Premier League: Five things we learned this weekend

Sports Mole looks at five things we learned from a Premier League weekend which saw the Manchester clubs march on while Crystal Palace's misery deepens.

Five matches into the new Premier League season and the table is beginning to take a familiar shape, with the Manchester clubs leading the way and champions Chelsea hot on their heels in third place.

Surprise packages Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town continue to gatecrash the top six, following a disappointing weekend for some of the established big boys as Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal all dropped points.

Manchester City and Manchester United were the biggest winners of the weekend and now both sit three points clear of third place having set the early pace, while at the other end another defeat for Crystal Palace leaves them still languishing at the bottom of the table without a point.

Here, Sports Mole looks at five things we learned from the fifth weekend of Premier League action.



Manchester clubs are the teams to beat

Gabriel Jesus celebrates the third with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling during the Premier League game between Watford and Manchester City on September 16, 2017© Offside

Both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho endured underwhelming league campaigns during their debut seasons at their respective clubs, but Manchester City and Manchester United continued their flying start to the 2017-18 season with routs over Watford and Everton respectively this weekend.

City laid down the marker on Saturday with a ruthless 6-0 drubbing of Watford at Vicarage Road - the Hornets' heaviest ever top-flight defeat and one that saw Sergio Aguero score a hat-trick to close in on Eric Brook's all-time goalscoring record for the Citizens.

The rout completed a remarkable week for City, who have now scored 15 goals without reply in the space of a week against Liverpool, Feyenoord and Watford and top the table as a result of their latest goalfest.

There are reasons for City to be cautious, though. Guardiola's side started last season in similar form, winning their opening 10 matches across all competitions before seeing their weaknesses exposed and falling away in the Premier League title race.

The results look convincing, but City needed two goals in the final 20 minutes to beat Brighton & Hove Albion on the opening day, one in the final 10 to rescue a draw with Everton and another in the 97th minute to steal the win against Bournemouth during the opening month of the campaign.

Guardiola's defence also looked far from sturdy during their win over Liverpool last weekend before Sadio Mane's red card changed the game and allowed them to romp to victory, so there are still tests City need to pass before they can claim to be the real deal this season - despite only conceding a league-low two goals so far.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring the third during the Premier League game between Manchester United and Everton on September 17, 2017© Offside

Manchester United, meanwhile, responded to City's six-goal showing with a 4-0 win over Everton that extended their unbeaten start to the season and ensured that they kept pace with their local rivals.

Antonio Valencia set Mourinho's side on their way with a fourth-minute screamer, but the final scoreline was deceptively one-sided as United scored three times in the closing stages to embroider the result - including one for Romelu Lukaku against his former club.

Despite the flattering nature of the scoreline and Everton's poor form going into the game, a four-goal victory against a team that finished just one place below them in the table last season is still impressive for United, who look a much different proposition this season than they did last.

Home draws were the issue throughout Mourinho's first campaign with the club, but United have now won all four of their matches at Old Trafford this season without conceding a goal, scoring 13 in the process.

Tougher challenges are to come for the Red Devils, but United have made the most of their kind start to the season. The real test of their title credentials will arrive when they face their direct top-six rivals, but for now everything is looking very promising for Mourinho's men, who have already spent longer on the top of the table this season than in the four years combined since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.



Arsenal do have character

N'Golo Kante and Aaron Ramsey in action during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Arsenal on September 17, 2017© Offside

After the unsettling nature of their eventual victory over Koln in the Europa League on Thursday, a trip to champions Chelsea is probably the last thing that Arsene Wenger wanted this weekend.

The Gunners went into the match winless in their last 13 games away to a top-six team - the most recent of which was the shambolic 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool - and while that run was extended in a goalless draw with Chelsea, the performance contained a lot of positives for Wenger.

Having been cut open almost at will at Anfield, Arsenal were much sturdier at Stamford Bridge and even had the best chances to win the game, with Aaron Ramsey hitting the post and Alexandre Lacazette missing a sitter.

Alexandre Lacazette has a missed chance during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Arsenal on September 17, 2017© Offside

A late David Luiz red card completed a frustrating afternoon for Chelsea, whose attempts to play out from the back were continually thwarted by an energetic Arsenal press.

A certain Diego Costa may have made the difference in that type of game, but Arsenal were able to deal with Alvaro Morata fairly comfortably throughout and Wenger will certainly see the result as a point gained rather than two more dropped.

The Gunners do still sit in the bottom half of the table and are one of only three teams without an away goal so far this season but, with two wins and a draw since the debacle at Anfield, Wenger seems to have got a response from his players.



Liverpool suffer from same old problems

Jurgen Klopp watches the warm-up ahead of the Premier League game between Liverpool and Burnley on September 16, 2017© Offside

Just three weeks ago Liverpool were being touted as potential title winners following their 4-0 triumph over rivals Arsenal at Anfield, but a damaging week has left them eight points off the pace already.

Jurgen Klopp's side could point to a controversial game-changing red card for their 5-0 loss to Manchester City last weekend, but they had no-one but themselves to blame for the midweek draw with Sevilla and Saturday's 1-1 stalemate at home to Burnley.

Defensive errors once again undermined the Reds as they fell behind to Sean Dyche's side, while the usually-electric attack were not entirely blameless as they failed to make their dominance pay following Mohamed Salah's quick equaliser.

Mohamed Salah celebrates equalising during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Burnley on September 16, 2017© SilverHub

Liverpool fans have seen this all before; the Reds' main issue last season was dropping points against the teams they were expected to beat, and with defensive lapses leading to draws against Watford and Burnley already this term not much seems to have changed.

Entertainment is almost guaranteed - no team has seen more goals in their games than Liverpool so far this season - but that 18-goal tally is made up of nine for and against, whereas the Manchester clubs, who are already five points clear of Liverpool, have both scored 16 and conceded two of their 18 goals.

For Burnley it is another impressive result away to one of the big boys - building on their win at Chelsea and draw at Tottenham having ended last season with the second-worst away record in the league.



Tottenham continue to struggle at Wembley

Jan Vertonghen and Tammy Abraham in action during the Premier League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City on September 16, 2017© Offside

What a difference a few days make in football. On Wednesday Spurs appeared to have banished their Wembley blues for good with a rousing victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League which saw Harry Kane score a brace to continue his fine goalscoring form in September.

Fast forward to Saturday evening, and the curse was back. Mauricio Pochettino's side are still without a Premier League win at their temporary home, already dropping seven points in front of their own fans this term having only dropped four at White Hart Lane throughout the entirety of last season.

Defeat to champions Chelsea in their opening Wembley league game can perhaps be overlooked, but just two points from matches against Burnley and Swansea City is a hugely disappointing return for Spurs, who built their title challenge on winning those games last season.

Harry Kane and Federico Fernandez battle for the ball during the Premier League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City on September 16, 2017© Offside

Whether it was a comedown from their Champions League euphoria or simply an off day, Tottenham's in-form attackers failed to make much headway at all against the Swans as Paul Clement's side held out for a goalless draw.

Spurs will now have to wait until at least October for their first Premier League win at Wembley as their next two outings in the competition come on the road, but Pochettino will know that the wait cannot go on much longer if his side are to keep pace with the rest of their top-six rivals.

The North Londoners do still sit fifth in the table and are only one point off the top four at this early stage of the season, but if they have any ambitions of chasing the title then they already have a five-point gap to make up to the leading duo.



No quick fix for Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson is having a mare during the Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Southampton on September 16, 2017© SilverHub

Crystal Palace made Premier League history when they sacked Frank de Boer after just 77 days and four matches at the helm, and they wrote their name in the top-flight annals again this weekend.

The Eagles became the first team in English top-flight history to lose all of their opening five games to a season without scoring a single goal when they were beaten 1-0 at home by Southampton on Saturday in what was Roy Hodgson's first match as manager.

Hodgson's reign got off to a nightmare start when Steven Davis scored what proved to be the only goal of the game after just six minutes, with Palace's direct style failing to cause the Saints too many problems throughout the remainder of the match.

Fraser Forster saves a Christian Benteke shot during the Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Southampton on September 16, 2017© Offside

Palace are now the only team without a win and without a goal this season, propping up the Premier League table after five games with four points already separating them from safety.

Things do not get any easier for the struggling Eagles either, with their next three league matches seeing them take on Manchester City away, Manchester United away and Chelsea at home - the Premier League's top three teams.

A small glimmer of hope for Palace may come from the fact that the Ipswich Town side of 1970-71 still avoided relegation after failing to score in their first five games of the season, but there is no denying that Hodgson has a lot of work to do with his new players.

Sean Dyche gives orders during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Burnley on September 16, 2017
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City98103242825
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd96212241820
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs85211551017
4Chelsea95131710716
5Watford94321517-215
6Newcastle UnitedNewcastle9423108214
7Arsenal84131210213
8Liverpool83411312113
9Burnley934289-113
10Southampton933389-112
11Huddersfield TownHuddersfield9333710-312
12Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton9324910-111
13West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom9243710-310
14Leicester CityLeicester92341214-29
15Swansea CitySwansea9225610-48
16Everton8224513-88
17West Ham UnitedWest Ham9225817-98
18Stoke CityStoke92251020-108
19Bournemouth9216613-77
20Crystal Palace9108219-173
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