Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Arsenal had Spurs on the ropes but lacked knockout punch
Arsenal started off like a house on fire in the North London Derby, putting Tottenham Hotspur under immense pressure throughout the first half. They set an unsustainable pace but that wouldn’t matter so long as they converted it into goals.
Narrator: “They didn’t.”
Bukayo Saka helped give the hosts a deserved lead after his shot was deflected goalwards by Cristian Romero. It seemed only a matter of time before they added to their advantage. Spurs couldn’t get to the pitch of the game, Destiny Udogie was getting rinsed on the left, and Brennan Johnson couldn’t get a touch of the ball.
Instead, Son Heung-min equalised and Arsenal were back to square one. To make matters worse, Declan Rice was subbed off at the half due to an injury. Fabio Vieira, who had impressed, was also taken off as part of a tactical switch.
Just as things seemed to be slipping away from them, Arsenal were handed a gift from the gods as Romero was harshly punished for a handball in the box. Saka converted and the lead was restored.
Well, for a few moments anyway. Because 23 seconds after the restart, Son had the ball in the net for a second time and the contest was all square yet again, which is how it ended.
Despite clearly being the superior side in the first half and being further along in their development, at the final whistle Arsenal had the same number of shots (13) and big chances (4) as their counterparts. Spurs even shaded it on non-penalty expected goals and ended up with more possession.
The injury to Rice were a huge blow, but the big issue staring Arsenal in the face is the lack of a ruthlessly prolific centre-forward. Even Mikel Arteta admitted afterwards they “lacked quality in the final third”.
Gabriel Jesus started this game on the left and, while he brings so much to this side, we know he will never be that figure.
What a SAVE from Vicario to deny Jesus at the back post! 🧤⛔ pic.twitter.com/yxUhCVy7PJ
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 24, 2023
Eddie Nketiah is a useful striker, but too often he lacks the penalty area instincts needed to lead the line of a Premier League title-challenging team.
The problem, of course, is that they are not easy to find nor very cheap to buy. Arsenal may come to regret not looking for one after spending £65 million on the goal shy Kai Havertz.
Liverpool positioning themselves for title tilt?
Before the season began Liverpool were not expected to challenge for the Premier League title, especially after such a chaotic summer transfer window.
And yet, here they are, unbeaten after six games with just two points dropped, sitting second in the table following a 3-1 win over West Ham this weekend. Manchester City are the only team with a better record thus far.
Liverpool fans won’t be getting ahead of themselves – okay, some of them won’t – as there is a long way to go in the season. But so far no one else looks up to the task of challenging City, who themselves are in a transitional period and suffering with a few injury problems.
There has been a lot of turnover since the club’s last title win in 2020, but many Jurgen Klopp’s troops are the only players in the entire division who know what it takes to get the better of City in a title race.
If nothing else they have given themselves a good platform for the season ahead.
Chelsea enter the crisis zone
A 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa continued a rotten start to the season for Chelsea, who have now won just once – against Luton Town – in their first six games. The last time that happened was 23 years ago.
It’s also the first time they have lost three of their opening six games in the Premier League. On top of that, this was the 13th time in 2023 that they have been kept scoreless in the league.
The statistics are bad and the vibes around Stamford Bridge are even worse. Chelsea didn’t play badly against Villa, even when they were a man down. But they continue to be a sinking ship despite spending nearly a billion pounds in the transfer market over the past year.
If Manchester United were the designated crisis club before this weekend, then the Blues have certainly ripped the mantle from them after it.
Rodri red could cost Man City
Manchester City have gotten off to the perfect in the Premier League this year, winning six of their opening six games for only the second time ever. But their win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday was spoiled by Rodri’s red card for putting his hands around Morgan Gibbs-White’s neck.
It was a rare moment of madness from the Spaniard, who is no stranger to yellows, but it was the first time in his career he received his marching orders.
The sending off could have a wider impact on City’s season, too. Violent conduct brings with it a three-game ban, meaning Rodri will miss the midweek trip to Newcastle United in the EFL Cup and Wolves away in the Premier League.
City should navigate those ties without fuss, but Rodri will also miss the October 8 meeting with their title rivals from last season, Arsenal. On top of the injuries that the club are dealing with, City’s squad was starting to look a little bit thin, but now they are without arguably their most irreplaceable figure in the team.
It’s a huge boost for the Gunners ahead of an absolutely massive game.
Brilliant Bruno carries Man Utd (again)
Manchester United have been thoroughly unimpressive so far this season, a trend they continued against Burnley. Despite clearly being one of worst sides in the Premier League, the Clarets outplayed the Red Devils at Turf Moor.
Despite this, Erik ten Hag’s charges still came away with a win, their third of the campaign, in large large part thanks to Bruno Fernandes.
The Portuguese playmaker, as he has done so often in the past, saved the day with a moment of magic. Jonny Evans teed him with a beautiful ball over the top and he met it with likely the sweetest strike of his career.
That technique 🤌
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 24, 2023
Man United absolutely needed this win by any means necessary, but they are far too dependent on Fernandes pulling them out of the fire.
The 29-year-old is maligned by non-United supporters, but he should be celebrated for what he brings to the Premier League; last season he created more big chances and was involved in more shot creating actions than any other player.
Fernandes deserves a team that will deliver for him as much as he delivers for them.