Liverpool and Manchester City are the only teams yet to drop points in the Premier League following Chelsea’s defeat away to Tottenham. Here is a look at some of the things we learned during the weekend action.
Reality check for Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea
Maurizio Sarri’s warning of Chelsea’s poor defensive phase during recent outings came to the fore in their 3-1 defeat away to Tottenham on Saturday. This was their first competitive loss since the turn of the season and it ended Sarri’s 12-game unbeaten streak since moving to England. Unlike most people, the Italian tactician seems to have expected this, if his comments after the match are anything to go by. Tottenham were exceptional from the word go and with 15 minutes into the game they were already 2-0 up, courtesy of goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The most important thing for the Blues going forward is how they respond to this setback. They will need to improve their tactical awareness under this new system and that might call for N’Golo Kante being deployed in a more defensive position.
Two horse race for the title
With Chelsea losing, the Premier League table is shaping up as a two-horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool. The two are separated by two points and they are the only teams yet to lose a competitive Premier League match after 13 games. The Citizens are the clear favourites and they confirmed this with their 4-0 win away to West Ham during the weekend. For them, every fixture is an opportunity to increase their goal difference. Liverpool for their part have been keeping up with the champions and they too won their match away to Watford by a 3-0 scoreline. Their defence has improved tremendously and they were not worried about a home team comeback this time around unlike last season. Whether they can push the Citizens all the way will remain to be seen, but they have done a good job so far.
Do United lack the fight?
Manchester United were held to yet another draw at home following their weekend fixture with Crystal Palace. The result ensured that they have now lost seven points at home this season alone and it further complicates their chances of finishing in the top four. Jose Mourinho was typical in his post-match press conference, as he questioned the attitude of his players which has been wanting. For some, this is an admission of his inability to inspire the squad but he cannot afford more slip-ups especially from mid-level teams if they are to have a good season.
Winning start for Ranieri, but defensive issues remain
Claudio Ranieri made his debut as Fulham coach with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Southampton and he will be looking to build on from that. The result moved them level on points with Cardiff City and Southampton who are equally relegation candidates on eight points. Their defence continues to be a major source of concern but Ranieri will be particularly happy about the performances of Aleksander Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon. If he can get those two operating at optimum levels, then half of his problems will have been solved. For now, they will take the three points as they plot how to get themselves out of the relegation zone.
Ozil needs to improve
Mesut Ozil was left on the bench for Arsenal’s trip to Bournemouth despite his impressive form this season. According to Unai Emery, Ozil is a very technically gifted player who does not have the physical qualities he required for this trip away to the Cherries. The former German international has come under criticism in the past for his work rate off the ball and this is slowly affecting his minutes on the field. Of course, Ozil is a developed player by now, but he will need to demonstrate that he can be relied upon during such fixtures if he is to be considered in the future.
Promising signs for Huddersfield
Huddersfield have been improving lately and their latest win away to Wolves is a clear demonstration of their progress. Prior to that, they had beaten Fulham at home, but beating Wolves away was more of a confirmation that they have what it takes to remain in the top flight. So far they have accumulated seven points from a possible nine and therefore David Wagner’s team might be on course for a third unexpected achievement in as many seasons.