Sports

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

1) Only Spurs can stop Spurs challenging for title

Perhaps we ought to ask the question differently. How are Tottenham going to mess this up? A tear in Harry Kane’s ankle? A dodgy lasagne? A global pandemic halting the league? Because in the heat of this moment, in which the world is upside down and anything can happen, the biggest reason why Spurs cannot win the title is that they are Spurs. Apart from the loss to Everton on the opening weekend, they have been better than everybody they have faced – and that has included both Manchester clubs, most recently City on Saturday. After an excellent transfer window, they are looking like a winning José Mourinho team. Mourinho refuses to admit it and he will only go game-by-game but, deep down, he knows it is there for the taking. Sunday’s visit to Chelsea is huge.

2) Welbeck makes pleasing return to scoresheet

An international striker who has been in the Premier League for a decade, including at clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal, would normally be expected to have scored at least as many goals as, say, Andy Johnson or Darius Vassell. But Danny Welbeck has been cursed by injuries throughout his career and has yet to join the top flight’s 50-goal club. His performance in Brighton’s win at Aston Villa on Saturday, when he scored his 45th Premier League goal, suggested he could reach that milestone this season. Apart from his expert finish at Villa Park he dovetailed beautifully with his teammates throughout the game and worked tirelessly, completing 90 minutes for the first time since leaving Watford. “He has been a breath of fresh air,” said Graham Potter of the player who turns 30 this week.

3) Toffees give themselves platform for tough run

With Leeds up next at Goodison Park before a trip to Burnley, Carlo Ancelotti will know that the direction of Everton’s season could be determined over the course of the next few busy weeks. They are due to face Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United – in the Carabao Cup quarter-final – in December and must defend much better than they did at Craven Cottage if they have aspirations of challenging at the higher end of the table. Alex Iwobi impressed as a right wing-back against struggling Fulham although it remains to be seen whether the Nigeria international is a long term option in that position once Seamus Coleman returns. “Alex has the quality to play there and I’m happy with his performance,” said Ancelotti. “We have got to have consistency now because every game will be a test. Our target is to fight for the top six if possible.”

4) Werner grows into role for improving Chelsea

Timo Werner fluffed a few chances but remained the player who, perhaps more than any other, suggested Chelsea really are genuine title contenders. “He missed a couple of openings but Timo was a real threat,” said Frank Lampard after a supremely comfortable win that temporarily lifted Chelsea to the top of the Premier League for the first time since 2018. “You need and rely on top-class players of that quality; the pace he travels with the ball is something special and he was so unselfish.” His team are not too shabby defensively either and have developed a reassuring clean-sheet habit. “We’ve gained confidence from keeping clean sheets, which was a problem for us earlier this season and in parts of last,” said Lampard. “The international break was challenging but we’ve come to Newcastle, dominated possession [70%] and could have scored more goals.”

5) Raphinha shows Bielsa he is willing to work

Since his £17m move to Elland Road, Raphinha has had to bide his time. Joining a Marcelo Bielsa squad is not a straightforward prospect for any player, as they need to learn the ways of their maverick head coach. The visit of Arsenal was his first start and a chance to fully show what he can do after three cameos. The Brazilian showed neat early touches and movement as he looked to exhibit the wing play that could make him a danger in the Premier League. He drifted in and out of the game as he tried to find his feet in Bielsa’s formation, but struck the post late on. Although he was not consistently involved in the attacking play, Raphinha worked as hard as anyone in white, a sign he is willing to buy into his new coach’s ideas. If his skills can be as consistent as his workrate, then Leeds will be very pleased with their business.

6) Milner sums up Liverpool’s show of strength