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Alexander-Arnold’s defensive woes return and other THINGS WE LEARNED from the Premier League weekend


In a weekend where other sports took centre stage, the Premier League still delivered.

Even though the Ryder Cup came back, Anthony Joshua suffered a shock loss and the Russian Grand Prix provided a thrilling and dramatic finish, some brilliant Premier League matches lured us back into the world of football.  

It was a good weekend for Arsenal, who thrashed Tottenham 3-1 with three quick-fire first-half goals to continue their rise under Mikel Arteta. Manchester City, meanwhile, reminded the rest of the league about their title credentials by winning 1-0 at Chelsea.

Mikel Arteta's (right) Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 in one of this week's key Premier League results

Mikel Arteta’s (right) Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 in one of this week’s key Premier League results

Aston Villa also claimed a shock and dramatic 1-0 victory at Manchester United this weekend

Aston Villa also claimed a shock and dramatic 1-0 victory at Manchester United this weekend

Another shock result saw Manchester United lost at home to Aston Villa thanks to Kourtney Hause’s late winner, with Bruno Fernandes missing a stoppage-time penalty in a further blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. 

That means Liverpool currently top the league after a thrilling 3-3 draw at Brentford on Saturday night, but Jurgen Klopp’s side could be overtaken by Brighton should they beat local rivals Crystal Palace on Monday night. 

With wins for West Ham, Everton and Wolves to also dissect, Sportsmail looks at ten things we learned from the Premier League weekend..

Arsenal’s defenders the underrated stars in derby win  

For Arsenal, praise will likely go towards their front four of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang for their 3-1 win over Spurs.

But credit should go to their defenders for a superb display that kept Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min quiet in a memorable Emirates Stadium that has propelled Mikel Arteta’s side into the European contention.

Arsenal's defenders were key to their north London derby victory (pictured left to right: Kieran Tierney, Ben White and Gabriel)

Arsenal’s defenders were key to their north London derby victory (pictured left to right: Kieran Tierney, Ben White and Gabriel)

Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel and Kieran Tierney is now the recognised first-choice back four in the red half of north London, with the quartet standing firm against a Spurs side who controlled possession but barely had a sniff in front of goal.

New £50m defender White was particularly effective against last season’s Golden Boot winner Kane. The England international made four interceptions on Sunday afternoon as well as three defensive clearances, a figure only topped by his defensive partner Gabriel who managed five. 

Scottish defender Tierney completed four tackles in the derby win – no player on the pitch managed more – while Son found it difficult against new Gunners right-back Tomiyasu, with the Spurs star coming inside the pitch to score his consolation goal.

Takehiro Tomiyasu (left) also managed to keep the dangerous Son Heung-Min (right) quiet

Takehiro Tomiyasu (left) also managed to keep the dangerous Son Heung-Min (right) quiet

On the rare occasions when the Gunners defence was breached by Spurs’ attack, they had Aaron Ramsdale on hand to make some excellent saves, including one late one from Lucas Moura which he tipped onto the bar.

Arteta’s Arsenal have now conceded just one goal in their last four games, signs are emerging that this Gunners side can perform well at both ends of the pitch in big games. 

Now it’s Tuchel’s turn to overthink his line-up 

Last May, Pep Guardiola surprised many with his Manchester City starting line-up for their Champions League final with Chelsea. 

The Spaniard picked an all-out attacking side with no defensive midfielder of recognised striker on the pitch – and it backfired as Chelsea ran out 1-0 winners with no real attacking potency from City. 

Thomas Tuchel (right) channeled Pep Guardiola (left) by overthinking his Chelsea line-up

Thomas Tuchel (right) channeled Pep Guardiola (left) by overthinking his Chelsea line-up

On Saturday lunchtime, Tuchel changed Chelsea’s set-up for their first match back against City since that European final, picking a 3-5-2 formation which went away from his regular 3-4-2-1 set-up that he has used for the vast majority of his career. 

This time it was Chelsea who suffered the 1-0 defeat to City with very little to cheer about from an attacking point of view. The Blues failed to test visiting goalkeeper Ederson once throughout the 90 minutes, despite having Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner in attack. 

When Tuchel switched back to his favoured formation after Gabriel Jesus handed City the lead, Chelsea looked a lot brighter. N’Golo Kante came off for Kai Havertz and the Blues looked more threatening – but the worst thing you can do against City is give them a lead which they can hang on to and control the game. 

Tuchel picked Timo Werner (left) in a switch to a 3-5-2 but Chelsea lost 1-0 at home to Man City

Tuchel picked Timo Werner (left) in a switch to a 3-5-2 but Chelsea lost 1-0 at home to Man City

The west Londoners face another difficult test in midweek when they travel to Juventus, perhaps Tuchel has now been reminded that he should stick to what he knows rather than tinker his team too much. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive game exposed once again 

A thrilling game in west London on Saturday night saw Brentford go toe-to-toe with six-time Champions League winners Liverpool, in a match which saw the Bees show tactical astuteness against Jurgen Klopp’s side.

One of those key tactics from Thomas Frank’s men was to target Trent Alexander-Arnold by overloading his side of the pitch in attacking areas – and all three of Brentford’s goals came from the Liverpool right-back’s flank. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold was exposed defensively once again in Liverpool's 3-3 tie at Brentford

Trent Alexander-Arnold was exposed defensively once again in Liverpool’s 3-3 tie at Brentford

Throughout the entire 90 minutes at the Brentford Community Stadium, Bryan Mbuemo and Rico Henry had a lot of joy down the Bees’ left wing as Alexander-Arnold struggled to keep up in a raucous atmosphere.

Of course, Alexander-Arnold’s position in the Liverpool team is nowhere near under threat given he is one of the best passers in the Premier League and brings a lot to the Reds’ attacking game. 

But his inability to defend will not only hold back Klopp’s Reds in the title race but also his own career. 

All of Brentford's three goals came on Alexander-Arnold's (right) side of the pitch

All of Brentford’s three goals came on Alexander-Arnold’s (right) side of the pitch

Saturday night’s match showed why Gareth Southgate does not completely trust the Liverpool defender for England and Alexander-Arnold needs to tweak his game in order to move forward in his career.

Solskjaer needs to rethink United game plan 

The honeymoon following Cristiano Ronaldo’s return in well and truly over at Manchester United.

After the Portuguese forward lit up Old Trafford on his second debut against Newcastle, the mood could not have been more opposite. A 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa makes it three losses in four games for the Red Devils – and cracks are starting to appear in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) named an unchanged Man United line-up in their 1-0 loss to Villa

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) named an unchanged Man United line-up in their 1-0 loss to Villa

In those three defeats, United’s Norwegian manager has named roughly the same line-up. The back five has remained the same, as has the midfield duo of Scott McTominay and Fred while Paul Pogba continues to flank Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes.

The only change has seen Mason Greenwood rotate with Jadon Sancho on the right wing. With so few modifications to his United line-up, perhaps it’s time for Solskjaer to switch his team up. 

United certainly have the squad depth to do it. The likes of Sancho, Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek have been waiting in the wings for their chances, while Nemanja Matic, Victor Lindelof and Jesse Lingard are reliable options too.  

Solskjaer may be tempted to change his squad around after three defeats in four matches

Solskjaer may be tempted to change his squad around after three defeats in four matches

Foden and De Bruyne can turn the tide in this title race

When Manchester City’s line-up came out against Chelsea on Saturday, the narrative was the same as it has been all season. No recognised centre-forward with Gabriel Jesus on the wing, should City have tried harder for Harry Kane, blah blah blah.

Those questions were put to an end on Saturday afternoon as the return of Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden reminded those critics the attacking power City have at the moment, and why they did not need a striker after all.

De Bruyne, back in that false nine role he thrives in so much, was at the centre of all of City’s good work at Stamford Bridge, particularly in the first-half when Chelsea were sitting deep.  

Phil Foden (right) and Kevin de Bruyne (left) have returned from injury for Manchester City

Phil Foden (right) and Kevin de Bruyne (left) have returned from injury for Manchester City

Foden, meanwhile, came out with a point to prove after starting the season injured following a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign and some excellent touches on his first Premier League start gave the impression he had not been sidelined at all. 

Those two players were key last season in City’s long winning streak that led them to the title and the signs are already good this season. 

Pep Guardiola’s side should have put away more goals against title rivals Chelsea and with the likes of Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus looking sharp too, City look like serious contenders again. 

De Bruyne (middle) and Foden (right) impressed during City's 1-0 victory over rivals Chelsea

De Bruyne (middle) and Foden (right) impressed during City’s 1-0 victory over rivals Chelsea

Leicester’s inability to defend crosses halting their progress

It has been a tricky start to the new season for Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City, who currently lie in the bottom half of the table after winning just two out of their opening six games. 

There have been some positives signs for the Foxes: Jamie Vardy looks back to his best after dropping down the goal charts last term, while Harvey Barnes is back from injury and Boubakary Soumare and Patson Daka look like clever buys. 

Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City have won just two out of their opening six league matches

Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City have won just two out of their opening six league matches

But results have not been good enough for the side who has finished fifth in the past two seasons, and matters need to change if Leicester want to be challenging near the top again. 

One of the key weaknesses in Rodgers’ side so far this season is their inability to defend crosses. Both of Burnley’s goals in their 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium on Saturday came from wide areas, either in open play or dead ball scenarios. 

Leicester have also shipped goals from crosses against Brighton, Napoli in the Europa League, while most of their goals in their 4-1 loss to West Ham came from out wide.

This defensive frailty is halting their progress – the Foxes really do miss the injured Wesley Fofana and Jonny Evans at the back.  

Two goals conceded in their 2-2 draw with Burnley shows their inability to defend crosses

Two goals conceded in their 2-2 draw with Burnley shows their inability to defend crosses

Patience in Raul Jimenez paying off for Wolves  

What a moment for Raul Jimenez on Sunday. Nine months on from a skull fracture that threatened the end of his career, the Wolves striker was back on the scoresheet by netting the winner in a 1-0 victory at Southampton. 

It was such a well taken goal as well, beating two defenders on multiple occasions in a wonderful solo strike – and his wild celebrations showed how much that meant to him.

Credit must go to Bruno Lage’s Wolves for sticking with their No 9 as their key option up front. 

Raul Jimenez (left) made an emotional return to the scoresheet in Wolves' win at Southampton

Raul Jimenez (left) made an emotional return to the scoresheet in Wolves’ win at Southampton

The Molineux club may have been tempted to ease the 29-year-old back into action or find another striker to replace him, but Jimenez has been the main man up front for Wolves and that decision paid off over the weekend. 

 Now the Mexican is off the mark for the season, he can start showing why he was Wolves’ talisman before his shocking head injury. 

 Ismaila Sarr will be why Watford can stay up and Norwich cannot

Newly-promoted Watford and Norwich had very similar tests over the weekend. Both sides took on Newcastle and Everton teams who where there for the taking. 

Watford came up against a Magpies side without key striker Callum Wilson and without a win all season, while Norwich went to an Everton squad lacking in confidence and without key men Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. 

Ismaila Sarr (left) rescued a point for Watford in their top-flight home game with Newcastle

Ismaila Sarr (left) rescued a point for Watford in their top-flight home game with Newcastle

The difference between the two sides come Saturday afternoon was that one team has the talisman to keep them up this season, while Norwich do not.

Ismaila Sarr rescued a draw against Steve Bruce’s Newcastle to continue his excellent start to the season and while Teemu Pukki has a similar role for Norwich, he was not good enough to keep them up two years ago and still is not now. 

Watford’s start to the season has been enough to give them hope. Two wins already, plus the Newcastle draw, keeps them above a dwindling pack of teams who are struggling to create any sort of form.

One of those sides is Norwich, and with no wins, no points, and 16 goals shipped in six games, their fans may start thinking about their Championship away days next term.

Meanwhile Norwich (above) do not have a talisman like Watford's Sarr to rely on this season

Meanwhile Norwich (above) do not have a talisman like Watford’s Sarr to rely on this season

Leeds lacking squad depth

Second season syndrome is really starting to hit Leeds hard. Marcelo Bielsa’s men have failed to pick up a win in any of their six games so far and currently lie in the relegation zone. 

The Whites looked good against West Ham but their injury-hit side were heartbroken late on by Michail Antonio’s late winner in a 2-1 defeat. 

Bielsa was without the injured Patrick Bamford while the majority of their defenders are also sidelined. Those setbacks meant Rodrigo, who has been used in an attacking midfield role at Elland Road, started up front, while 19-year-old Charlie Cresswell was given his Premier League debut at centre-half. 

Leeds are still without a Premier League victory this season after a 2-1 home loss to West Ham

Leeds are still without a Premier League victory this season after a 2-1 home loss to West Ham

While those absences and changes were not completely pivotal to Leeds’ loss on Saturday, especially considering Cresswell impressed on debut, the Whites’ lack of squad depth is holding them back from more points and Premier League security this term. 

Left-back Junior Firpo and Manchester United’s Daniel James were the only two marquee signings this summer, with Bielsa still missing a reliable back-up option for Bamford and reliable defensive options in a leaky backline. 

An important few weeks lie ahead for Bielsa’s men, with Leeds facing Watford, Southampton, Wolves and Norwich in their next four league games. Points have to be picked up then or fans will really start worrying about their top-flight status. 

Marcelo Bielsa (left) may be regretting not signing a back-up for the injured Patrick Bamford

Marcelo Bielsa (left) may be regretting not signing a back-up for the injured Patrick Bamford

Brentford are the real deal – they are on course to stay up 

What a result for Brentford against Liverpool on Saturday, as the Bees’ excellent start to their debut Premier League campaign continues. 

The west Londoners’ performance on Sunday summed up how Brentford have been since they joined the Premier League – bold, ambitious but humble when taking on European giants like Jurgen Klopp’s side.

This start has been emphatic and immediate but has been in the making for a long time. 

Brentford do not look out of place in this Premier League season after their draw with Liverpool

Brentford do not look out of place in this Premier League season after their draw with Liverpool

Players like Vitaly Janelt and Yoanne Wissa – who both scored against the Reds – were brought in as part of the club’s statistical recruitment policy for a combined total of £9million. 

With several Premier League teams, including last season’s Championship winners Norwich, splashing out millions on players who have not performed so far this term, Brentford have a trick up their sleeve which could see them overachieve and secure survival.

That Liverpool point, meanwhile, could be vital given they are in the middle of a very tricky run of games that sees them travel to West Ham next, before taking on Chelsea and Leicester City in front of their raucous supporters.  

After that, the Bees face their relegation rivals in Burnley, Norwich and Newcastle – more fantastic chances to get points on the board.  

 



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