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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

5 talking points from Saturday's Premier League action

Liverpool’s loss to hoodoo club Villa, Chelsea’s unstoppable form and more.

Aston Villa supporters celebrate as the team win 1-0 against Liverpool.
Aston Villa supporters celebrate as the team win 1-0 against Liverpool.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. Lambert exposes Liverpool limitations

LIVERPOOL LOST THEIR main man Luis Suarez in the summer, but they looked conspicuously short in more than one area of the field against Aston Villa today.

The Reds’ recent 3-0 defeat of Tottenham had appeared to quell fears that they would be significantly weaker this year without the brilliant Uruguayan, but in truth Spurs — with their high defensive line — were set up perfectly for Liverpool to take apart.

By contrast, Villa adopted a far more pragmatic approach against Brendan Rodgers’ side, defending deep and not giving their opponents’ speedy runners any space to run into.

As a result, Liverpool were nowhere near their potent best, and looked deprived of ideas ultimately, as Villa’s unbeaten record at Anfield was extended to four games.

2. Arsenal and Wilshere deliver mature performance

Perhaps the most indelible image from Man City’s 6-3 victory over Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium last season was Jack Wilshere’s offensive gesture (for which he was subsequently charged by the FA) towards fans as the Gunners suffered a damaging defeat.

Like Arsenal’s display, there was something pathetic about it, as Wilshere and his teammates had scarcely showed that type of anger or passion in the game itself, and instead they were roundly outplayed by a far better team on the day.

Today at the Emirates was a different story though, as Arsenal gave their fans reason for optimism amid a 2-2 draw with City. Having won just once in six attempts against their fellow top-four finishers last season, on this occasion, they were just seven minutes (plus added time) away from beating City, before Martin Demichelis’ header somewhat fortuitously ricocheted into the net via the despairing hand of Wojciech Szczesny.

But the Gunners can still be pleased owing to an impressive performance, with Wilshere in particular silencing his critics on account of an influential display and a goal that helped him earn the man-of-the-match award.

3. Newcastle look in trouble

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Southampton v Newcastle United - St Mary's Source: Chris Ison

(Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew during the Barclays Premier League match at St Mary’s, Southampton where the game was marked by chants for him to be sacked)

It seems absurd to say it, but after just four league matches played in this campaign, Alan Pardew’s job as Newcastle manager is already looking tenuous at best.

In a poll conducted before today’s game, an incredible 85% of fans indicated that they wanted Pardew removed as manager, despite the club famously handing the coach an eight-year contract extension in 2012.

And the supporters’ lack of confidence in the Newcastle boss was exacerbated following today’s limp display, as the Magpies were comprehensively beaten 4-0 by a clinical Southampton side.

The game was one of a number of unconvincing displays under Pardew in recent times, and the club could have a relegation battle on their hands if they continue to play in such a tepid manner.

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Hence the embattled manager, who neglected to speak to the media after today’s game, will really have to earn the money he’s receiving from that eight-year contract if he is to improbably escape this unenviable mess.

4. Two points dropped for brittle Tottenham

At times, it almost looked like a training match, such was the extent of Spurs’ superiority over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this afternoon.

The game was predominantly played in the Black Cats’ half, with Gus Poyet’s side invariably putting nine men behind the ball and inviting Tottenham to attempt to break them down.

Yet despite Mauricio Pochettino’s team having the much better possession, territory and chances, they somehow conspired to let a lead slip against their pragmatic opponents not once but twice.

And perhaps therein lies the White Hart Lane outfit’s essential problem — for all the attacking flair provided by the likes of Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, they always seem to have a mistake in them at the back amid the slightest hint of pressure.

Both Sunderland’s goals were preventable, but Eric Dier in particular won’t want to re-watch the abiding image of Adam Johnson sauntering past him with undue ease for the hosts’ first equaliser.

5. Chelsea looking a class apart

While Aston Villa have looked impressive and along with Arsenal, have yet to lose a match this season, there is no doubt that Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have been the standout team so far in the Premier League.

They continued their brilliant start to the season with a deserved 4-2 win over Swansea, with the Welsh side ultimately outclassed, leaving Chelsea as the only remaining team in the league with a 100% record.

Summer signing Diego Costa will justifiably gain many of the plaudits after hitting a hat-trick to take his tally to seven goals in just four games.

Yet equally important in the Londoners’ near-perfect start to the season has been their other astute recent purchase — Cesc Fabregas. The ex-Arsenal star already has six assists for Chelsea — to put that in perspective, Steven Gerrard topped the league’s assists table last year with 13, and the Spaniard is already almost halfway towards matching that feat.

So although it’s still early days, the Blues’ recent form must look ominous to their rivals.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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