By Neil Leverett
- Liverpool hold eight-point Premier League lead into the international break, after last-gasp win against Leicester City
- Manchester City suffer second loss of season at home to Wolves, Chelsea thump Southampton, whilst Spurs and Everton lose again
- Steve Bruce guides Newcastle to his first ever win against Manchester United, as Crystal Palace edge derby at West Ham
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As Manchester City lose their second game of the season – with Liverpool extending their top flight lead – what did we learn from Premier League Gameweek 8?
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Pep must look for ‘Plan B’
As already documented, this Premier League season is throwing up all manner of shocks and surprises and Gameweek 8 was again no exception, as Manchester City fell to their second defeat of the campaign to Wolves.
After just eight games, the reigning two-time league champions have already dropped eight points at the summit of the table, and with Liverpool again grinding out another win, the Reds look hard to shift already as favourites to finally end their league crown drought.
It may be too easy to blame City’s early season malaise on the absence of just one man, in the talismanic defensive presence of Aymeric Laporte, but without the colossal French centre-back, Pep Guardiola‘s men look a different side.
Does that coincide with the dip in form of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero? That is perhaps harder to answer, but whatever is the case, City’s equation to success for the time being at least is lacking a vital number.
While is it simply too soon to describe the champions as ‘broken’, there is however perhaps the need on the Spaniard’s part to re-address the balance within his side, which could come down to a simple case of looking for a tweaked approach. But that in itself will take some mastery.
Corner turned for Wolves
As one side scratches their head at their start to the new campaign, the other – City’s Etihad conquerors on Sunday – in Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men, look to have made a sharp turn around the metaphorical sporting chicane, after Wolves recorded back-to-back league wins.
That, after a horror start that saw the Black Country outfit plunging down the table at alarming rate of knots. With the distractions of the UEFA Europa League and obvious concern, after a home win against fellow basement dwellers Watford and a hugely creditable victory in Istanbul last Thursday night however, the picture looks far rosier.
Six points from six see Santo’s charges remarkably above a floundering Manchester United in eleventh place, looking upwardly mobile – certainly given this weekend’s host rather unexpected spoils – the resumption of the Premier League post-international break can now not come soon enough for the hungry pack.
Pochettino era fading…
The past seven days for Tottenham Hotspur have been a rude awakening, to the stark reality that faces the North Londoners. Gameweek 8 was rather signified by the juxtaposed fortunes of managers up and down the top flight arena of battle, and Spurs were no different.
With Guardiola and Espirito Santo encountering mixed favour, the Red Devils’ plight was again magnified with Steve Bruce‘s first ever victory against United, and for Mauricio Pochettino – one of the most successful stewards left standing – there was yet further indication that even his time could be dwindling.
On the back of a 7-2 mauling at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League only days earlier, a 3-0 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion was another hammer blow to morale, with rumours rife of team harmony being at an all-time low.
Not only is team spirit failing at a club that seemed to ooze just that, there seems very little fight and appetite to get out the predicament they are currently faced with. More pertinently, Pochettino seems unable to wave his magic wand any longer.
Let us not forget it was only four short months ago the Lilywhites were European Cup runners-up, but with Tottenham still starved of silverware, and the Argentine yet to win any major honours himself, is Pochettino’s time finally up in N17?
…Pieces falling for Lampard
As the one Premier League stalwart looks to be on his knees, one the top flights long-serving players now turned manager, Frank Lampard now looks to right at home in his debut managerial campaign for his beloved Chelsea.
It didn’t take many of the former England and Blues midfielder’s critics long to have their knives sharpened in the early and testing weeks of the new season, but having ridden out the storm and since their victory at Norwich at the end of August, the West Londoners have not looked back.
Last-minutes blips against Sheffield United and defeat to the league leaders aside, the steep rise in form of Tammy Abraham and Lampard’s growing points tally are indirectly linked, but the performances of his side as a unit look to have more bite to it.
The resurgence in form of Jorginho is a marked pointer of that, and since the Brazilian return to his best in steering the Chelsea ship through once choppy water, the Blues have risen from troubled seas and are now floating with quite the buoyancy.
Given the hugely indifferent from of all teams perched second to sixth, Lampard has a chance of marking his debut season with a top four finish come May, and given their existing transfer ban having been negotiated, the Chelsea boss will be forgiven for taking on a rather sunnier disposition for the time being.
Eagles becoming home-wreckers
Since their rather lowly and concerning stance after Gameweek 2, Crystal Palace also look a different side after Gameweek 8, and after picking up another helping of full spoils against West Ham in Saturday’s London derby – if in rather fortuitous circumstances – the Eagles have now spread their wings.
Whilst not soaring, a sixth placed spot coming into October is still not to be sniffed at, with Roy Hodgson again having diverted the questions of those seeking a new direction in South London.
Despite still struggling to collate a consistent run of home form at Selhurst Park, few can dispute the away-day efforts of Palace, who after somewhat stealing three points once more on the road, are become the league’s ‘home-wreckers’.
It would hard to dispute the significance of their other win on their travels at Old Trafford, but after taking the Iron scalp at the London Stadium on Saturday, are the Eagles this term’s road warriors? Time will tell.
The Premier League resumes on Saturday 19 October, as Everton host West Ham United on Gameweek 9.
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