With World Cup qualifiers thankfully shelved until next month, the Premier League shifted into gear again on Saturday with narratives of fallen giants, peculiar tactical shapes, the first match overseen by an American, and a hairy Welshman dominating proceedings.

Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s slate of games:

Crisis at Chelsea?

There was a crisis following Saturday’s tie featuring the Blues and Foxes, but it was permeating through the aisle of the team bus heading back up the M1, rather than in the guts of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge.

Leicester City will again be looking for respite in the midweek Champions League action, as its domestic campaign is in disarray. Last season, opposition set pieces were met by the sizeable loaf of either Robert Huth or Wes Morgan. Now the Foxes evade them like sleepy zebras encountering a troop of lions. The strikeforce rotation also isn’t producing the goods, but it’s greatest void was right in front of its very eyes on Saturday:

Daniel Amartey, Andy King, and Nampalys Mendy have all struggled in their auditions to fill N’Golo Kante’s boots in the Leicester midfield, and the Frenchman was his usual destructive and tireless self for Chelsea.

Although it’s easy to focus on Leicester’s shortcomings, this result was mostly down to Chelsea’s excellence. Eden Hazard is back to his slaloming best when cutting inside in a 3-4-3 (similar to what he’s used when playing for Belgium), Victor Moses is reinvigorated, and the versatile Marcos Alonso could be a shrewd investment.

The premature doubts over Antonio Conte’s future at the Blues were roundly shunned in the 3-0 win.

Pep confuses English football again

(Courtesy: @ManCity)

First, Pep Guardiola introduced the league to the concept of inverted full-backs, then he oddly disguised Aleksandar Kolarov’s defensive liabilities at centre-half, and his most notorious contribution has been ditching goalkeeper Joe Hart for Claudio Bravo, who controls the ball more like a midfielder.

For the visit of Everton, Guardiola played three at the back, which isn’t exactly revolutionary, but what he had Manchester City doing ahead of that was fluid and hard to comprehend.

Rather than the formation the club’s Twitter offered, City lined up with a system that mostly assumed a 3-2-4-1 shape, but had the freedom to drift into a 3-3-3-1 or 3-1-2-4. It was Total Football in east Manchester, just as Toffees boss Ronald Koeman had taught a young Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

Related – Koeman: I was Guardiola’s mentor at Barcelona

It worked, but the heroics between the sticks from Maarten Stekelenburg – saver of two penalties – and a strike against the run of play from Romelu Lukaku meant City could only salvage an equaliser at home through substitute Nolito.

Somewhat contrasting Pep’s innovative tweaks, however, was defender Vincent Kompany’s introduction to play up front in a move which hearkened back to the mud and elbows English football was initially famed for.

Bob Gunned down

Bob Bradley’s Swansea City bow didn’t go how he and many American soccer fans hoped.

Theo Walcott’s double helped 10-man Arsenal eke out a 3-2 win against the Swans in a match which saw the former U.S. gaffer deploy Gylfi Sigurdsson up front and reinstall the chaos-curating Modou Barrow to the starting lineup, who ravaged Nacho Monreal.

Arsenal drew level on points with Manchester City atop the Premier League, and its upcoming meetings with Middlesbrough and Sunderland should give Arsene Wenger’s ranks every confidence of claiming first place by the time archrival Tottenham Hotspur visits on Nov. 6.

Allen key

The bearded Joe Allen left Sunderland bristling in the weekend’s meeting of the division’s two cellar-dwellers, stepping up twice to make it five goals in four matches for Stoke City and Wales.

He’d scored five in his previous 104 outings.

Allen’s football brain is undoubted – he habitually makes the right choices – but he is admittedly lacking some technique and physical ability. Under Mark Hughes, however, doing the on-pitch equivalent of kicking the ball against a brick wall when playing behind Wilfried Bony, Allen appears to be settling into a regular starting berth in the Potteries.

Stoke won 2-0 thanks to Allen’s brace, its first victory of the campaign which left the Black Cats rooted to the bottom with a derisory two points in eight matches.

Menu