Manchester duo City and United continue to set the pace in this season’s Premier League as the latest round of fixtures yielded few surprises. Here are the five takeaways from the weekend’s premier league action:
By SportBrief Reporter
- Liverpool have some clever footballers
Whatever the validity of the questions posed about Liverpool’s ability to defend, they have very few problems going forward, where pace and talent are matched by admirable footballing intelligence. Mohamed Salah’s ability to carry to ball at high speed and then either finish himself or pick out a killer final pass is hugely impressive, but the vision of Philippe Coutinho and his audacity in drilling a free-kick under Brighton’s defensive wall rather than over it are priceless.
- Arsenal have forgotten how to defend
But for David de Gea and some last-ditch defending, Arsenal might have beaten Manchester United comfortably on Saturday evening. That they did not, however, was due only in part to the excellence of the Spanish goalkeeper and his rearguard with the kamikaze defending which allowed Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial to stretch them repeatedly on the counter ultimately proving terminal.
- Eden Hazard is hitting form at the right time
Chelsea may or may not eventually have a say in where the Premier League title ends up this season, but whatever they achieve collectively, Eden Hazard is showing ominous signs of entering World Cup year at the height of his powers. The Belgium international dismantled promoted Newcastle on Saturday to serve England with a timely reminder of his talent as the two nations cast one eye towards their showdown in Russia next summer.
- Clinical Manchester United will be difficult to overhaul
Before I proceed the positives and negatives of the Arsenal performance and result, of which there were many on both sides, I should first congratulate United on what was a well-executed away win. Defend dutifully; counter quickly; score clinically. They did all three on Saturday.
While the title challenge, for the Gunners, seems a little naive to even consider, the top four is still very much a possibility. And of their direct rivals for Champions League qualification will be United, a United that now sit seven points clear and are buoyed by two excellent away wins in a matter of days.
For all of Jose Mourinho’s faults, as a man and a manager, he is excellent at ensuring that his team maximise their opportunities. It’s fair to say that they are doing that this season. They did exactly that at the Emirates. Arsenal will find it difficult catching them. And if they cannot overhaul them, then that leaves just two more places to fight for. The top four is a competitive place.
- City pass character test
For all the plaudits thrown Manchester City’s way for the sublime football they have played this season, there is a defining characteristic to the leaders that boss Pep Guardiola admires more than all the purist-pleasing play – grit.
Flamboyant skill and lethal finishing have stolen the spotlight, but Guardiola is more heartened by City’s refusal to be subdued by opponents hell-bent on frustrating them, and never was that more apparent than in their 2-1 win over West Ham on Sunday.
Falling behind on the stroke of half-time after struggling to penetrate West Ham’s massed defence, City simply imposed their will on the visitors in the second half, pressing them into submission until goals from Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva sealed their record-equalling 13th successive league win. It was the fourth straight decided by a late winner for City and Guardiola, whose side are eight points clear at the top, said: “You see how they run and how they fight, that’s why we are so proud.”