EPL review: Walcott the happy dad and other things we learned this weekend
Chelsea stayed top, Manchester City registered a gritty win at Burnley, Manchester United lost more ground following yet another home draw and Liverpool were left sweating on Philippe Coutinho.
Here are five things we learned in the Premier League this weekend:
Chelsea can mix it too
Chelsea stormed to the top of the Premier League with a run of six successive wins in which they generally outclassed their opponents. But Saturday’s 2-1 comeback victory over Tottenham Hotspur showed they are also capable of going toe-to-toe with teams who prove themselves to be on the same level. Christian Eriksen gave Spurs an 11th-minute lead and Mauricio Pochettino’s side were truly dominant in the first half, but goals either side of half-time by Pedro Rodriguez and Victor Moses turned the game on its head.
Chelsea got to grips with Spurs’ high press and withstood the visitors’ physicality in midfield to reclaim their place at the league summit. They visit Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City next weekend looking to record an eighth successive league victory for the first time since 2010.
Man City have depth in resources and spirit
Manchester City’s scruffy 2-1 win over Burnley on Saturday might have scored low on style points, but for Pep Guardiola, the trip to Turf Moor underlined the importance of his squad’s strength in depth. The City manager made five changes to his starting line-up following the mid-week Champions League draw against Borussia Moenchengladbach as he wanted “fresh legs”.
The switches included leaving out defender John Stones and putting key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne on the bench. Burnley took a 14th-minute lead through Dean Marney’s volley, but City hit back to win via a pair of scrappy Sergio Aguero goals either side of half-time. City showed character to survive Burnley’s late pressure and record successive league wins for the first time since September.
Liverpool must learn to live without Coutinho
Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Sunderland came at the cost of an injury to Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who could be out until the New Year with suspected ankle ligament damage. The 24-year-old has been Liverpool’s key attacking player to date this season, supplying five goals and six assists and reportedly attracting interest from Barcelona.
With fellow schemer Adam Lallana currently nursing a groin injury and Sadio Mane set for Africa Cup of Nations duty with Senegal in January, manager Jurgen Klopp finds himself without Coutinho at a particularly unfortunate juncture.
Man United’s scoring problems are chronic
They may boast one of the most star-studded squads in world football, but Manchester United are currently experiencing a damaging goal shortage in the Premier League. Their 1-1 draw with West Ham United on Sunday was their fourth home league stalemate in succession — something they last experienced in 1980 — and in those games they have scored just three goals.
United showed they know where the goal is in Thursday’s 4-0 Europa League win over Feyenoord, but their profligacy in the league is costing them. They currently stand in sixth place, a gaping 11 points below leaders Chelsea after just 13 matches.
Walcott is a happy dad
Theo Walcott might be in for a few sleepless nights after the birth of his second child, but the Arsenal winger produced a welcome delivery of his own to put his side on course for a 3-1 win over Bournemouth. Walcott’s partner Melanie did the hard work in bringing baby Arlo into the world on Friday and the England international marked the occasion with the crucial second goal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Callum Wilson cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s opener for Arsenal with a contentious penalty, but Walcott produced a rare header from Nacho Monreal’s 53rd-minute cross — celebrating with a ‘rock the baby’ gesture — to restore the hosts’ lead. Sanchez’s second goal secured victory as Arsenal ended a run of three straight draws.
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