City lose, Sanchez off? Premier League talking points

Manchester City saw their long unbeaten run in the Premier League brought to a shuddering halt at the weekend as Liverpool shrugged off the departure of Philippe Coutinho to claim a dramatic 4-3 victory.

A disjointed Arsenal slipped to a 2-1 defeat at struggling Bournemouth, with Arsene Wenger’s misery compounded by the near-certain departure of Alexis Sanchez.

Elsewhere, Chelsea were held by 10-man Leicester while Harry Kane scored twice in a 4-0 win for Tottenham and Alan Pardew got his first Premier League victory with West Brom.

Here are five things we learned in the Premier League this weekend:

City beaten but unbowed

When Manchester City survived a late Crystal Palace penalty to keep their unbeaten start to the season intact on the last day of 2017, it appeared the gods were smiling on them but their luck finally ran out on Sunday at Anfield. Pep Guardiola, whose side have a 15-point lead at the top of the table, said the result showed the Premier League title race is not over but it’s tough to foresee a collapse. For their part, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool showed there is life after Coutinho, with their forwards firing spectacularly. “In every press conference for the last few months you have said that the Premier League is done and I always said ‘no, it is still to be done’,” insisted Guardiola.

Arsenal will miss Sanchez

Arsene Wenger’s team, missing wantaway forward Sanchez and the injured Mesut Ozil, slipped to a miserable defeat at Bournemouth on England’s south coast and now sit eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. The match marked another blank for Alexandre Lacazette, who has not found the net since early December. Arsenal have lost the past three Premier League games that Sanchez has not played any part in. He’s going to be tough to replace.

Morata woe adds to Conte problems

Faced with obdurate opposition desperately clinging on with 10 men, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte looked to Alvaro Morata to show why he spent a club record £58 million ($80 million) to sign him from Real Madrid last year — but, not for the first time, the Spain striker’s response was underwhelming. With Leicester vulnerable following Ben Chilwell’s dismissal in the second half at Stamford Bridge, it was the perfect moment for Morata to silence the critics beginning to question whether he is an adequate replacement for Diego Costa. Yet he didn’t get even a sniff of a chance, once again looking far too diffident a personality to thrive in the frenetic Premier League. Conte remains supportive, but with only three goals in his past 14 appearances — and none in his past five — Morata needs to impose himself far more aggressively to salvage a difficult season for himself and his team.

Record-breaking Kane

Kane’s two strikes against Everton took him past Teddy Sheringham as Tottenham’s record goalscorer in the Premier League era with 98 goals. Mauricio Pochettino needs his star man to keep delivering but is aware that every time he scores, his stock rises among the big beasts of European football. Pochettino joked that despite his feats, it’s impossible for Kane to break records every week — he is still some way off Jimmy Greaves’s all-time Spurs record of 220 league goals. Kane is pivotal to Pochettino’s team and future title hopes but will struggling Real Madrid — linked with a move for the England man — be tempted to swoop both for Kane and his manager in a move that will test chairman Daniel Levy’s negotiating skills to the limit?

Newcastle’s reality check

Newcastle fans hoping for a fresh injection of talent at St James’s Park during the January transfer window have been told to keep their expectations in check by manager Rafael Benitez. A 1-1 draw at home to bottom-of-the-table Swansea left the Magpies dangerously close to the relegation zone. The northeast club’s perilous position may well have helped stall a proposed takeover. Benitez summed up Newcastle’s dilemma following Joselu’s equaliser. “The new world of football is very expensive,” he said. “Could Joselu score more goals? Yes. But if he did he would probably cost £25 million.” – Agence France-Presse

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John Weaver
John Weaver
London sports coordinator for Agence France-Presse (AFP).

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