Manchester City slipped up in Saturday’s early kickoff at Newcastle, and league leaders Liverpool took advantage to extend their lead over the champions to 11 points.
Jonjo Shelvey’s fine late strike earned Steve Bruce’s Magpies a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park, meaning Pep Guardiola’s side have now dropped 13 points this season – they lost only 14 in the entirety of 2017-18 and 16 last term.
Liverpool’s push continued thanks to Virgil van Dijk, who scored twice in a 2-1 win over Brighton .
The Reds have 40 points from a possible 42, and equalled their longest unbeaten top-flight run of 31 games, set between May 1987 and March 1988, despite the second half red card of Alisson.
Leicester are second, and Brendan Rodgers’ men were victorious again, thanks to the intervention of VAR, allowing Kelechi Iheanacho’s 94th minute strike against Everton .
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace and West Ham both picked up away wins, at Burnley and Chelsea respectively, while there were home victories for Tottenham and Southampton – whose win over Watford ultimately cost Quique Sanchez Flores his job.
Both Manchester United and Arsenal draw 2-2 on Sunday, against Aston Villa and Norwich, while another Europa League hopeful, Wolves , were held 1-1 at home by Sheffield United, still unbeaten on the road.
Here’s a look at 10 talking points from the Premier League weekend…
1. City’s (relative) struggles
John Stones accused Newcastle of parking the bus, only coming out and having a go when they were behind.
Pep Guardiola admitted it was “disappointing not to win and that his side “should have come out with the three points”.
Both are right. According to Understat Man City left St James’ Park registering 2.44 xG (expected goals). In contrast, Bruce’s side’s xG was just 0.21.
But hey, at the end of the day, does that matter? City are capable of “unbelievable football”, something Guardiola felt they played at points on Saturday. Newcastle have to play a different way, especially against a team like City, and thus held back, looking to counter. They got a smart point.
There are times when, by hook or by crook, you have to just win, regardless of the performance. In both title-winning seasons, City did that – late goals at Huddersfield and against Southampton come to mind.
Right now, that isn’t quite happening for them.
2. Liverpool – a danger at set-pieces
Since the start of last season, according to Opta , Liverpool have scored 41 goals from set pieces (including penalties), writes David Maddock.
That is 10 more than any other side in the Premier League. And it’s no fluke either.
In 2017-18, Bournemouth finished top of the set piece chart, Manchester City second. Jurgen Klopp realised it gave footballing teams a real advantage, and introduced changes at Melwood.
He brought in set piece experts including a throw in coach, and used stats and meticulous planning to improve output. And it’s worked – those goals have won tight games and have underpinned Liverpool’s title challenges over the two seasons.
It helps of course, when you have the delivery of Trent Alexander-Arnold to rely on, as Virgil van Dijk will testify.
3. Martin makes his mark
“It just doesn’t feel real,” declared David Martin, minutes after making his West Ham United debut.
“I’m 33 now, I’ve had a decent career, I’ve played quite a few games but it still doesn’t prepare you coming into this. I’ve been struggling to eat for the last two days.
“When I saw my dad [West Ham legend Alvin] we were both in tears, so we didn’t actually say a lot.
“But for my dad to see that here with the club he played for for 21 years, to make my debut, keep a clean sheet and get the win for the boys more importantly, it’s just a fantastic feeling.”
Lukasz Fabianski’s injury and Roberto’s disastrous spell meant the summer arrival – supposed to spend the season as basically a training partner for the pair – was between the sticks at Stamford Bridge and led the Hammers to a 1-0 win.
As far as weekend’s go, Martin had a belter and his reaction was a terrific, genuine moment.
4. Decisive with Dele
Dele Alli is flying once again for Spurs, with two excellent goals in the win over Bournemouth.
That made it three in a week for Alli, and Jose Mourinho is more than happy to take some of the credit for his upturn in form.
The self-styled ‘Humble One’ is in no doubt why the sudden turnaround – because he’s playing Alli in his right position, operating in the shadow of Harry Kane.
“For me, Dele is not a midfield player,” said Mourinho. “He’s not a player to play a position in midfield, he needs to be close to Harry, having the freedom to associate with the attacking players – this is the best position for him.”
Alli sacrificed himself a lot last term under Mauricio Pochettino, often being asked to work deep. The player himself has insisted he has no problem doing that either.
Just don’t expect him to anymore.
5. Hodgson has Dyche’s number
Since taking charge of Crystal Palace, Roy Hodgson has led the Eagles out against Sean Dyche’s Burnley on four occasions.
He has won them all, by an aggregate score of 8-1.
Burnley could have ended the weekend in fifth position with a win at Turf Moor, but Wilfried Zaha was too hot to handle as Hodgson tweaked his tactics and outmaneuvered Dyche once more.
6. Watford go again
Watford’s 2-1 loss at Southampton meant the end for Quique Sanchez Flores.
The Spaniard won just one of 12 games in his second spell at Vicarage Road, having replaced Javi Gracia, lasting just 85 days.
From the off he looked a poor appointment; there was no ‘new manager bounce’ and very little, stylistically, changed in the move from one Spaniard to another.
Now the Hornets are six points adrift of safety, having scored only nine times.
The club say the appointment of the 11th different head coach since 2012 is “imminent”, with Chris Hughton odds-on with bookmakers to get the gig.
Whether it’s Hughton or another, owner Gino Pozzo and chairman Scott Duxbury need to get it right this time.
7. Solskjaer’s speed struggle
Not in attack. In the shape of Rashford, Dan James and Anthony Martial, there is no questioning United’s pace in the final third.
But the speed with which they move the ball, is a completely different issue altogether.
We’re more than a third of the way through this season, Solskjaer has had almost a year in charge now overall, but still they play this same tepid, laborious way through midfield – and out of the back – allowing opponents to get back into shape.
There’s such a lack of intensity and no reading of in-game situations, until they fall behind and desperation sets in.
You can argue Paul Pogba is missing. Heck, you can even argue Scott McTominay is missing now, such has his importance in there become.
But their ability to work it through the thirds just isn’t anywhere near where you expect a Manchester United side to be.
8. Mings stands strong – but easy to see why Villa will battle relegation
Tyrone Mings continues to mature into a leadership role at Villa, and is demanding of those around him.
Yet, it’s easy to see why the Villans are going to spend their season in a relegation battle, why they’ve lost 50 percent of their games so far and why they’re only three points above the drop zone.
Smith’s side play some lovely football and are very inventive in possession.
But as games go on, they can be worn down by opponents, and they become a little ragged; full-backs become detached, wingers don’t track as readily, spaces appear and are exploited.
It’s culminated in them losing a lot of points late on already this term, and the coaching staff need to find an answer to get them moving up the table.
At Old Trafford, they were the better side for much of the afternoon, but were hanging on late in the day.
9. Aubameyang leads by example for Arsenal
New boss Ljungberg was non-committal on the captaincy issue after taking charge this week, but it was indeed Aubameyang who wore the armband in Norfolk.
And he led by example, once more doing the business in the final third.
It would have been easy for Aubemeyang to hand over penalty duties when he missed the first kick. Instead, he kept the responsibility, and emphatically found the net.
He ruthlessly hammered home the second from close range but his all-round game impressed too. Operating in partnership with Lacazette, he unselfishly played the more secondary role, drifting into wide positions on both sides to give balance and to get Ljungberg’s men moving.
Today’s double took him to 53 in 82 for Arsenal since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.
10. Cantwell can for Norwich
It can be no coincidence that, in Norwich’s best performances so far this season, England Under-21 midfielder Cantwell has been impressive.
He registered two assists in the first win over Newcastle , scored and had the arrogance needed to take the ball in tight areas against Manchester City in the shock 3-2 success, and notched a smart opener in the 2-0 win at Everton last weekend.
On the flip side, in their recent run of six losses in seven – where each defeat was by two goals or more – Cantwell struggled or was used only from the bench.
Slight of build, he travels with the ball well, can deal with it when under pressure, and is extremely effective in transition. Prior to today his shots per 90 stood at 1.63, his key passes per 90 was 1.73 – more than solid numbers for a nominal wide player in a struggling team.
His goal, to put Norwich back in front on the stroke of half-time, was excellent, a fine finish using Mustafi’s body to find the far corner. Largely, Arsenal didn’t know how to deal with him, as he floated into smart positions between the lines.
Norwich are a better side when the attacking midfielder is in the lineup.