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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.

Brighton can compete for Champions League

Brighton celebrated the most successful season in the club’s history last term to finish inside the Premier League’s top six and secure European qualification for the first time. The danger of falling in love with a team that punches above its weight is that it often gets picked apart quite quickly.

Brighton have not been able to prevent inevitable departures to wealthier clubs, but the Seagulls have shown an ability to lose key personnel and continue improving. Brighton extended their record to four wins from five Premier League games after a 3-1 win at Manchester United, becoming the first team to win at Old Trafford since their own victory at the ground on the opening weekend of last season.

Manchester United are far from the force of old, but this was nonetheless another win that indicated Brighton can continue to upset the Premier League’s status quo. Roberto De Zerbi has created a high-calibre team, one capable of controlling games, adapting in-game and dominating the ball.

With several of the established elite in transition this season, why can’t Brighton compete for a place in the Champions League? Their fairytale climb might just have another level to go.

Will Liverpool regret not signing a defender?

Liverpool’s summer transfer window was dominated by the club’s rebuild in midfield, as four new additions arrived to replace the group of established names ushered out the exit door at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp insisted that he was ‘happy’ with the Reds’ recruitment, but the club’s failure to reinforce their backline could come back to haunt them later in the season. Liverpool’s need for defensive signings was apparent even before a ball had been kicked, but their issues at the back are more obvious now than ever before.

Klopp was forced into a reshuffle at Wolves this weekend due to injuries and suspensions, with Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate and Trent Alexander-Arnold all absent from the starting XI. Their replacements endured a tough afternoon despite a 3-1 win at Molineux, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez were given the runaround on occasion, with Pedro Neto a particular threat for the home side.

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Jarell Quansah made his first Premier League start for the club in an appearance that demonstrated the lack of depth defensively, with Gomez shifted to right-back in the absence of specialist cover for Alexander-Arnold.

Liverpool remain unbeaten, but the Reds have been fortuitous on occasion with some shaky showings defensively. Klopp has arguably the deepest selection of options to choose from in the final third, though the failure to sign a defender could prove costly.

Kulusevski can be key to Postecoglou’s plan

Richarlison’s goal and assist, after opening up on his mental health issues this week, will be the overriding narrative fo Spurs’ dramatic win against Sheffield United, but the performance of Dejan Kulusevki should not go under the radar.

The Sweden international set the bar (perhaps impossibly) high during his initial loan spell at Spurs,  as the winger scored five goals and provided eight assists in just six months in the Premier League. Last season saw a drop from those levels, but this weekend’s win over Sheffield United provided a reminder of what he is capable of.

The 23-year-old had covered more distance in the Premier League than any other player before this weekend and this was another all-action showing from the Swede, who was relentless in his running and creative with the ball at his feet.

Kulusevski led the game for touches in the opposition box (14) and chances created (5), before popping up to score a stunning last-gasp winner as the clock ticked past 100 minutes.

‘Undroppable’ Alvarez continues to grow at Man City

Julian Alvarez arrived at Manchester City last summer with the unenviable task of competing with Erling Haaland for a first-team place. The forward performed well whenever called upon, but his role was one more of support than pivotal in the club’s treble success.

Injuries and departures have since opened up opportunity for Alvarez and he has taken his chance with both hands. Performing in an advanced midfield role, he has ensured Manchester City have not missed Kevin De Bruyne in the midfielder’s absence with a hamstring complaint.

The 23-year-old has started all five of City’s games in the Premier League this season and provided two assists in the win at West Ham this weekend, taking his total to five goal involvements in five league games to date.

Excellent in between the lines and creating chances for the champions, his performances have seen Guardiola go as far as to label the World Cup winner ‘almost undroppable’. In a squad as stacked at City’s, that’s some compliment from the man in charge.

“He’s learning a lot how to move in the pockets, he’s a threat with goals and assists, the work ethic. We are delighted that the club brought him last year,” Guardiola said after the win at West Ham.

“[Ilkay] Gundo[gan] left and unfortunately with the injury to Kevin [De Bruyne] he has his chance and he is using it. Now he is almost undroppable.”

Same old problems for Chelsea

Mauricio Pochettino said he was pleased with the effort from Chelsea in the club’s goalless draw at Bournemouth, but Pochettino’s positive outlook can not paper over what has been an inauspicious start at Stamford Bridge.

One win in five Premier League game and just five goals scored paints the picture of where this Chelsea team are at, a side who have spent more than £1 billion on new additions in three transfer windows but who have gone rapidly backwards.

Last season, Chelsea scored just 38 goals from their 38 Premier League games, the second lowest return in a league season in the club’s entire history. Not since 1924 had Chelsea scored less goals in a campaign, but the club’s issues have not been resolved despite the lavish spending.

Admittedly, Christopher Nkunku’s pre-season injury was a major blow and the woodwork twice saved Bournemouth this weekend, but just four teams have scored less goals than the Blues this season, despite Pochettino’s side posting the fourth best xG figure in the entire division.

Nicolas Jackson remains raw and his confidence appears to be shrinking, while Mykhailo Mudryk looks a shadow of the talent who shone in the Champions League for Shakhtar Donetsk last season. Chelsea’s recruitment has been targeting potential, but not every rough diamond polishes up as the owner anticipates. Chelsea’s failure to address their issues in the final third leaves the west Londoners well off the pace in their bid to get back into the Champions League.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday Five

Read Also – Premier League Awards: Richarlison’s rescue act, Crouch’s comical slip

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