These are five things we learned from games played in the matchday nine of the Premier League.
1. Arsenal 0 vs Middlesbrough 0: Players rotation key to a proper Gunners Premier League challenge
After a fine run of six Premier League wins, Arsenal were held to a goalless draw by Middlesbrough in a game where the Gunners struggled. Arsenal’s play in the game was lethargic and lack pace, highlighting the players’ fatigue from their midweek 6-0 drubbing of Ludogorets in the Champions League. It comes to mind the question why Arsene Wenger did not rotate more for that game although it was considered more equally important as they Premier League fixture. Granit Xhaka, serving a domestic three-match suspension would have been fielded instead of Francis Coquelin and maybe play Mohamed Elneny instead of Santi Cazorla who got injured in the game. With Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey to return soon, Wenger will have a bigger squad ahead. He must, however, rotate frequently to keep players fresh and injury-free for a proper title challenge.
2. Liverpool 2 Vs West Brom 1: Klopp’s men advantaged for title
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Liverpool got the expected three points from their home game with West Brom further strengthening the belief that they can get their hands on a first Premier League title. With no engagements in Europe this season, Liverpool are advantaged to win the league this season. The defence remains a worry, but Liverpool have such a potent forward line that they can outscore most opponents. Of all the league title contenders this season, Liverpool have the most time in their hands to win. They must make use of this opportunity or rue another missed chance come May 2017.
3. Manchester City 1 Vs Southampton 1: Guardiola’s passing game won’t work in the Premier League
After a flying start to the lib e in England, Pep Guardiola has not won his last three games in the Premier League and five in all competitions. He seems to have been found out by other Premier League managers. His insistence that the team play from the back has let the team down and will continue to do so. He won titles with it in Spain and Germany, but in England where the game is based on pace and aggressiveness, the John Stone mistake that led to Southampton goal will be a regular. Guardiola must look for a way to tweak his system to fit in the Premier League for City to have any chance at the title.
4. Chelsea 4 Vs Manchester United 0: Conte finally cracked the code?
It was a hard decision for Antonio Conte to make when he just came in as manager of Chelsea. Should he go straight to the three-man defence that had worked for him all through his career or try out a new system in a new league? The new system worked at first before there were exposed in the losses to Liverpool and Arsenal. With those defeats, Conte switched to a three-man defence and he has gotten the results. With two straight wins against Hull City and Leicester City, Chelsea got a big result against United. The dominant 4-0 win might have shown that Conte has gotten the right system for Chelsea. The three-man defence, Victor Moses as a wing-back and freer role for Eden Hazard. It’s hard to predict how long this will work, but it’s been effective so far and Conte is a happy man again.
5. Chelsea 4 Vs Manchester United 0: United’s dearth in quality exposed
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I have always maintained that there is a real lack of quality in Manchester United and on Sunday, it was very evident again. Despite £151.77m spent in the summer on players, Mourinho still has a team very short of winning the title. The lack of quality was clear for all to see from defence, through midfield to attack. It’s not just about the ineffective Paul Pogba, the whole team lacks quality and it’s too late for Mourinho to fix.