LONDON (REUTERS) – Talking points from the English Premier League over the weekend:
How far could Arsenal fall?
Arsenal’s 1-0 home defeat by Burnley – their fourth straight loss at the Emirates – leaves the club just three places and five points above the relegation zone.
Mikel Arteta, brought in last season to turn around the fortunes of the North London team who have not won a domestic league title in 16 years, admitted he was “scratching his head” after another dismal result.
The Gunners have scored just 10 goals in their opening 12 games this season, their lowest tally since 1981 and main striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has managed just one goal – a penalty – since scoring on the opening day.
Something needs to change quickly at Arsenal. Relegation might not be a real danger but it is hard to see the team getting beyond mid-table mediocrity without a different approach or different personnel.
Liverpool need defensive cover
When Joel Matip failed to appear for the second half of Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Fulham on Sunday, it meant Juergen Klopp’s side ended the game with midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in the heart of defence.
Klopp had 23-year-old defender Nathaniel Phillips on the bench but opted against bringing him on.
Matip’s back injury makes him a doubt for Wednesday’s top-of-the-table clash at home to Tottenham Hotspur and with Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk out long term, Liverpool’s need of central defensive cover in the January window is acute.
Considering the injuries they have had, champions Liverpool have done tremendously well to keep pace at the top, but the situation could soon become unsustainable.
Hasenhuettl has Saints firing
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl hailed his improving team’s strong identity built over the course of his tenure after Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Sheffield United and it is clear that confidence is their hallmark.
The stylish Saints have entered the top four on the back of some assured performances this season, winning seven of their 12 games so far, with their 9-0 thrashing by Leicester City some 14 months ago all but banished from their memories.
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder will want a swig of the potion that has rejuvenated Hasenhuettl and Southampton since that humbling, as he lamented yet another tame performance in Sunday’s game with time running out to turn things around.
Palace have a new creative force
Often last season it seemed Crystal Palace were overly reliant on Wilfried Zaha to provide their attacking spark but in the shape of Eberechi Eze, they suddenly have a new threat.
The 22-year-old has taken to life in the Premier League like a duck to water and was superb against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
He hit the post in the first half and it was his wickedly-curling free kick delivery which forced a mistake by Hugo Lloris and allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to earn a 1-1 draw.
Eze might just prove to be one of the signings of the season and if he maintains his form, he will not escape the attention of England manager Gareth Southgate.
Leicester aiming high again
Leicester City narrowly missed out on a top-four finish last season and if their start to the 2020-2021 campaign is anything to go by, they will be in contention this term again after a flying start.
Jamie Vardy netted his 10th league goal of the season in a resounding 3-0 home win over Brighton & Hove Albion but it was midfielder James Maddison who grabbed the headlines with a brace, the second a beauty as he curled a sublime shot into the far corner after some neat footwork.
With goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel marshalling a solid defence and Maddison pulling the strings in midfield, Leicester have every chance of staying in the hunt for Champions League football as they seem to keep punching above their weight.