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

·9 min read

Ralf Rangnick has plenty to consider, Eberechi Eze needs time and Watford may have a goalscorer to give hope


1) Rangnick’s time to revive United is short

The good news for Ralf Rangnick is that no manager, whoever it might be, could possibly extract less from Manchester United’s squad than has been the case over the last few months. Ole Gunnar Solskjær was rightly held responsible for this – though it is worth noting that had Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw given him performances that were as good as poor, he would still have a job. In any event, a difficult run for United ends with Arsenal on Thursday, after which they face an easier programme that should, in theory, leave them well-placed to secure a top-four finish. The decision Rangnick must make is whether to change as little as possible and simply improve what’s there – the lower-risk, lower-reward option – or introduce further complexity into an already busy period by introducing the style in which he wants United to play as soon as possible, in the knowledge that it might make things worse before they get better. Daniel Harris

Related: Hand of Ralf Rangnick can be seen already in the dropping of Ronaldo | Barney Ronay

2) Benítez must take risks to halt slide

Everton supporters have long come to dread the Merseyside derby and that is undeniably the case ahead of Liverpool’s visit on Wednesday. Jürgen Klopp’s side are rampant while their rivals are well and truly in a rut having now gone seven games without a victory following their defeat to Brentford. For Rafael Benítez the situation is critical and while he insists he retains the backing of the club’s majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, things could quickly turn against him should his former side inflict serious damage on his current one. For this most cautious of managers the time may have come to take some risks. A change of system, from 4-4-1-1 to 4-3-3, would make sense given it would allow Everton to match up with Liverpool, while from a personnel point of view, now may be the time to give highly-rated young striker Ellis Simms a start. The 20-year-old cannot do much worse than Salomón Rondón and it may just be that what his stale team need is a burst of youthful endeavour. Sachin Nakrani

3) Aubameyang waning powers cause concern

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a habit of offering effective ripostes to his doubters, so perhaps Manchester United should feel concerned about Arsenal’s visit on Thursday. But the Gunners’ form cannot hide a problem that needs resolving sooner or later: their captain’s strike-rate has slowed drastically and, while the burden is being shared more healthily around an exciting young side, the situation needs resolving. Mikel Arteta is pleased with Aubameyang’s improvement off the ball and punched the air when he charged down a first-half clearance in the win over Newcastle; shortly afterwards, though, the striker produced one of the misses of the season and it means he remains stuck on four league goals. Aubameyang missed a penalty in the previous home game, against Watford, and his rustiness may worry Arteta. He turns 33 next June and Arsenal need a credible succession plan: what a timely afternoon it was, then, for Gabriel Martinelli to provide a long-awaited reminder of his predatory gifts. Nick Ames

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misses a simple chance.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misses a simple chance. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

4) Tuchel needs more from his forward line

Frank Lampard was sacked following a run of three clean sheets in 12 matches – a situation Thomas Tuchel addressed immediately. In his first 10 league games, Chelsea conceded just twice, so far this season they have let in only five, and though their best is not as good as Manchester City’s best, the Premier League boasts more attacking talent than ever before so it is no coincidence that its most solid outfit are top. That said, Chelsea often lack attacking imagination, making it surprising that the misfiring Timo Werner started against Manchester United. His movement and pressing are useful, but these simply cannot be the best qualities of a centre-forward, and though Romelu Lukaku will soon retake his starting spot, the balance still isn’t quite right. The sense persists that Tuchel can find an attacking combination to make his team an even sterner proposition. Daniel Harris

Related: Stability and rest key to Liverpool’s scintillating form, says Jürgen Klopp

5) Dennis gives Hornets hope of staying up

Watford may not have kept a clean sheet in a club-record 23 top-flight games but in Emmanuel Dennis they have a goalscorer who can spearhead enough of an attacking threat to keep Claudio Ranieri’s team clear of relegation danger. Only Mohamed Salah has more goal contributions in the Premier League this season than the 24-year-old Nigerian who cost a paltry £4.5million from Club Brugge. He scored his sixth goal of the season in the 4-2 defeat at Leicester and could have had a fifth assist when he attempted to play in Josh King early in the second half when the game was still in the balance. He had won the penalty that King earlier converted. Pete Lansley

• Match report: Leicester 4-2 Watford

6) Eze to build momentum after return

Patrick Vieira believes Eberechi Eze could take a couple of months to rediscover his best form for Crystal Palace after returning from injury in the defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday. The 23-year-old injured his achilles during a training session in May and had been due to link up with Gareth Southgate’s England squad before Euro 2020, only to be ruled out. But while Vieira was delighted with the reception for Eze in the loss to Villa, he knows that the player signed from QPR last year must be handled with care over the coming weeks. “He is one of the fans’ favourites and he has been doing really good,” said the Palace manager. “But we need to understand that when a player has seven months out of competition it will take time for him to get to his best. Every week he is making progress but we are not expecting very much for the first couple of months.” Ed Aarons

7) Bielsa needs to change Leeds dynamic

Marcelo Bielsa had never previously spent more than two seasons at any club. This is his fourth at Leeds, which means we are infresh territory. Threatened by relegation and with growing fan disgruntlement, Bielsa now has to breathe new life into his project. Summer signings are yet to make an impact. Injuries and Covid have hit his team harder than most. The return of Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling should help, and Bielsa will certainly not compromise on his approach, but does the old master have any new tricks up his sleeve? Jonathan Liew

Jürgen Klopp has got Liverpool’s swagger back.
Jürgen Klopp has got Liverpool’s swagger back. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

8) Reds back to their best as Klopp learns from errors

With Liverpool again recognisable in form and personnel to the side that swept to the title in 2020 - but currently more prolific - there is a temptation to gloss over last season and leave its injury torment locked behind closed doors. To Jürgen Klopp and his players, however, it remains a valuable lesson and motivation. Klopp admits he “made mistakes” last season - primarily in not trusting Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams earlier in central defence and attempting to plug defensive holes with midfielders. “I learned a lot,” he said after Saturday’s comfortable defeat of Southampton made it 702 goals in 338 games in the Klopp era. His players are also driven by the desire to reassert title-winning credentials. “My job is to make the lineup, organise training sessions and help create an atmosphere within the team,” added Klopp. “But on the pitch the players have to do it themselves. The things that happened to this team in the last few years were special and massively because of their outstanding mindset. They push each other.” Andy Hunter

• Match report: Liverpool 4-0 Southampton

9) Hammers should add quality to help top-four bid

On this performance West Ham may be wise to take the plunge in the January transfer window for the one or two players to help seal a memorable top-four finish. David Moyes plan A is for Declan Rice to maraud midfield, claim the ball, and then he, or a teammate, to hitMichail Antonio. After this, plan B is well, plan A. Against Manchester City’s team of gliders and expert game-managers there were only flashes of the ploy and while it did hurt the champions Manuel Lanzini’s late strike was consolation only. To add the extra dimension that may allow West Ham to end as Champions League qualifiers Moyes has to add the quality that can give them a differing option. This could close as the most successful Premier League campaign in the club’s history if the purse strings can be loosened. Jamie Jackson

10) Shot-shy Wolves require more dynamism

Wolves’ sixth place represents a decent start to life under Bruno Lage. But they are still struggling to score, managing just 12 goals in 13 games and at Norwich, drew their sixth blank of the season. Were Nuno Espírito Santo still in charge, this could be explained by his reactive, defensive inclination, but they now play more aggressively, and even allowing time for things to settle, to be so impotent with so much talent is bizarre. In midfield, João Moutinho and Rúben Neves have touch and vision, while in front of them, Raúl Jiménez, Adama Traoré, Hwang Hee-chan and Francisco Trincão offer pace, power, trickery and nous. Given their collective struggles can be blamed on neither philosophy nor ability, might the issue be one of personality? Do any of these players have the competitive charisma necessary to regularly impose themselves on games? If they cannot find it or develop it, Lagemight soon be looking around for players who can. Daniel Harris

Pos

Team

P

GD

Pts

1

Chelsea

13

26

30

2

Man City

13

20

29

3

Liverpool

13

28

28

4

West Ham

13

8

23

5

Arsenal

13

-2

23

6

Wolverhampton

13

0

20

7

Tottenham Hotspur

12

-6

19

8

Man Utd

13

-1

18

9

Brighton

13

-2

18

10

Leicester

13

-3

18

11

Crystal Palace

13

0

16

12

Brentford

13

0

16

13

Aston Villa

13

-3

16

14

Everton

13

-4

15

15

Southampton

13

-7

14

16

Watford

13

-6

13

17

Leeds

13

-8

12

18

Burnley

12

-6

9

19

Norwich

13

-20

9

20

Newcastle

13

-14

6

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