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Weekend review

With Manchester United and Chelsea wrapping up the weekend action in dramatic style, our writers look back at what has passed and come up with some conclusions

Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on August 24, 2013 in Birmingham, England.

With the latest round of Premier League fixtures concluded, we take a look at some key issues.

Arsenal bounce back

While it is somewhat difficult to focus on the positives at Arsenal, knowing that the current mood will be short-lived unless Arsene Wenger strengthens his slender squad, it has been a fantastic week for the manager and his players. Wenger has been left in bullish form by the comprehensive victory over Fenerbahce and superb counter-attacking display against Fulham, and said after his team's win at Craven Cottage: "Look, we lost one game since the beginning of March. That's why it was a shock. The media in general has brainwashed a little bit the Emirates." He has a point, of course, and it's generally accepted that things are never as bad as they seem at Arsenal. Complaining about standing still appears churlish when inertia is 16 successive years in the Champions League, but it takes only a cursory glance at the Gunners' bench on Saturday to appreciate that the fear of being overtaken is increasingly vindicable. That Serge Gnabry, 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem (who looked a brilliant prospect in pre-season) and Emmanuel Frimpong were among the substitutes at Fulham shows that Arsenal are in desperate need of reinforcements. Even if Wenger could boast a fully fit squad (pigs might fly), he would still be worryingly short of numbers to compete for four trophies and options to change the team's approach should they find themselves trailing 2-0 at half time in the home leg of a last-16 Champions League tie, for example. It is now Wenger's job to build on this momentum rather than risk it falling flat through injuries, a lack of motivation derived from a lack of competition and, eventually, fatigue. MS

Defensive delight for Liverpool

A 1-0 victory that should have been more followed by a 1-0 victory that perhaps should have been less. Liverpool are learning important lessons ahead of a brace of difficult fixtures against Manchester United (at home) and Swansea (away). It was very much an in-and-out job at Villa Park, evidenced by the Reds having just a single shot (a dreadful effort from Glen Johnson) in the 69 minutes that followed Daniel Sturridge's superb winning goal. Brendan Rodgers will be pleased with his team's ability to win ugly and the manager also deserves credit for the manner in which Liverpool earned their victory. "It was a terrific win for us. I thought first half we had good control of the game and scored an excellent goal," said Rodgers in his post-match interview. "Obviously second half, we just needed to defend a bit deeper. Tactically that was the idea. In the first two games Aston Villa have been brilliant on the counter-attack and if you open up too much the spaces then they have players who can hurt you." There will be plenty of occasions when Liverpool rely on their array of attacking talent this season, but this was not one of those days as big Kolo Toure came to the fore. The free transfer from Manchester City, who Rodgers affectionately describes as "funny to watch sometimes", was magnificent alongside Daniel Agger in a centre-back pairing that offers early promise. Indeed, it will be quite amusing when Toure keeps his place following Martin Skrtel's return to fitness. MS

Sturridge the star

Rickie Lambert's goalscoring debut for his country had the 'breath of fresh air' merchants out in force earlier this month. Finally, an England striker we can get behind. But that praise should not get away from the fact that any discussion of top-class English forwards should start - and probably end - with Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge's fantastic finish to beat Aston Villa on Saturday was his 12th goal in his last 13 Premier League games. Despite having already played in the Premier League for four different clubs, he is still just 23 and there are signs that an extended run as the Reds' main forward could see him show his full potential. As Brendan Rodgers argues, that could well be greater than some would suspect. "He's a No 9," said Rodgers after his latest match-winning effort. "He can move, he can sprint. He's a really good footballer as well, not just a goalscorer. You see his movement, his touch. Strikers are judged on goals and his record is very good. He's got a lot more to do, but there's no question he's potentially the top English striker. He has the tools to be that." For an in-depth analysis of Liverpool's 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday click here. AB

Time to panic, Pardew

A goalless draw at home to West Ham will have done little to take the heat off Alan Pardew as Newcastle continue to look unconvincing. They say everyone starts the new season with a clean slate but try telling that to Pards. Finishing 16th last season saw much of the goodwill from the previous campaign used up, but far more than results it is the feeling that Newcastle drifting along without a clear vision of how to play let alone who to play. Pardew really needs a transfer window boost after a summer in which Newcastle's main activity has been to bring in Loic Remy on loan from QPR. But the prospect of losing Yohan Cabaye suggests any changes could be negative rather than positive. "The Cabaye situation needs to resolve itself because if we lose him, we have to replace him," said Pardew on Saturday. "If he stays, great. If he doesn't, we need someone equally good." Sensible stuff, Alan, and to quote General Melchett in Blackadder 'Your commanding officer would have to stark raving mad to refuse you.' Over to, err, Joe Kinnear. AB

Off the mark

After a pointless opening weekend for the trio of teams promoted to the Premier League, things got better for Hull and Cardiff as they each picked up unlikely wins on the second weekend. The Tigers may dispute their 1-0 victory was unlikely but when Yannick Sagbo decided it would be a good idea to thrust his head in the direction of an opponent with over an hour remaining, Steve Bruce's side appeared to be at Norwich's mercy. That they negotiated that period well enough, restricting the Canaries to long-range efforts, was encouraging. It's a trip to Manchester City next up. Not that facing Manuel Pellegrini's team necessarily means waving the white flag, as Cardiff proved with their 3-2 win in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday. This was a stunning second-half comeback with the home crowd roaring the team on. Let's just say you know it's a special occasion when Fraizer 'seven goals in 71 Premier League games' Campbell scores twice. We've all heard the clichés about the home form being key for the teams down the bottom and after a limp performance at West Ham first time out this was just the fillip. The party atmosphere even allowed owner Vincent Tan to get away with wearing a Cardiff shirt over his suit. Well, almost. For an in-depth analysis of Cardiff's 3-2 win over Manchester City on Sunday click here. AB

Whatever happened to Joe Hart?

Sky Sports ran a feature midway through last season suggesting that Daniel De Gea might well be a superior goalkeeper to Joe Hart. Predictably, the piece caused something of a storm. And yet, it is surely now accepted that the England No.1's performances have deteriorated alarmingly since Manchester City's 2011/12 title winning campaign. Is this just regression to the mean or is there something genuinely wrong with Hart's approach? Watching Hart barely manage a flap at Peter Whittingham's corner for Cardiff's second goal on Sunday, it seems as though the City keeper is struggling to dominate his area. Add to that an alarming tendency to pat shots back into play like a tennis player rather than push them wide to safety and the picture builds of a player who still has lots to learn rather than one Roy Hodgson and Manuel Pellegrini can happily file under 'world class' and let get on with it. He needs a good season. AB

Winning without Bale

After failing to win a single penalty in the whole of last season, Spurs have settled two matches from the spot at the start of this. Whoever said Roberto Soldado will score a hatful but you won't remember any of them is more justified by the week. The biggest plus of the past seven days has been Andros Townsend's performances against Dinamo Tbilisi and Swansea. No-one completed more dribbles or won more free-kicks than the winger on Sunday and it appears that after nine spells out on loan he is finally ready to have an impact at Spurs. Cue the 'Who needs Bale?' headlines. MS

Same old story

In David Moyes' first home game as Manchester United manager, when all eyes were on Wayne Rooney, their 0-0 draw with Chelsea simply served to underline the deficiencies of both squads at Old Trafford. The desperation of defending champions United, who spent the summer chasing Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas, for creativity from midfield was glaringly obvious. England internationals Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick managed just six passes into the opposition penalty area between them in the entire match against Chelsea. Likewise, Chelsea boss Mourinho, who had raised eyebrows with his starting formation without a recognised striker, saw further evidence of his significant need for a point-man forward. The Stamford Bridge club started with just Andre Schurrle as their main attacker and the experiment simply did not work. For an in-depth analysis of Manchester United's 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Sunday click here. PF

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