Liverpool survive, Arsenal stumble and Man United denied: 10 talking points from the Premier League this weekend

Tom Kershaw, Jack Rathborn
The Independent
10 things we learned Premier League: Getty
10 things we learned Premier League: Getty

It was another action-packed weekend in the Premier League as the two main title contenders matched each other with victories.

Both Liverpool and Manchester City did not do so without setbacks though, which were felt at the time and in Pep Guardiola‘s case, could impact his side for weeks to come.

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Injuries to Rodri, Sergio Aguero and David Silva make the win over Chelsea, to stay just eight points behind the Reds, seem extremely costly.

While the pressure on Unai Emery increases, after Arsenal failed to beat Southampton at home, while rivals Tottenham Hotspur began the Jose Mourinho era with a bang in victory over West Ham. The best was saved until last when Sheffield United and Man United battled to a 3-3 draw.

Here are 10 talking points from the weekend.

1. Mourinho adores Dele and Son

Finally, there were two clear winners for Tottenham from the first Mourinho set-up: Dele Alli, in the first half particularly, and goalscorer Son.

Playing noticeably higher upfield when Spurs were on the ball, Alli was quick to get alongside and even beyond Harry Kane at times, giving a greater Spurs presence in the area.

At other times, he was able to find space between the lines with regularity, picking out a number of passes and creating chances for his team-mates – including the opening goal.

That was scored by Son, who then set up the second goal after more good play by team-mate Alli.

Son had the freedom of the left flank at times, with Ben Davies a very much withdrawn full-back throughout, and he made great use of it with his dribbling, change of direction and willingness to get into the box.

All in all, a very positive first outing for Spurs under their new boss.

2. Pellegrini in big trouble

It might have been a fine start for Mourinho, but his opposite number in the dugout doesn’t have quite as optimistic an outlook right now.

After this defeat it’s eight without a win in all competitions for West Ham, while the only team Pellegrini’s side have beaten since August is Man United.

There were few clear suggestions here that improvements were found during the international break, either.

Roberto has been horrendous in goal all season and had another hapless outing here, being ironically cheered by his own fans at times after making simple saves, while there were instances of poor possession, misreading high balls forward and a lack of communication throughout the defence.

West Ham won’t allow this poor run to continue for long. If only there was another big-name , Premier League-proven manager available on the market for them to dream about...

3. Mahrez steps up in case to be City’s main man

He scored the winner, which in itself is impressive and important, but Mahrez really sent a message to Pep Guardiola that he has a bigger role to play in the league.

In on the right of the attack due to Bernardo Silva’s absence, Mahrez was making only his fifth Premier League start of the season, despite barely missing a minute in the Champions League.

That kind of rotation can make it difficult to find rhythm and a telling impact, but the Algerian was a non-stop threat here, playing passes in behind, looking to shoot at every opportunity and working hard off the ball.

No City player had more shots or made more dribbles than Mahrez, and he arguably matched Kevin De Bruyne for importance to the City cause across the 90 minutes.

4. Chelsea’s best form of defence is attack

Chelsea made their approach clear early in this game: look to harass City, look to attack at speed, look to attack in numbers.

Almost from kick-off the benefits of the tactic were clear, with the home side always a danger when in possession themselves, while looking vulnerable and open to Chelsea’s numerous forays forward.

It was certainly Frank Lampard’s side who looked the more dangerous, more adventurous and more impressive in the opening half-hour, showing once more that taking the game to Man City and trying to match them for aggression and attacking intent is often the better choice, rather than standing off and soaking up pressure.

Maintaining it for 90 minutes against the champions, however, is another matter entirely.

5. VAR subjectivity continues to divide as Reds benefit once again

Palace thought they had taken the lead just before half time, after James Tomkins headed home from close range. A VAR review, however, ruled out the ‘goal’.

Dejan Lovren certainly had hands on his back as the cross came in, but whether it was enough for him to go down or whether it had any impact on the ball landing in the back of the net were both points of contention very much up for debate.

Should such instances be ruled out, subjective as they are and having been missed first time around? Should only directly influential moments of play count in the review?

Until all such potential avenues of enquiry are clarified and adhered to, arguments and disenchantment with the implementation of VAR will continue.

Palace felt hard done-by, naturally, but perhaps Liverpool will say such fouls in the box should be spotted initially anyway.

6. Liverpool’s Mane man leading PFA race

Sadio Mane loves a goal against Crystal Palace.

He did, in fairness, look the Reds’ most likely source of danger in a largely poor first half, and it took him only a couple of minutes to make good on his threat after the break.

One quick run through the centre should have yielded the opener, only for Mane to fire wide, before he awkwardly half-volleyed home just two minutes later. It was his fifth goal in as many games against Palace, and his eighth league goal of the season overall – an indication of his continued enormous importance to the team.

Without Mohamed Salah’s penetrating runs and scoring ability, Mane was even more crucial here and few away players gave much indication of being able to find a way through Palace’s back line. With the Reds top of the table, Mane is surely now the front-runner for the PFA Player of the Year and could succeed teammate Virgil van Dijk.

7. Emery on the brink

Another game, another toxic atmosphere at the Emirates – this simply cannot continue.

The emotion, or lack of, when Alexandre Lacazette struck a stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a point in the 2-2 draw against Southampton was damning.

To have scrambled home a goal to salvage a point, which could prove critical in the top four race and still not celebrate says everything about how this side – and the fans – feel about Emery. The same could have been said after the Leicester defeat, but surely now, should results go against the Gunners this week against Eintracht in Europe and, more importantly, at Norwich next Sunday, it really will be time to say goodbye.

8. Silva’s Toffees misfire again to leave heirarchy pondering back to future move

Everton’s patience with Marco Silva will be wearing thin right now, the Portuguese now has six losses in 11 games.

The Toffees sit 15th and now just four points off the relegation zone and Norwich, who snatched a 2-0 win at Goodison.

The lure of David Moyes is strong on the Blue half of Merseyside, with risky, creative appointments in recent years failing to spark the required results. Leicester away is next, followed by an intimidating run that involves Liverpool at Anfield, Chelsea back at Goodison and then Manchester united at Old Trafford. If, after all that, Silva is still in charge for the Carabao Cup match against the Foxes, it will be a great surprise.

9. Move for first goal epitomises Wilder impact

United were startled from the outset, but the fact they were is an indictment on their preparation.

United were simply too passive and unwilling to compete, with Lys Mousset charging into Phil Jones for a loose ball the perfect evidence of this.

Jones simply showed inadequate desire, but there was further evidence of the gaping divide in this category when John Fleck and John Lundstram made up incredible ground, gambling on the potential for Mousset to win the ball and his ability to find them in the box.

10. Young Red Devils show resilience to inspire incredible comeback

Just when United were down and out, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been thrilled to see his youngsters turn the game on its head.

First Brandon Williams, not dispirited by a torrid afternoon defensively, cleanly struck low into the bottom right corner to halve the deficit. Then Mason Greenwood was sent on in search of an equaliser.

And he found it, coming alive inside the box to prod home Marcus Rashford’s clipped delivery. Inspired by his newfound leadership, Rashford burst forward and converted Dan James’s cutback to miraculously put the visitors ahead and complete an enthralling seven-minute comeback.

But it was not to be enough as substitute Oliver McBurnie prodded home in stoppage time to see the points shared.

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