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Three talking points from the Premier League

03 October 2021   |   9:49 pm
Chelsea head into the international break top of the Premier League as the Blues were the only side in the top six to win this weekend after seeing off Southampton 3-1

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo throws his shirt in the air as he celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League group F football match between Manchester United and Villarreal at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2021. – Manchester United won the match 2-1. (Photo by Anthony Devlin / AFP)

Chelsea head into the international break top of the Premier League as the Blues were the only side in the top six to win this weekend after seeing off Southampton 3-1.

Liverpool and Manchester City are just behind after they played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at Anfield, but Manchester United’s title challenge faltered once more at Old Trafford as an injury-hit Everton secured a 1-1 draw.

AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend.

Man City, Liverpool set benchmark

“That’s why the Premier League is the best,” said City boss Pep Guardiola after the spectacle put on by both sides at Anfield.

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 2, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

City and Liverpool have been the dominant force of English football for the past four seasons and for all the talk of Chelsea and Manchester United’s summer signings cutting the gap, they showed why they will be in the mix again come May.

Both had reason to be disappointed as City dominated the first half without reward but then had to twice come from behind after the break.

But Guardiola can take comfort in his side coming through a hugely demanding week better off in the title race than they started thanks to last weekend’s 1-0 win at Chelsea, while United and Liverpool have also dropped points.

Liverpool maintains the only unbeaten record in the English top-flight and Jurgen Klopp was also heartened by his side’s response after being outclassed in the first half.

Haphazard Man United
Manchester United have such an embarrassment of riches in an attack that they felt able to start against Everton with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho on the bench.

But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side came within inches of losing a second consecutive Premier League match when VAR ruled that Yerry Mina’s close-range finish was offside.

United started brightly at Old Trafford but as the game wore on they once again showed a lack of fluency and a worrying vulnerability against the counter-attack.

Bruno Fernandes, who created Anthony Martial’s goal in the 1-1 draw, voiced his frustration that his side struggle to maintain their intensity in matches.

“We have to learn and the time is now because we cannot do this anymore,” he told MUTV. “We did it so many times. We cannot slow the game down when we’re winning.”

United are still in touch at the top of the Premier League but their next four league games are against Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham and City.

Fernandes says “many, many things” have to be improved. If the message goes unheeded United could soon be out of the title picture.

Leicester’s cause for concern
FA Cup holders Leicester have been the closest challengers to breaking the hold of City, Liverpool, Chelsea and United for a top-four finish in each of the past two seasons.

In both campaigns, the Foxes relied on a flying start to even come close before fading away in the second half of the campaign as the demands on their more limited resources shown.

But there has been no such spring in the step of Brendan Rodgers’ men early this season as they have won just two of their opening seven league games.

Despite racing into a 2-0 lead at Crystal Palace on Sunday, Rodgers’ men could not hold out as the Eagles stormed back in the second half to make a point.

“They are giving everything but we just aren’t playing to our level,” said Rodgers.

“It might be different this season compared to the last two when we have started on fire and dropped off a little bit. Hopefully, this can be the season where we can build and finish the second part of the season really strong.”

Next up for Leicester after the international break is the visit of United to the King Power with both sides in need of the points.