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Premier League: 10 Talking Points from the Weekend’s Action

Premier League: 10 Talking Points from the Weekend’s Action

Thursday, 26 October, 2017 - 05:45
Clockwise: Ederson celebrates Man City’s win, Huddersfield’s Christopher Schindler keeps a close eye on Romelu Lukaku, Mesut Özil scores for Arsenal and Watford’s Richarlison rues a missed chance. Composite: Getty/PA/Rex

1) Wenger must start with golden trio against City

This was the first time Arsène Wenger had started Mesut Özil, Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sánchez in his XI. Yet until Everton went down to 10 men Arsenal were hardly a goal machine, having struggled to a 2-1 lead when Idrissa Gueye was sent off. At this point Özil was on the scoresheet, and by the final whistle Lacazette and Sánchez had also registered. Wenger, of course, cannot rely on the opposition having a man getting his marching orders every game. But even before this happened there was cause for optimism: Sánchez created Özil’s strike while Lacazette, on occasion, provide a focal point for the Chilean and German. Everton are in freefall so a better test of how effective this trio can be will come when Arsenal visit Manchester City on 5 November. Wenger surely must trust them to start or any chance of beating City in their own backyard will be seriously reduced. Jamie Jackson

2) Richarlison is one to watch (through your fingers in front of goal)

If you fancy compiling a list of the Premier League’s most watchable players, Richarlison should be near the top. Watford’s Brazilian forward is the sort of player to make defenders’ hearts sink, a man who over the course of 90 minutes will dive, dig and irritate, and then create something from nothing and make the opposition look thoroughly foolish. Arguably his two remarkable misses against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday make him even more entertaining: a player around whom there is always attention, action and drama. Still, for his team’s benefit if not the rest of us, his finishing must improve. “I think we did 90% to win the match,” Marco Silva, the Watford manager, said after Chelsea turned the match around. Richarlison was responsible for that errant 10%. Nick Miller

3) Harry Kane – what more is there to say?

Mauricio Pochettino admitted the other week that he has basically run out of ways to praise Harry Kane. It is getting tricky for the rest of us, too, but one thing to note is the sheer variety of goals the Tottenham Hotspur forward scores. He now has eight in the Premier League this season: four with his right foot, three with his left and one header. Two from inside the six-yard box, four inside the penalty area and two outside. Some forwards rely on service, some are opportunists and some can create their own: Kane is all three at the same time, and that’s without mentioning his great work rate for the team. For his first against Liverpool he collected a fine pass then forced mistakes from the defence. His second was a poacher’s strike from a rebound. That is why he is the best striker in the Premier League. Nick Miller

4) Schindler heads list of Huddersfield’s great signings

Christopher Schindler is not very big for a centre‑back, nor very fast. But his positioning is excellent, his timing exquisite and his heart huge. Of all the canny signings that Huddersfield have made in the past two years, his has been the shrewdest, along with that of Aaron Mooy. Other than his classy defending, the most obvious demonstration of his leadership came when he scored the decisive penalty at Wembley in the play-off victory last season. On Saturday the German provided another memorable moment to sum up the spirit that powered his team to another famous win. Just before half-time Schindler, normally undemonstrative, outjumped the taller Nemanja Matic to clear a corner and then punched the air in celebration. He was bought from 1860 Munich for £1.5m – less than 5% of what United paid Benfica for Victor Lindelof. Paul Doyle

5) City’s goal difference is down to defence as much as attack

Everybody is talking about the number of goals Manchester City are scoring, but part of the reason they already boast a goal difference of 28 is that they have conceded only four times in nine league matches. Credit for that is due to the new arrival Ederson, for it is doubtful City would be so parsimonious had they persisted with Claudio Bravo between the posts. Perhaps Burnley were never going to pepper Ederson’s goal, but the keeper showed bravery in diving at Chris Wood’s feet early on, particularly as he took a kick to the face in the game against Liverpool last month. “He is very brave,” Pep Guardiola said. “He’s also good in the buildup, good on his line and shows good anticipation. For the next few years we have a good goalkeeper.” Bravo should look away now, for even Sean Dyche agreed. “City now have a keeper who can kick the ball all the way down the pitch, so you have to be careful about your offside line,” the Burnley manager said. “The last one couldn’t do that so it was one less thing to worry about.” Paul Wilson

6) Optimism around Newcastle stoked by ownership speculation

The sense of possibility around Newcastle United means that even a poor game settled by a slightly fortunate 86th-minute Mikel Merino header cannot dampen optimism. Takeover speculation remains just that but, with this 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace, Newcastle moved to sixth place – seventh after Arsenal’s win on Sunday– without Rafa Benítez having spent hugely in the summer. The goalkeeper Rob Elliot says of the potential sale of the club: “There’s obviously interest which is exciting for everyone. Hopefully it’s a great thing all round, so the club can kick on. The infrastructure is fantastic. We’ve been through a lot these past few years, but there’s now a positive vibe around the place and we’ve got to make sure we continue with that. We want this to be a long-term thing.” Michael Walker

7) Pulis relies on the unexpected to stop poor run

The worst thing about West Bromwich Albion’s defeat at Southampton was their total no-show. They had no intention of winning the game, despite boasting ample quality to trouble the Saints back-line, and the comical defending for Sofiane Boufal’s winner suggested even their long-standing defensive steel has gone awry. Tony Pulis’s team have won just two of their past 18 games. Next up is the thankless task of hosting Manchester City before a trip to Huddersfield. After that they play Chelsea at the Hawthorns. The captain, Jonny Evans, who left the field with a groin injury midway through the first half, is determined to look on the bright side, insisting they are the games they “enjoy the defensive responsibility of trying to shut out the opposition”. Pulis is of the same mindset. “I’ve done it for years,” he said. “Sometimes you get something where you’re not expecting it.” Ben Fisher

8) Crouch appears Stoke’s best hope of regaining traction

Having beaten Arsenal and held Manchester United at home earlier this season, Stoke City’s momentum has now well and truly stalled. “Until this week I think this was our third best start,” Mark Hughes said after defeat to Bournemouth, in a contender for the season’s least impressive stat. Stoke have conceded more than any other team in the league – a statistic of far greater relevance, even if it is skewed by that thrashing at Manchester City. More defensive blunders, including Ryan Shawcross’s clumsy foul on Benik Afobe to concede a penalty, gave Bournemouth, in the bottom three and pointless on their travels, a two-goal head start and the hosts responded only when Peter Crouch came on in the second half. Crouch embodies a style Hughes had hoped to leave behind, but is Stoke’s joint-top scorer this season and their most reliable attacking option at present. With Watford, Leicester, Brighton and Crystal Palace coming up, Hughes may need to take a more pragmatic approach at both ends of the pitch, or Stoke’s start will be historic for all the wrong reasons. Niall McVeigh

9) Swansea must learn to play transfer game better to survive

Swansea City lost their two most influential players in the summer in Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente, yet the club finished the window with the lowest net spend in the Premier League and more than £25m in profit. Their three biggest signings across that period were Sam Clucas, Roque Mesa and Wilfried Bony. Clucas never got off the bench on Saturday and has looked lost in a Swansea shirt. Mesa has yet to play 90 minutes in the league and for the second weekend running did not even make the bench. Bony is injured and has not played 90 minutes at club level for 13 months. Throw in the fact that Borja Bastón, the club-record signing the previous summer, is out on loan and it is clear that Swansea’s recruitment is nowhere near good enough and hardly surprising the Welsh club face a relegation battle for the third season running. Stuart James

10) Arnautovic epitomises West Ham problems under Bilic

What an undistinguished start Marko Arnautovic has made to his West Ham United career. The Austrian became the club’s record buy after his £24m move from Stoke City in the summer, but that brainless red card against Southampton is his most noteworthy contribution this season. He has done nothing since returning from suspension, other than lead West Ham to a routine win against Bolton Wanderers in the EFL Cup, and he was awful in the chastening home defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion on Friday night. Arnautovic walked off to jeers when he made way for Edimilson Fernandes moments before Glenn Murray made it 3-0 to the visitors. Slaven Bilic’s position is looking increasingly untenable, but West Ham’s beleaguered manager was entitled to expect so much more from Arnautovic. Instead the winger’s travails epitomise West Ham’s malaise under Bilic: high expectations, low productivity. Jacob Steinberg

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