Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend

Richard Jolly
Chelsea, Marcos Alonso spoil Spurs’ Wembley opener

1. Chelsea show why they are champions

When Marcos Alonso’s free kick flew past Hugo Lloris and when his winner slipped under the Tottenham goalkeeper, the temptation was to wonder why Chelsea have spent much of the summer pursuing left-backs such as Alex Sandro and Danny Rose. Yet more important than the individual implications of an extraordinary performance was the way that Chelsea rebounded from their defeat to Burnley.

They regained their unity, their discipline, their sense of shape and self. They beat last season’s runners-up, Tottenham, at Wembley, courtesy of a performance of great purpose, considerable organisation and a general determination not to use adversity as an excuse. Without Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill, with Tiemoue Bakayoko probably not fully fit, with a new-look back three, with David Luiz pressed into service in midfield and with the potentially devastating blow of conceding an equaliser after leading for almost an hour, they still prevailed. It was the response of champions.

 

2. Mourinho is leading from the front in typical fashion

At every level, Jose Mourinho is quick to introduce a note of caution. When Manchester United hammered West Ham 4-0 in their opening game, he noted they made a winning start last season and still finished sixth. When they beat Swansea by the same scoreline, he pointed out they won their first two matches 12 months ago and still came sixth. Yet there are other parallels from the past, ones which suggest this United team are likelier to last the course.

His 2014-15 Chelsea side won their first eight games and became champions. His team of 2005-06 won the first nine and the title. The class of 2004-05 kicked off with four consecutive victories. Mourinho prefers a flying start. His sides are natural frontrunners in title races. It is a way of intimidating their rivals. And while Mourinho may deny it in public, those 4-0 triumphs serve as warnings to anyone else with title aspirations.

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3. Arsenal’s away form remains a worry

It is a table Arsenal top. Compile a mini-league of last season’s top six and Arsenal lead the way with seven, followed by Manchester City on five, Liverpool, Manchester United  and Tottenham on four and Chelsea on three. The problem is that the criterion is away league defeats and, after losing at Stoke, Arsenal became the first of the contenders to be beaten on the road in the current campaign.

Arsenal could cite the most marginal of offside decisions, which denied Alexandre Lacazette an equaliser, and a couple of penalty appeals, as evidence that it was not their day, but Arsene Wenger was realistic enough to acknowledge that some of their peers will fare rather better at the bet365 stadium. Arsenal do display their resolve in many games, including their comeback win against Leicester on the opening day, but as long as they suffer such setbacks on the road, they are likely to be branded soft and have their defensive credentials questioned.

4. Hughes gets his mojo back with a typical triumph

Revisit many a season prediction and plenty of people were tipping Mark Hughes to become the first manager to be sacked. They may still be right but the notion that Stoke would start a third successive season slowly and that dissent would grow in the Potteries looks less likely after a morale-boosting win over Arsenal. It was the sort of result Stoke’s giant-killers used to secure but, when they only took three points from a possible 36 last season, that habit seemed to have deserted them.

There was something fitting in Jese Rodriguez getting the only goal, too: Hughes has long liked to sign gifted players who have lost their way at elite clubs. Perhaps the Spaniard can join a group including Roque Santa Cruz and Benni McCarthy who have been rejuvenated and become prolific after linking up with the Welshman.

5. Southampton put Puel behind them

Claude Puel was sacked for being too boring. It may not be the official reason, but unofficially, it explains the Frenchman’s demise. His team were too dull and defensive. His bland persona alienated supporters. When Saints began the Mauricio Pellegrino reign with another 0-0 draw, it was tempting to wonder if while Puel was gone, his legacy remained.

READ MORE: Southampton v West Ham – how the match unfolded

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Yet while they only recorded two efforts on target against Swansea last week, at least they had 29 shots. They had a further 17 in beating West Ham 3-2 on Saturday, with Manolo Gabbiadini ending a club-record home goal drought at 566 minutes. Excitement made an overdue return. Southampton could savour the drama. They seem to have consigned Puel to the past.

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