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

·9 min read

Leicester have problems, Divock Origi rises to the occasion again and Oliver Skipp grows in importance for Spurs

1) Full-backs the first sign of Rangnick revolution?

Perhaps Ralf Rangnick’s biggest selection call in his first match in charge was to retain Diogo Dalot at right-back ahead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with Alex Telles continuing at left-back in the absence of Luke Shaw. Both were integral to United’s win: Telles having more touches than anyone else on the pitch, Dalot a frequent and threatening outlet on the right flank. In a way, this is another area in which United have fallen behind the elite in recent years, and Rangnick’s approach here suggested an attempt to redress the balance. Attacking full-backs? It may just catch on. Jonathan Liew

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2) Villa seize on Leicester’s typical failings

Leicester’s performance at Villa Park felt like a showreel of the things they’re doing wrong this season. They conceded, again, in the first half. Their haplessness at defending set pieces was culpable once more. And there’s still a sense they need Jamie Vardy’s goals. Vardy wasn’t fit enough to start against Aston Villa, giving Patson Daka a chance to prove himself in the Premier League having shone in the Europa League. And in the first half at least, he took it, showing a combination of tenacity and deft footwork to set up Harvey Barnes’s goal. Leicester’s failure to turn dominance into goals always seemed likely to cost them given their defence’s vulnerability at every deep cross. The vigour Steven Gerrard coaxed from his side after the break will encourage Villa’s manager as much as it will depress Brendan Rodgers that his side had no answer. These domestic travails make progress in Europe all the more important. Napoli away on Thursday feels pivotal. Tom Davies

3) Jansson exposed by his beloved Leeds

Before the game, Thomas Frank had said his captain, Pontus Jansson, was in love with Leeds and, if there was no proof the feeling was mutual, it was notable that a former Elland Road cult hero was not booed on his return to his old club. Perhaps, however, there was an indication of why Marcelo Bielsa surprised many by allowing Jansson to leave. With Leeds man-marking all over the pitch, they left only one outfield player free. Time and again, it was Jansson, Bielsa presumably having primed his current players to believe their former colleague was sufficiently limited in possession they need not worry about him and choosing to put sentries on the other two Brentford centre-backs instead. When Jansson left in 2019, Bielsa replaced him with a better passer, the borrowed Ben White. Richard Jolly

Eddie Howe and his assistant Jason Tindall celebrate Newcastle’s first win of the season.
Eddie Howe and his assistant Jason Tindall celebrate Newcastle’s first win of the season. Photograph: Richard Lee/REX/Shutterstock

4) Newcastle drink in a long-awaited win

Icy rain was sheeting down, but as Eddie Howe and his Newcastle players set off on a celebratory lap of the pitch and St James’ Park roared its appreciation, it might have been a sunny day in May. The unconfined joy was more befitting of Howe’s team having secured a top-six finish rather than winning their first Premier League game of the season at the 15th attempt, but it was entirely understandable. After all, Callum Wilson’s decisive goal against Burnley had ensured it was the first time a full house on Gallowgate had witnessed Newcastle winning at home since 18 January 2020. It also ranked as Howe’s first victory since taking charge last month. Anything, even avoiding relegation, now seems possible on Tyneside. Louise Taylor

5) Liverpool lucky to have a player like Origi

After watching Divock Origi fire a late winner at Wolves that could have seismic implications for the title race, Jürgen Klopp could not believe his luck. “If I would be in another club I would go for him,” he said. “I thought that would happen. I am very happy he is still here but I cannot believe if you don’t play for Liverpool, you cannot be good. This team is outstanding, and if you are here and are number 12 or 13 or 14, you are outstanding.” It was only Origi’s third league outing of the season but his name is writ large in Liverpool folklore, not least due to his dramatic contributions in 2018-19, and Klopp was visibly delighted to see him step up again. Origi is that rare breed in the modern game: a player who understands that he occupies a backup role and embraces it. If and when the 26-year-old does opt to seek regular starts elsewhere, it will be with the most grateful of send-offs. Nick Ames

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6) Grealish still struggling for impact at City

Jack Grealish ought to have departed with the match ball at Watford. Instead he walked off early and slowly, substituted on 68 minutes and smarting after a performance that was marked by profligacy. Manchester City’s record signing had just watched a deflected shot skim the crossbar and it was not his day, the tone having been set when he blew an easy close-range header – the first of five missed chances. Grealish admitted last week that he had found it difficult to adapt at City and he is conscious of his low output: two goals and three assists in 17 appearances. Playing as the false 9, Grealish did not see as much of the ball as he wanted and, when he did get it, he seemed to be trying too hard to impress, taking extra touches or a little too long, rather than relying on his instincts. David Hytner

7) Belligerent Bowen proves his worth

Jarrod Bowen can be frustrating. The winger is a scurrying, driving menace on the right flank for West Ham but sometimes his finishing lets him down. He missed several chances during the draw with Brighton last week and had not scored since 31 October before facing Chelsea. Yet part of Bowen’s appeal is that he never stops going. He is always willing to try his luck and was outstanding against Thomas Tuchel’s side. Bowen drove at Chelsea’s defence from the start and he was rewarded for his energetic pressing when he dispossessed Édouard Mendy, who conceded a penalty with a clumsy foul. Then, with West Ham 2-1 down, it was Bowen who pulled them back into the game with a fizzing left-footed drive. He has been excellent since joining West Ham from Hull in January 2020 and is improving all the time. Jacob Steinberg

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8) Now or never for Tuchel’s expensive understudies

In terms of sheer depth, Chelsea’s squad is probably the strongest in the league. Just as well, because with the festive fixture crunch looming, Thomas Tuchel can count a good few walking wounded among his ranks. The manager said he has “no idea” when N’Golo Kanté will return from a knee injury, adding: “We’re also missing Mateo Kovacic for four or five, six weeks. And Jorginho is playing with hip pain.” Marcos Alonso and Kai Havertz limped off against West Ham, while Ben Chilwell is out until the new year. The good news for Chelsea is that their forthcoming games are eminently winnable – Wolves are the highest-placed of their next six opponents – and the players waiting in the wings boast serious pedigree, as demonstrated by Saturday’s £300m subs’ bench. But it’s time for the understudies to prove their worth: if Christian Pulisic, Ross Barkley and Timo Werner don’t make their mark in Chelsea colours over the next few weeks, will they ever? Alex Hess

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9) Skipp custom-made for Conte

Oliver Skipp has already made more Premier League starts this season for Tottenham than in every previous season combined and the England Under-21s midfielder showed why he has been tipped to become a “top player” by Antonio Conte with his all-action performance against Norwich. Skipp, who spent last season on loan at Norwich and was a key component of the side that won promotion, was the driving force in the Spurs midfield and deservedly named man of the match. While Gareth Southgate has a growing list of options to choose from, including the emergence of Jude Bellingham in particular, Skipp could be another useful alternative for next year’s World Cup if he can maintain his form and continue to improve under a new manager who will provide him with opportunities. Ed Aarons

10) Depleted Seagulls continue to fight to the end

The problems are piling up for Graham Potter but, such is his calm demeanour, you would never know it. The Brighton captain, Lewis Dunk, was in the stands at Southampton and a knee injury is expected to rule him out against Tottenham next week, when Potter will also be without two more centre-backs in Shane Duffy (suspension) and Adam Webster (calf). Leandro Trossard was also forced off with an elbow injury at St Mary’s, while Adam Lallana missed the trip to his former club with a hamstring problem. Brighton have not tasted victory since September and have drawn nine of their past 11 matches, but a refusal to go quietly means they continue to build momentum, Neal Maupay popping up with another late equaliser on Saturday to prevent defeat. “It feels like you have to be close to perfect in the Premier League but if you can’t win, get a point,” Potter said. Ben Fisher

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