This was another brilliant weekend of Premier League football, even if the schedule was truncated by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
There were moments of silence and performances of “God Save the King” as the PL returned from a week away and saw North London shining just as bright as reigning champions Manchester City.
Job statuses were also on the line and there are questions as to whether the roster of 20 Premier League managers look the same when the international break ends in under two weeks’ time.
Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Andy Edwards (AE), and Nicholas Mendola (NM) share their observations from across the most recent PL games.
1. Spurs have that Conte juice (Spurs 6-2 Leicester): Losing at midweek at the UEFA Champions League already brought a fierce reaction out of Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, who drilled Spurs the day after a disappointing loss to Sporting Lisbon. An early concession after that? Well, let’s just say it’s no surprise that Tottenham overcame whatever midweek wearies were in their bodies to score four of the final five goals against Leicester. No, the Foxes cannot defend right now — more on that in a moment — but Tottenham never really felt in danger of taking anything but three points even when it was down 1-0 and level 2-2. (NM)
2. Vibes will be great on Goodison after swing win (Everton 1-0 West Ham): As we said on the ProSoccerTalk show this week, this was a big swing game for Everton. A win or a draw would have them unbeaten in five-straight games but a loss would mean a winless streak of five. That’s what draws do, we suppose. So while maybe it shouldn’t have mattered as much as it did, the win allows Frank Lampard to reassess his squad over the international break with the knowledge that Everton’s run has it three points clear of the drop zone and just two behind eighth-place Merseyside rivals Liverpool. (NM)
3. Jack Grealish answers his critics (Wolves 0-3 Man City): There was a hunger and freedom about Grealish after Pep Guardiola’s glowing praise of the English playmaker ahead of this game. Plenty of critics point to Grealish not scoring or assisting enough — he told us here at PST last season that he needs to improve his numbers — but his manager doesn’t care if he doesn’t score: He wants him to slot into their attacking unit seamlessly. Grealish won the ball back often, got his goal, caused havoc and the only way Wolves could stop him was by Collins’ ridiculous challenge as he was shown a straight red card (JPW).
4. Brave Bournemouth fully deserve their point.. maybe more (Newcastle 1-1 Bournemouth): With the score 0-0 at halftime, Bournemouth was the winner of the first half. They hardly gave Newcastle a sight of their goal and though they created precious little (even less) themselves, reaching the intermission scoreless put all the pressure on Newcastle as the home side and the side heavily favored to win. At the same time, a “lesser” side gains confidence and belief to steal something in the final 45. (AE)
5. Another win to underline Arsenal’s progress (Brentford 0-3 Arsenal): Their horrendous defeat at Brentford at the start of last season underlined all of the issues Arsenal had. Just over 12 months later, this convincing win underlined the progress they’ve made under Mikel Arteta. This is a clear playing style with a young, hungry side who have been painstakingly recruited. Even with Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko out, Kieran Tierney and Vieira slotted in seamlessly as Arteta’s side dominated from start to finish. They are playing with confidence throughout the team and this is what Arsenal wanted to become after a few years of building up the squad. The only issue is the fact that their squad looked pretty thin; A few injuries piled up with teenagers on the bench and Ethan Nwaneri, 15, became the youngest Premier League player in history when he came on late in the game. With the Europa League and League Cup coming up in the weeks after the international break, Arteta will be hoping his squad remains healthy to make the most of all of this positive momentum. (JPW)
6. Villa and Saints are two teams that could struggle (Aston Villa 1-0 Southampton): This was not a great game. At all. And it underlined that both of these teams may well be down in the lower reaches of the Premier League for most of this season. For Southampton, the club kind of expected that this season after signing so many inexperienced players. For Villa? They expected to be pushing for at least the top 10, but on this showing — yes, a winning one — they are a long way off it. (JPW)
7. Fulham full of confidence (Nottingham Forest 2-3 Fulham): Aleksandar Mitrovic caused chaos, Willian whipped in delightful crosses, and Palhinha, Andreas Pereira, and Harrison Reed have a perfect combination of steel and skill in central midfield. This is a proper team that Marco Silva has created. Great balance to them and they look hungry to prove all of their doubters wrong. There is quality throughout this Fulham side and even though they are surprising us, they deserve to be in the top 10. (JPW)
8. ‘Brendywatch’ becomes very real, very quick (Spurs 6-2 Leicester): Leicester’s been terrible this season and the Foxes are looking at an international break to get things together. Is there a chance that means ditching their big reputation but up-and-down performer of a manager? Rodgers admits he’s feeling pressure in a big way.
“Very much so,” Rodgers said. “I come in every day and do my work. I totally understand the frustration of supporters. I can’t hide from that. It’s my responsibility. … Whatever happens I’ll have a huge amount of respect for them [the owners] because they’ve given me great support. I understand the game. The scoreline didn’t reflect the game but the bottom line is it’s a heavy defeat. They’ve given me brilliant support. Whatever happens to me at Leicester whether I stay and fight on, I’ll always respect them.” (NM)
9. Xhaka, Partey give Gunners solid foundation: Much will be made about the movement and class of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus and Fabio Vieira, and rightly so. But the solid foundation that Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey provide Mikel Arteta’s side should not be overlooked. After returning from injury, Partey won the ball back time and time again and Xhaka just kept things ticking over nicely and was always an option for Martinelli and Tierney on the inside left channel. With Odegaard out, Arsenal’s deeper central midfielders needed to step up and they dictated the tempo of this game and gave the Gunners’ talented attackers the platform to wreak havoc. (JPW)
10. Head-scratching run continues at West Ham (Everton 1-0 West Ham): The Irons entered the day with 7.46 expected points but just four on the table. Their three goals scored fell 3.38 behind what xG says they could’ve put in the goal. Throw in the should-be draw against Chelsea and there’s no reason to think West Ham is anything worse than a mid-table team but that’s not gonna change anything as West Ham fans spend the international break with their name under the red line. (NM)