Weekend review

We discuss the key talking points raised from another intriguing round of Premier League fixtures.

Last Updated: 16/09/13 at 19:38

Christian Eriksen proved an instant hit at Spurs with a sparkling debut against

Christian Eriksen proved an instant hit at Spurs with a sparkling debut against

The perfect match?

After three matches without scoring from open play, the big question for Tottenham was whether Christian Eriksen could provide the subtlety they need in the final third against Norwich. The answer was a resounding 'yes' as the 21-year-old set up Gylfi Sigurdsson to open the scoring with a perfectly weighted pass and then played a key role in the Icelander's second.

Although he's not yet in Özil's league, Eriksen contributed 44 assists in 113 Eredivisie games for Ajax and created an astonishing 138 chances last season - the highest of any player in the league.

There is plenty of cause for optimism at Spurs despite Norwich's poor showing and with the Gareth Bale sideshow now over, Andre Villas-Boas can focus on combining impressive performances with an already healthy-looking set of results. MS

Work in progress

The fledgling strike partnership between Southampton pair Rickie Lambert and Dani Osvaldo is the proverbial work in progress.

Only twice did Lambert and Osvaldo exchange passes in the area in Sunday's goalless draw with West Ham. The touch maps below demonstrate in terms of their movement and the spaces they occupy, both players appear to hold pretty similar ideas about dropping off the front. Being interchangeable is no bad thing, but unless you have quick transitions in the middle of the field it can leave sides flailing for a target to hit.

Link-ups between Osvaldo and Lambert, plus touch maps for both players (Osvaldo first)

Lambert was relatively quiet, save for hitting the post with a near post header and a trademark effort in the second period where he opened up his body on the left flank to bend a right-footed shot that forced a solid stop from the outstanding Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Osvaldo, who scored 17 goals in 31 games for Roma last season, was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance in the first half when a lack of cuteness in his finish from Luke Shaw's pullback allowed Jaaskelainen to make a sprawling save. Of more concern to Mauro Pochettino though will be whether they are too similar to forge an effective partnership. Read our full match analysis here AD

No substitute for experience

Gareth Barry on his Everton debut was a revelation. Despite having harboured reservations about a lack of football pre-match he lasted 90 minutes and barely put a foot wrong. Composed and subtly inventive in possession, he persistently drove his new side forward, with his flailing block to prevent Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o from netting into an open goal in the first period typifying his overall performance.

Gareth Barry's pass and touch maps from the weekend defeat of Chelsea

After the game his manager spoke of how his new signing's performance was a 'master class' and how he is 'a perfect influence for Ross Barkley and James McCarthy'. During his time at City, only Michael Carrick (8125) attempted more passes than Barry (7561) in the Premier League and while both are often accused of being too safe in their choices, Barkley will benefit from being in the company of a man who treats the ball so tenderly. Around the hour mark, before he got a second wind for the final 15 minutes or so, Barkley lost the ball four times in succession. He'll learn though and only a true curmudgeon would begrudge Everton's new poster boy his moment in the sun. Read our full match analysis here AD

Champions uninspiring

A first win in three matches but a third game in which United failed to score from open play. You would expect the champions to be far more incisive against the ten-man relegation favourites.

Wayne Rooney impressed on his return and his continued importance to the team is underlined by the Opta stat that the striker has scored or assisted 40 goals in his last 44 Premier League appearances. At the start of the summer, United had the opportunity to replace their wantaway forward, but now they are left to rely on his impact as the midfield and wingers look increasingly ordinary.

That debutant Adnan Januzaj played more key passes in his 23 minutes on the pitch than Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia reinforces the belief that the starting duo are some way below the standard required. The same is true of Anderson, of course, who was indulged by Sir Alex Ferguson to the point of obese embarrassment. MS

Runners-up uninspiring

We were promised so much, but Man City are yet to deliver on Manuel Pellegrini's pre-season pledge to play attractive football in the opponent's half. City strived to take the initiative against Stoke, but hit the target with only three of their ten attempts in a forgettable fixture.

The ghost of Manchester City managers past nearly haunted Manuel Pellegrini on Saturday

In truth, City's starting XI never looked convincing. A centre-back pairing of Matija Nastasic and Javi Garcia left much to be desired, while Jack Rodwell struggled to make the most of his first start alongside Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri and James Milner failed to offer cutting edge on the flanks. The quick transitions on which Pellegrini intends to base his style - and that Fernandinho was signed for - failed to materialise as City toiled but looked nothing more than ordinary against an ordinary Stoke side for whom the crushingly ordinary Jonathan Walters should have headed the winner.

Pellegrini hinted that his team selection may have had one eye on Tuesday's trip to Plzen where City must try to turn on the style after three laboured displays. "(Stoke) is a difficult place to come and it was also difficult because we have a Champions League game on Tuesday and had an international week. So it is a good draw," said Pellegrini after the game. The right result and right performance against Plzen would provide a timely boost ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby and that fixture holds enormous significance for two managers who still need to prove themselves to expectant supporters. MS

Appreciating Özil

Mesut Özil's first Premier League assist came after just 614 seconds at Sunderland

Of course one cannot draw conclusions from one game, but if Mesut Özil continues in this vein, the impact he could have on the Arsenal side is profound. He appeared to free up the rest of his teammates from the state of almost perpetual frustration in which they often find themselves, making them a quicker and more decisive unit.

Özil's probing meant Arsenal should really have been out of sight by the break, creating three clear chances, all in the opening 45 minutes, enjoying a remarkable 73% possession. One suspects that at some point the German will get bored of artfully presenting Theo Walcott with free runs on goal, only for him to thunk the ball straight into the goalkeeper's midriff.

Özil faded in the second half, but given he probably shouldn't have played due to spot of flu, that is hardly a surprise. Just imagine what he'll be like when he isn't stuffed full of Sudafed. Read our full appreciation here NM

In praise of Pardew

Back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time since the start of February and for only the second time since April 2012. It has been a gruelling 12 months or so for Newcastle, but they deserved their 2-1 win over Aston Villa and have a chance to make it a hat-trick of victories on the spin when they host Hull City on Saturday.

The main advantage for Alan Pardew at the weekend was that he was finally able to stage a convincing return to the 4-3-3 formation that served the team so well in the second half of the 2011/12 campaign. With Loic Remy taking up Demba Ba's previous role on the left and Hatem Ben Arfa playing his way back into form on the right, Newcastle's attacking unit was more than capable of causing problems for Villa and they hit the target on eight occasions - the joint-highest total of the weekend.

Pardew's willingness to show more adventure is complemented by the stat that Newcastle have averaged the fewest number of long balls per game in the top flight this season. The Magpies may still be some way from making a full recovery, but they should avoid the catastrophic campaign that was predicted after a chaotic summer. MS

Number's up?

It still seems that Jose Mourinho isn't convinced that Juan Mata is suited to his preferred counter-attacking system but the playmaker's withdrawal after 57 minutes in Saturday's defeat to Everton coincided with a comparatively subdued final half-hour for Chelsea. During his time on the pitch, Mata played more accurate crosses than any other player, completed more dribbles than any other Chelsea player and only Ramires made more key passes for the Blues. His substitution was clearly based on tactical reasoning rather than any evident lack of contribution to a profligate team performance.

Juan Mata was given the hook after less than an hour at Everton despite a decent display

In some ways Mata's predicament raises questions about Mourinho's management style. Although he's obviously one of the best coaches in recent years, the Portuguese can appear to manage by franchise. He turns up at a new club and shapes the team in the Mourinho brand rather than allow the players he has available to significantly influence his methods. Individuals either adapt - Wesley Sneijder at Inter being a key example - or they risk accepting a peripheral role - a situation that is certainly muddling when it means last season's club Player of the Season is immediately placed in a position of uncertainty. MS

Bad day at the office

Sunderland thought they had come from behind for a second time against Arsenal when Jose Altidore's shot just rolled over the line. However, referee Martin Atkinson had blown the whistle to penalise Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna for a foul on Alitdore as the two players jostled for the ball just outside the penalty area. Atkinson could easily have played the advantage, and compounded that decision by then not sending off Sagna.

No wonder Paolo Di Canio was a touch irate when he was sent to the stands late on. Atkinson's gaffe was our 'controversy of the weekend' and you can read the rest of Best of the Weekend here MB

Courtesy of Opta...

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