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Man City’s missing man, Liverpool lacking depth and Eddie Howe’s tactical flexibility – 10 things we learned

Luke Bosher
Norwich secured a stunning home victory over champions Manchester City: Getty

Manchester City were the victims of the biggest shock of the season thus far, as they succumbed to a 3-2 defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Despite an early scare courtesy of a piece of brilliance from Jetro Willems, Liverpool maintained their perfect start to the season by beating Newcastle 3-1 and in doing so extended their lead at the top to five points.

After underwhelming starts to the season, Manchester United and Chelsea proved they are still forces to be reckoned as they beat Leicester and Wolves respectively.

Wolves remain winless with just two points and are at the foot of the table, with Watford moving ahead of them after they overturned a two goal deficit to draw with Arsenal in Quique Sanchez Flores’ return to Vicarage Road.

Here are 10 things we learned from the Premier League this weekend.

1. Tammy is more than just a poacher

Questions were asked when Chelsea gave Tammy Abraham the ‘cursed’ no.9 shirt. Those questions seem to be null and void after the young Englishman’s hattrick against Wolves, taking his tally to seven goals for the season.

Perhaps, the most impressive thing about Abraham’s hattrick was the difference between the three goals. The first was a trademark poacher’s goal, taking advantage of a loose ball and finishing on the turn with just two touches. The second was a well-timed header, and the third a fantastic show of skill, pace and finishing ability.

Abraham’s poaching instincts were crucial in the Championship, where he never scored outside the box, and he seems to have now stepped up a gear that many doubted he possessed.

2. Leicester struggle when teams sit back

With Manchester United’s injury woes and indifferent form heading into the game, Leicester were predicted to further put pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was without a win since the opening day.

Harry Maguire was excellent against his old side as Manchester United kept Leicester quiet (Manchester United via Getty)

However, an early penalty for United meant that Leicester were chasing the game for more than 80 minutes. Such a scenario is rarely when Leicester are at the best, especially when spearheaded by Jamie Vardy. They failed to create a good opening for Vardy, nor did they attack United with numbers at the end of the game as one might have expected.

That Leicester struggled to break down United is no surprise given their history of good performances against teams that have attacked rather than sat back – the 1-1 draw against Chelsea and the 3-1 win over Bournemouth come to mind.

3. Laporte is crucial

If it was not clear before this weekend, it is now as clear as the Pope is Catholic that Aymeric Laporte is essential to Manchester City’s success. Whilst John Stones looked average at best, Nicholas Otamendi was catastrophically bad, giving the ball away several times in key areas and gifting Norwich a goal.

Last year, City were able to win the league with their best midfielder, Kevin De Bruyne, absent for most of the season because they had good depth in that area. If this game is anything to go by, City will struggle to retain their title with Laporte out for up to six months because their centre-back depth is woefully inadequate.

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4. Norwich will be fun to watch

On the other hand, Norwich were great value for their win throughout the game – the 3-2 result was far from a smash and grab.

Despite injuries which forced Daniel Farke to play Ibrahim Amadou out of position at centre-back, they took the game to the champions and were great to watch. Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki continued their burgeoning partnership, but it was Emi Buendia who looked a class above the rest. Whilst teams continue to work out how to stop them scoring, Norwich are sure to be very entertaining.

5. Spurs’ Belgian duo are still elite

Tottenham kept their first clean sheet of the season, and it is no surprise that Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were at the heart of their defence.

Spurs cruised to victory against Crystal Palace (Getty)

Mauricio Pochettino had dropped Vertonghen for the opening three matches with Davinson Sanchez preferred, but he has not sufficiently eradicated the errors from his game since joining from Ajax in 2017. Whilst Alderweireld and Vertonghen are 30 and 32 respectively, they remain Spurs best defenders by a distance and two of the best in the league.

6. Eddie Howe knows his stuff

Eddie Howe is one of the most tactically flexible coaches in the league. Since their arrival in the league in 2015, we have seen them employ a variety of formations across an entire season, with players often seemingly playing out of position.

On Saturday against Everton, they lined up in an attacking 4-4-2 with Josh King and Harry Wilson as wingers, with Lewis Cook making a return from injury after nine months out – and it worked. Cook was fantastic in the middle, and Josh King was problematic throughout. Everton had no answer and slipped to a 3-1 defeat.

7. Liverpool lack depth

Liverpool, after conceding a shock goal, were impressive against Newcastle, with Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino all playing very well.

However, they really only looked like title challengers once Firmino came on for the injured Divock Origi. The Brazilian was his usual delightful self and provided two assists, and also allowed Mane to move back to his favoured left flank.

Although the result was positive, the fact that Liverpool are so heavily reliant on their front three is worrying given their incomparable squad players.

8. Deulofeu key for Watford

Watford’s gameplan in the second half against Arsenal seemed to be ‘give it Deulofeu and hope he does something good’. Though the Spaniard did not score, and his assist was poking a Sokratis pass into the path of Tom Cleverley, he was impressive against the Gunners.

The result, alongside the performance, should give Watford hope for the remainder of the season, and it seems clear that a lot will rest on the shoulders of Deulofeu, who remains a very talented player despite not quite living up to the potential he showed whilst at Barcelona.

Arsenal clung on for a point against a Watford side revitalised by the reappointment of Quique Sanchez Flores (Getty)

9. The ‘top 6’ still exists – just

Wolves, Leicester and Everton were earmarked as the three most likely to break into the top six in the Premier League, yet all faltered this weekend. Wolves embarrassingly lost 5-2 at home to Chelsea, supposedly the weakest of last season’s top six, whilst Leicester struggled against an injury-plagued Man United, and Everton lost 3-1 to Bournemouth, who finished 14th last season.

The gap between the top six and the rest appears to still be in place, with the only hope for the likes of Wolves, Leicester and Everton being Arsenal’s poor results and performances at the start of the season, leaving them 7th and Leicester 5th.

10. The Premier League is great

The Premier League is great because in any given match, anyone can beat anyone if the stars align. Few would have predicted that Norwich would stun City, or that Chelsea would score five at Wolves with an Englishman scoring a hattrick, or that Liverpool and City would have three clean sheets in their ten games. The unpredictability, along with the talent, is why many argue it is the best league in the world.

Weekends like this remind us why we love the Premier League.

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