Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

1) Arsenal cannot do without Sánchez

On the corresponding weekend of last season, Alexis Sánchez suffered the hamstring injury at Norwich City that would rule him out for two months. It was the afternoon when the Arsenal forward had also been pushed into the TV camera pit at Carrow Road by Ryan Bennett – an act that Arsène Wenger said “could have killed” the Chilean. Arsenal’s hopes have come to be closely linked to Sánchez’s fitness, on him staying out of the red zone, and there was plenty of nervousness at the club when he hurt his hamstring in training with Chile during the most recent international break. But he came through the scare and he was indefatigable in the 3-1 home win over Bournemouth on Sunday, when his two goals and all-round hustle made the difference. “Even when he looks dead, he is still alive,” Wenger said, with a smile. David Hytner

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2) Guardiola’s changes keep City fresh

Only three Premier League teams have reached 30 points a third of the way into the season and the fact that Manchester City are among them gives Pep Guardiola immense satisfaction. “We have had to play eight more games than Liverpool and Chelsea because they are not in Europe,” the City manager said after the hard-fought victory at Burnley. He did not add that two of them were torrid affairs against Barcelona, though he could have done. “We can now take a week to prepare for our game against Chelsea, we are only a point off the top of the table and that is why I am so happy with the first half of the season.” One of the reasons City had to work hard at Turf Moor was that John Stones was surprisingly rested. David Silva and Ilkay Gündogan were given days off too, and Kevin De Bruyne came on from the bench, but Guardiola admitted City found it difficult to deal with Burnley’s aerial onslaught because “their players are taller than ours”. It was a rotation policy that could have backfired. Burnley would not have been flattered by a draw if an early penalty had been awarded for a clear foul by Nicolás Otamendi, though Guardiola managed to get away with keeping key players fresh before the leaders’ visit to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. “There are a lot of games, that’s why you have 23 players,” he said. “But you don’t have to use them all each week, you can go with just 14.” Paul Wilson

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3) What a difference two months has made for Chelsea

Antonio Conte believes Chelsea are a “different team” now compared to that which wilted so alarmingly against Liverpool and Arsenal, with the leaders buoyed by seven consecutive wins and confident they can impose themselves against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. It is a conviction shared by his players. “Two months ago we went to Arsenal and we weren’t ready, but now we know what we have to do,” Eden Hazard said. “Manchester City and Liverpool are both good so, if we want to be top at the end, we have to finish above them.” One key member of that revived selection, the winger turned wing-back Victor Moses, is set to start talks over an improved contract in the new year having attracted interest from Barcelona in recent weeks. The Nigeria international, who scored the winner against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, has spent the past three seasons out on loan and has two years to run on his deal, but is likely to join Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois in entering talks over securing a longer-term deal. Dominic Fifield

4) Tymon gives Hull a glimmer of homegrown hope

Josh Tymon was born in May 1999, two weeks after Hull finished 21st in the fourth tier, and the 17-year-old could be key to another survival effort this season. After helping to keep Arsenal at bay in last season’s FA Cup, Tymon has impressed in EFL Cup games, where Hull’s second string have beaten Exeter, Stoke and Bristol City away from home to reach the quarter-finals. With Andrew Robertson injured, Tymon made his Premier League debut against Sunderland last week, becoming the first son of the city to play a league game for the club since Dean Windass. Tymon started at home against West Brom, and proved a match for Matt Phillips and Chris Brunt, who both tried and failed to exploit the left-back’s inexperience as Hull snatched a point. Robertson is likely to regain his place, but with Mike Phelan’s under-strength squad set to be stretched further throughout the festive period, Tymon could provide reliability and versatility beyond his years – the teenager has played in midfield in both cup competitions. Perhaps the wholehearted efforts of a local boy, reportedly earning less than £200 a week, could also have an impact off the field, with so many fans disillusioned with the state of the club. Judging by the swathes of empty seats at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday, that may be a bridge too far. Niall McVeigh

5) Spirit of Pearson may point way forward for Leicester

It was a triumph, of sorts, that Leicester City escaped with a draw against Middlesbrough from what was the champions’ worst display of the season so far. There were several problems but the one that concerned Claudio Ranieri most was his team’s sloppiness, which he attributed to the mental looseness that success has brought. So he said he wants his players to start playing not like last season but the season before, when the prospect of relegation honed the focus of a side then managed by Nigel Pearson. “They remember last season, when everybody played well and everything they tried was good but this year we have to reconnect our brains,” Ranieri said. “They must remember how it was two years ago. The mistakes [against Middlesbrough] came from losses of concentration. If you are under pressure you are very smart, attentive and very careful of every breath. It is not possible to be relaxed.” Paul Doyle

6) Denayer’s shackling job may inspire future Liverpool opponents

The ankle injury that forced Philippe Coutinho to leave Liverpool’s victory against Sunderland on a stretcher was Jürgen Klopp’s gravest concern on Saturday, but not the only one. As soon as the referee Anthony Taylor blew the first whistle at Anfield Jason Denayer, Sunderland’s on-loan defender from Manchester City, sprinted from his holding midfield role to Coutinho’s side. He stayed there limpet-like until Liverpool’s No10 escaped for the first time and ran into the clearance from Didier Ndong that curtailed his game. In those 30 minutes, with Coutinho subdued, Sadio Mané’s touch eluding him, and Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge injured, Sunderland stifled the Premier League’s leading goalscorers quite comfortably. It was the introduction of Divock Origi’s strength and pace that enabled Liverpool to rediscover their threat and stretch the Sunderland defence to the point of exhaustion in the second half. Despite another important, deserved victory , Klopp was in no mood to discuss David Moyes’s deployment of Denayer on Saturday. “Man-marking?” he said. “It’s not my business. Don’t want to talk about it.” The Liverpool manager awaits confirmation of how long Coutinho will be absent with the ankle problem but he may find others copying Moyes’s tactic when the Brazil international does return. Andy Hunter

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7) Payet emphasises his Champions League quality

Dimitri Payet may be tied to West Ham United until 2021 due to the new deal he signed in February but a move for the playmaker must surely be a big temptation for a Champions League challenging club in the winter transfer window. He was the best performer in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford. This was an exhibition of passing, shooting and dead ball delivery that oozed class, with Payet showing similar style to last season’s PFA Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City. The Frenchman earns around £125,000 a week yet this wage and the price of around £40-45m is surely affordable for a Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur to consider making the investment. With this in mind, if West Ham reach 1 February with Payet still at the club they can consider it a success given his top-class quality. Jamie Jackson

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8) Academy focus could serve Koeman well

There was no hiding Ronald Koeman’s anger following Everton’s insipid defeat at St Mary’s and the sense is that he has had enough after a run of one win in eight games. Changes to a generally settled team are surely needed and they could be significant – the captain Phil Jagielka, for instance, could be among those dropped for Sunday’s visit of Manchester United after looking well off the pace against Southampton. Ross Barkley may also be for the chop after another ineffective display by the midfielder at the weekend. The trouble for Koeman is that he does not have a host of stand-out alternatives in reserve. He may be tempted, then, to look at Everton’s options at academy level, although such a prospect should perhaps not fill the club’s supporters with too much hope following the Dutchman’s assertion that he “wasn’t aware” of Josh Sims, after the Southampton youth player shone against Everton on what was his senior debut. Koeman, remember, was Southampton manager for two years. Sachin Nakrani

9) The real Llorente stands up for Swansea at last

Finally Swansea City have seen the real Fernando Llorente and if the Spaniard’s contribution against Crystal Palace is a sign of things to come, it could change the course of the Welsh club’s season. Unable to make the squad at Everton the previous Saturday, Llorente came off the bench against Palace to have a hand in one goal and score the two in injury-time that gave Swansea their first win since the opening day. Leroy Fer has already weighed in with six Premier League goals and Gylfi Sigurdsson continues to be at the centre of everything Swansea do as an attacking force, yet it is the No9 position that has proved so troublesome since Wilfried Bony departed. Llorente, who won the World Cup with Spain and scored prolifically for Athletic Bilbao and Juventus, clearly has the pedigree. Maybe he still has the desire and predatory touch in front of goal, too. Stuart James

10) Martins Indi gives Stoke a glimpse of his potential

Bruno Martins Indi was a key player when Holland finished third in the last World Cup and his performance in Stoke City’s win against Watford demonstrated why he was rated as one of the most promising young defenders in Europe two years ago. He has not quite pushed on since then, failing to establish himself at Porto after his transfer from Feyenoord, but there is obvious potential. Martins Indi snuffed everything out whenever Watford attempted to attack, showing strength in his duels with the burly Troy Deeney and composure whenever he was required to cut out through balls. The 24-year-old is on loan at Stoke and Mark Hughes will want to sign him on a permanent basis if he continues to perform at this level. The fear for Stoke before kick-off was that they would struggle without the injured Ryan Shawcross, but Martins Indi ensured that they did not miss their captain. Stoke’s defence has not always coped well without Shawcross, but Lee Grant was rarely troubled in goal. Jacob Steinberg

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Bram Vreeker

Bram Vreeker

Bram Vreeker is the internationally bestselling author of eleven novels. A pioneer in internet marketing, Vreeker started the first marketing firm for authors and is one of the founding board members of Silly Kitty. Vreeker also teaches an online marketing class to help authors get buzz for their books.


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