10 Key Observations from the Premier League: Man United’s Stagnation, Arsenal’s Big Game Struggles, and Klopp’s In-Game Mastery

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It was another thrilling weekend of Premier League action with shocking performances and stunning results aplenty. 

Liverpool became the sixth different team to finish a gameweek on top of the table after their latest late-showing away to Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime. 

Aston Villa completed a sensational double by toppling Mikel Arteta’s profligate Arsenal side three days after dominating Manchester City. 

Everton turned in another superb performance, while Fulham remarkably recorded their second successive 5-0 win. 

And of course there’s Manchester United and their sorry display against Bournemouth. Mail Sport picks out 10 things we learned from the Premier League weekend. 

Everton beat struggling Chelsea to seal their third-straight Premier League win at the weekend

John McGinn scored the only goal on Sunday night as Aston Villa toppled Arsenal at Villa Park

John McGinn scored the only goal on Sunday night as Aston Villa toppled Arsenal at Villa Park

 

Manchester United’s ‘unvirtuous circle’

United have turned the corner so many times this season that their supporters must be dizzy. On Saturday they responded terribly to their fantastic response following a mediocre response that came after a dogged one. 

For anyone struggling to keep track, that translates to losses against Bournemouth and Newcastle either side of wins over Everton and Chelsea. 

It’s difficult to draw any lasting conclusions from their latest failure. This is just what Man United do. Their perfectly symmetrical record this season shows this; 11 wins, 11 losses, one draw. 

It will surprise absolutely no one to see them record a win against Bayern Munich in midweek before getting thumped at Anfield on Sunday. Unfortunately for United supporters, that might not be enough to rescue their Champions League hopes or keep pace with the top-four chasers. 

And nothing seems like it changing any time soon. 

Man United suffered their 11th defeat in all competitions this season against Bournemouth

Man United suffered their 11th defeat in all competitions this season against Bournemouth

 

Bournemouth are a top-half team

Andoni Iraola looked to be on the brink of the sack after defeat to Wolves in October left his side 19th and winless in their first nine league games. 

Since then, Bournemouth have lost just one of their seven fixtures, winning four of their last five against the likes of Newcastle and Man United. 

Now 10 points clear of the relegation zone, the Cherries will have their sights set on claiming a top-half finish this season, which is very attainable under the tutelage of their impressive manager. 

Saturday’s win at Old Trafford proved that the side have the ability to compete and are capable of exploiting the complacency of bigger sides. 

Bournemouth had just 31 per cent of the ball but recorded an xG of 1.48, compared to United’s 1.16. The visitors also had more big chances, shots on target and a marginal handball decision go against them that would have made the scoreline even more emphatic. 

Andoni Iraola has recovered from a slow start to guide his side well clear of the relegation zone

Andoni Iraola has recovered from a slow start to guide his side well clear of the relegation zone

 

Villa are in the title race… but they’re clearly fourth favourites 

It’s been quite the week for Villa, with home wins against Manchester City and Arsenal showing the strength of Unai Emery’s side. 

The Spaniard has transformed the fortunes of the club in a little over a year, leaving many to wonder whether a Leicester-style title triumph is in their future. 

In reality, Villa’s squad is far superior to Leicester’s in 2015-16 but then, so is the opposition. Emery’s outfit displayed a superb ability to grind out the win against the Gunners. 

But the victory revealed there is still some way to go. Villa were unable to win the battle for possession, they had fewer shots, a lower xG and the Gunners squandered four big chances. 

On another day that would have been a relatively comfortable win for the away side. That’s not to diminish the achievement of Villa, only to temper expectations that have now skyrocketed after their wonderful start. 

Unai Emery has led Aston Villa into the Premier League top three, two points off the leaders

Unai Emery has led Aston Villa into the Premier League top three, two points off the leaders

 

Arsenal need to improve in big games away from home 

Mikel Arteta may have been happy with how his side performed at Villa Park but he’ll still be cursing the most opportunity. 

Arsenal have failed to win five games in the Premier League this season including away losses to Newcastle and Villa, as well as a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. 

In what is shaping up to be a thrilling three-team title race, the Gunners can ill-afford to cede ground to Liverpool and Manchester City. 

The Reds have already claimed all three points at St James’s Park, while Arteta’s side had the chance to better the defending champion’s result in the game prior. 

Arsenal have enjoyed a schedule that has eased them into the campaign, with the majority of their big six match-ups coming at the Emirates. However, as we approach the halfway mark more daunting away trips await. 

Arsenal were leapfrogged in the league table after suffering their second defeat of the season

Arsenal were leapfrogged in the league table after suffering their second defeat of the season

 

Everton are better than Chelsea

Three wins on the bounce for Sean Dyche’s side have lifted them out of the relegation zone, almost as quickly as they were plunged into it by the Premier League’s unceremonious 10-point penalty. 

After Sunday’s 2-0 win over Chelsea, the Toffees looked like the mid-table side, while the visitors cut the figure of a team barely escaping the drop. 

Everton would be four points ahead of the Blues had their not been penalised by the league and that gap was apparent on the weekend. 

Chelsea might possess the greater talent – they’ve certainly spent more on acquiring it – but it’s impossible to argue that they are a better unit. Dyche appears to have finally fashioned the roster into his image and he is bearing the fruits of that labour. 

Everton had only 28 per cent of the ball, yet managed to record more shots on target and big chances, all while restricting Mauricio Pochettino’s outfit to scraps. 

Abdoulaye Doucoure opened the scoring for Everton with his sixth goal of the league season

Abdoulaye Doucoure opened the scoring for Everton with his sixth goal of the league season

 

Wilder’s appointment gives Blades a slim survival chance

It’s hard to image that Sheffield United would have been capable of their performance at the weekend under previous manager Paul Heckingbottom. 

Against Brentford, the Blades worked tirelessly, maintained a solid defensive structure and were able to get – and stay – in front after a stunning goal from James McAtee. 

The work done by Wilder in only a few days at the club was evident to see. However, Sheffield United are not going to come up against a side with virtually no attacking options every week. 

And if they are to complete an incredible escape, they’ll have to maintain that same level of performance for the remainder of the season. They still face one hell of a task but the appointment of Wilder has improved their chances, even if it is only slightly. 

Chris Wilder earned his first points at the second time of asking after returning to the Blades

Chris Wilder earned his first points at the second time of asking after returning to the Blades

 

There’s still a quality striker in Raul Jimenez

Three years on from his horror head injury, Raul Jimenez has reminded everyone of the talent that once struck fear into Premier League defenders. 

Yes, it’s a small sample size. But after going 33 league matches without a goal, finding the net in back-to-back appearances should be celebrated. 

The three goals that the Mexican has grabbed have also evoked memories of his days in Wolves orange. His second in the 5-0 win over Forest was finished off with a cheeky backheel. And the opener against West Ham was a wonderfully placed header. 

Before their recent goalscoring splurge, Fulham looked certain to end their gamble on the 32-year-old and recruit attacking reinforcements in the upcoming transfer window. But Jimenez’s last two displays could give them reason to save their money this winter.   

Raul Jimenez scored the opening goal for Fulham as they thrashed West Ham 5-0 this weekend

Raul Jimenez scored the opening goal for Fulham as they thrashed West Ham 5-0 this weekend

 

Newcastle’s miserable away form goes beyond their injury crisis

Newcastle’s only away win this season was an 8-0 drubbing of Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. 

Either side of that historic victory, Eddie Howe’s side have struggled to replicate their reliably strong performances at St James’s Park. 

The Magpies can provide mitigation for their away struggles in recent weeks, and Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Tottenham was just the latest example of an incredibly stretched squad showing its mental and physical fatigue. 

At home, Newcastle have managed to feed off the energy of the crowd and limp to the final whistle with the result intact, but its a different story on the road. 

They face a crunch game in the Champions League against AC Milan before welcoming free-scoring Fulham on Saturday. Then it’s three tough away days in four matches as Chelsea, Luton and Liverpool await. Howe will hope his stricken troops will be back to health by then.  

Eddie Howe's side suffered their fifth away defeat in the league against Spurs on Sunday

Eddie Howe’s side suffered their fifth away defeat in the league against Spurs on Sunday

 

Klopp is a master of in-game adjustments 

Liverpool completed another late turnaround on Saturday when they beat Crystal Palace 2-1 to climb to the Premier League summit. 

It was the 18th point Jurgen Klopp’s side have won from losing positions, with substitute Harvey Elliot proving the match winner on this occasion. 

And though Elliot and Mohamed Salah, who scored his 200th goal for the club, have rightfully taken the plaudits, the German manager should be lauded for his remarkable ability to affect a game from the touchline. 

Klopp is undoubtedly helped by the abundance of attacking options he has at his disposal. Still, in recent victories against Palace and Fulham, his changes have swung the game. 

And let’s not forget about his adjustments earlier in the campaign when his side were short of their full quota for long stretchers against Newcastle, Bournemouth and Spurs.   

Jurgen Klopp has seen his several of his substitutions make decisive contributions this season

Jurgen Klopp has seen his several of his substitutions make decisive contributions this season

 

Man City won’t just give away their title 

Liverpool and Arsenal fans dared to dream of a title race absent of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side.

Luton led the Premier League champions at the break and were set to inflict a second consecutive defeat and extend their winless run to five games. 

The Hatters came out for the second half and continued to look confident, continued to threaten and force the City defence in cheap set-pieces concessions. 

But just after the hour Bernardo Silva curved in a wonderful effort before Jack Grealish scored three minuets later and normal service had resumed. 

City are just four points off the top after their catastrophic spell. They may not be leading the table right now but they’re still the team to beat.  

Manchester City edged out a narrow win against relegation-threatened Luton at the weekend

Manchester City edged out a narrow win against relegation-threatened Luton at the weekend

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

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