Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Klopp’s favoured front three still unclear
For so long, Liverpool’s front three was firmly established. In Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Jurgen Klopp had three forwards who were the first names on the team sheet, a trio who tormented teams and whose place in his side was guaranteed.
Liverpool’s frontline has since evolved, with Mane and Fimino having moved on. Salah remains and remains essential, with this weekend’s Merseyside Derby brace extending the Egyptian’s record to seven goals and four assists in nine games this season. No player in the Premier League has been involved in more.
Luis Diaz looks to have nailed down a position on the left flank and was excellent against Everton, but who starts at number nine is still unclear. The Reds have an embarrassment of options with Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez competing for a place, but none of that trio have done enough to make themselves undroppable from this side.
Liverpool is red! ❤️🔥 pic.twitter.com/Q6AkF7mrt4
— Darwin Núñez (@Darwinn99) October 21, 2023
Jota started this weekend and failed to make the most of his opportunity in a mixed outing, while Nunez improved Liverpool’s threat after his introduction but remains raw and yet to win Klopp’s trust in terms of defensive work from the front. Finding a formula that clicks in the coming weeks could be crucial to Liverpool’s chances of remaining in the title race.
Magpies momentum building ahead of tough run
Newcastle are arguably the form team in the Premier League right now and extended their recent run to eight games without defeat in all competitions after thrashing Crystal Palace 4-0 at St James’ Park. Eddie Howe’s side have secured big wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in recent weeks and made light work of a Crystal Palace team who had gone three games without conceding.
Newcastle have bounced back from a mixed start to the campaign and now look back to their best, with the Magpies tenacious in their work off the ball and a threat from all over the pitch. Kieran Trippier has now assisted a goal in four consecutive Premier League games, while Jacob Murphy came in for his first start of the season and tormented Palace from the right-wing.
The boss on today’s 4-0 win at St. James’ Park. 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/BE1YuJy3Bn
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) October 21, 2023
Confidence is high ahead of a challenging – and crucial – run of games for Howe’s side in the coming weeks. Borussia Dortmund are the visitors in the Champions League this week, before clashes with Wolves, Manchester United (Carabao Cup), Arsenal and an away trip to Dortmund.
Arteta has created unnecessary issue at Arsenal
Arsenal’s goalkeeper position has been a talking point ever since the summer, after the Gunners brought in David Raya from Brentford. Aaron Ramsdale’s place in the team had rarely been questioned last season, but the England international has spent the past five game watching on as Raya has replaced him in the side.
The situation has increased the pressure on both goalkeepers and Raya is now the one feeling the heat. The Spaniard was shaky during the draw with Chelsea this weekend, a performance which followed unconvincing outings against Lens and Manchester City.
Raya’s positioning was poor as he was caught out by Mykhailo Mudryk’s cross-shot, before finding himself fortunate not to cost his side another goal as Cole Palmer robbed the goalkeeper of possession in a dangerous area.
Misha’s second goal for Chelsea! 🥅 pic.twitter.com/GG8av4sk5s
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 21, 2023
Competition for places is important to Premier League squads, but goalkeeper is a unique position and there is an argument that it is having a negative effect at Arsenal right now. In a position where confidence is crucial, the pressure of being one mistake from being replaced is being felt.
Maguire’s warm welcome
Harry Maguire has hardly been used to warm welcomes in recent months, with the Manchester United defender having had his critics when representing both club and country. The centre-back received a good ovation upon his return to Sheffield United this weekend however, as the Bramhall Lane crowd gave their former academy graduate an ovation before kick-off.
On the pitch Maguire impressed as Manchester United earned a hard-fought 2-1 win, with the 30-year-old receiving the man-of-the-match accolade from Sky Sports at full-time. Maguire completed a huge 13 long balls, won five aerial duels, made three blocks and three tackles in a strong showing, one which Erik ten Hag was full of praise for.
Harry Maguire’s Man of the Match performance against Sheffield United 📈👏
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) October 22, 2023
“I have to say Harry is playing like we want him to play,” Ten Hag said.
“Very proactive out of possession, dominating his opponent, stepping in when necessary, reading the game, good covering but also in possession very proactive, stepping in, delivering good passes, switching, yes, I am happy with his performance.”
Maguire’s future may still be away from Old Trafford, but this was a performance which showed he can still provide value in a Manchester United shirt. That he received an ovation from both sets of fans was a nice moment for a player who has had his fair share of tough times.
Aston Villa end Hammers hoodoo
Aston Villa’s clash with West Ham was billed as a fixture between two teams with European ambitions, but the home side headed into the game up against it in terms of recent history.
Villa had not won in 10 Premier League encounters with the Hammers, but ended that record in emphatic fashion on Sunday. Douglas Luiz continued his rich vein of goalscoring form with a brace, extending his run to six consecutive Premier League home games with a goal.
Ollie Watkins was a menace to the visitor’s defence and deservedly got on the scoresheet, following an impressive international break with another goal at club level.
68 – Most points in the Premier League since the weekend of Unai Emery’s first game in charge of Aston Villa (Nov 5-6 2022):
81 – Manchester City
74 – Arsenal
71 – Liverpool
68 – Aston Villa
67 – Manchester United
63 – Newcastle United
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 22, 2023
This week will mark the first anniversary of Unai Emery’s appointment at Villa Park and the atmosphere couldn’t be more different when compared to his arrival. Villa have been transformed under his management, with the win over West Ham an 11th in succession in the league on home soil. Not since the club were champions of Europe in 1983 have Villa won more consecutive home games (13).
In a season where five Premier League teams could earn qualification to the Champions League, a return to Europe’s top table should be a genuine ambition for this side.