5 Things We Learned from the EPL This Weekend
Goals, upsets and controversies—this weekend had it all.
While Arsenal vs. Chelsea was surely the most anticipated match of the weekend, the real excitement came from the other end of England, where Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were playing out one of the games of the season.
Liverpool got their first win of the season in some style against Norwich, while Merseyside rivals Everton continued their tremendous start to the season to beat Southampton 3-1.
With plenty of things to take away from this weekend, here are five things we learned.
Arsenal Still Defend Like Arsenal
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Coming off two 6-1 wins in their previous two home matches, Arsenal went into their London derby against league leaders Chelsea with optimistic idea that they could make yet another statement following their 1-1 draw at champions Manchester City.
But the team that showed up on Saturday morning was very different than the team that outplayed Manchester City on their own turf a week earlier. Arsenal's newfound defensive solidity had gone down the gutter as they fell to a 2-1 loss to Chelsea at the Emirates, with both goals conceded from sloppily defended set pieces.
For Arsenal fans like myself, it was worrying to see the team concede the sort of "silly goals" that they would have conceded last season or the season before. Questions must be asked of the defensive organization on both set pieces where the goals were conceded, and hopefully things will be sorted out on the training ground with the defensive solidity back to what it was earlier in the season.
So, is the verdict out on Arsenal's title credentials? Does the draw at Manchester City make them contenders, does the loss to Chelsea make them pretenders or is it too early to tell altogether?
Chelsea Remain the Team to Beat
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Chelsea were handed a chance to bolster their title credentials and send out a statement of intent on Saturday with a win, and they took the chance like champions.
It was, in all honesty, an ugly win. Although Chelsea did have a good game and efficiently closed down Arsenal's dangerous midfield, both of Chelsea's goals were more conceded by Arsenal than they were scored by Chelsea—in the sense that Arsenal's defense was largely at fault for their loss to the Blues.
But you know what they say—champions win ugly, and three points from the Emirates is valuable no matter what form they come in. Chelsea's strong start mean they remain the team to beat in the Premier League, with a comfortable three-point lead at the top of the table.
Who can knock them off the throne?
Luis Suarez Is the Key to Liverpool's Success
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Luis Suarez's brilliant hat trick against Norwich finally handed Liverpool their first win of the season as they hammered the Canaries 5-2 at Carrow Road.
All three of Suarez's goals on Saturday were clinical finishes, put into the corners with enough pace to beat just about any keeper. However, any Liverpool fan will know that this isn't something you hear everyday. Despite being a brilliant player with the ability to carve apart defenses with his footwork and dribbling skills, Suarez often has a tough time finishing the chances created by himself and his teammates.
Finishing—it's a problem Liverpool generally have as a team, but the Reds' thrashing of Norwich showed just how good they can be when everyone—Suarez in particular—is finishing the chances created.
Suarez's Man of the Match performance reminded us all of just how good of a player he really is and how big of an asset he is to Liverpool Football Club. In order for Brendan Rodgers' side to have any chance of challenging for Europe this season, Suarez will have to be at the top of his game and, most importantly, scoring goals for the Reds.
Andre Villas-Boas Isn't as Bad as We Thought
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People love to criticize Andre Villas-Boas.
His time at Chelsea was, in short, a failure. Sacked after less than a season in charge, many questioned whether or not the Portuguese manager dubbed the next Jose Mourinho knew what he was doing following some dodgy tactics and team selections.
Moving crosstown to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to build back his reputation and progress his career, Villas-Boas endured a shaky start to the season with Spurs after draws against West Brom and Norwich as well as a loss at Newcastle.
It must be worth something, though, that as Spurs got their first win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 23 years, it was Villas-Boas who was the man in charge. Could he really be the man to lead Tottenham to glory?
This Could Be Everton's Season
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When football pundits are asked whether or not they think Everton can achieve a top four finish this season following their brilliant start (yeah, that's not a typo), most will immediately say that as good as their form has been, David Moyes' side won't be able to get into the promised land that is Champions League qualification.
But why not? Everton's squad consists of more than a few classy players, including Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar, Nikica Jelavic, Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman, Kevin Mirallas and more. They've got one of, I'd say, the top three managers in the league in David Moyes, a man who finds a way to do big things with small amounts of cash in the transfer market.
In my opinion, there are only two things stopping Everton from getting a top four finish, and those are squad depth and competition. The Premier League season is 38 games long, not six, and the same core of brilliant players will struggle to perform throughout the entire season the way they have been doing at the moment.
The second thing stopping Everton from finishing in the top four is simple. The competition for a Champions League spot is higher than ever, and it's hard to see either Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal out of the top four and Everton in. Keep in mind that that isn't even taking into account the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Newcastle.
If there's any season where Everton will take it to the next level and rise from their usual eighth- and seventh-place finish, it's this one.