Chelsea are displaying all the hallmarks of champions, uninspired Newcastle look a one-man team and Everton’s dip into the bargain bin is working… things we learned from the weekend’s Premier League action
- This weekend threw up plenty of drama at both ends of the Premier League table
- Chelsea picked up a fine point at Liverpool and underlined their title credentials
- Newcastle continue to struggle with Allan Saint-Maximin their rare bright spark
- Demarai Gray’s £1.7million move to Everton is already turning out to be a bargain
- Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the talking points from another round of games
We’re just three weeks into the Premier League season and we’ve reached the international break – but there have been plenty of twists and turns already.
Tottenham are flying high at the top of the table after picking up their third consecutive victory, while fierce rivals Arsenal are sensationally propping up the standings off the back of yet another damaging defeat.
Elsewhere, West Ham underlined their European credentials with a battling draw against Crystal Palace, while Liverpool and Chelsea settled for a share of the spoils after a tense war of attrition at Anfield.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 of the biggest talking points from another entertaining weekend’s action in the top-flight.
Chelsea picked up a hard-fought point at Liverpool in another week of Premier League action
Tottenham are currently sitting top of the table with three wins before the international break
No clear style under Mikel Arteta at directionless Arsenal
The damning images from Arsenal’s 5-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City were certainly each of the goals flying in, but a brief look at Mikel Arteta’s touchline frustration also laid bare the mess the club are in.
There was a particular moment in the immediate aftermath of Granit Xhaka’s clumsy and unforgivable red card, when Arteta sat next to his assistant coach Albert Stuivenberg and aired his annoyance with the decision.
Hunched over a screen, Arteta threw his hands in the air while his colleague sat next to him, seemingly dumbstruck by the manner of their team’s collapse. And that was the mood for the afternoon – disbelief and dismay.
Arsenal, to give them their dues, did impress at the Etihad. Unfortunately, this was only for roughly seven minutes, before Ilkay Gundogan headed in the opener. From there, the visitors fell apart, directionless and ill-disciplined.
This far into his time at the helm, it must be of real concern to chiefs at the Emirates that there is no clear style of play under Arteta. Their ability to concede out of nothing also keeps cropping up, as do the same mistakes.
Unless he can drastically dust off his blueprint during the international break and mastermind a miraculous change in fortunes, it is certainly just a matter of time before Arteta is handed his P45.
Mikel Arteta (R) looked a confused and lost figure in Arsenal’s 5-0 defeat at Manchester City
Michail’s the man again and leading West Ham’s Europe charge
How many players have successfully made the transition from playing full back, to a winger and then to a No 9? There aren’t many that immediately jump out, with the exception of West Ham’s main man Michail Antonio.
He made the switch in around 18 months, and again stood out as one of the best players in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. Having smashed past Vicente Guaita for his fourth goal of the season, Antonio is in red-hot form.
Wonderfully versatile and a bright, bubbly character, he is every manager’s dream and is paying back the decision to field him up top in spades. But for some time, it looked as though his ability to play anywhere was a detriment.
Having netted just one goal in his first 13 games as a striker, question marks were raised over the choice, but since the end of the first lockdown in the UK, he has finally found his feet and cannot stop hitting the net.
Adept with his back to goal, charging down the wings before cutting in and also teeing up team-mates, Antonio is an all-round package. If he can keep up his heroics, West Ham will hope to clinch a Europa League spot again.
Michail Antonio continued his red-hot form for West Ham in their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace
Rodgers must be concerned after Leicester’s stuttering start
The first international break of the campaign, strangely, has given Leicester City a much needed breather. Normally seen as a frustrating pause just as the main events starts to gather speed, it is now a time to reflect and recover.
And this is precisely how Brendan Rodgers will be spending his time. The fitness of their players is all over the place, their performances have been mixed and, most importantly, there is a feeling they have escaped with their two wins.
With six points on the board from a possible nine, they are keeping pace with the other clubs gunning for the Champions League, but boss Rodgers will be the first to admit that his team have been fortunate up to this point.
Their 2-1 win at Norwich at the weekend followed a similar tale to much of their season. There were brief moments of genuine quality, but the hosts pushed hard for an equaliser, and even saw a late goal ruled out.
The clash against Wolves was eerily similar, with sloppy defending, a lack of thrust up front and disjoined passages of passing also rendering them fortunate to have come away with three points.
Leicester beat Norwich to move onto six points but will be glad of the break to regain fitness
Unbeaten Brentford already look sure-fire bet to avoid relegation
The best picture of the season looks to have already been taken, after newcomers Brentford beat Arsenal 2-0 on the opening day of the campaign. Thomas Frank celebrating the result with a young fan truly warmed the heart.
And from that point, the feel-good factor around the club has continued. Two games and two hard-fought points have followed, sending them into the international break unbeaten and sat in the top half of the table.
They played out a wildly entertaining 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, and even went ahead when Ivan Toney crashed emphatically into the net. Emiliano Buendia levelled in style, however, after finding the corner to peg them back.
‘Happy with most of the performance. We started the game brilliant at a difficult place to play. We scored and I felt we were really on top of the game. Then one miscommunication and it gave them the chance,’ Frank told Match of the Day.
‘In the second half I felt we started better and then it was more even in the last part of the game. I felt if there should have been a narrow winner it should have been us.
‘I would like us to be even braver. My message before every game is to go for a win, play forward and attack. I just probably need to keep reinforcing it.’
He also heaped praise on Toney after he scored his first Premier League goal, and joked he asked the striker ‘what took you so long?’. There is no doubting that, now off the mark, he will keep netting and help Brentford to stay up.
Thomas Frank has lots of reasons to be cheerful with Brentford looking good to beat the drop
Newcastle almost a one-man show as Saint-Maximin dazzles
It was almost unsettling to see Allan Saint-Maximin apologise to Newcastle supporters after they let their lead slip right at the death to draw 2-2 with Southampton. ‘We did our best – I’m sorry guys,’ he posted.
If there is anyone who has no reason to hold their hands up and accept responsibility for the state of the club this season, it is him. Their talisman, and often a one-man band, Saint-Maximin is a class above the rest.
He even scored late on to hand Newcastle the lead at St James’ Park and spark wild scenes, but poor game management saw them concede a stoppage-time penalty, which James Ward-Prowse was never going to miss.
A formidable forward with searing pace, sharp decision-making and a jaw-dropping array of tricks, Saint-Maximin is one of the very few bright sparks still shining away at a club consumed by underachievement and frustration.
From the stands, the anger directed at Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley is real and tangible, and supporters turned on the running of their team just 25 minutes into their second home game of the season.
A civil war is well underway, and it is a shame that Saint-Maximin, a player blessed with brilliant ability and a glint in his eye, is forced to perform with that backdrop behind him. An injury for him, and the club are in real danger of relegation.
Newcastle are almost a one-man team this season with Allan Saint-Maximin bailing them out
Demarai Gray already repaying Everton’s dip into the bargain bin
It was a switch that initially raised eyebrows but now looks to have been a masterstroke. Demarai Gray, bought by Everton from Bayer Leverkusen for £1.7m, is also repaying that modest fee in impressive fashion.
He has scored twice in his first three games back in the Premier League, and continued his superb form in the 2-0 win against Brighton at the weekend. His display showed off his intelligence and finishing touch to all.
The flow of the match suited him perfectly. With Brighton fielding a back five, or three, Gray slotted into the spaces between the three centre backs and both wing backs to bring Everton forward on the counter-attack.
He was taken off after around 80 minutes to a rapturous response from the travelling contingent. It would be fair to say they have taken to him quickly and, as Rafael Benitez said, the affection will do wonders for him.
‘I know people around him, I know he is a nice lad and he needed to be loved and consistent,’ he said. ‘So I am giving him confidence and he is giving me consistency.
‘I think he is somebody who is growing in confidence and now my job is to remind him every day that he needs to keep working the way he is. He needed confidence and he has our confidence.’
Demarai Gray’s move to Everton had raised eyebrows but he has repaid the £1.7m fee superbly
Chelsea displaying all the hallmarks of champions after draw
Any team lacking in mental fortitude would surely have crumbled after having a player sent off in the testing cauldron that is Anfield. But not Chelsea. No, instead they battened down the hatches and picked up a brilliant point.
They would have preferred the victory, of course, but Thomas Tuchel pumped his fist at full-time, safe in the knowledge that his players gave everything for the cause and threw their bodies on the line for a point.
Quite literally, in Reece James’ case. It was his handball which prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity, and when Mohamed Salah fired home the resulting penalty, Liverpool were firm favourites to go on and score another.
Tuchel stepped up, however, taking off N’Golo Kante and Kai Havertz at half-time, and bringing in Thiago Silva. It was this change which proved the difference, and Chelsea were able to dig in, shut down the space and fight heroically.
It is early days this season, but these are the types of performances and results that make champions. They embraced the dark arts of the game to beat the clock and possess the attacking riches to score at will. Beware, Manchester City!
Thomas Tuchel celebrated Chelsea’s draw at Anfield like a victory after a fine defensive display
Long-standing home woes continue for uninspired Burnley
Burnley’s search for a first victory at Turf Moor since February finally looked set to end at the weekend, but Leeds striker Patrick Bamford clearly had other ideas with slotting home late on with a classic poacher’s finish to secure a 1-1 draw.
It was a surprise to see Leeds initially look to match the hosts with their challenging and physical style of play, rather than express the flair and bravery that has become a hallmark of the side under manager Marcelo Bielsa.
They were almost made to pay, too, after Burnley piled on the pressure and took the lead when Chris Wood touched in Matt Lowton’s drive towards goal. However, they couldn’t hold on, with Bamford tucking in neatly.
A share of the spoils was enough to move Sean Dyche and his players out of the drop zone for the first time this year, but there is a sense that something is still missing. They have been flat, and there are concerns over squad depth.
Having splashed out on Maxwel Cornet and Nathan Collins, the investment from the new ownership is clearly there. It is now down to Dyche to make sure that they continue to progress, rather than take giant leaps backwards.
Burnley remain without a win at home since February after picking up a point against Leeds
Nuno’s table toppers Tottenham will surely get even better
Nine points and three clean sheets, yet there is feeling that there is still plenty more to come from Tottenham under Nuno Espirito Santo. Pragmatism has been the name of the game for them – with three narrow wins – but it’s working brilliantly so far.
The boost of Harry Kane staying despite Manchester City’s interest has further lifted the cloud at the club which was left behind by Jose Mourinho, and supporters will be buoyed by the fact that, for now, they are top of the table.
It was Son Heung-min who netted the only goal of the game to clinch a 1-0 win against Watford, and that has been the score line in each of Spurs’ top-flight fixtures so far. At the very least, they’re getting the job done.
Nuno was also hoping to become the first Spurs boss to win their three opening league games since Arthur Rowe back in 1949, and he duly did so. His team had more of the ball at the weekend, and got over the line.
To make matters even better for them, they are in first while their fierce cross-city rivals Arsenal are propping up the table. A dream scenario, then, and yet Spurs are still to really click going forward and when in transition.
That is still to come, but Nuno was quick to play down expectations despite Tottenham sitting pretty in first. ‘I invite everybody, not only the players, but our fans not to pay attention to that. Don’t pay attention to that,’ he said.
There is still plenty more to come from Tottenham despite their steady start to the new season
Manchester United are still lacking that missing piece in midfield
The very best players step up to match the quality of those around them, and Manchester United have certainly recruited a few of the biggest names in football this summer. But this made Fred’s sloppy display that bit more puzzling.
Within the first ten minutes, the midfielder was caught napping on the ball and Wolves, who went on to lose 1-0, should perhaps have scored twice. His body positioning was fundamentally wrong, and his touch was loose.
Three years on after arriving, Fred remains an enigma. The defensive aspect of his game is superb, as is his work rate, but it is the poor mistakes and inconsistency that leads to criticism. This season, nothing has changed.
On paper, it looks as though he would be able to fill in as the No 6 that United so clearly need to really push on and challenge for the title this year. But at times at Molineux, his team-mates looked to reluctant to pass to him.
There were several occasions when United built up from the back through their centre backs, who then often bypassed Fred to push play further on. Until that slot in United’s team is sorted, there will always be a question of what could have been.
Fred remains an enigma for Manchester United, who are still badly in need of a new midfielder
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