LONDON - The international break is upon us and while some (namely Arsene Wenger and Arsenal) will be happy to get out of the spotlight for a week, others will be frustrated that their momentum could be halted with players away with their countries.
Manchester United made sure they were the only side in the top flight still with a 100 per cent record, while Liverpool proved why they must be considered title contenders – while exposing why Arsenal shouldn’t be.
At the other end of the table, most of the relegation favourites three weeks ago are safe of the bottom three (with the favourites Huddersfield actually in the top three) as West Ham and Crystal Palace endure awful starts to the season.
Here are seven things we’ve taken away from the Premier League this weekend…
Liverpool have more to offer
For all their attacking verve and terrifying pace among their front three, Liverpool still haven’t fully flexed their muscles yet. Aside from the £138m elephant in the room who, if he remains at Anfield, will only make the Reds stronger, Liverpool’s profligacy is holding them back.
Despite hitting four in a scintillating display against a wretched Arsenal side, Liverpool still wasted a number of their sojourns into the Gunners’ box, with Mohamed Salah in particular guilty of missing two big chances. If Jurgen Klopp can improve his side’s efficiency in front of goal then that spells real danger for the rest of the league.
Do Arsenal even want Ozil and Sanchez to stay?
Why would you? Mesut Ozil continued his dreadful start to the season and hasn’t looked like a £250,000-a-week player since the 2015/16 season, and is now causing detriment on the rest of the team. Aaron Ramsey, although also terrible on Sunday, has shown for Wales he is a capable No 10 and works much harder than Ozil, which is what you have to do when things aren’t going your way.
In trying to fit them both in the team, Wenger is sacrificing a more natural central midfielder and that was exploited by Liverpool expertly. As for Alexis Sanchez, he is clearly unhappy and was seen chuckling on the Arsenal bench at 4-0 down. Are players that don’t want to be at the club really worth keeping around? That is what Wenger must decide before Thursday.
Are Spurs actually mentally weak?
It was a long-standing joke that Tottenham couldn’t walk the walk at the crucial points in the season, you only need to cast back to their unsuccessful chase down of both Leicester and Chelsea – the former which saw them ultimately fall behind Arsenal at the end – and any Champions League game or FA Cup semi-final over the last 12 months.
However, they were all understandable situations to lose, with the step up to the Champions League a big one, and losing to champions Chelsea in the FA Cup nothing to be embarrassed by. Even losing to the Blues last week was relatable. But letting slip a lead against relegation candidates Burnley in the last minute suggests there is actually a problem here. Even Harry Kane’s inability to score in August seems to be getting to him so much it has yet again come true. They need to stop seeing Wembley as a bigger stadium than it really is, and do so quickly, otherwise it will be too late for their title hopes.
The old Martial, Rashford one-two
That’s been the story of how Manchester United have seen off their opponents so far this season, with one of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford running a defence ragged for 60 minutes before the other comes off the bench and picks apart the weary-legged full-backs.
It had so far been Rashford who had done all the donkey work for Martial to take the glory but as a result of the Jose Mourinho flipped his wide forwards, with it being the Englishman who came on to get the decisive goal against Leicester. If Mourinho can continue to manage these two youngsters like this all season then the glory days of old could well be back at Old Trafford.
Good team performance👏🏾👏🏾 pic.twitter.com/I4ydM1qDxR
Chelsea rediscover look of champions
After the ignominy of their opening weekend defeat by Burnley, Chelsea have rediscovered the look of champions. Their win against Tottenham pointed to the victors of last season but victory against Everton confirmed that they are very much alive and kicking. The visitors’ shortcomings certainly played to the Blues’ advantages but there’s no denying the quality that was on offer on a sun-soaked afternoon in west London.
Pedro was at his menacing best, repeatedly weaving his way through the Everton defence with his shoulders arched in typical fashion, while N’Golo Kante’s intelligence on the ball kept the Blues’ midfield unit ticking over. At the back, David Luiz looked as solid as ever and further forward Willian tormented Everton’s defence with his smart passing and fast feet. Across the team there was a general slickness and aura to Chelsea’s play as they set about breaking down their opponents in methodological fashion. True, they could have scored more, and should have taken their chances when they came, but this was a fine day for the Blues and one that moves the side in the right direction.
The sack race is on
Mark Hughes was the favourite to be the first manager to have his head on the chopping block this season but it seems a few others have skipped the queue and the axe could be falling on them first.
Frank De Boer has endured a torrid start to life at Selhurst Park and has seemingly already abandoned trying to inject a sprinkle of Dutch total football on a squad assembled for Sam Allardyce’s more direct style. He could be gone quicker in a shorter amount of time than it took to appoint him.
Slaven Bilic is pushing him close to be the first managerial casualty though, with 10 goals conceded in three games after a summer of signing experienced Premier League players who no longer appear to be able to cut it at the top level. The Hammers have extraordinary ambition that Bilic has so far been unable to match. How long will the owners put up with this for?
Same old City?
Despite dominating possession for much of the game, and enjoying a series of goal-scoring chances, City had looked for 97 minutes of Saturday’s match as if they were set to walk away from Dean Court with just one point. More than £222m has been spent this summer, on top of the millions which were splashed last year, but Pep Guardiola's side were far from convincing as they edged past Bournemouth with a winning goal deep into injury time. After the disappointment of last week’s draw at Everton, this ultimately raises the question of what exactly is missing?
On paper, City have the best attack in the league and should be pulling apart defences such as Bournemouth's. Yet, for one reason or another, the inconsistency which hampered City's title hopes last season continues to plague the side. It was the case against the Toffees and it was a similar story on Saturday. Although the likes of David Silva and Gabriel Jesus thrilled with their verve and talent, City’s lack of cohesion in the heart of their midfield proved to be the side’s undoing. Fernandinho was often overwhelmed by the sheer demands of his defensive responsibilities, leaving City vulnerable when on the back foot. It may simply be a case of mind over matter, but whatever the issue there’s no doubt Guardiola needs to get to the root of the problem if his team are to challenge for the league.