers showing grit (Newcastle 1-1 Fulham): Fulham got rocked 3-0, 4-3, and 3-0 to start the season, the 4-3 including a 4-1 deficit before two goals after the hour mark made it a close finish. They’ve sorted themselves into a side that took points in three of its last four heading into this one and has only lost by more than one goal on one occasion (against Manchester City, no less). Frankly, Parker’s men deserved all of the points depending on your view of the penalty. (NM)
10. Brighton’s worries are real (Brighton 1-1 Sheffield United): With all of the ball, the Seagulls produced nothing. The typically-wonderful Leandro Trossard huffed and puffed to the tune of five key passes but star scorer Neal Maupay was poor and Aaron Connolly a bit too frenetic in front. Brighton entered the day with three fewer goals than xG and almost six more goals conceded than xGA, but that counts for little when you’re one point off the bottom three with four draws against the four teams underneath you on the table. The three draws came against Fulham, Burnley, and West Brom, two of the three at home. (NM)