Graham Potter is feeling the pressure at Chelsea, Brentford prove you CAN stop Erling Haaland and Gareth Southgate breathes a sigh of relief for England… 10 THINGS WE LEARNED from the last Premier League matches before the World Cup
- The pressure mounts on Graham Potter after Chelsea’s third defeat in a row
- Tottenham come from behind to show they are the league’s comeback kings
- Ivan Toney shows how to respond to Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad snub
- Brentford prove if you stop Kevin De Bruyne you can stop Erling Haaland
Arsenal stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points, and will lead the way at Christmas for the first time in 15 years.
The Gunners pounced after Manchester City’s shock 2-1 defeat by Brentford, while their north London rivals Tottenham, were showing they know how to dig deep and come from behind to beat Leeds. The pressure though continues to build on Graham Potter after Chelsea’s latest defeat.
Sportsmail takes a look at 10 things we learned from the Premier League’s action over the weekend.
Mikkel Arteta celebrates Arsenal’s win that sees them top the table going into the World Cup
1. Arsenal learn to take advantage
We are learning all sorts of things about this season’s Arsenal side, that previously were hadn’t come to expect from them. Last week we saw the Gunners stifle Chelsea and just do enough to get all three points in a tough London derby to remain top of the league.
This weekend presented another small obstacle as they were given the opportunity to press home their advantage at the top of the table, thanks to Manchester City’s lunchtime defeat to Brentford.
With Mikel Arteta’s side not kicking-off until 7.45pm at Molineux, it meant they knew exactly what they needed to do ahead of the game, against a Wolves side looking to impress in front of new manager Julen Lopetegui who was watching in the stands.
Martin Odegaard’s two goals saw Arsenal win 2-0 at Wolves and extend their league at the top
Knowing what result to get and actually putting in the performance to achieve it are two different things, however, Arsenal showed their new-found mentality this season with a professional job on Saturday night.
Two goals from one of the stars of the season so far in Martin Odegaard was enough to see Arsenal get the result required, in a game they were rarely troubled in.
It means they now sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League table, and the previous eight teams to start as good or better than the Gunners after 14 games have gone on to be champions in May.
2. Julen Lopetegui has a big job on his hands
For all the praise aimed at Arsenal after their win on Saturday night, it also highlighted the size of the task for new Wolves manager Lopetegui.
The Spanish boss was paraded before the match against the Gunners, but won’t have taken much heart from the display he proceeded to watch from the team he has inherited.
The defeat, and Nottingham Forest’s win over Crystal Palace, means Wolves are now rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, three points from safety.
Lopetegui saw Wolves’ season in a microcosm, as his side battled hard but ultimately lacked any goal threat to trouble Arsenal.
The lack of goals have been Wolves’ undoing this season and this was the eighth game out of 15 where they have failed to find the back of the net. They are currently the lowest scorers in the division having scored just eight goals all campaign.
Julen Lopetegui watched as his Wolves side drew another blank against Arsenal on Saturday
3. There was no need to worry about England’s World Cup stars
One of the biggest talking points heading into the weekend is what effect the World Cup would have on the players bound for Qatar and if England could avoid any major injuries ahead of the tournament next week.
The good news for Gareth Southgate is that England seem to have come out of the weekend with a clean bill of health.
There was a brief scare as James Maddison limped off the pitch at the London Stadium, however, the Leicester man quelled any fears after the game by stating it was a ‘small problem’ and he’d be fine for England duty.
The illnesses that also Raheem Sterling and Callum Wilson not start for their club’s over the weekend should also be of no concern to the England manager.
What will please the Three Lions boss is how Maddison continued his impressive start to the season with the opening goal against West Ham on Saturday, while Harry Kane kept up his goal-scoring form by adding another to his Tottenham account in the win over Leeds.
There was some concern over James Maddison’s injury but the Leicester midfielder is fine
4. Ivan Toney can prove a point
One man who isn’t going to Qatar after being left out of England’s World Cup squad is Ivan Toney and he had the perfect response for the England manager in Saturday’s Premier League opener.
The Brentford striker netted twice in the Bees’ shock win over champions Manchester City, to bring his season’s total to 10 in the Premier League – four more than rival Callum Wilson, who was chosen ahead of him in Gareth Southgate’s final squad.
Toney opened the scoring at The Etihad with a cleaver head 16 minutes into the game, and was a constant menace throughout for Pep Guardiola’s men.
The 26-year-old then settled the game for Brentford in the 98th minute, when he finished off a neat counter-attack with a deft touch past Ederson.
It was the ideal answer to his exclusion, after Southgate had expressed that he chose Wilson down to the goal-scoring form he had been showing in Newcastle’s rise to the Premier League’s top four.
Toney was called up for England’s last outings before the World Cup, but failed to get on the pitch across the two games against Italy and Germany in the Nations League.
Ivan Toney had the perfect response to being overlooked for England’s final World Cup squad
5. Stop Kevin De Bruyne, you weaken Erling Haaland
There’s no doubt that Brentford’s win at the Etihad on Saturday was the result of the weekend, and it also saw Erling Haaland draw only his third Premier League blank of the season.
The Norwegian, who has already notched 18 Premier League goals so far this season endured a frustrating afternoon and was reduced to just one shot on target in the whole match.
After the match, Bees boss Thomas Frank revealed part of their game plan was to stop the service from midfield into the striker and in particular from Kevin De Bruyne.
Frank said: ‘I really hoped they played Haaland because it’s only a really big win if you beat them with Haaland in the line-up.
‘We had a gameplan and it definitely succeeded. We tried to be aware of closing down [Kevin] De Bruyne, he had very few balls in dangerous areas.’
The Danish manager also lavished praise on his centre-back trio for keeping Haaland at bay in the 2-1 victory – City’s first home defeat since February.
Erling Haaland failed to find the back of the net against Brentford after a lack of service
6. Newcastle can win ugly
There was no Manager of the Month curse for Eddie Howe on Saturday evening as his Newcastle side continued their excellent campaign, by seeing off top-four rivals Chelsea.
However, this wasn’t a victory of the same swagger as the recent four-goal salvos against Southampton and Aston Villa, more of a showing that the Magpies can ground out a result when they need to, too.
They faced a Chelsea side out of form and out of sorts following a wrath of injuries, but were the better team for long periods of the game, with a pattern and pressing style that prevented their visitors from getting into the game.
Joe Willock’s curling strike from the edge of the box was the one bit of quality that settled the match, and Newcastle earned the three points all without Callum Wilson who started on the bench after a bout of illness.
In the closing stages of the match tackles flew in from all over the pitch, in a couple of minutes that looked like it was from bygone era of football.
In the end, it got Howe’s side the three points and has St James’ Park dreaming of a title charge in the second half of the season.
Newcastle showed that they are real top four contenders after a hard fought win over Chelsea
7. The pressure is building on Graham Potter
It may sound ridiculous to think that Graham Potter is under pressure already at Chelsea, but the Blues are now five games without a win in the Premier League and have lost their last three in a row.
True, Potter has been robbed of key players through injury. He was without Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on Saturday, to already add to a missing list that includes N’Golo Kante, Reece James and Ben Chilwell.
Potter then faced fresh problems during the game when Ruben Loftus-Cheek was forced off with a new injury issue. However, there also remains concerns over the former Brighton manager’s consistent tinkering of his team.
He has failed to stick with a consistent plan or formation since arriving in October and it’s led to questions over whether players can build relationships within the team.
Teenager Lewis Hall was drafted into the starting XI at St James’ Park, while Loftus-Cheek was the latest candidate to play as a right wing-back for the Blues.
Potter now has the extended World Cup break to fully gets his methods across to his Chelsea side, before the gap to the Champions League places becomes too big to climb. Chelsea are currently in eighth place in the table, eight points off fourth-placed Spurs.
Graham Potter’s Chelsea are struggling with injuries and struggling for an idendity under him
8. Tottenham are the comeback kings of the Premier League
It’s never a dull moment at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the last two weekends will have probably have all Spurs fans looking forward to a World Cup break after their side once again put them through the wringer.
Last month, Spurs came from 2-0 down to beat Bournemouth, thanks to a Rodrigo Bentancur injury-time winner, and Spurs and their Uruguayan were at it again against Leeds on Saturday.
Jesse Marsch’s team are no stranger to on-field chaos either, and took the lead three times in this game, only for Tottenham to peg them back on each occasion.
Harry Kane, Ben Davies and Bentancur drew the game level for Antonio Conte’s men, but the final twist was yet to come, as Bentancur was once again the match winner.
His late winner finally secured the win for Tottenham in a pulsating game, where the sense of relief could be seen among the Spurs bench in celebration.
It may not be typical Conte, but Spurs’ ability to drag themselves back from the brink shows a team fighting for the manager’s cause and fighting to stay in the top-four hunt.
Antonio Conte can’t hide his delight as Tottenham come from behind again to beat Leeds 4-3
9. Liverpool have a new deadly duo
The subject of Liverpool’s attack this season has been richly debated so far this season. The sale of Sadio Mane has been seen as one of the reason’s for the club’s erratic start to the season, but Jurgen Klopp has remained confident in his choice up front.
The German boss has also been robbed of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz for most of the campaign through injury, while he has eased new signing Darwin Nunez into the team.
Nunez’s arrival was seen as a long-term replacement for Roberto Firmino rather than a direct like-for-like for Mane, but on Saturday Klopp paired the two South Americans together and it worked to great effect.
With Salah on the right, Liverpool deployed Firmino through the middle and Nunez on the left and they were rewarded with goals from both of them.
Firmino shrugged-off his World Cup snub by opening the scoring, while Nunez added a brace to show he’s ready to make an impact in Qatar with Uruguay.
As the Reds now take a break and allow the likes of Jota and Diaz to recover in time for the re-start in December, it means Klopp will have a tasty plethora of options in attack when the Premier League gets going again.
Liverpool’s attack can now boast an in-form duo in Roberto Firmino (left) and Darwin Nunez
10. United unearth another young star
While all the Manchester United headlines were eventually taken up by Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday night, what the football focus should have been on is one Alejandro Garnacho.
The Argentinian teenager came off the bench to net his first Premier League goal on Sunday, slotting home the winner at Craven Cottage, in a hark back to the United ways of old as it came deep into injury time.
Erik ten Tag has sprinkled Garnacho into United’s line-up this season, and the 18-year-old has already notched in the Europa League, while his assist for Scott McTominay in last week’s Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa was one to salivate over.
Now he’s off and running in the Premier League and much is expected of the forward, with some even sharing disappointment that he wasn’t included in Argentina’s World Cup squad.
The goal mirrored Federico Macheda’s infamous strike against Aston Villa in 2009, however, the next chapters in Garnacho’s career look set to be far more celebrated and United look to have found a new darling of Old Trafford.
Alejandro Garnacho netted an injury time winner for Manchester United at Craven Cottage
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