Premier League talking points: Liverpool win late but there is misery for the Manchester clubs
Liverpool stay perfect, Manchester clubs stumble to defeats, joy for Wolves and Newcastle but problems for Everton and Norwich
Last Updated: 07/10/19 11:01am
Liverpool's winning run continues
Liverpool just cannot shake their addiction to winning. It took them to the final minute of stoppage time to feast on their latest three points, but they ground it out and got the job done, yet again. This is the kind of thing we were saying about Manchester City at the back-end of last season, but while City are floundering this time around, it is Liverpool setting the pace and laying down marker after marker.
This was not a glittering display by any stretch but as Jurgen Klopp said before the game, points over performance matters right now. But, longer term, Liverpool will need to turn their grit and determination into something a little more to hold off a City side who must regain their own winning feeling sooner or later.
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The loss of Mohamed Salah to injury may end up being a blessing in disguise; the Egyptian has had precious little time off the pitch over the last two years, and he was fit enough to walk out of Anfield unaided. He cut a jaded figure long before Hamza Choudhury's mistimed lunge on him late on, and his withdrawal from international duty, if it leaves him fit to play Manchester United in a fortnight, could be just what he needs.
Manchester City's defence is costing them
Already up against it because of Liverpool's strong start, Manchester City's defence undermined their efforts as they fell to a shock 2-0 home defeat to Wolves. The away side had squandered a series of clear chances even prior to Adama Traore's late goals. Nicolas Otamendi endured a miserable afternoon and is a real worry for Pep Guardiola now.
Fernandinho did his best to cover for the Argentinian but with Aymeric Laporte and John Stones injured and Vincent Kompany long gone, there is only so much that can be done.
"City are not right," said Sky Sports' Gary Neville. "They've set such a high standard and the back four is not right. They're conceding chances and they just didn't concede chances last year. They're not like they were."
City have an abundance of quality in the squad but still need Otamendi to be consistent with so little margin for error in the title race. He looks unable to provide that. It is costing them.
Huge win for Wolves and for Traore
Wolves still had to take advantage of Manchester City's weakness and what an effort this was from a team that had been playing - and winning - against Besiktas in Istanbul on Thursday evening. Since Diogo Jota's stoppage-time equaliser at Crystal Palace, Wolves have also beaten Reading in the Carabao Cup, Watford in the Premier League and now City.
This triumph tops the lot under Nuno Espirito Santo and owed much to Traore. The Spaniard has been criticised for his end product but, operating at wing-back for much of the game, this was a switched-on display in defence and attack. It had been coming too.
Traore might have scored more goals in 10 minutes at the Etihad Stadium than he had in his previous 72 Premier League appearances combined but there have been real signs of growth in his game of late. Having been the one who provided the assist for Jota's goal at Palace too, his role in Wolves' revival has been significant. His vast talent is being realised.
Desperate times for Silva at Everton
While Wolves are on the up, Everton have been on a downward spiral since their see-saw win over Nuno's side left them fourth heading into the first international break of the season. Marco Silva goes into the second one with his team in the relegation zone and facing what will feel like an interminable fortnight full of soul searching.
Witnessing Saturday's 1-0 loss at Burnley was like chewing on stinging nettles for the travelling supporters housed in the David Fishwick Stand, their team undone by Seamus Coleman's needless red card and yet another set-piece goal as Jeff Hendrick settled a contest low on quality.
To his credit, Silva fronted up to their anger as he made the long walk across Turf Moor to the tunnel, only accompanied by Michael Keane with his team-mates having made a swift exit. "The fans are right to be angry," the Everton manager said. "They have to keep supporting. It is up to us to work harder, to be more brave and our front players have to be more decisive."
Having already come through a difficult period midway through last season, Silva knows he is capable of getting a reaction. But the return of old problems has made West Ham's visit to Goodison next a game that simply must be won.
Solskjaer's struggles continue
If there is a manager in the Premier League whose prospects look more bleak than Silva then it is surely Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Manchester United's 1-0 defeat to Newcastle at St James' Park on Sunday means his struggling side have now extended their winless run in all competitions to five games since edging out Astana at Old Trafford last month.
Even amid the mediocrity that has become the norm at United there had been some optimism that the club were moving in the right direction. The new signings had impressed and Solskjaer's talk of a culture shift appeals to supporters who know change is necessary. But this was a pitiful display that raises doubts about his ability to oversee that change.
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This is now Manchester United's worst start to a Premier League season and their longest winless run away from home in the competition. Marcus Rashford looks short on confidence and any discernible pattern of play to United's attacking movement is absent. Solskjaer insists it will take time. But he will need to provide more evidence of progress than this.
A bad week for Pochettino
Talking of bleak prospects, it has been an extremely difficult week for Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham. Mauled 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League in midweek, Pochettino would have wanted a reaction from his side against Brighton, but they turned in another dismal performance on the south coast.
Spurs were just not at the races as Brighton, who had not won at home since March 2, eased to a 3-0 victory. Last season's Champions League finalists looked a shadow of their former selves, but after the game Pochettino and his players remained defiant.
"Now is the moment to be strong," Pochettino said. "We can't underestimate the situation. But in the times that are not so good, there is always some possibility to become stronger."
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"He's our manager," midfielder Harry Winks said. "He's been fantastic ever since he's been at the club and taken the club to new heights. Now we are going through a bit of a rough patch. That happens in football, every club goes through it. It's important we stand up as men and get through these dark times, and hopefully we can get back to playing well and winning as much as we can."
The soundbites coming from the dressing room point to Pochettino and his players being together. But actions speak louder than words and performances suggest something is not quite right at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. But is Pochettino the right man to fix it? The international break could have come at just the right time for the Argentinian.
After all the furore surrounding Joelinton's club-record switch to St James' Park, and then the Brazilian's winning goal at Tottenham - Newcastle's only victory until they beat Manchester United on Sunday - all eyes, as they always are on Tyneside, have been placed on the man wearing that iconic black and white No 9 shirt.
But while Joelinton, and Newcastle's alarming form, have grabbed the headlines this season, a player brought to the club under the radar by Steve Bruce is proving to be a very shrewd piece of business indeed.
Allan Saint-Maximin set the tone from the very first whistle against Manchester United, demanding the ball and driving straight at the visitors' soft centre time and time again. He was involved in everything the Magpies did well, including Matty Longstaff's winning goal, not to steal the 19-year-old's thunder.
In years gone by, it would have been a compliment to say that Saint-Maximin wouldn't have looked out of place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team, but how times have changed. Newcastle aren't without their flaws, but they have unearthed a gem of a winger that has already won the hearts of fans and looks as likely as any to lead the club's revival.
VAR strikes again
Ahh yes, what is a Premier League weekend without VAR rearing its head once again? This time, it was at the London Stadium on Saturday evening as Jordan Ayew's goal - initially ruled out on suspicion of offside - was given after a review and handed Crystal Palace victory in the 86th minute.
It took them briefly into the top four, although they ended the weekend in sixth - just two points off Manchester City in second. West Ham, meanwhile, lost for the first time in six Premier League games as their top-four charge came to a stuttering halt.
Speaking about the incident after the game, former West Ham defender James Collins told Sky Sports: "You can't argue with VAR when it comes to offside. You can see why he's given it offside because to the plain eye, it does look offside but that's why there's been such talk about it and that's why it's in place. It's there for these type of decisions and unfortunately it's not worked for West Ham."
So is this a hit or a miss? Well, for Crystal Palace and the justification for VAR, it's a hit. The Eagles take the points, shake up the top four and VAR comes to the right decision. For West Ham, a big miss. They should have sealed the game in the first half, but did not take their chances. However, in the end and despite disappointment for the home fans, it was the right decision and that is why VAR was introduced in the first place.
Tomori still learning his game
Fikayo Tomori's excellent start to the season was rewarded with his first England call-up last week. The Chelsea centre-back, 21, has adapted impressively to the Premier League having shone under Frank Lampard on loan at Derby County last year.
At Southampton on Sunday, though, his performance was a reminder that he is still some way from being the finished article. It turned out to be a comfortable victory for Lampard's side, but Tomori had some horrible moments on the ball, one loose pass across his own goal in the fourth minute setting the tone for an error-strewn afternoon.
What's encouraging, however, is that he was able to recover from the mistakes, eventually growing into the game in the second half. He showed his rapid recovery pace to beat Danny Ings to a long ball on one occasion, and in the closing stages there was a perfectly-timed tackle on Michael Obafemi to halt a Southampton counter-attack. Lampard - and Southgate - will hope he learns from the experience.
Injuries have left Norwich in a mess
Consecutive away defeats to Burnley and Crystal Palace had detracted from the excitement created by Norwich's win over Manchester City but the visit of Aston Villa in the first game at Carrow Road since that victory was expected to bring a return to form. Instead, it brought only a beating. A 5-1 defeat that could have been worse had Villa been more clinical.
There are mitigating circumstances. Daniel Farke is without nine first-teamers, meaning he has already had little choice but to use 23 different players in the Premier League this season. Norwich needed everything to go their way but that is not happening and it's a problem now. Farke's side may have beaten City but they are in the drop zone nevertheless.