Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

By Guardian sport
Maddison, Lukaku, Partey
Maddison, Lukaku, Partey. Composite: Guardian

1) Elliott’s injury shows sport at its cruellest

For the first hour at Elland Road, Liverpool’s midfield was a million miles from the mess of last season, slick and accomplished, with Fabinho – who spent much of last campaign as an emergency centre-back – and Thiago Alcântara, now able to express himself as part of a functional team, turning on the style as Liverpool sliced through their opponents at will. But equally on song was the dazzling Harvey Elliott, who over the last four games had established himself not just as a deserving member of Klopp’s starting XI but also one of the country’s brightest young footballers. The sight of him being stretchered off with an apparently grisly injury was a rare moment that united players and fans of both sides in sympathy and goodwill. If this weekend has reminded us of sport’s ability to catapult a precocious talent into overnight superstardom, then we have also seen just how brutally such an ascent can be stopped in its tracks. Alex Hess

Match report: Leeds 0-3 Liverpool

2) Ruthless Lukaku is the difference in game of fine margins

It seems that Chelsea finally have a striker capable of reaching the
standards set by Didier Drogba and Diego Costa. Romelu Lukaku does not look fazed by the task of leading the line for the European champions. Signed for £97.5m from Internazionale, Lukaku knows that it is up to him to turn games that Chelsea have struggled to finish off in recent seasons. That much was obvious when they were being given a tough time by Aston Villa. Villa were the better side for long spells, but they had no way of containing Lukaku. The Belgian finished brilliantly to open the scoring and his second goal, a powerful drive from 18 yards, oozed authority. Villa simply had to stand back and admire the quality. Leaving aside Tyrone Mings’ mistake for Mateo Kovacic’s goal, they did not do much wrong. Their main mistake was not having a finisher as good as Lukaku. Jacob Steinberg

Match report: Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa

3) Sancho left stranded in a disorderly victory

The headlines, of course, were made by Cristiano Ronaldo – how could they not be? – but just as important to how Manchester United fare this season are the two other summer signings, Raphaël Varane and Jadon Sancho. Varane, as he had been against Wolves on his debut, was composed – despite a midfield that occasionally threatened to disintegrate in front of him – and almost scored from a first-half corner. Sancho, though, struggled to make an impression. It’s still early and a level of fluency may come, but his struggles seemed to highlight the wider issue that, for all their array of fine players, United are some way from being a coherent team. At Dortmund he was at his best with space in front of him and with a full-back overlapping. Luke Shaw perhaps can offer that option but against teams who sit deep as Newcastle did, but was hard to know what Sancho was supposed to be doing. Jonathan Wilson

Match report: Manchester United 4-1 Newcastle United

Jadon Sancho struggled to make an impact.
Jadon Sancho struggled to make an impact. Photograph: Matthew Peters/Manchester United/Getty Images

4) Hard-working West Ham come up short

Although four games unbeaten represents a very decent start to the season for West Ham, David Moyes’ harsher critics might argue that the shortcomings of his tactical outlook were on full display at Southampton. The success stories of Moyes’ reign so far – Vladimir Coufal, Tomas Soucek, Michail Antonio – have largely been workmanlike grafters who don’t know when they’re beaten. But against well-organised sides who let opponents dominate the ball, as Southampton did, such players tend not to offer the moment of wizardry that turns one point into three. Another that fits this description is Jarrod Bowen, who has largely impressed since joining from Hull and looked West Ham likeliest match-winner on Saturday. Bowen is an industrious presence on West Ham’s right and his place there ahead of Andriy Yarmolenko is hard earned – but as a prolific scorer in the Championship, he was bought to do more. Until he does, he embodies both his side’s best qualities and its starkest limitations. Alex Hess

Match report: Southampton 0-0 West Ham

5) Brighton dig deep to keep up their sparkling start

Could this be a different type of season for Brighton? Victory at Brentford made it three wins from four after four Premier League seasons swimming against the tide. Graham Potter was linked with the recent Tottenham vacancy and he is a likely candidate should Arsenal dispense with Mikel Arteta. Potter is no self-publicist and does not make proclamations of tactical genius. That may make him attractive to certain employers, while others crave more stardust. Good managers and good teams win matches they might otherwise have lost, and that was Saturday’s method of victory. Brighton created little of note until Leandro Trossard’s late winner. They were thankful for Bryan Mbeumo’s repeated misses, but finished the game purposefully. Facing Burnley, Watford and Brentford was a kind fixture list for Brighton’s opening matches – in between Brighton lost 2-0 to Everton – but winning all three suggests Potter’s team are capable of raising themselves above those expected to be their peers at the bottom. John Brewin

Match report: Brentford 0-1 Brighton

6) Llorente injuries a cause for concern

Diego Llorente has suffered four muscular injuries since arriving at Leeds last summer from Real Sociedad, hampering himself and his team. The defender’s fragility has meant he has been unable to have a long run in the Premier League side to help form a defensive partnership. The visit of Liverpool was only his second league outing of the season, the previous coming in the form of 65 minutes against Burnley. Llorente was unable to cope with the attacking threat of Sadio Mané, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah, picking up a booking before his body gave up on him in the 33rd minute. Llorente only made 15 appearances last season as he did his best to acclimatise to English football, showing his qualities in the second half of the campaign when he put in some fine performances but if his body cannot cope with the long-term strain, it will be a huge setback for the Spaniard and Leeds. Will Unwin

Match report: Leeds 0-3 Liverpool

7) Off-colour Maddison given harsh reality check

Jack Grealish and James Maddison are good friends and comparable players but watching them play against each other on Saturday, one was reminded how their careers have diverged in recent months. Grealish has already fit in snugly at Manchester City, where his snazzy combinations with Bernardo Silva and João Cancelo were a recurring feature of the visitors’ attacks and led to the only goal of the game. Maddison, meanwhile, worked hard and showed some cute touches but struggled to exert a sustained influence before being replaced in the 73rd minute. This should have been a stage on which he felt comfortable – and Youri Tielemans, for instance, proved to be as strong, clever and tricky as any Manchester City player – but Maddison fell just short of the level required. Doubtless that realisation will hurt a player who is at his best when full of confidence. Hopefully it will also ensure his focus remains sharp. Paul Doyle

Match report: Leicester 0-1 Manchester City

8) Classy Wolves’ still lack cutting edge

With 20 minutes to go at Vicarage Road it looked like another afternoon of tantric football for Bruno Lage’s Wolves, who again seemed unable to cap their elegant buildup play with a befitting finish. In the end Francisco Sierralta gave them the helping hand they needed, but there’s no obvious indication that Wolves’ first goals of the season will mark an opening of the floodgates. They may have been racking up the shots this term (81 without scoring before Sierralta’s intervention) but the quality of neither the chances nor the finishing has been especially high. Perhaps Hwang Hee-chan, impressive from the bench on Saturday, will provide a sprinkling of magic, though there’s little on his CV – no goals in 20 Bundesliga appearances for RB Leipzig – to suggest that will happen imminently. In an ideal world, the returning Raúl Jiménez would be allowed to regain his mojo gradually. As it stands, there is undue pressure on him to prevent Wolves’ season going limp. Alex Hess

Match report: Watford 0-2 Wolves

Hwang Hee-chan stabbing home against Watford.
Hwang Hee-chan stabbing home against Watford. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images/Reuters

9) Kane powerless to prevent Spurs capitulation

It was hard to believe that the same striker who has scored in his last 15 matches in European Championship and World Cup qualifiers was leading the line for Tottenham on Saturday, such was Harry Kane’s minimal impact at Selhurst Park. Starved of opportunities in the absence of his usual foil, Son Heung-min, and due to Crystal Palace’s dominance in midfield even before Japhet Tanganga’s rush of blood earned him a red card, Kane dropped deeper and deeper in an attempt to assert himself but looked frustrated as he left the pitch after a chastening defeat. The 28-year-old may have said he is staying at Tottenham “this summer”, though this result was another reminder why the England captain must still yearn for his big move after such consistent performances for his country. Ed Aarons

• Match report: Crystal Palace 3-0 Spurs

10) Partey’s return transforms Arsenal midfield

There were several morsels for starved Arsenal fans to chew on after the narrow win over Norwich: an accomplished debut by the right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu; an incident-free bow between the posts for Aaron Ramsdale; a goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (or, to be fair, any goal at all). But perhaps the moment of most significance was the fit-again Thomas Partey’s introduction, just after the hour, to a midfield Arsenal had struggled to dominate. Within four minutes Partey had bucked the trend and fizzed an urgent, demanding ball into Bukayo Saka, breaking Norwich’s lines and imploring him to drive at the away defence. A couple of rebounds later Arsenal had their winner and Partey had shown just how important his availability will be to their fortunes. He had looked in excellent shape before sustaining an injury towards the end of pre-season; if he can string together the kind of unbroken run that has escaped him since joining last year, the outlook for Mikel Arteta’s new-look side should be considerably brighter. Nick Ames

Match report: Arsenal 1-0 Norwich


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