EPL roundup: Five things we learnt this weekend
Premier League leaders Manchester City continue to impress under Pep Guardiola, but Jose Mourinho has problems at Manchester United after a third consecutive defeat in all competitions.
Here are five things we learnt this weekend.
Pogba emblematic of Man United’s problems
As the standard-bearers of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United revolution, it was instructive to note the differing reactions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba to their embarrassing 3-1 loss at Watford. After a chastening afternoon that saw United suffer their third successive defeat, Ibrahimovic could barely disguise his disgust as he grimaced and cursed at the final whistle. Pogba, in contrast, did not look unduly bothered by United’s troubles as he strolled off following another tepid personal display. To date, Pogba has not come close to justifying the world-record 89 million pounds ($115.7 million, 103.7 million euros) fee United paid to sign him from Juventus. He seems misused in a deep-lying role and produced just one moment of note, rattling the crossbar with a 25-yard shot. If United are to challenge for their first English title since 2013, Mourinho must get much more from Pogba, as well as making sure Ibrahimovic’s competitive streak rubs off on the rest of the team.
De Bruyne plugs Aguero gap for Man City
Manchester City have been without striker Sergio Aguero for their last two league games, but they have not missed him thanks to the superb form of attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgium international scored one goal and helped make another in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Manchester United and was equally influential in the 4-0 victory over Bournemouth. He opened the scoring by cleverly stroking a free-kick beneath the jumping defensive wall and had a hand in all of City’s other goals. “Maybe Messi can sit alone at the table. But that table aside, Kevin can stay there,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “He sees absolutely everything.”
Things are happening at Everton
Everton beat Middlesbrough 3-1, giving them their best start to an English top-flight season since 1978 and leaving them two points behind Manchester City in second place. Manager Ronald Koeman has hit the ground running since succeeding Roberto Martinez as manager and new signings Ashley Williams, Idrissa Gueye and Yannick Bolasie are bedding in quickly. “(Koeman) has kept things pretty simple,” said midfielder Gareth Barry, who marked his 600th Premier League appearance with Everton’s equaliser. “We’ve taken on board the manager’s instructions this season and the team is playing with confidence.”
The big teams need fear Liverpool
Liverpool have wasted no time flexing their muscles this season, beating Arsenal, Leicester City — last season’s top two — and 2015 champions Chelsea in their first five games. Friday’s 2-1 win at Chelsea was another lesson in asphyxiating intensity and breathless endeavour. Dejan Lovren’s volley and Jordan Henderson’s superb long-range curler put the visitors in control and although Diego Costa reduced the arrears, the margin of victory was misleading — Liverpool were never in trouble. Jurgen Klopp’s side look a match for any team in the division, but as their 2-0 loss at Burnley demonstrated, they can struggle when opponents sit back and force them to take the initiative. It may be matches such as next weekend’s home fixture with Hull City, rather than the glamour games in which they have already excelled, that dictate whether Liverpool can go the distance.
Stoke aren’t very Stoke anymore
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes was applauded for introducing a slicker playing style at the club last season, with talented forwards Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic delighting neutrals. They finished ninth, but have made a dreadful start to the current campaign and were left bottom of the table after losing 4-1 at Crystal Palace. Palace’s first three goals all stemmed from set-pieces — exactly the kind of goal Stoke were renowned for not conceding under Hughes’s no-nonsense predecessor Tony Pulis.