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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 16 August, 2018

Arsenal can cope without luxury players and more Premier League talking points

Plus David Luiz’s sending off and pressure mounting on Ronald Koeman’s shoulders.

1. Were absences of Arsenal’s stars a blessing in disguise?

Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League - Stamford Bridge Alexis Sanchez started on the bench for Arsenal. Source: John Walton

Some people feared the worst today when they saw Arsenal’s team-sheet.

Arguably the Gunners’ two best attacking players — Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez — were absent from the starting XI.

A muscle injury picked up in the build-up to the game meant Ozil was ruled out, while Wenger deemed Sanchez fit enough only for a place on the bench.

However, anyone who watched the duo in the North London club’s recent 4-0 loss to Liverpool will know both can be liabilities from a defensive viewpoint.

In their absence (at least, until Sanchez was introduced from the bench in the second half), there was a noticeably greater discipline about Arsenal.

The midfield pair of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka, who were exposed on countless occasions at Anfield last month, both delivered a much-improved performance this afternoon, with the Wales international named man of the match, while every Arsenal player showed an admirable work ethic as the visitors earned a morale-boosting result at Stamford Bridge.

The performance showed that for all Ozil and Sanchez’s individual brilliance, Arsenal can cope when they are not in the team and arguably possess a greater level of steel as a unit without these luxury players.

- Paul Fennessy

2. Should David Luiz have been sent off earlier?

Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League - Stamford Bridge David Luiz is sent off by referee Michael Oliver. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

There is no doubt David Luiz is one of the best defenders in the Premier League

Last season, the Brazilian was part of a backline that conceded just 33 goals in 38 games, as Chelsea comfortably claimed the Premier League title.

On occasion though, Luiz is prone to letting the emotions of the occasion get to him, prompting the odd mishap.

Today, the bad side of the 30-year-old’s game came out.

In the dying minutes, he was rightly sent off for a reckless two-footed lunge on Sead Kolašinac, but the ex-PSG star perhaps should have gone sooner.

At one point in the game, he struck Laurent Koscielny with an attempted bicycle kick.

The infringement was unintentional, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.

Some may suggest that issuing a red would have been harsh, but others will argue it was hardly much different to the Mane incident last week, and so by the letter of the law, Luiz should have been dismissed earlier.

Experienced former pros, including Gary Lineker and Graeme Souness on Sky, were among those who suggested the experienced centre-back should have walked in accordance with the game’s more stringent modern rules.

- Paul Fennessy

3. Ronald Koeman is flying far too close to the sun

Manchester United v Everton - Premier League - Old Trafford Ronald Koeman has not won a game in over a month. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

If results don’t change quickly for Ronald Koeman he very well could become the second Dutch manager to be sacked in the Premier League in as many months.

His countryman Frank De Boer was dismissed by Steve Parish last week following four consecutive Premier League defeats at Crystal Palace — a reign of just 77 days.

Following today’s 4-0 loss against Manchester United, Koeman is now just one defeat away from an identical set of results.

Everything seemed to go going swimmingly before a ball was kicked this season at Goodison Park.

A week into the new campaign Everton had qualified for the Europa League, secured the services of £50 million-rated Gylfi Sigurðsson and brought Wayne Rooney back to Merseyside.

Some said the Toffees could even compete for a top four place after adding the quality of Davy Klaassen, Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane to their ranks.

Now, however, the side are 18th in the table, suffered an embarrassing 3-0 Europa League defeat to Atalanta — the Italians playing their first European game in almost three decades — and have scored just one Premier League goal in 450 minutes of play.

They have also not won a game in all competitions in over a month and have suffered three defeats in their last four Premier League games.

In a world where an immediate run of poor results can cause a manager to prematurely lose his job at the drop of a hat, Ronald Koeman needs a win. Fast.

- Aaron Gallagher

4. Was Man United’s 4-0 win as convincing as it looks?

Manchester United v Everton - Premier League - Old Trafford Romelu Lukaku scored as Man United romped to their third 4-0 win of the season. Source: Mike Egerton

Many were quick to dismiss Manchester United’s 13 August 4-0 win against West Ham as far too premature to deduce any significant insights.

Following their 4-0 away win against Swansea, the same was said and yet following today’s 4-0 victory against Everton some continue to state that it is simply too early to judge their credentials as title contenders.

This raises the question as to how many 4-0 wins Jose Mourinho must secure before his side are given the respect and recognition they deserve, but even with that considered today’s victory against Everton was still very misleading.

Heading into the 83rd minute United’s 1-0 lead was slim and, were David De Gea not to have had another brilliant performance between the sticks, Wayne Rooney could have easily leveled the scores and earned a point for his new club.

United took an early lead thanks to Antonio Valencia’s wonder strike from outside the box. But from that point until their second goal courtesy of Henrikh Mkhitaryan they looked anything but convincing.

A deadly masterclass with goals from the Armenian, Romelu Lukaku and substitute Anthony Martial proved once again the deadly precision United have at their disposal — a side capable of cutting to pieces a side currently playing in European competition.

In that perhaps lies the only two suitable conclusions we can draw from United’s consistent run of 4-0 results:

One, David De Gea continues to show why he is perhaps the world’s best goalkeeper with clean sheet after clean sheet. And two, that in the dying stages of games United are able to flick on a switch that gives them an attacking turbo-boost which brings goals galore.

Against West Ham two of United’s goals came after the 87th minute, against Swansea three goals came after the 80th minute.

Demonstrated once again today, three of United’s goals came after the 83rd minute.

Despite their slim lead Mourinho’s side continued to push on against Everton to secure victory in an emphatic style in the final moments — a side which can score a multitude of goals instead of desperately clinging onto their lead.

Until the final ten minutes today Mourinho’s side looked average. Afterwards they gave a performance worthy of the namesake of title contenders.

- Aaron Gallagher

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Emphatic United score four as Rooney endures tough return to Manchester

David Luiz sent off, as disciplined Arsenal hold Chelsea

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