The Premier League is a confusing place right now. As if by accident, Arsenal went top over the weekend, defying claims Mikel Arteta’s team have struggled to reach the heights of last season. Liverpool, meanwhile, highlighted their title credentials with a point away to Manchester City despite the fact it extended the Reds’ run to just three wins from their last seven league games.
Only a month ago, Ange Postecoglou’s swashbuckling Tottenham Hotspur were top. Now, they’re fifth on the same number of points they had at this stage last season under Antonio Conte. Nothing, however, is as confusing as Manchester United’s form which is now the best in the Premier League. Has there ever been another crisis club on a six-match winning streak?
Burnley – the team that broke records in the Championship last season and spent more in the summer than any other promoted team – are still rock bottom. Luton Town, meanwhile, who came up through the playoffs, spent just £15 on new players and essentially play their home matches in the back gardens of a row of terrace houses, are out of the bottom three and building momentum.
Peak Barclays, as they say. No trophies are handed out at this stage of the season, unfortunately for Arsenal, but there were plenty of winners and losers from Matchweek 13.
The Dark Knight Rises award for not being as good as we’d hoped
If the hope is this season will complete a trilogy of great City-Liverpool title races, Saturday’s 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium was the Premier League equivalent of The Dark Knight Rises – messy, lacking in structure and featuring a number of confusing performances by people who are capable of better. All it did was remind us just how much thrilling the series has been in the past.
The Premier League hyperbole machine tried to talk up the match between City and Liverpool. “The whole world,” according to Jamie Carragher, watched Saturday’s match. It was apparently a meeting of the two best teams in the league. It didn’t feel that way, though.
Maybe it was the early kick-off. Maybe international duty sapped the energy of players who had returned to their clubs from around the world just two or three days earlier. Whatever it was, this match didn’t have the same ferocity or quality of previous City-Liverpool games. A draw, however, may help build this season’s rivalry and push the ultimate showdown until later in the campaign. This was possibly a precursor. A Deathly Hallows: Part One rather than a Dark Knight Rises, perhaps.
Goal of the week
Alejandro Garnacho will always remember his first Premier League goal of the season and not just because it was his first Premier League goal of the season - because it was one of the best overhead kicks in the competition’s history. Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Peter Crouch all scored great overhead kicks, but Garnacho might have topped the lot.
Sixteen yards out and backtracking at pace, Garnacho somehow managed to contort his body to meet Diogo Dalot’s cross six feet in the air and find the top corner of the net with an arrow of a strike back across goal. Everton have had trouble with overheads recently, but there was nothing they could do to stop this one. It was so good we’ll forgive Garnacho – a former Atlético Madrid player and current Lionel Messi teammate for Argentina – for celebrating like Ronaldo.
Headlock of the week
Many Arsenal fans have wanted to put Kai Havertz in a headlock this season. The German has struggled to make much of a positive impact at his new club since joining from Chelsea in the summer, but Mikel Arteta’s submission hold of Havertz after his late winner against Brentford was a sign of affection. He wanted Havertz to take the acclaim of the Arsenal fans after sending the Gunners top of the table with a 1-0 win. A few weeks ago, they would have thrown rotten fruit at him with Arteta’s underarm as the stocks.
Player of the week
Anthony Gordon nearly signed for Chelsea, so it was inevitable he would produce a Player of the Match performance against them on Saturday. That’s just the way football works. Indeed, the 22-year-old was the best player on the pitch for Newcastle United as they returned to winning ways, recording an impressive 4-1 victory in which Gordon scored one and assisted another.
Gordon has been Newcastle’s most reliable performer this season. He’s contributed five goals and three assists in 12 Premier League appearances and increasingly looks a perfect fit for the Magpies’ fast and furious attacking style. Eddie Howe is funneling more and more attacking play through the former Everton winger, who is clearly growing in confidence. Gordon is surely thankful that the prospective transfer to Chelsea fell through.
Stat of the week
Jérémy Doku v Trent Alexander-Arnold was always going to be a statistical outlier. While one is the best dribbler in the Premier League, the latter has a habit of throwing his hands up in the air any time an opposition attacker gets close to him with the ball. This showed up in the full-time numbers between City and Liverpool.
Alexander-Arnold was dribbled past more times (seven) than any player in a Premier League match this season. Meanwhile, Doku completed 11 dribbles - the most by any player in a Premier League match since Adama Traoré recorded 11 all the way back in September 2021. And Doku did it without lathering his arms in baby oil.
Debut of the week
If Premier League debuts are measured by the number of compilation videos set to sped-up techno they generate, Kobbie Mainoo’s was about as good as they come. Manchester United’s social media was awash with highlights of the 18-year-old’s every touch against Everton with Mainoo the sort of everywhere-all-at-once midfielder Erik ten Hag has desperately lacked this season.
The numbers illustrate what Mainoo offered. On the defensive side, he won 100% of his tackles, and made three ball recoveries – more than any other United player. On the possession side, he also completed more take-ons than any of his teammates and had the highest pass completion rate (83%) of any starting player too. It was an accomplished introduction for a player with a bright future.
The Phil Neville award for not knowing your limitations
In the Class of ’92 documentary, Phil Neville tells a story about producing a step-over in a match only for his Manchester United teammates to burst out laughing. Thiago Silva made the same error against Newcastle United on Saturday.
Silva is better than Neville ever was – and he’s Brazilian – but his pirouette straight out of play for a Newcastle corner kick was arguably the most embarrassing thing done by a Chelsea player this season, which is saying something. The humiliation was compounded by Gordon who pointed and laughed at Silva on the ground like Nelson Muntz.
Sergiño Dest red card of the week
Lewis Dunk clearly watched Sergiño Dest’s meltdown in the USMNT’s Concacaf Nations League defeat to Trinidad and Tobago last week and thought, ‘hold my Tuaca.’ The Brighton defender was first booked for disputing the award of a penalty to Nottingham Forest in the team’s 3-2 win. Dunk was then shown a straight red card seconds later for using what the league describes as “foul and abusive language” toward referee Anthony Taylor, something cameras captured as rhyming with scald brick. Given what Roberto De Zerbi recently said about Premier League referees and not liking “80%” of them, he probably agrees.
Most charitable goalkeeper
Modern goalkeepers are expected to do more, although Arsenal and Liverpool probably wish their respective No 1s had done less this weekend. Aaron Ramsdale and Alisson Becker both did their best to cough up a goal to the opposition with their distribution out from the back and the latter actually succeeded in doing so.
Alisson’s slice high into the Eastlands sky led to Manchester City’s opener against Liverpool on Saturday, although Alexander-Arnold could have done more to stop Nathan Ake from jinking through the middle of the pitch like prime Diego Maradona before feeding Erling Haaland for the finish. Another mis-hit Alisson pass led to a Phil Foden shot from inside the Liverpool box.
Back in the Arsenal lineup due to David Raya’s loan deal, Ramsdale also struggled with his concentration against Brentford, nearly offering the Bees a goal after dithering on the ball inside his own six-yard box. This wasn’t entirely out of character for a goalkeeper who recently told Ian Wright how he struggles to concentrate for 90 minutes straight. Maybe if he’d picked a fight with a Brentford fan, the mistake wouldn’t have happened.