By Neil Leverett
- Liverpool remain top and retain 100% record, with comfortable 3-0 win over Burnley
- Manchester United and Chelsea both held, as Arsenal and Spurs share spoils in North London derby
- Wolves still win-less after Everton defeat, whilst Crystal Palace catapult into top four after 1-0 victory over Aston Villa
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As the English top flight goes into its’ first international recess of the campaign, what did we learn from Premier League Gameweek 4?
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Driven Liverpool a force
After a pre-season that had left many doubting Liverpool’s credentials to once more go head-to-head with defending Premier League champions Manchester City, after four weeks of the new season, that whilst have seen the Reds looking unsure at times, the facts remain that going into the first international break of the new term, Jurgen Klopp‘s men have four wins from four – top of the top flight tree into September.
Yes, the Reds defence’ looks less ship-shore than last season, but as the club’s stars begin to move into form after extended individual summers – down in large part to the African Cup of Nations – Liverpool look ready to take on the season’s challenges from an attacking view at the very least.
Small spats aside involving Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino – as witnessed at Turf Moor on Saturday – both men were on the score sheet in Lancashire, and as the Brazilian netted his fiftieth goal for the Merseysiders, both Firmino and Mane looked sharp, as on this occasion Mohamed Salah played second fiddle.
The win against the Clarets was Klopp’s first clean sheet of the campaign, as the gaps in the defence have appeared in greater numbers, however, as having been crowned European champions least June – having missed out on their inaugural Premier League crown – the Reds now seem more driven than ever as Klopp looks to mold his old dynasty across the M62 divide.
Premier League hit-men back in groove
Gameweek 4 saw the return to limelight of the some the Premier League’s household striking names, after an opening three weeks that had seen midfielders taken the bulk of goals of the top flight tally.
As both Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero netted braces, we also saw Tammy Abraham further his early-season form with a successive double himself, with the league’s number nines back to supply the goals.
With Teemu Pukki and Sebastien Haller notching doubles the previous weekend, this latest one was the chance for the comparative veterans of the league to re-take centre stage, a pedestal which after the international break concludes, may remain theirs on resumption.
Arsenal’s concrete Granit problem
On the heels of a typically chaotic North London derby at the Emirates Stadium, both capital neighbours took a point apiece, as the Gunners came from two goals down on home turf against Spurs.
The fallout post-match however has been the presence – or lack-thereof – of defence during the game, with holding midfielder Granit Xhaka baring the brunt of the ire of many of the Arsenal fanbase in post-mortem. Unfortunately for the Swiss midfielder, this is the not the first strike against his name.
In being beaten initially by Harry Kane in an aerial duel that led to the visitors’ opening goal, Xhaka was then without excuse for conceding the penalty for Kane’s goal, as the fury of Arsenal fans witnessed another callous showing from their £35m man.
As a player capable of brilliance, Gunners fans however have seen rather more of Xhaka’s unreliable side, and as a player who has been responsible for giving more penalties away in the last three season, Unai Emery and indeed Arsenal have a rather thorny issue in their collectives side, one which will remain a sore point.
Eagles confound doubters
For Crystal Palace, the picture for the Eagles looks far rosier four games into the campaign, where only a fortnight ago many began to place the South Londoners into the box labeled ‘relegation material’
After a first-ever Premier League win at Old Trafford, Roy Hodgson‘s men then recorded back to back wins this weekend with a narrow win over Aston Villa at Selhurst Park, which remarkably sees Palace in the heady heights of the league’s top four.
That statistic barely seems plausible, but after a opening salvo of the new campaign, unpredictability has been a watch-word once more, which Palace’s position underlines almost incredulously to this point. So much so, that come late September, their plight could again be reversed.
Early Wolves concern?
Whilst one team are temporarily upwardly mobile, another is beginning to shuffle a little nervously for the upcoming season. Wolves, who impressed many on their return to the top flight last season, have began uncertainly this, and are without a win in four to begin the new term – towards to bottom end of the standings.
Few are even entertaining the suggestion that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are danger of not retaining their top tier status come May – especially given Palace’s two-game bounce to the upper echelons of the table – but given Wolves’ participation in the Europa League, the West Midlanders might have uncomfortable months ahead.
If we take the example of Burnley for example, Sean Dyche‘s men struggled to juggle their unlikely place in European club competition with league responsibilities, and when the Clarets were eliminated in the final play-off round before the tournament proper, it perhaps came as a blessing in disguise given their improved showing over the second half of last term.
Wolves however, have made the Group stages in a pool against Sporting Braga, Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava. Even the best sides in the Champions League have struggled with the midweek turnaround, and as Wolves contemplate a season of Thursday night football until December at the earliest, if the club’s league fortunes continues to show diminishing returns, concerns may increase for Espirito Santo.
The Premier League returns for Gameweek 5 beginning on Saturday 14 September, as leaders Liverpool host Newcastle United.
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