Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend as Spurs’ struggles continue and VAR polarises
Tottenham fail to win against bottom of the league Watford, Chelsea and Leicester continue their impressive form and VAR brings yet more controversy
1) VAR controversy continues
Though correct decisions have certainly been reached more consistently since its introduction, VAR remains divisive and controversial in the Premier League.
The main concern is the manner in which it has been used. This weekend alone there were several incidents that left fans confused. At Tottenham, Gerard Deulofeu appeared to be blatantly fouled in the box by Jan Vertonghen, but a VAR check did not result in a penalty. There looked to have been a foul in the build-up to Spurs’ goal, too, but again consulting VAR changed nothing (although ‘Decision: No Goal’ did briefly flash up on the big screen, leading to more bemusement). There was controversy at Leicester and at Wolves, too.
These inconsistencies and avoidable errors only serve to heighten the resentment felt towards this new technology. “I thought VAR was supposed to be helping football,” said a frustrated Quique Sanchez Flores after the game. At the moment, the general consensus is that it probably isn’t.
2) City still dominant despite makeshift defence
Manchester City did not field a centre-back at Crystal Palace on Saturday. With Nicolas Otamendi injured and John Stones only fit enough for a place on the bench, Pep Guardiola turned to midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri as his defensive partnership.
It was hardly ideal, but it is testament to the quality of this City team that they still left Selhurst Park with a relatively comfortable victory. In attack, the Premier League champions were as incisive as ever. Ederson was forced into a couple of impressive saves at the other end but there were none of the defensive deficiencies that might have been expected.
A trip to in-form Palace was a tough test for City – especially given their shortage of defenders – but they came through unscathed and still within sight of leaders Liverpool.
3) Spurs still struggling to find their feet
A home game against Watford would have been seen as an ideal opportunity to get back on track for Mauricio Pochettino and his players.
But wins are hard to come by at the moment for Spurs. That 7-2 humbling against Bayern appears to have done some lasting psychological damage: Tottenham look nervous and uncertain, completely lacking in any confidence.
And they might have lost against Watford – who had just three points and had conceded 20 goals prior to this game – if it wasn’t for Dele Alli’s late intervention. Things need to turnaround soon for Spurs.
4) Chelsea hitting form under Lampard
Quietly, Chelsea have turned a mixed start to the season into a reasonably good one. Frank Lampard’s side have now won five games in a row in all competitions, and climbed into the top four with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle this weekend.
There are signs that Chelsea’s early season defensive problems are beginning to be addressed too. The Blues are certainly not completely watertight at the back yet, but they have conceded just twice in their last four games, including welcome clean sheets against Brighton and Newcastle.
There is still plenty of work for Lampard and his young side to do, though, if they are to finish in the top four this season.
5) Marco Silva gets a reprieve
Had the result at Goodison Park been different on Saturday afternoon, it might have been the end for Marco Silva.
Everton’s poor start to the season has left many fans calling for the Portuguese’s head, and there was a feeling prior to the West Ham game that this was his last chance.
The Toffees needed a performance and they got it, albeit against a fairly lacklustre West Ham side. But there was an energy and purposefulness about Everton, who certainly have the players capable of pushing into the top half of the table.
6) Grealish influential as Villa make solid start
Aston Villa were forced to deal with some heavy pressure in the first half of Saturday’s win over Brighton, falling behind to an Adam Webster goal.
But they grew into the game and eventually turned it on its head. Jack Grealish, as is so often the case, was the main man for the hosts, scoring the equaliser and then cleverly setting up Matt Targett for his injury-time winner.
Grealish, for all of Villa’s signings in the summer, remains the club’s most influential player. And his form will be crucial as Dean Smith’s side look to keep themselves above the bottom three.
7) A welcome away point (and clean sheet) for Norwich
Norwich had lost all four of their away games this season prior to Saturday’s visit to Bournemouth. They had conceded 10 goals too, brushed aside far too easily by their more savvy opposition.
This weekend, though, there was more resilience about Daniel Farke’s team. They earned a hard-fought point at the Vitality Stadium, and did so with several key players still sidelined through injury.
They remain in 19th, still without a win since last month’s remarkable 3-2 victory over Manchester City. But there are signs, perhaps, that they are beginning to adapt to the top flight.
8) Leicester win again on anniversary of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's death
Leicester marked the anniversary of former owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's death with a narrow victory over Burnley at the King Power, and it was a fitting result on an emotional day for everyone associated with the club.
Thousands of fans took part in a 'Walk for Vichai' prior to the game and there were tributes to Srivaddhanaprabha in the stadium in the lead up to kick-off.
Youri Tielemans’ 74th minute strike earned victory for the Foxes, who are now third in the Premier League and, at this point, look realistic contenders for a place in the top four.
9) Ings hitting form at crucial time for Southampton
Southampton have not always been prolific under Ralph Hasenhuttl, but they appear now to have a striker capable of firing them away from the bottom three.
Danny Ings was on target again at Wolves on Saturday, capitalising on a defensive error to coolly slot home and score his fifth goal in his last four appearances in all competitions.
A striker in such clinical form could be the difference between relegation and safety for the Saints, who have struggled so far this season.
10) United show signs of improvement against lacklustre Liverpool
Most expected a comfortable Liverpool win on Sunday afternoon. But that was not how it turned out. United, despite their dismal start to the season, executed their gameplan well and very nearly secured a valuable three points.
They couldn't quite hold on in the end - testament to the resilience of Jurgen Klopp's side - but there are positives to take from this for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players.
Marcus Rashford and Dan James were a constant threat, and United competed well with a team on a run of 17 consecutive Premier League wins. It's a small step forward, but a step forward nonetheless.