takes a look back at all the biggest talking point from the Premier League
Messy journey, happy ending
The neutral would have wished for a far more assured match. Manchester City and Liverpool, a game purportedly between the two best teams in the country, was remarkably Sunday league on occasion. Passes were misplaced, touches uncertain and chances snatched. Oh, and penalties were skied.
Perhaps that was due to midweek exertions in the Champions League, both clubs’ matches decided in the final minute. Perhaps it was proof both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp were content with a draw that kept them unbeaten; title merits can be decided further down the line.
Or perhaps this was merely evidence that two teams that played with such an energetic press and improved defences sometimes cancel each other out in general play and thus the match becomes decided by one or two crucial moments. Speak to Riyad Mahrez about that.
Sigurdsson flourishing in favoured position
It’s hardly rocket science or coaching masterclass: Pick player in his best position. But last season Gylfi Sigurdsson came in for criticism after his big-money move from Swansea to Everton. It is true that the Iceland international usually played way below his potential, but Sigurdsson was usually picked as either a central midfielder, false nine or farmed out wide. None of those fit his skillset.
Marco Silva has converted Sigurdsson back into a No. 10, and the results are striking. Against Leicester, Richarlison started as a centre-forward but drifted out wide while Theo Walcott started on the right and regularly moved centrally. Sigurdsson was the chief creator, receiving the ball into feet before playing others in.
He was involved in everything; no player on the pitch had more shots or created more chances.
The icing on the cake came with Everton’s winner, a supreme Cruyff turn from Sigurdsson before a wonderful strike from 25 yards. It was the type of goal Sigurdsson guarantees when his confidence is high. Credit to Silva for unlocking it again.
Hodgson’s task is to stop the Palace slide
No start to a Crystal Palace season could ever be worse than 2017/18, when they lost their first seven league fixtures without scoring.
But Roy Hodgson knows only too well that he cannot rely on such a miraculous recovery again. The situation may not yet be critical, but there are danger signs appearing.
Palace have won once in the league since the opening day of the season, and have failed to score more than once since the same day. Look at the teams Palace have failed to beat on that run: Watford, Southampton, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Wolves. Finish behind each of those and you’re likely to be fighting relegation.
Drilling down into the figures doesn’t make for much better reading. Only Newcastle, Burnley and Huddersfield have had fewer shots on target since the opening weekend. The grim reality is that Wilfried Zaha is the only player who can make Palace’s attack tick, and opposition managers know it. Zaha may be good enough to deal with being double-marked, but fans must pray he doesn’t get injured.
Hazard and Giroud are Chelsea’s perfect double act
The general rule is that when Eden Hazard is happy, all is well at Chelsea. So Maurizio Sarri’s decision to make Olivier Giroud his frontline centre forward seemed perfectly logical. After all, this is the striker that Hazard described as the best target man in the world. That’s quite the compliment.
Whereas Alvaro Morata looks to lead the line and score goals, Giroud is happy to play a more selfless role in Sarri’s side. In a role reversal of what you might normally expect, it is the striker who becomes the creator and the support striker who scores the goals. Watch Giroud’s wonderful run to take defenders out of position for Chelsea’s first goal yesterday. Witness how much of his work is done outside the penalty area.
The negative spin is that this is surely the end of Morata at Chelsea, who cannot be content as a Europa league striker. The positive spin is that Giroud might become a crucial cog in a title-challenging machine. Who would have expected that 18 months ago?
Arsenal’s attacking endeavour can fuel top-four bid
It may surprise readers to learn that it is only three-and-a-half years since Arsenal last won nine straight matches, but this time it does feel different. No longer are we discussing a possible redemption for Arsene Wenger only to be inevitably let down by the inherent weakness that his continued presence caused.
There is a freshness to Arsenal, an understanding between attacking players that looked absent during Wenger’s final months but was epitomised by their majestic third goal against Fulham. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side were accommodating hosts, but the point stands. Arsenal have scored twice or more in each of their four away league games. They have already scored 60% of their total of away
Premier League goals from last season.
We should beware getting too carried away, because to do so would risk making Unai Emery a victim of his early success. But those Arsenal fans who were told to be careful what they wished for are currently feeling very happy with life. Their travelling support is looking forward to away games again.