Soccer

Arsenal are genuine title contenders and United are bereft of leaders

Arsenal are now genuine title contenders, Kieran Trippier is the answer to Gareth Southgate’s full-back headaches and Man United are bereft of leaders without Bruno Fernandes… 10 THINGS WE LEARNED from the Premier League

  • It was an action-packed weekend with 37 goals, five penalties and two red cards 
  • Arsenal reclaimed top spot with a 1-0 win against Chelsea away from home
  • But Manchester City kept within two points after a late 2-1 victory over Fulham
  • Kieran Trippier is the solution to Gareth Southgate’s full back crisis for England 
  • And Unai Emery masterminded a 3-1 win over Manchester United on his return 
  • Sportsmail takes a look at the 10 things we learned from the Premier League 

Arsenal kept their hands on top spot in the Premier League after a 1-0 away win at Chelsea in a London derby to retain their two-point lead over Manchester City. 

The holders themselves left it very late to beat Fulham at home for their 11th home win in the league in a row, despite going down to 10 men, Liverpool showed that they are not yet down and out with a win at Tottenham, and Unai Emery made a stunning return to England with a win over Manchester United at Aston Villa. 

After 37 goals, five penalties and two red cards, Sportsmail takes a look at the things we learned from the latest round of Premier League action. 

Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Chelsea was their third victory against a fellow top six side this season

Gameweek 13 marks one third of the way through the season, and the time has now come for Arsenal to make the transition from ‘early leaders’ to ‘contenders for the title’ after another statement win. 

Stamford Bridge has proven a fruitful hunting ground for the Gunners of late, and have now set a league record as the first team to win 10 away games against Chelsea and became just the second team since Blackburn (19939-6) to win three in a row. 

Gabriel Magalhaes’ 63rd minute goal was not the prettiest they’ve scored this season – it was nowhere near the most aesthetically pleasing chance they created on Sunday – but it might be one of their most important so far in this unexpected title charge. 

Gabriel Magalhaes’ second half goal was not pretty but it gave the Gunners all three points

Despite dominating the game, the wayward finishing of a desperately out-of-touch Gabriel Jesus meant that the game looked destined to be one that got away from the Gunners, before the Brazilian defender stabbed home at the back post from a corner.

Arsenal have now beaten three of their top six rivals (Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea) on their way to securing their best ever start to a season with a point more than they managed from 13 games in the Invincible 2003-04 season. 

Although Mikel Arteta’s side have not yet faced Erling Haaland and City, they look to have successfully negotiated the unfathomable fixture congestion relatively unscathed, having only dropped five points from 13 games and are fast becoming the team to beat in 2022-23. 

Mikel Arteta’s side have now recorded their best ever start with 34 points from 13 matches

2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cannot lead Chelsea

Much had been made of the Gabon striker’s first game against his former side – and some over-confident BT Sport promotional video work seemed destined to come back to haunt him – but you could be forgiven for forgetting that he even played. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang managed only eight touches of the ball against the Gunners before being hooked by Graham Potter for Armando Broja just past the hour mark on a dismal Sunday in west London. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had only eight touches of the ball against his former side

The fact of the matter is that the former Barcelona forward should not be the No 1 choice up front for a team of Chelsea’s calibre, especially after a window that saw them add so much star quality.

Having spent just half a season with Barcelona, it seemed a strange decision to move for a striker who had so evidently begun to struggle with the rigours and pace of the league before his high-profile Arsenal exit, but Aubameyang now appears to be Potter’s first choice striker. 

But that surely cannot last long, as the Blues have now scored only twice in four games – the fewest in the league – as Potter’s fantastic start to life in west London has stuttered to a halt, with their last win coming on October 16. 

The alternatives for the former Brighton boss are the inexperienced, and yet unconvincing Broja, or an out-of-form Kai Havertz, who made his name as a central attacking-midfielder rather than a No 9. In short, Chelsea need a new striker and next summer might be too late as they slip further away from the top four. 

No side has scored fewer goals than Graham Potter’s Chelsea in the last four games (two)

3. Trippier could be the answer to Gareth Southgate’s full-back headaches

Reece James and Ben Chilwell are almost certainly out of the World Cup with injuries, Trent Alexander-Arnold seems to oscillate between a game-changing attacking outlet and a weak link in the chain every week and Kyle Walker is facing a late fitness test. It does not look good for Gareth Southgate. 

Trippier could play either on the left or right of defence for Gareth Southgate

But Kieran Trippier has quietly gone about his business with Newcastle, captain of the side with the best defensive record in the league and having created more chances than Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes this season. 

Combined with his devastating dead ball abilities – we all remember that semi-final against Croatia four years ago – and Gareth Southgate almost has the perfect solution for his 26-man squad with full-backs dropping like flies at the moment. 

Trippier assisted Joe Willock with a pinpoint slide rule pass, while also winning three tackles and two aerial duels, and making three clearances and an interception to put paid to the notion that full-backs are only effective at one end of the pitch in modern football. 

Walker is likely to recover from injury in time for the World Cup, but with Southgate preferring him as a right-sided centre-back in a back three Trippier is looking like the favourite for that coveted No 2 shirt in Qatar.

And with the form of Ben White at right-back, and Luke Shaw the only real option on the left flank, there is no reason to suggest that Trippier won’t be deployed on the other side of the pitch. He has certainly proven that wherever his manager chooses to play him, Trippier has to start for England on his current form.  

4. Leeds are fighting for Jesse Marsch’s job

Nobody expected second-from-bottom Leeds to beat Liverpool, but it was clear that a failure to get a positive result would push Jesse Marsch ever closer to the brink at Elland Road – if the American had not already reached that point beforehand. 

And the winner in the dying embers of the game sparked the now expected scenes of passion from the Leeds manager in the dugout – scenes that we once again saw on Saturday afternoon after his side completed a remarkable comeback against Bournemouth. 

Despite taking the lead inside three minutes, the hosts found themselves 3-1 down soon after half-time, thanks to goals from Marcus Tavernier, Phillip Billing and Dominic Solanke from moves that highlighted Leeds’ desperate defending in the penalty area. 

However Leeds showcased the grit and determination that a manager needs when their job is under threat to seal a sensational turnaround and finish 4-3 victors after Crysencio Sommerville’s second successive late winner. 

While the result can quickly be forgotten, as is so often the case, the manner in which the Yorkshire side dragged themselves back into contention in front of a baying Elland Road will give Marsch greater credit in the bank.

However an away trip to Wolves in the Carabao Cup and a visit to Tottenham next weekend will likely be the key fork in the road: progression in the cup and a point at Spurs could buy him time over the break to prepare and consolidate, but a slip up in the next week could mean using that time to find another club.  

Jesse Marsch’s Leeds came from behind to secure a second successive win for the first time

5. Youri Tielemans will be a huge loss for Leicester when his contract is up

James Maddison and to an extent Jamie Vardy have been the main men for Leicester for some time now, but it is Youri Tielemans’ future that will likely most worry Brendan Rodgers. 

The Belgian midfielder – who is now captaining the side on a regular basis – is the key transitional element in a 4-1-4-1 formation that allows Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Maddison to stay higher up the pitch and affect the game in the final third, but also lends support to Boubakary Soumare in defence.

In an assured display the 25-year-old combined 69 passes which came in all shapes and sizes, two tackles and an interception, and two key passes with a truly spectacular opening goal in an all-round performance in a 2-0 win at Everton. 

His goal was his second in three games that will surely be nominated for goal of the season come May. Receiving the ball on the half volley from out side the box, Tielemans took a touch off his thigh before thundering the ball into the top left corner from 25 yards to give the Foxes the lead. 

But his glittering form will be a double-edged blade for Leicester fans, who will be all too aware of the fact that his contract runs out in summer 2023, with no apparent signs of an unlikely extension at the King Power Stadium. 

Not only will one of their better players be leaving – for free of course – at the end of the season, with Arsenal among a plethora of Premier League options at his feet, but it will also be a concern that Leicester have been far from prodigious in the transfer market of late. Something that will have to change next summer if they have are to have any hope of replacing Tielemans. 

The Belgian midfielder is out of contract at the end of the season and could leave for nothing

6. Julen Lopetegui has plenty to work with at Wolves 

No side in the league has scored fewer goals in 2022-23 than Wolves (8), despite the additions of Goncalo Guedes and Diego Costa to an already talented front line including Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez. 

However under interim boss Steve Davis, Wolves looked a completely different side to the turgid and stagnant squad under Bruno Lage, that looked unable to buy a goal at times. Lage was not helped by the injury of deadline day signing Sasa Kalajdzic on his debut, but something had to give. 

And Saturday’s high octane 3-2 defeat by Brighton will have shown the incoming Julen Lopetegui – announced as the new manager last week – that there is plenty to be positive about a side that scored 25 per cent of their entire season’s haul inside one game. 

Wolves showed plenty of fight and determination in defeat despite Nelson Semedo’s red card

In a thrilling first half Guedes got the home side back on level pegging with the Seagulls after an early Adam Lallana striker, before Ruben Neves scored his third of the season from the spot to make it 2-1. Kaoru Mitoma levelled for the visitors, but Nelson Semedo then gave Wolves a mountain to climb after seeing red in stoppage time. 

As a result, Roberto di Zerbi’s side were flying in the second half with a man advantage, but Wolves showed fight throughout and looked set to walk away with a very creditable point before Pascal Gross made a breakthrough late on. 

They may have come unstuck in the end, but the home side showed plenty of attacking intent and battling qualities going forward. It is just the defensive woes that will concern Lopetegui when he takes over during the World Cup break. 

Wolves have appointed former Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui (pictured) as their new manager 

7. Unai Emery proves he can cut it in the Premier League

Manchester United went 27 years without losing at Villa Park in the league before Unai Emery took charge of Aston Villa in his first game. His side blew the visitors away to seal a 3-1 win and end the longest unbeaten away run in the division. Not a bad way to start your new job. 

Villa were in a similar situation to their local rivals Wolves, with Steven Gerrard increasingly incapable of getting the best out of what is in reality a very talented squad.

But a manager with the calibre and pedigree of Emery – who can be credited as the man to give one Bukayo Saka his first-team debut – was never going to struggle to do so, and showed his doubters why he compete with the best in England. 

Unai Emery orchestrated a blistering performance against Manchester United on his return

His time with Arsenal, although initially promising, ended in catastrophe, and he was dismissed in November 2019. However he has not been idle in those three years, winning the Europa League with Villarreal in 2020-21 against Sunday’s opponents United. 

Villa exposed the huge gaps between the lines from Erik ten Hag, and the exuberant Jacob Ramsay caused havoc in behind Christian Eriksen and Casemiro all afternoon. It was a Villa said that was full of energy and drive – two of the major criticisms with Gerrard’s side. 

Emery now has a Carabao Cup clash with United on Wednesday, before a trip to Brighton on Saturday, but the Spaniard has already shown supporters that they have staged a real coup in bringing in a top quality manager that ripped a United side in fifth place to shreds.  

Jacob Ramsay was the best player on the pitch as Villa ran United ragged from the outset

8. Mohamed Salah should once again be feared

It has not been the greatest campaign for Liverpool so far, and their shortcomings and struggles have been well-documented, but the Premier League was issued a harsh reminder on Sunday. Mohamed Salah is back. 

The Egyptian has had no issues scoring in the Champions League. He is joint-top scorer in the competition after the group stage with seven goals alongside Kylian Mbappe, but he has laboured in front of goal with little impact domestically. 

Prior to Liverpool’s successful trip to Spurs, Salah had only found the back of the net four times in 12 games, averaging a goal just shy of every three games – a record unthinkable from a forward that has established himself as arguably the leading player in his position over the last four-and-a-half years. 

But against Tottenham he was back to his prolific best, starting the move for his first goal on the halfway line before receiving the ball in the box and finishing to deadly effect, and chipping Hugo Lloris with a cute finish for his second after a defensive error. 

Liverpool are 15 points behind Arsenal, and 13 behind arch-rivals City, so a title charge is largely off the cards for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who are in eighth place behind Brighton and Chelsea. 

However with a month off over the World Cup break, and a mercifully more lenient fixture schedule, Salah is set to return for the Reds in the new year with a renewed vigour and a set of fresh legs sure to strike fear in the hearts of the league’s defenders once again. 

Prior to his brilliant brace against Tottenham Salah had only managed four goals in 12 games

9. Manchester United are bereft of leaders 

In the absence of the suspended Bruno Fernandes on Sunday against Aston Villa, Manchester United’s armband fell almost inexplicably to Cristiano Ronaldo, who will surely have shared in the disbelief of the shocked spectators. 

It makes sense on paper. Nobody has done the things that he has in football, nor likely seen the games he has, and he has a long history with the club as well as a wealth of captaincy experience for club and country. 

But the Portuguese legend was notably anonymous for his side, throwing away a decent opportunity with a free header in the box that fell tamely into the arms of Emiliano Martinez, who was perhaps as surprised as the crowd. 

Cristiano Ronaldo struggled to galvanise his side as captain in their 3-1 defeat by Aston Villa

Yet it was not his failure to hit the target that most disappointed, but the way in which he was incapable of galvanising his side in what was a truly appalling performance at Villa Park that will have most concerned Erik ten Hag. 

Even with club captain Harry Maguire on the bench, there was still a vastly experienced side on the pitch which included five-time Champions League winner Casemiro, club stalwart David de Gea and even Marcus Rashford has lead the side and the Three Lions before. 

However there was no leadership, no voice of reason and no catalyst on the pitch that was prepared to lead by example, as United’s strong form crumbled away against a Villa side that ultimately wanted the three points more than the visitors.  

Erik ten Hag’s side were unable to cope with Villa despite a wealth of experience on the pitch

10. Despite the jokes, the Etihad is becoming a fortress 

For rival fans the Etihad has been made out to be a laughing-stock, with many pointing to a lack of atmosphere and poor turn-outs as a painful reminder to a side that struggled to compete until a big-money takeover just over a decade ago. 

But those jibes and nudges are quickly fading away as Pep Guardiola’s side begin to turn their home ground into something of a fortress in the Premier League, as they came a goal away from a 91-year record against Fulham with a late, late winner against Fulham on Saturday afternoon to make it 2-1. 

City went into the game needing a win and three goals to break Aston Villa’s 91-year record of ten consecutive home victories scoring three goals or more – with the hosts having done so ten times themselves in a run starting in at the tail end of last season. 

Erling Haaland ensured that Man City’s 100 per cent home record this season continued

However Joao Cancelo’s 26th-minute red card largely put an end to any thoughts of breaking that long-standing record, as City left it late to inflict a 13th defeat in a row over Fulham – their third longest such run against one side. 

Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland was required from the bench to convert the vital penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage time at the end of a hugely frustrating game for City to finally secure all three points against a resilient Fulham side. 

And although Guardiola’s side did not break Villa’s record, it will not have escaped his notice that his team are yet to lose in the league since February, quickly turning the Etihad into one of the more formidable home venues in England.  

But the hosts were one goal short of breaking Aston Villa’s 91-year record for home victories




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