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

1) Tierney a leader in waiting for Arsenal

Eighteen months after his arrival from Celtic, Kieran Tierney has overcome injury and homesickness to emerge as such an influential player at Arsenal that Mikel Arteta sees him as a future club captain. “I think he can be,” said Arteta following the left-back’s dominant performance in the 4-0 win at West Brom. “He has the respect and admiration of every member of the staff and every player. It’s just the way he is. He does it in a natural way. He’s a really shy boy but he represents all the values that are in the DNA of this club. He’s a natural leader. You see how he behaves on the pitch. And when he talks he says the right thing. He’s someone who is exactly what he look for.” Tierney opened the scoring with a wonderful solo goal at the Hawthorns and never relented, setting up Alexandre Lacazette for Arsenal’s fourth. “He can still improve but at the moment he is a real threat in attack and is doing really well defensively also,” added Arteta. “This is the type of contribution we need.” Paul Doyle

• Match report: West Brom 0-4 Arsenal

2) Spurs still need to share the goals around more

All felt well with the world for José Mourinho and Tottenham after their 3-0 victory over Leeds snapped a four-game winless streak and there was no surprise that Son Heung-min and Harry Kane were on the scoresheet. Their goals gave them 12 and 10 respectively for the Premier League season, but although Mourinho was pleased to see Toby Alderweireld score his first of the campaign, the statistics show that, Son and Kane apart, the team have managed only seven goals in the competition. The productivity from midfield is simply too low for a team with aspirations to challenge for the title and although Steven Bergwijn, Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg got into scoring positions against Leeds, they could not finish. Bergwijn is a particular worry, having failed to score all season and been guilty of high-profile misses. “We need him to score,” Mourinho said. “We know he has the ability for that.” David Hytner

• Match report: Tottenham 3-0 Leeds

Toby Alderweireld celebrates scoring a rare goal with his prolific teammate Son Heung-min against Leeds. Photograph: Julian Finney/Reuters

3) Gündogan sparks City’s masterclass

Manchester City’s sublime front three will receive much of the credit for their stylish swatting-aside of Chelsea but less heralded players behind them merit as much praise. Of City’s starting XI on Sunday only Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne have been at the club longer than Ilkay Gündogan, yet the German has often gone under the radar. He was the beating heart of City’s midfield at Stamford Bridge and typified their superiority in that area, driving in the excellent first goal that kickstarted a devastating and decisive 25 minutes from his side. Chelsea’s defence was obliging once again, which will intensify the clamour for fresh recruitment but many of their problems here were down to basic lapses in concentration rather than deficiencies in ability or pace. City’s attackers were able to escape their markers with ease and at will to remind us they are firmly in the title reckoning. Tom Davies

• Match report: Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City

4) Villa look fit for purpose despite defeat

Aston Villa had chances to win at Old Trafford on Friday night but lacked ruthlessness, particularly in the closing moments when Matty Cash and Keinan Davis were stymied by a David de Gea save and an Eric Bailly block. There is, though, a wider picture in play that Dean Smith can be proud of. Villa’s manager is constructing a Premier League-proof team in the purest sense of the term. Jack Grealish is the star as he again illustrated in an authoritative display, but the captain also has support. Ollie Watkins is a credible No 9, Anwar El Ghazi has four goals in his past six Premier League outings, while John McGinn’s midfield scheming complements Grealish. And in defence Tyrone Mings may have been culpable for Anthony Martial’s opening header, failing to clear the cross, but here was a rare error from a centre-back who provides leadership and whose muscularity embodies a physicality that is a further vital component of Villa. Jamie Jackson

• Match report: Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa

5) Eze excels in all areas and can become a regular

Eberechi Eze stole the show against Sheffiled United as Crystal Palace returned to winning ways. But rather than his brilliant solo goal just before half-time, Roy Hodgson was most impressed with the 22-year-old’s second-half display. “He showed the intensity and the concentration and determination to defend properly to make certain we weren’t under the cosh in any way,” said the former England manager. Eze was left out of the starting lineup by Hodgson after Palace let in 10 goals in two matches against Liverpool and Aston Villa but with Jeffrey Schlupp looking set for a spell on the sidelines, the £19.5m summer signing from QPR will surely be handed more opportunities in the coming weeks. “The whole of the team are helping him improve his game,” said Hodgson. “He had to make one further step up when he came into the Premier League.” Ed Aarons

• Match report: Crystal Palace 2-0 Sheffield United

6) Saint-Maximin’s cult-hero status enhanced by absence

Steve Bruce says Allan Saint-Maximin is “difficult to manage”, while the winger reportedly drove his former manager at Nice, Patrick Vieira, to distraction but there are good reasons why “Saint-Max” is a cult hero on Tyneside. The brilliant yet unpredictable Frenchman is a game-changer who enables Newcastle to win games they do not always deserve to and his absence with coronavirus and its after-effects is being keenly felt. While Saint-Maximin convalesces in France, Callum Wilson is becoming isolated in Bruce’s attacks and Newcastle are on the sort of disappointing run which can easily suck teams into relegation scraps. Since he last appeared in the first team before contracting Covid-19 in late November, Bruce has desperately missed the outlet his improvisation-rich maverick invariably provides and surely sympathises with the adage about absence making the heart grow fonder. Louise Taylor

• Match report: Newcastle 1-2 Leicester

Newcastle v Leicester
Callum Wilson cut an isolated figure against Leicester. Photograph: Paul Ellis/Reuters

7) Zeqiri could be the focal point Brighton need

Before Saturday, Andi Zeqiri had played only 18 minutes of football for Brighton. The September signing from Lausanne has had to bide his time and, at 21, still has raw edges to smooth over. But he had an instant effect when coming on at half-time against Wolves with his side 3-1 down, his first touch bringing a header from which Neal Maupay won a game-changing penalty. Zeqiri is a tall, bustling striker with a decent line in hold-up play; in other words the kind of focal point Brighton, who too often flounder when they reach the penalty area, require. He created space for others in a far more convincing second half from the Seagulls and should have scored, too, when he blasted over after Adam Webster had hit the bar. While it would be a stretch to say he will propel Brighton away from relegation bother single-handedly, Zeqiri showed enough to suggest he can play a key role for Graham Potter. Nick Ames

• Match report: Brighton 3-3 Wolves

8) Wolves’ lack of control raises questions about Nuno

At what point will questions be raised on the future of Nuno Espírito Santo? His closeness to the owners’ special adviser, the recently crowned “agent of the century” Jorge Mendes, would seem to make him more copper-bottomed than most managers but this has been a disappointing season. At Brighton, a team without a home win all season, Wolves showed a distinct lack of the controlled football that has characterised Nuno’s reign. With the scores at 3-3 from the 70th minute, Brighton looked the likelier winner until Owen Otasowie, the Wolves substitute, missed a glorious chance with the very last kick. Despite scoring three goals at the Amex, Wolves lack firepower after the loss of Raúl Jiménez to injury and the sale of Diogo Jota. “I am disappointed with me, with everybody,” Nuno said afterwards. January transfer activity might spell out how much faith Mendes et al have in him. John Brewin

9) West Ham invite parallels with Moyes’s Everton

After taking his first points from Goodison Park since leaving in 2013, David Moyes spoke of a desire to recreate at West Ham what he built with Everton. There were unmistakable parallels in that respect on Friday as a supremely well-organised and committed team, marshalled by the outstanding Angelo Ogbonna, defied a ridiculous fixture schedule to claim a merited first win in five games. The potency of a Liverpool-born left back, Aaron Cresswell, echoed the influence of Leighton Baines for Moyes’s Everton, while the collective spirit throughout the West Ham ranks – evident in the impact of big-name substitutes such as Andriy Yarmolenko – was another similarity and the mark of a team with substance. “To get this result in a third game in six days, and in a third away game in four over the Christmas period, says an awful lot about the boys,” said Moyes. “They know that if you don’t come along you will be left behind but everyone is contributing.” Andy Hunter

• Match report: Everton 0-1 West Ham

10) Covid-hit Fulham face fixture headache

The postponement of successive Fulham matches demonstrate the the behind-the-scenes battle clubs face in stemming the tide of Covid-19. Questions of players’ personal responsibility are being raised. Reports that Aleksandar Mitrovic had attended a new year party with the Crystal Palace midfielder Luka Milivojevic were deeply unhelpful to a club that engaged the ire of José Mourinho when their game at Tottenham was called off last Wednesday. Once three of Mourinho’s players were found to have broken protocols, then Spurs’ higher ground was lost. But where Fulham might fit their two games in hand into a concertinaed schedule is a significant query considering a distinct lack of breathing room in the calendar. For Burnley’s part, the club’s new majority owners, ALK Capital – and new chairman, Alan Pace – were denied a first game at the helm. The Americans have arrived in English football during a time of turmoil. John Brewin

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