For the first time since the 2011-12 season, three clubs are undefeated after eight matches in the Premier League.
As a result, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are all tied atop the table heading into the international break. Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho might’ve salvaged his job status at Manchester United and Arsenal’s unbeaten run continued.
Here are four winners and four losers from Matchday 8 of the Premier League.
Manchester City still hasn’t beaten Liverpool at Anfield since 2003, although if not for a missed penalty by Riyad Mahrez, Pep Guardiola would’ve been lauded for a masterful tactical game plan.
Guardiola appeared to learn from the drubbings he suffered from Jurgen Klopp’s side earlier this year and was far more prepared. If anything, the Spaniard deserves credit for shutting down Liverpool and nearly exiting Anfield with a victory.
Man City were torn apart in the previous two meetings at Anfield, largely due to Guardiola wanting his side to pass their way through the middle of the pitch. This time around, he changed it up.
Mahrez, a proper winger, helped to stretch the width of the pitch, as did left-back Benjamin Mendy, who likes to hug the touchline. Raheem Sterling tried to replicate that trait on Mendy’s side, but was eventually replaced by Leroy Sane, which led to a penalty thanks to Sane’s zig-zagging runs from out wide.
All of these players added more width and were able to keep the ball for longer stretches compared to the last meetings against Liverpool.
Man City also ensured that Liverpool’s passing lanes were blocked. The Reds were constantly looking for options on the ball, only to end up losing possession. It didn’t make for a thrilling spectacle, but Guardiola will be relatively pleased with what transpired on Sunday.
For 70 minutes, the top story was set to surround the potential demise of Jose Mourinho, after reports of his sacking emerged prior to Saturday’s match against Newcastle United.
Down 2-0 at Old Trafford, Mourinho went from villain to hero thanks to United’s thrilling 3-2 comeback victory.
Alexis Sanchez, who has been heavily scrutinized since leaving Arsenal, actually bagged the winner in the 90th minute. The Premier League’s highest-paid player has really struggled to find his footing in the side, so perhaps that goal will serve as motivation for him and the squad.
However, this is likely just a stop-gap result. United were electric in the final 20 minutes, but it took Newcastle scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes (a first for the Red Devils) for Mourinho to switch his approach. Conceding eight shots on target to the Magpies at home isn’t exactly encouraging, either.
For now, Mourinho is safe. However, it’s likely that another two or three-game skid could ramp up the pressure again.
Arsenal has now won six straight Premier League matches (nine in all competitions). The attack is on a rampage, and even though there are still some concerns, one man is largely responsible for this increased form.
Since Lucas Torreira became a starter, Arsenal’s play on both sides of the pitch have dramatically improved.
Torreira’s work rate has drawn rave reviews from fans, which is definitely a factor in Arsenal’s form of late. However, it’s the Uruguayan’s ability to snuff out the danger and quickly get the ball to a player who can progress the ball, like Granit Xhaka.
Xhaka has actually been far more effective since Torreira was slotted into the lineup. The Swiss international’s specialty is advancing the ball. With a deep-lying midfielder behind him, it brings so much more balance to the team.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery still has to find a settled defence and work out the kinks at the back. However, as long as Torreira starts, the Gunners will continue to push for the top four.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are now in seventh place. Most pundits tipped the newly promoted side to finish in the top half of the table given their heavy investment in the transfer window.
However, the defence deserves significant plaudits for Wolves’ strong start to the campaign. Only Manchester City (3), Liverpool (3) and Chelsea (5) have conceded fewer goals than Wolves (6), backed by four clean sheets in their last five matches.
The underlying numbers also state that Wolves’ defensive performances are sustainable. They’re among the top 10 in fewest shots conceded per game, per WhoScored.com, and own the third-lowest expected goals against (xGA) in the Premier League, according to Understat.com.
Wolves will prove difficult to beat for any side with that stingy back line. It might even lead to a future England call-up for centre-back Conor Coady.
Riyad Mahrez had the game on his foot and ended up blasting it over the bar.
The Algerian missed his fourth penalty in six attempts, which meant Man City had to settle for the 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.
Interestingly, Pep Guardiola admitted that Gabriel Jesus was supposed to take the penalty, but the Man City manager chose Mahrez.
It was a strange choice given Mahrez’s poor record from the spot. But even if he wasn’t the ideal candidate, he has to take the blame for the miss. It’s unfortunate because the winger actually enjoyed a decent match, but that won’t be remembered.
As mentioned last week, Fulham’s defensive issues are a major problem. They reared their ugly head on Sunday as they conceded five times at home to Arsenal.
Manager Slavisa Jokanovic switched to a back three before reverting to four defenders for the second half. Neither tweak made a difference because Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Iwobi had tons of space down the left and through the middle.
Jokanovic’s insistence to play with a high line and deploy a fast-paced, attack-minded system is pleasing on the eye, but it leaves them heavily exposed. Arsenal’s forwards were constantly bursting through alone on goal, which Aubameyang and Lacazette capitalized on a couple of times.
The midfield is part of the problem, though. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was constantly turning over the ball or leaving his teammates in precarious situations with his passes. Jean Michael Seri is a tremendous distributor, although he isn’t as effective when he’s boxed in by three opposing players.
Perhaps Zambo Anguissa just needs some time to adjust to Jokanovic’s system. However, Fulham can’t really afford to wait much longer. The Cottagers are in 17th place at the moment and have allowed more goals (21) than any other side. That is a relegation-level of defending.
Red Card Rebels
Watford and Cardiff City’s afternoons were over before they really started thanks to a pair of red cards to Christian Kabasele and Joe Ralls, respectively.
In Kabasele’s case, he was sent off for a challenge on Joshua King, which led to a second yellow card and a penalty. However, his first booking came after clattering into Asmir Begovic. Twenty-one minutes later, Kabasele was off and Watford succumbed to a 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth.
As for Ralls, his reckless challenge on Lucas Moura early in the second half meant Cardiff City’s chances of mustering a comeback against Tottenham were nil.
That carelessness meant that their respective sides had a Herculean task to overcome. Losing Kabasele is especially detrimental for Watford, as he’s formed an excellent partnership with Craig Cathcart.
As if Newcastle fans haven’t suffered enough this season, they experienced a new level of sadness on Saturday.
If Magpie supporters were told that they would lose 3-2 at Old Trafford, they might’ve accepted that fate. But the manner in which Newcastle coughed up the advantage was gut-wrenching.