We have now made it past the quarter mark for the Premier League season, and things are starting to take shape. But that isn’t to say that anything is predictable, as GW 10 showed. Indeed, with two out of three title chasers dropping points, it was a big week for upsets. Here’s a roundup of the latest action.
Arsenal finding form
Arsenal have been somewhat of a mixed bag this season. After starting their Premier League campaign with three straight losses, they turned things around somewhat in the next few weeks while never truly convincing. The few occasions where they did impress were considered blips rather than the norm. Now, however, they’ve done it two games running, and against competent opposition too. After last week’s strong showing against Aston Villa, the Gunners maintained their momentum at the King Power Stadium, racing into a two goal lead within 18 minutes. Leicester City had a few chances to pull one back, but Aaron Ramsdale was in fine form to preserve the clean sheet, his fourth of the season.
The win saw Arsenal rise to 6th in the table, three points behind fourth placed West Ham United. After finding themselves rock bottom during the first international break, they couldn’t really ask for much else. More importantly though, this young team seems to finally be hitting a run of form. If they can maintain this level of performance going forward, they should have every belief they can snatch that final Champions League spot.
City make it week to forget
It has not been a good week for Manchester City. First, there was the Carabao Cup exit, their first since 2016. Then, Wilfried Zaha put Crystal Palace ahead only six minutes into the game. And Aymeric Laporte compounded the misery when he saw red right before the break. A man and a goal down, Pep Guardiola’s men had a mountain to climb in the second half, a challenge that proved a step too far. Conor Gallagher confirmed the verdict late on, scoring Crystal Palace’s second to inflict City’s first home loss of the season.
Already fractionally behind in the title race, City’s loss saw the gap widen to five. While there is still a long way to go in the season, the competition at the top is fierce. As such, the Cityzens know they cannot afford many more slip-ups if they are to retain their Premier League crown. Adjusting course in their next game, a trip to Old Trafford, will then be vital. But even though Manchester United are struggling, the form book tends to go out the window where derbies are concerned. A much better performance will thus be needed to keep their title hopes alive.
Liverpool slip up
In contrast to City, Liverpool came into their game on a high. After back-two-back 5-0 wins in the league, including against bitter rivals Manchester United last week, a rotated Liverpool eased into the Carabao Cup quarter-finals in midweek. And in this week’s game against Brighton & Hove Albion, it looked to be more of the same. Jordan Henderson opened the scoring after four minutes and Sadio Mané doubled the lead twenty minutes later. The Senegalese thought he had his brace shortly thereafter, only for VAR to call it back for handball. It didn’t seem like it would matter though, as the Reds were cruising once more.
Unlike Watford and United before them, though, Brighton managed to pull one back. Enock Mwepu was the man to do it, scoring a stunner just before the half. The Seagulls then came back out with renewed purpose and bossed the second half. Their hard work paid off, eventually getting an equaliser through Leandro Trossard in the 65th. Even after the goal, Brighton looked the most likely to win and had a third ruled out for offside. But though they were second best in the second half, Liverpool will still see the result as two points dropped. That’s still one point more than City, but the draw did see them fall further behind league leaders Chelsea. With games against in-form West Ham and Arsenal next, things could become complicated.
Chelsea make no mistake
On a day that saw their two closest rivals drop points, Chelsea made those mistakes count with another commanding performance. Playing Newcastle away from home, the Blues took a while to get out of first gear, but there was no looking back once they did. Reece James opened the scoring with a thunderbolt in the 65th, before doubling up a little over ten minutes later. Jorginho rounded out the scoring from the spot late on, and another clean sheet ensured a comfortable score line for the league leaders. Chelsea have now kept a clean sheet in seven out of ten Premier League games, conceding only three times all season. Of the three, only one was not from the penalty spot. With such a strong foundation at the back, Chelsea only need to keep scoring and the title will be theirs to lose.
Solskjaer saved, Nuno sacked
A lot was made before United’s game about manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s precarious position at the club. So with the pressure mounting and after two consecutive losses, the Norwegian decided to try something new to save his job. United switched to a back five, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani partnering up front, and it paid off. Both strikers got a goal, as well as substitute Marcus Rashford, and the back line stifled Tottenham Hotspur’s attacking threat to win 3-0. Solskjaer may not be safe just yet, but the performance should ease some of the scrutiny. Next week’s game against Manchester City, however, will be the real test for the Red Devils.
On the other hand, things are going from bad to worse for Tottenham. Despite playing at home, the Lilywhites failed to register a single shot on target, making it more than two hours since their last one. Fans in the stadium made their feelings clear, chanting “You have no idea what you’re doing” at their manager and booing the team off the pitch at full-time. The message was clear, and Nuno Espírito Santo paid the price shortly thereafter. Monday morning, Tottenham announced his departure.
But the problems run deeper than the manager. One of the biggest reasons for Tottenham’s failures up front can clearly be laid at the feet of Harry Kane. The striker made a complete mess of things in the summer when he failed to force a move away, and has looked disinterested ever since. Getting him back on form will therefore be a priority for whoever comes next. And if it can’t be done, the new manager would do well the drop the star man. The team could not possibly do any worse without him, and it might just give him, and the team, the wake up call they need.
Table taking shape
A quarter of the way into the season, a few things now seem clear. Three teams, first of all, will contest the title. Despite their slip-ups, Liverpool and Manchester City should be up there come the end of the season, alongside Chelsea. The final Champions League spot, however, is up for grabs. A number of teams have shown patches of form mixed with inconsistency, leaving it wide open. Currently, West Ham, Manchester United, Arsenal, Brighton, and Tottenham all sit within five points of each other.
As with the title, relegation candidates are making themselves known. Most prominent are Norwich, whose pitiful form has them bottom with only two points. It is hard to see how the Canaries can possibly turn things around, as their current points-per-game puts them on course for seven by the end of the season. That would be half the points of the current record holders for the worst Premier League season. Alongside them are Newcastle United, whose off-the-pitch changes have done nothing for their on-the-pitch results. With wealthy new owners, however, a lot will be expected in the January transfer window. But one might question whether that will already be too late.
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