The Premier League saw Manchester City finish up with six goals, whilst Manchester United finished up with 10 men. In a spot of one-upmanship, Chelsea finished up with just nine on the field at Loftus Road, whilst Wolves never gave up, Sunderland are on the up and Liverpool need to finish up. Here are five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:
1. Manchester United’s defending is finally punished and Manchester City are for real.
Only Bolton have given up more shots to their opponents than Manchester United have done in the Premier League. They were lucky to get away with a draw at Liverpool, but Manchester City, aided by a sending off, were ruthless against United on Sunday. Just like the Community Shield, Man Utd were behind but creating the better chances prior to the sending off. Once down to 10-men, they lost their shape and were exposed time-and-time again by City’s clinical attack.
David Silva and James Milner were the difference between the two sides, but without Nemanja Vidic once again, United’s defence looked weak and frail. Sir Alex Ferguson described this as his ‘worst ever day,’ it did serve to highlight that the Champions must tighten up at the back if they are to retain their Premier League crown. Despite Fergie’s shrewd summer signings, a central midfielder is still required, as Fletcher and Anderson were hopelessly outclassed.
2. The race for fourth is going to be as exciting as the title race
So far Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea look to have the top three spots in the Premier League locked up, but the race for the final Champions League place will be equally as exciting. Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal were expected to challenge for fourth, but Newcastle have crashed the party. The Magpies grafted out a win over Wigan at the weekend and are undefeated so far this season, having the tightest defence in the Premier League.
Newcastle have a run of tough games coming up against Stoke, Everton, Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea, which will test their credentials. With Spurs having won five of six, Arsenal finding form and Liverpool doing everything right apart from being clinical in front of goal, the chase for fourth will be as exciting as the title race.
3. Liverpool have to become more clinical in front of goal
Liverpool are still in the race for the Champions League places, but their lack of finishing in front of goal has cost them four points in their last two Premier League matches. Last week at home to Manchester United, the Reds wasted several good opportunities to beat the Champions as Henderson, Kuyt and Suarez all missed chances.
This week, Liverpool’s lack of finishing cost them against Norwich: 56% possession, 25 shots at goal, 15 on target; but just like last week, a 1-1 draw was the outcome. Luis Suarez was the chief culprit on Saturday with 11 shots, of which 6 were on target. The Uruguayan striker wasn’t helped by the supporting cast as Gerrard, Bellamy, Kuyt and most notably, Andy Carroll all missing good chances.
After last week’s 4-5-1 formation, Kenny Dalglish went for a more attacking 4-4-2 line up, but still left Carroll on the bench. The £35 million man looked menacing in his brief 10-minute cameo, so the question to be asked with the team’s lack of finishing is should he have played from the start?
4. Wolves play until the final whistle
After 80 minutes, Swansea were 2-0 up and in sight of their first away win in the Premier League. The home fans were on Mick McCarthy’s back after Swansea had outclassed Wolves for much of the game and McCarthy had substituted fan favourite Matt Jarvis. Ultimately, it was the Wolves boss’ substitutes who changed the game, but Swansea switched off with two defensive lapses which were their undoing.
Firstly Sam Vokes, who had only just come on, saw his shot saved in a crowded area and Kevin Doyle was able to put home the rebound. Then, the Swansea defence got sucked in to the right back slot, as Doyle cut the ball back to an unmarked Jamie O’Hara, who scored the goal we predicted was coming this weekend in our Fantasy Football preview. Swansea will see this as a vital two points dropped, Wolves may see it as a turning point in their season.
5. Sunderland are beginning to gel
After making ten signings in the summer, Steve Bruce has been receiving criticism for the performance of his new look Sunderland side. After a good showing resulted in a 2-1 defeat away to Arsenal last weekend, Sunderland travelled to an upbeat Bolton and put on a solid display. The Black Cats dominated possession (58%) and created more chances than the home side, whilst looking better at the back.
The arrival of Nicklas Bendtner has given the team the target man it needs, and along with Stephane Sessegnon, the two were the stars of the show. Menacing up front last week at Arsenal, the Beninese international was restored to his more favoured position behind Bendtner this time, and the two created problems for Bolton all afternoon. Between them, they had 5 shots on target and 4 key passes, as they both scored, with Sessegnon set up Bendtner for the winner. It was a performance that suggested to us, that after a host of summer signings, Sunderland are just beginning to gel.