What happened in the Premier League this weekend? It’s a question that regularly needs more than a few sentences to sum up.
Fortunately we have pulled analysis from all nine of our recaps — Leicester vs Nottingham Forest is still to come on Monday afternoon — to deliver you a heaping helping of bite-sized morsels.
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Two massive derbies plus some sideways moments lead the way, and Manchester City sends a statement of historic intent in taking advantage of Erik ten Hag thinking his team’s preparation was on point.
Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Andy Edwards (AE), and Nicholas Mendola (NM) share their observations from across the most recent PL games.
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10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 9
1. Even recognizing Barcelona’s 2008-09, Pep’s Man City could be his best work yet (Man City 6-3 Man Utd): It’s difficult to Imagine a season better than Barcelona’s league and Champions League double. Barcelona was stunned on Opening Day but did not lose again until February 21. It did not lose a meaningful European match nor trail after a leg of the knockout rounds. Of its five league losses, four came after building a 13-point table lead in mid-February. Even throwing in 105-goal, plus-70 goal differential La Liga figures somehow doesn’t change the thought that this City could better most of those marks. City is currently on pace for 133 goals and a nearly triple-digit goal diffrential, though it’s yet to have played Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, or Arsenal. It’s also in second place (laughing emoji). Oh, and Erling Haaland might just rewrite the PL single season record book. (NM)
2. Statement win sums up Arsenal’s steady progress (Arsenal 3-1 Spurs): There is something special brewing at Arsenal. This run of wins to start the season should surprise nobody. After spending wisely on quality players this summer, this finally feels like Mikel Arteta’s side and it has felt that way since day one of preseason. Even after the disappointment of just missing out on Champions League qualification to Tottenham at the end of last season, Arsenal were heading in the right direction. They have been for some time and this start to the season will give them the confidence and belief they can fight for trophies and maybe, just maybe, have an outside chance of challenging for the title. (JPW)
3. Thiago Silva lucky to play on, set up Chelsea equalizer (Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea): Chelsea’s race was nearly run in the 33rd minute, when Thiago Silva was caught napping and lost the ball in acres of space. As Ayew darted past the Brazilian, who was now lying flat on his stomach, Silva stuck out his left hand and slapped the ball away to prevent the counter-attack (and likely scoring chance). Referee Chris Kavanagh showed Silva a yellow card, deeming that either (or a combination of) the distance from goal (roughly 35 yards out) and at least one recovering defender meant there wasn’t an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to be denied. Five minutes later, Silva headed the ball down for Aubameyang to rifle it home. From nearly a goal and a man down, to level on both, in 300 seconds. (AE)
4. Liverpool’s defense messy, messy, messy (Liverpool 3-3 Brighton): There Is not a level-headed person alive who would deny Trent Alexander-Arnold his status as one of the best right-sided playmakers in the world. There’s an argument that he’s could become his generation’s Andrea Pirlo as a central midfielder. But he’s not playing central midfield, and teams are targeting his side of the pitch and finding joy. As Jordan Henderson ages out and Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho exist as cover, how long before Jurgen Klopp finally says, “Yes, okay, here” to those who see what everyone else sees: a dynamic player who turns 24 on Friday and isn’t improving at the defensive duties of a right back but intercepts passes so well. That said, his performance is less of a talking point if Virgil van Dijk connects on a clearing attempt of the Brighton cross that became Trossard’s third goal. This game could’ve been 6-5 and while we would’ve loved that entertainment, Klopp has to wonder what’s next. Andy Robertson and Ibrahima Konate were missing but Liverpool’s spent plenty for depth that’s been disappointing. And Joel Matip isn’t exactly paid like a depth piece, is he? (NM)
5. Erik ten Hag handcuffs his team (Man City 6-3 Man Utd): Look, hindsight is always going to be 20:20. We get that, but expecting to go toe-to-toe with City away by deploying Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay at the heart of your midfield while leaving Fred and Casemiro on the bench was almost absurd. Eriksen’s defensive skills weren’t up for the task and left McTominay running around like a maniac. The ball barely found its way to the front four, which was United’s only hope of hanging with the hosts. Antony’s incredible goal is a cruel hint of what might’ve been for ETH’s young team. (NM)
6. Eddie Howe’s Newcastle well-prepared to punish (Fulham 1-4 Newcastle): It wasn’t that long ago that a Newcastle team going up a man after eight minutes would not necessarily mean a Magpies win. In fact, the 2020-21 Magpies only drew Fulham — who would be relegated — after a 62nd-minute red card to the Cottagers only saw a goal from the resulting penalty. On this day, however, Newcastle rolled past Fulham despite the absences of Allan Saint-Maximin and Alexander Isak, and all of their goal scorers were on board before last season’s big ownership change. Eddie Howe’s Black and White Army, y’all. And 2020-21 loan star Joe Willock had two assists, though big January buy Bruno Guimares had an assist and starred. (NM)
7. Toffees have found the formula to get most from Calvert-Lewin’s imminent return (Southampton 1-2 Everton): There is real progression to Everton under Frank Lampard, especially going forward. Defensively they remain solid but Gray and McNeil provided width, speed and trickery which the Toffees couldn’t make the most of. When Dominic Calvert-Lewin returns soon, they will have a focal point to make the most of this structured attacking play. (JPW)
8. Diego Costa flashes as silver lining of Wolves loss (West Ham 2-0 Wolves): The big, tempestuous veteran striker still knows where to be on the pitch and was just put off enough on a powerful header that went wide of the goal. Costa was a fine hold-up man, something Wolves have used to thrive when Raul Jimenez is at or near his best. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Costa become the positive difference in 3-4 matches this season… maybe even next Saturday against old pals Chelsea? It will have to be a new coach who picks him in the XI, as Wolves fired Bruno Lage on Sunday. (NM)
9. Ref stands by his own call to deny Bees at Cherries (AFC Bournemouth 0-0 Brentford): The game’s biggest moment came in the 20th minute, when Brentford defender Kristoffer Ajer appeared to slide through Bournemouth left back Jordan Zemura. Ajer made no contact with the ball (he could have, as it appeared well within his reach) before pulling out of the challenge, leaving his legs high and catching Zemura who tried to hurdle the outstretched defender. Referee Thomas Bramall initially said no foul, and then maintained that position following his own lengthy video review session. (AE)
10. Villa a mess in the final third (Leeds 0-0 Aston Villa): Wow. Up a man for almost the entire half and nothing but a point to show for it. To watch Aston Villa is to see a team in control of the midfield — Douglas Luiz was sublime on Sunday — but there are too many individuals in the final third. Philippe Coutinho was lively but if has to score if the attack is going to be all about him. The same can be said about Emiliano Buendia, while Ollie Watkins and (then) Danny Ings aren’t getting much service. Villa’s xG going into the game was the second-worst in the Premier League and they are still underperforming it. (NM)