Premier League plotlines: Is Costa the best? Ramsey and Carrick give their managers different kinds of headache

Premier League plotlines: Is Costa the best? Ramsey and Carrick give their managers different kinds of headache

Our writers round up some of the Premier League talking points.

What is Arsene Wenger going to do about Aaron Ramsey?

Premier League plotlines: Is Costa the best? Ramsey and Carrick give their managers different kinds of headache

Arsene Wenger explained his surprise midfield selection for the game at Old Trafford thus: “I knew it would be a bit more of a physical battle so I chose players who have experience and fight.”

That perhaps accounted for the selection of Mohamed Elneny rather than Granit Xhaka alongside Francis Coquelin in midfield. Xhaka certainly doesn’t appear to lack fight, given his yellow card accumulation, but Wenger may feel Elneny has the greater engine to get him to the physical battles.

Wenger also preferred Ramsey to Alex Iwobi on the Arsenal left. Ramsey offers more experience, but little else in a role he clearly doesn’t enjoy.

It’s clear the Arsenal manager wants the Welsh midfielder in his team. He shoehorns him in left and right as the situation demands. But does he any longer trust Ramsey to provide the diligence he now prizes in the centre?

Ramsey may have to wait for an injury or rest for Mesut Ozil to play in the more advanced central role he enjoys.

Is Diego Costa currently the best traditional centre forward in the game?

After Costa’s winner against Middlesbrough, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is pleased discussion has turned from his Spanish striker’s behaviour to his place in the pantheon.

"For me, it's important to have this type of question because in the past, you asked me about his behaviour, about his reaction, about his patience.

"Now I think he is one of the best strikers in the world and he has to continue in this way, showing his patience, but in the right way.

"He is very focused on the team, to help the team with the ball, without the ball and he is scoring a lot of goals. He has to continue so."

Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson handled Costa well for long spells but will still use the match as a training tool.

"I'll go home and watch it, to be honest. I'll go home and watch the game and learn what we could have done better.

"That's what you have got to do. If you don't get the results you want, you have got to learn, so that's what I hope all the lads will be doing.

"I loved it. Ultimately he [Costa] comes out on top because he gets the winning goal, but for large parts he wasn't really in the game and we handled him well, so it's very frustrating.”

Lack of inspiration, but Liverpool show togetherness

For all of their efforts, might and burgeoning talent, Liverpool could not breach Southampton. It was very nearly the complete performance but for their profligacy in front of goal. It was, though, a team effort. James Milner again looked bright at left-back, Emre Can excelled in the tackle and Joel Matip was never endangered. Liverpool were strong in all departments.

"Everyone helps this team," said Georginio Wijnaldum, the Liverpool and Holland midfielder. "Everyone. In football it is always the players who score the most who get the credit but we are team and we are all trying to play a part. Everyone appreciates everyone and tries to help. Everyone has respect for each other and I think that is what makes us so good."

Everyone, indeed. Even Daniel Sturridge, recently defended by Jurgen Klopp, his manager, as a team player dug in on the south coast. Liverpool may have, unknowingly at the time, surrendered top spot in the Premier League but they certainly have the fight and determination to take it back once more.

Has Michael Carrick finally convinced Jose Mourinho?

It has taken Jose Mourinho the best part of four months to appreciate fully the qualities offered by the veteran former England midfielder Michael Carrick but, at this moment, the 35-year-old may be the most pivotal player in the Manchester United squad.

On Saturday, Carrick started a league game for just the second time this season and demonstrated the added dimension he can bring to United’s balance, playing as the lone, sitting midfielder in front of Mourinho’s back four.

His experience and positional know-how allow Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera to take up central positions further up the field in what can be viewed as a 4-1-4-1 or even 4-3-3 formation.

Either way, it is a tactical option that looks as good as anything tried by Mourinho, whose only complaint about Carrick is that, at 35, he is coming to the end of his career.

“It is very sad to know that time flies for every one of us,” said Mourinho. “He is such a fantastic player and it is a pity, I always loved him, but instead of being his manager when he was 25 I am his manager when he is 35. We have a good understanding. We know when he can play. We know when he is ready and when he needs a rest. I am still having Michael Carrick and probably for one more season. That's life.”

Pep Guardiola has learned the value of pragmatism

Grinding out results. It is one of the clichés trotted out by managers of sides challenging for the title – and one that Pep Guardiola has now learned, it appears.

More worryingly for Manchester City’s rivals for the Premier League title, it is now a trait possessed by his team.

What preconceptions Guardiola brought with him to England about passing his way to success have been supplanted by reality, their Champions League victory against Barcelona notwithstanding.

Guardiola said: “We cannot forget that a few weeks ago we beat the best team in Europe, but there are games during the season like today, after the international break, where you are not brilliant, and we spoke about that at half-time. Today we were not brilliant and in the second half we were not brilliant.

“To achieve titles you have to win the games when you play in that way. I was a little bit worried in the recent past against Middlesbrough, when you don’t concede absolutely anything and you create enough chances to win the game.

“In that moment I thought: ‘We have to make a lot, a lot of chances to win.’ Today, maybe, was a good step.”

Are West Ham 'too good to go down'?

For the past few years such this question has usually revolved around either Aston Villa or Newcastle, but now they are both plugging away in the Championship, this season's underachievers appear to be West Ham.

Despite moving to their sparkly new stadium and boasting the likes of Dimitri Payet, who would walk into almost every team in the Premier League, in their squad, the Hammers could potentially hit rock-bottom of the table within a fortnight. But given the talent in their squad, which qualified for Europe by finishing seventh last term, could they really go down this year?

With the likes of Burnley and Watford making decent starts to the season, and given even Sunderland are winning games, West Ham are running out of teams who are in worse form than them. Could they really start their second season in the Olympic Park in the second tier?

Stranger things have happened.

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