Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Blades battered at record-breaking Burnley
How Vincent Kompany needed this. After a sickening late defeat to West Ham last weekend, Burnley got off to a dream start after scoring inside 15 seconds against Sheffield United.
From there, the Clarets grew in confidence and freed from pressure ran riot against their relegation rivals. Goals for Zeki Amdouni and Luca Koleosho will do the summer signings a world of good, as Burnley won 5-0 for the first time in the Premier League era.
Three important points and our first win at home 💪 pic.twitter.com/o17bNCnnwn
— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) December 2, 2023
Burnley had lost six straight games and all seven at Turf Moor this season but moved off the bottom of the table after beating their fellow strugglers.
With Everton also winning this weekend, this was a massive win to keep Kompany’s charges within reach of safety.
Do Arsenal need a centre-forward?
Arsenal continue to be linked with signing a centre-forward in the January transfer window, with the club’s title credentials questioned given the lack of an out-and-out goalscorer in Mikel Arteta’s squad.
You can’t win the title without a 20-goal-a-season striker we’re often told, but is that true? Three of the last four title winners did not feature a player who reached 20 Premier League goals in the campaign, with Ilkay Gundogan top-scoring for Manchester City in 2020/21 with just 13.
Gabriel Jesus sent a message to the sceptics during an excellent performance this weekend, with the Brazilian outstanding despite failing to trouble the scoresheet. He was involved in everything against Wolves, including both goals, despite failing to record a goal and assist.
Gabriel Jesus couldn’t believe Arsenal’s stunning team goal 😂 pic.twitter.com/cesKYbdt3r
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 2, 2023
The stat-obsessed will put this down as another blank, yet the optics told an entirely different story. Jesus has five goals in 17 games this season, four of which have come in Europe, but he offers far more than that and appeared back to his best this weekend.
With Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard and Leandro Trossard all capable of decent returns, Arsenal have enough avenues to goal to mount a title challenge. Jesus’ role in the collective is crucial.
Manchester United’s away day misery continues
Five wins in six games have papered over the cracks of what is an unconvincing Manchester United team, with familiar flaws exposed during clashes with Galatasaray and Newcastle this week. A 1-0 loss to the latter was flattering for Erik ten Hag’s team, who were second-rate and second-best at St James’ Park.
Newcastle were dominant from start to finish in the contest, with Anthony Gordon’s goal settling the game. It was another defeat on the road for Manchester United against top opposition, continuing a woeful record under Ten Hag.
The Red Devils last won an away game against a team inside the Premier League’s top eight in October 2021, losing 10 and drawing three since. Last season, those results included embarrassment at Brentford (4-0), Manchester City (6-3) and Liverpool (7-0).
13 – Manchester United haven’t won a Premier League away game against a team starting the day in the top eight of the table since October 2021 against Tottenham under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Since then, the Red Devils have drawn three and lost 10 of their 13 such games. Unlucky. pic.twitter.com/YUfoYDVgkA
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 2, 2023
Performances have failed to improve and the Red Devils were fortunate not to receive heavier punishment at St James’ Park. United lacked the work-rate and character to contain Newcastle, who bettered their opponents for both effort and quality. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were particularly poor and removed on the hour. On this evidence, Ten Hag’s team are miles off the Premier League’s best.
Chelsea show mettle after latest ill-discipline
For the second straight week, Chelsea saw their captain sent off in needless fashion. Last weekend, Reece James was dismissed at Newcastle for two yellow cards, with Chelsea collapsing at St James’ Park to lose 4-1.
Stand-in captain Conor Gallagher then became the third Chelsea player sent off this season against Brighton, picking up two yellow cards inside the opening 45 minutes. The 23-year-old is experienced enough to know better, after bundling into former teammate Billy Gilmour to earn his marching orders.
🔵 Pochettino: “Why 14-15 mins extra time?!”.
“We are a young team. We need to leave this kind of experience with red cards”.
“With time we’re gonna improve and avoid this kind of situations”.
“We have talent, we just need time. I’m sure we will get there”. pic.twitter.com/5afKYILe2L
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 3, 2023
Facundo Buonanotte’s goal had brought Brighton back into the game just minutes before and Gallagher’s red card threatened to derail what had been an improved Chelsea performance until that flashpoint. Fortunately for the England midfielder, the Blues regrouped in his absence to claim an important three points.
Pochettino’s inexperienced side needs to improve on their rash moments, but the Argentine will be pleased with this weekend’s reaction.
Fortune favours the brave
It would have been easy for Ange Postecoglou to abandon his principles this weekend. A depleted Spurs side travelled to face Manchester City at the Etihad, without a recognised central defender and several other key figures missing.
Postecoglou has won plaudits for a brave brand of football since taking charge in North London, and the Australian has been unwavering in his message: We try to play.
Spurs were rewarded for their courage and snatched a late point against the champions, as Dejan Kulusevki crashed home a header to continue his scoring streak at the Etihad.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 3, 2023
Postecoglou’s non-negotiable to play from the back had looked set to cost Spurs after Yves Bissouma lost possession in a dangerous area for Manchester City’s third goal, but Kulusevski powered over Nathan Ake to equalise. The Swede’s strike made it 3-3, on an afternoon of elite entertainment at Eastlands.
Spurs hung in at times, as most teams do at Manchester City, but always looked a threat. Postecoglou was deemed naive for his bold tactics as nine-man Spurs lost 4-1 to Chelsea last month, but he deserves credit for taking the game to the champions in the face of adversity this weekend.