With another round of Premier League action in the books, we take a look back at what happened in the English top flight this weekend.
No defence for United’s stuffing
Daley Blind and Chris Smalling were spectacularly bad for Manchester United to close off the weekend, ensuring that Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge was a 4-0 humiliation.
And the new darling of Chelsea’s ex, Paul Pogba, was lost – pushed this way and that in the Portuguese’s lineup and looking perpetually disorientated in a system that doesn’t suit him yet, and may never will.
The French midfielder is at his best in a midfield three, but Mourinho and his characteristically stubborn self, is still insistent in fielding a 4-2-3-1 and, on Sunday, deploying Pogba behind an increasingly immobile Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the opening stanza. At least Pogba didn’t have to play alongside the flailing limbs of Marouane Fellaini in the second period after the Belgian was shamefully withdrawn at the break.
Mourinho effectively rolled out the blue carpet for Chelsea to saunter through.
The overlooking of a more defensively able Ashley Young on the wing and the inexplicable shunning of Matteo Darmian deserve great criticism, but the purchase of Pogba – €105 million – when it seems there was no set plan for his role in the side, could be Mourinho’s undoing.
Liverpool ushered into title contention
Thanks to other rivals dropping points in their respective tilts, Jurgen Klopp’s ranks were able to gatecrash the upper echelons: There are now 20 points apiece between the top three of Manchester City, Arsenal, and his Liverpool.
Klopp joked that there’s no point being top in October when you can be there mid-May, before noting that the manner of the win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday helps ensure complacency won’t creep in, and that the Anfield faithful remain alert.
“We have 20 points. It was not possible that we get any more tonight,” he told the Guardian’s Andy Hunter. “When you play like this, it is really difficult to be kind of satisfied with football games. 2-1 keeps you more awake than 4-0.”
The Reds’ strikeforce is the most sprightly in the division, sharing 20 goals each with Manchester City, and the way they turned a rather uneventful phase of play in their own third into a devastating and attractive attack converted by Sadio Mane was emblematic of Klopp’s designs honed at FSV Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund.
Liverpool means business.
The emphatic strikes from Xherdan Shaqiri marked the first time a Stoke City player had scored two from outside the area in a Premier League match and, like the Swiss’ shots, you could see Hull City’s loss from a long way off.
The early season form is now a distant memory, with the Tigers surrendering 19 goals in their last five league outings. The defence looks strangely out of sync since Jake Livermore returned to his day job in midfield, and Will Keane is never going to cut it as a Premier League frontman despite his given name having a contrary belief.
Saturday’s results were enough to plunge Hull into the danger zone, and it’s difficult to imagine Mike Phelan being able to dip into his squad to resuscitate his side. Dieumerci Mbokani? Probably not.
Around the grounds
Arsenal just didn’t have the answers to break down Middlesbrough on Saturday, and was quite fortunate with a point after Nacho Monreal was again targeted for his lack of pace. This time Adama Traore was his tormentor, constantly running at the Spaniard at breakneck speed and forcing Laurent Koscielny to step in to help out. If Aitor Karanka can get the best out of the Barcelona youth product, there’s no reason Boro can’t stay up.
Pep Guardiola locked his players in the dressing room for 50 minutes and staged an inquest after Manchester City’s 1-1 home draw with Southampton. Absent-minded errors have hampered City’s fine start – this time John Stones was a guilty party – but the reduced intensity is also a cause for concern at the Etihad Stadium. A fascinating League Cup bout at Manchester United awaits on Wednesday.
- Bournemouth 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Burnley 2-1 Everton
- Leicester City 3-1 Crystal Palace
- Swansea City 0-0 Watford
- West Ham United 1-0 Sunderland