News, Culture & Society

Premier League: 10 things we learned from the weekend’s Premier League action as Dele Alli shines

The second week of the Premier League season provided its usual dose of thrills and spills as teams’ strengths and deficiencies were highlighted in equal measure.

Arsenal’s defeat by Chelsea means they have lost both of their opening two games of a Premier League season without scoring for the first time in the club’s history, as Romelu Lukaku signalled his intentions to take the league by storm.

Manchester United dropped points at Southampton, while rivals Man City smashed five past Norwich as Liverpool dug deep to record a 2-0 victory against Burnley. 

Here, Sportsmail dissects the key talking points from another thrilling weekend of action in the Premier League, with Leicester’s visit to West Ham still to come.

Danny Ings scored a fabulous goal for Aston Villa in another thrilling weekend of action

No easy way out for Arteta at Arsenal

Mikel Arteta would have expected a tough start to the season ever since the opening fixtures against Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City were announced, but it has not made the return of zero points out of six any easier.

The Gunners were put to the sword by Chelsea in their first home game and despite stabilising in the second half, could in reality have conceded more than the two goals that Bernd Leno did see fly past him.

The Spaniard has seen his squad decimated by cases of coronavirus and injuries to Gabriel Magalhaes and Thomas Partey, but there was once again clear defensive errors combined with a lack of penetration up front.

Mikel Arteta has now lost 20 of his 60 games in charge of Arsenal since December 2019

Mikel Arteta has now lost 20 of his 60 games in charge of Arsenal since December 2019

The former midfielder has now lost more games at home than Arsene Wenger did in his last six years in charge of the club, and has an overall record of 20 defeats in 60 games. 

Arteta could welcome some of the absentees as well as new signing Martin Odegaard back at the Etihad Stadium, but a defeat there – especially given their recent record against Pep Guardiola’s men – looks a certainty after their trashing of Norwich.

This is an enormous season for Arsenal, and things may well get much worse before there are signs of improvement. 

Lukaku is the missing piece of the Chelsea jigsaw  

Amid the chaos at one London club, Romelu Lukaku showed the rest of the league just what Chelsea had been missing, and why they are now primed to wrestle Manchester City’s top-flight crown off them.

Pablo Mari isn’t the first centre-back to be troubled by the Belgian and won’t be the last, but the former Inter Milan striker’s movement, pace and strength were all too much for the Spanish defender and his team-mates.

It was no better demonstrated than his first Blues goal, holding off challenges after receiving Mateo Kovacic’s ball before tapping in Reece James’ cross with a burst into the area.

He could have doubled his tally with a header in the second half bar a brilliant save from Leno, but the rest of the league have been warned, this Lukaku is very different from the one who left Manchester United two years ago.

With City still struggling to fill the Sergio Aguero-shaped void in their XI amid their continued pursuit of Harry Kane, Lukaku could well decide where the Premier League trophy ends up this season. 

Romelu Lukaku bullied Arsenal's defenders and will be the key in Chelsea's title bid

Romelu Lukaku bullied Arsenal’s defenders and will be the key in Chelsea’s title bid

Alli could thrive in new role

No longer deployed as the midfielder directly behind Harry Kane, Dele Alli has been handed a new lease of life by Nuno Espirito Santo in a deeper role.

The Spurs boss sees Alli as an all-action midfielder tasked with winning the ball deep in his own territory and helping dominate possession when his side are further forward.

The 25-year-old showed glimpses of what that role could bring. He won and coolly converted the winning penalty with a trademark dash into the box for his first top-flight goal since March last year.  

But it was his defensive shift – which included throwing himself at a Raul Jimenez effort – which would have pleased his manager the most. 

Alli has had far too many peaks and troughs in his career to know the hard work is only just beginning, but there are positive signs he could create a role for himself again at Spurs. 

Dele Alli netted his first Premier League goal since March 2020 in Spurs' win at Wolves

Dele Alli netted his first Premier League goal since March 2020 in Spurs’ win at Wolves

Man United must invest in midfield despite big-spending summer  

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men may have extended their unbeaten run away from home in the Premier League to 27 matches against Southampton, but there were some concerns for the Norwegian this time around, unlike against Leeds.

United fought their way back into the game through Mason Greenwood’s equaliser after a Fred own goal had handed the hosts the advantage.

Saints forward Adam Armstrong may have blown the best chance of the game after Greenwood’s equaliser but it was United’s lack of creativity in midfield – despite some promising positions – which led Roy Keane to call for recruitment in that area.

The Red Devils have already spent £115million this summer to sign Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane from Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.

But they will continue to struggle, particularly away from home, if the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are not supported with more creative flair than the likes of Nemanja Matic and Fred currently offer. 

Manchester United need to sign a midfielder to help Paul Pogba (L) and Bruno Fernandes (R)

Manchester United need to sign a midfielder to help Paul Pogba (L) and Bruno Fernandes (R)

… and Yves Bissouma could be the man after display against Watford 

So who could United turn to? Well, if he hadn’t done enough last season, then Yves Bissouma certainly made yet another case to seal a move to a so-called ‘Big Six’ club.

The 24-year-old impressed once more in Brighton’s victory over Watford, winning tackles and setting up attacks all afternoon for the Seagulls.

He capitalised on a mistake from Watford to lay on the assist for Neal Maupay’s goal, to ensure they went into half time two goals up.

The Mali star made more tackles and more interceptions than any other player against Watford, and Jermaine Jenas admitted he could see one of United or City coming in for him before the transfer deadline.

Yves Bissouma could be the answer after his excellent display for Brighton against Watford

Yves Bissouma could be the answer after his excellent display for Brighton against Watford

Laporte makes his case to stay at Man City

Sportsmail revealed last week that the Premier League champions will allow Aymeric Laporte to leave if his £60m price tag is matched.

But the Spain defender provided a reminder as to how he could still serve City and why they would be wise not to sell him to a Juventus or Real Madrid.

Norwich may have been the opponents but Ruben Dias and Laporte were barely troubled and the latter could yet prove to be stern competition for John Stones.

The Portugal and England centre-backs formed a formidable partnership at the heart of Guardiola’s defence last term, but after a strong showing at Euro 2020 and a goal in the 5-0 victory on Saturday, Laporte could still have plenty to offer. 

Aymeric Laporte scored and defended well alongside Ruben Dias as City thrashed Norwich

Aymeric Laporte scored and defended well alongside Ruben Dias as City thrashed Norwich

Elliott could be a valuable asset to Liverpool

Amid Jurgen Klopp’s comparison of Burnley’s aggressive tackling to wrestling, one player who failed to be bulldozed off the ball was Harvey Elliott.

The 18-year-old midfielder, who was on loan at Blackburn last season, was handed his first Premier League start by Klopp on Saturday.

His eye-catching display included playing a part in the creation of Sadio Mane’s goal, having been denied an assist after Mohamed Salah’s effort was ruled out for offside by VAR.

Harvey Elliott proved Liverpool may not need to sign a replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum

Harvey Elliott proved Liverpool may not need to sign a replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum

Liverpool fans joked that Elliott was already better than Manchester City’s Jack Grealish, comments that would backfire after the England star netted his first goal following his £100m move later that afternoon.

But after all the grumblings that the Reds needed to sign a replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum this summer following his free transfer to PSG, Elliott may well have put his hand up to counter that argument.

His contributions to Liverpool’s attack have come from midfield rather than as a member of the front three, and although Klopp insisted he was not surprised by Elliott’s performance, he may well continue to raise a few eyebrows.

Raphinha is no one-season wonder

Demarai Gray may have been the star of the show in Everton’s draw against Leeds, but one man’s individual brilliance could have stolen the limelight on any other day.

Leeds star Raphinha scored home and away against Everton last season and was on hand again to thwart the Toffees with a sublime left-footed, curling strike to rescue a point for his side.  

The 24-year-old scored six goals and laid on nine assists in his first season in English football, but there have been plenty of cases before of players whose verve in attacking play simply fizzles out.

But this does not appear to be the case for the Brazilian, who sizzled once again to send a home crowd witnessing their first home Premier League game since 2004 delirious. 

Raphinha scored a delicious curling effort to rescue a point for Leeds at home to Everton

Raphinha scored a delicious curling effort to rescue a point for Leeds at home to Everton

Mings and Ings spine could lead Villa into Europe

Aside from the rather fortunate rhyme of the names, Tyrone Mings and Danny Ings appear ready to take Aston Villa to new heights this season.

Ings appears equally as capable of leading a Villa line that also boasts the talent of Ollie Watkins as he did a relegation-threatened Southampton over the last couple of seasons.

His incredible acrobatic goal against Newcastle was just another example of why the West Midlands outfit were so keen to splash out big money and beat potential competitors to his signature.

At the other end, Mings was back to his imperious best after an early error which Callum Wilson failed to punish. But a clean sheet and a hand in both goals will give him the most pleasure.

Whisper it quietly, but after a decent campaign in 2020-21, Villa may well just be heading for a spot in Europe if they can continue these sort of performances. 

lngs netted his second Villa goal against Newcastle

Mings delivered a captain's display

Danny Ings (left) scored a wonderful goal while Tyrone Mings (right) was back to his best

Palace prepared to battle as Vieira looks for right combination 

The south London outfit are very much a side in transition but their doggedness and desire to battle was the most pleasing aspect for Patrick Vieira in their goalless draw with Brentford.

Bryan Mbuemo and Ivan Toney were a nuisance up front for the visitors and had they been a touch sharper in front of goal Palace may have started the season with two defeats.

But it was nevertheless a battling display for a manager who is still trying to work out his best tactics and formation having taken over in the summer.

There will no doubt be more fluid performances to come from Wilfried Zaha and his team-mates, but such resolute displays will help convince the fans the Frenchman is the right man to take the club forward.

A disjointed Crystal Palace battled to a goalless draw against top-flight newcomers Brentford

A disjointed Crystal Palace battled to a goalless draw against top-flight newcomers Brentford

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk