By Neil Leverett
- Leaders Liverpool lose 100% winning record, as Manchester hold Reds to 1-1 draw at Old Trafford
- Manchester City close the gap after win at Crystal Palace, whilst Arsenal lose at Sheffield United
- VAR controversy reigns at Spurs and Wolves, with Chelsea 1-0 winners against Newcastle United
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As league leaders Liverpool are held by old title rivals Manchester United and as Arsenal lose, what did we learn from Gameweek 9 in the English top flight?
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Reds can be target on road
Following an opening half-hour that would prompted many a Sunday afternoon nap, Liverpool will be mightily grateful to have escaped Old Trafford with unbeaten record in tact, after Adam Lallana‘s goal grabbed a vital point for an again average Reds’ show.
Marcus Rashford looked like settling matters – for what would have a been a relative shock result – before Liverpool’s forgotten man came off the bench to level the scores. Whilst retaining a healthy Premier League lead, it will not however erase Liverpool’s concerning issues away from home.
As victims again of the Stadio San Paolo against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League, Jurgen Klopp‘s men could easily have suffered defeat at the hands of Sheffield United had it not been for an uncharacteristic fumble from Blades stopper Dean Henderson, and again here the result could have been much worse.
With many already beginning to see the Merseysiders as champions elect, the Reds’ away days could yet prove something of a fly in the ointment. Indeed, with a first trip to Villa Park in three years and a South London venture to come before the final international break of the year, Liverpool must ready themselves for further away toils.
City will miss Silva lining
Manchester City closed the gap to just six points with victory at Crystal Palace, and whilst Gabriel Jesus again stole the headlines in covering for Sergio Aguero, it was again the Citizens’ majestic skipper David Silva who grabbed the plaudits.
Netting the second for Pep Guardiola‘s side at Selhurst Park, the Spaniard who has assumed the captain’s armband in his final season in Manchester, was again at his very finest to drag the Eagles from their lofty league perch and guide City to three points.
The champions may have recruited well in bringing Rodri into the midfield – or indeed defence as we saw on Saturday – but Silva’s boots will be considerably hardly and weightier ones to fill from next term.
In his tenth season with the champions, the 33-year-old has become a poster boy for City’s modern era under Khaldoon Al Mubarak and as a piece of the footballing furniture at the Etihad will be hard to replace. But, he may yet be able to claim a fifth title for City come May.
Gunners caught in system shift
It almost looked like the perfect storm for Arsenal to be caught up in with a trip to Bramall Lane, and so it proved. With an eight-match unbeaten run coming into the Gunners’s trip to Yorkshire, Chris Wilder become the latest in a line of Blades stewards to claim the Premier League scalp of the North Londoners in Gameweek 9.
Whilst the Steel City celebrated, the faces of many an Arsenal fan continued to display a growing frown, and it seems the problem continues to be Unai Emery‘s rather confused approach to this season in particular.
With Alexandre Lacazette only just returning to fitness, the Gunners have persisted with a 4-3-3 system, with three midfielders in support of the two wingers and striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Yes it is true that the Gabonese front man looks in the form of his life, and both Matteo Guendouzi‘s maturity and the bursting onto the scene of Bukayo Saka have been huge fillips, but the real issues continue in defence – aside from Nicolas Pepe‘s continuing profligacy – and Arsenal’s organisation as a whole.
Failing to pick up Lys Mousset from a set-piece for the game’s decisive strike, the Gunners failed to keep successive clean sheets – a statistic that will surprise no-one. Just spare a thought for the fan that placed £11k on his beloved North Londoners to win.
VAR further muddied
As one half of London took inevitable defeat on the chin once more, Spurs were spared it but only via a hugely controversial VAR call. Wolves also bore the brunt of frustration on Gameweek 9 and it seems the season will be a long and exhaustive one for detractors of the game’s newest fair play measure.
With the pressure dial approaching breaking point from boss Mauricio Pochettino, the Argentine can perhaps feels the most fortunate, as after bottom of the table Watford took and held a 1-0 lead, only Dele Alli spared the Lilywhites from another morale-damaging defeat.
As the hosts looked to have had the goal ruled offside, the display board at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium registered goal, despite replays appearing to show the upper part of Alli’s arm helping the ball into the net.
Wolves striker Raul Jimenez also had two goals ruled out, before the Mexican striker did then notch a legal goal and after calls for pitches to have monitors installed similar to ones implemented across Europe, Jimenez agrees.
As he told Sky Sports:
“Maybe [the referee] has to check what happened to see with his own eyes and then he can decide. What I know is the referee has the last decision so maybe he has to check the monitor.”
Perhaps the biggest turn up during Gameweek 9, was the Vitality Stadium stalemate between AFC Bournemouth and Norwich City on Saturday, with many expecting a veritable goal fest on the South coast.
With neither Cherry or Canary faction having held a single clean sheet in their opening eight games of the campaign, and barring Gameweek 8 – where Arsenal were 1-0 winners over Eddie Howe‘s men – all games involving the sides had seen at least two goals a game.
We have already documented the top flight’s ability to cause a surprise or two however, and in rather different guise here a goalless meeting between the two oft-free-scoring – and indeed conceding – outfits was always a possibility.
If we ponder also that visitors had lost their last three game of the bounce also, perhaps Gameweek 9’s damp squib of just three shots on target was not such a surprise however in form with this season, a scoreline of 0-0 is likely to be something of a rarity this term.
Premier League Gameweek 10 begins on Friday 25 October, as Southampton host Leicester City, kick-off 20:00 UK time.
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