BetaSoccer examines the most important Premier League developments by answering 10 key questions that arose from this weekend’s slate of action.
When can we start the ‘Invincibles’ chatter?
Seventeen down, 21 to go.
Liverpool, powered by a pair of right-footed (!) goals from Mohamed Salah, toppled lowly Watford 2-0 on Saturday, maintaining their hefty cushion atop the Premier League table in the process.
It was a solid, if unspectacular, showing at Anfield, which has been the case on more than one occasion for Liverpool this season.
However, premature as this may be – we haven’t even hit the midway point of the season yet – it’s difficult not to ponder whether Jurgen Klopp’s side can match the achievement of Arsenal’s iconic “Invincibles.”
To keep that dream alive, the Reds will need to navigate a manic spell of fixtures over the next two months. Between now and the Premier League winter break in early February, Liverpool could play as many as 12 matches in all competitions. Their depth is about to be tested.
Is Mo Salah a 2-footed scoring threat?
Imagine trying to defend against an onrushing Mohamed Salah, with his combination of pace, tricky footwork, and finishing ability. Now imagine dealing with all that and having to account for the fact that he could shift to either side and be equally devastating.
Like plenty of other left-footed players, the Egyptian superstar heavily favors his predominant leg; of the 54 shots he’s taken in the Premier League this season, only nine of them have come with his right foot. Based on this past week, though, maybe he should start using it more.
As if Liverpool don’t already have enough ways to beat you.
Are Chelsea hitting a wall?
With the perceived challengers all faltering around them to open the season, Chelsea were gifted a golden opportunity to create some early separation in the race for an all-important top-four spot. The Blues looked the part, too, racking up points while playing entertaining, attacking football.
The wheels are coming off somewhat, though.
Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge, easily the team’s worst performance since Frank Lampard took the reins, was Chelsea’s fourth league defeat in five matches. What was once a comfortable advantage over the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, and Arsenal has dwindled to a slim margin.
You can obviously forgive a dour performance every now and again – as noted earlier, not even Liverpool are firing on all cylinders every week – but Lampard needs to figure something out quickly to get Chelsea out of a slump that already featured losses to dysfunctional sides like Everton and West Ham.
Turning point for the Cherries?
While Saturday’s result at Stamford Bridge had a lot to do with Chelsea looking flat and devoid of ideas, Eddie Howe and his undermanned Bournemouth side deserve plenty of credit.
Things haven’t gone to plan so far this season for Howe. Previously touted as the Premier League’s rising managerial star, he’s watched his team get bogged down near the relegation zone, with injuries wreaking havoc; Callum Wilson, Harry Wilson, Steve Cook, Nathan Ake, Lloyd Kelly, David Brooks, and Adam Smith were all missing against Chelsea with various ailments.
But a makeshift starting XI held the Blues to just five shots on target – four from inside the penalty area – with right-back Jack Stacey doing a particularly admirable job of shutting down explosive American winger Christian Pulisic.
With a cupcake schedule on the horizon, Bournemouth have the chance to surge up the table over the next few weeks, as their upcoming opponents include Brighton, West Ham, Watford, Norwich City, and Aston Villa.
Can Leicester keep things interesting?
With Manchester City tripping over their own feet this season, the onus has been on Leicester to keep the title race interesting.
The Foxes did all they could to keep pace with the Liverpool freight train, racking up eight consecutive wins in recent months, with Jamie Vardy scoring in each of those games. That run came to an end Saturday, though, as relegation battlers Norwich held Brendan Rodgers and Co. to a 1-1 draw, snapping Vardy’s impressive streak in the process.
Now 10 points adrift of the league leaders, with matches against both City and Liverpool coming up, this may be where Leicester’s “title bid” ends, and their more realistic top-four battle begins.
Has Lucas found his rhythm under Mourinho?
The rejuvenation of Tottenham’s players has been the dominant narrative since Jose Mourinho’s arrival in north London.
Dele Alli’s revival under the Portuguese tactician happened almost immediately, as he strung together impressive performances after transitioning into a more advanced role behind the team’s attackers.
Now it appears Lucas Moura is benefiting from Mourinho’s appointment as well.
The pacy winger’s dazzling solo effort to open the scoring on Sunday was his third goal in five Premier League matches under Mourinho. Lucas scored just once in 10 league games with Pochettino at the helm.
Has Traore belatedly reached his potential?
Don’t look now, but Wolverhampton’s Adama Traore appears to have finally added an end product to his arsenal.
Traore’s talent has never been in question, but there have always been concerns about his technical ability in the final third.
On Sunday, however, the winger may have won over some critics when he uncorked a long-distance screamer that sailed into the top corner of Tottenham’s net, bringing the Wolverhampton faithful at Molineux Stadium to their feet.
He also added to his reputation as one of the toughest assignments for Premier League defenders. Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen – who ended up scoring the game-winner in stoppage time – struggled mightily to limit Traore’s forays throughout the encounter.
Can anyone inspire this Everton squad more than Ferguson?
When it rains, Duncan Ferguson takes his coat off.
And when a handful of key Everton players are ruled out through injury before facing Manchester United, the Toffees still get a result at Old Trafford.
Apparently, this is life at Everton under the Scot.
Despite the miserable weather on Sunday, Ferguson stripped off his jacket just minutes after kickoff – appearing to motivate his troops by showing he was ready for a fight against United regardless of the odds stacked against his team.
Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw, the 47-year-old has guided Everton to a pair of massive results against Chelsea and Manchester United just weeks after the Merseyside club was hovering around the relegation zone.
What’s wrong with Arsenal’s attack?
It was a day to forget for Arsenal, as Manchester City tore the Gunners to shreds en route to a 3-0 victory.
Despite the brutal defense, which was responsible for conceding three first-half goals, Arsenal’s attack did little to inspire hope that a comeback was even in the realm of possibility at the Emirates Stadium.
Failure to feed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a glaring reason for Arsenal’s struggles on Sunday. Given the talent the club possesses in midfield, Aubameyang should have received more than two passes during the opening half when Arsenal desperately needed to find a way back into the match.
The defeat extended Arsenal’s winless streak in the Premier League to five games – their longest run without a victory since the 1994-95 campaign.
Is it time for Foden to play regularly?
Phil Foden didn’t disappoint during his first Premier League start of the season, as Pep Guardiola’s faith in the Manchester City graduate was rewarded during Sunday’s victory over Arsenal.
The 19-year-old was oozing with confidence and looked like a first-team regular before he was removed from the contest after just 56 minutes.
He was a post away from providing one of the assists of the season after slicing through three Arsenal defenders and then laying the ball off to Kevin De Bruyne, whose long-distance strike was brilliantly turned away by Bernd Leno.
Although his performance was overshadowed by the brilliant display of De Bruyne, Foden, who assisted the Belgian star for City’s third goal, definitely helped his case for more opportunities in the near future.