FOUR GAMES, SIX TALKING POINTS: CHELSEA GO TOP, STERLING BREAKS RECORDS AND ANOTHER UNITED COMEBACK
Ah, how beautiful is the sound of actual crowd noise.
For the first time in nine months, fans were back in two of the four Premier League stadiums that saw football on Saturday.
Manchester United did what they do best, coming from behind to win away from home. Sean Dyche’s 200th Premier League game in charge of Burnley saw a stalemate against Everton, while Manchester City and Chelsea secured wins over two newly-promoted teams.
Here are six of the biggest talking points coming out of Saturday’s PL action:
Burnley 1-1 Everton
Central midfielders > full-backs
Fabian Delph added his name to the Everton injury list which already included both of the Toffees starting full-backs in Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne.
After changing to a back five for their last few games, Alex Iwobi was initially the only one playing out of position as a wing-back, but in the game against Burnley, Delph was also in a position that he isn’t totally familiar with.
Despite losing a defender, Carlo Ancelotti sent out Andre Gomes & Tom Davies to warm up, both of whom are central midfielders, thus resulting in a change to the shape of his team.
With yet another player facing time on the side-lines who can play in a position which would be integral to a back five, Ancelotti faces a tough decision of what he now decides to do in regards to a formation which can incorporate all 100 of Everton’s centre-midfielders.
A landmark game for Dyche
In the eyes of most people Sean Dyche has been the manager of Burnley since birth, but in actual fact the 49-year-old has been there since 2012 and in the game against Everton he made his 200th Premier League managerial appearance at the helm of the club.
The clarets didn’t quite get the result Dyche would’ve wanted against Everton to mark his historic appearance, but considering where Burnley are in the league, any point is a valuable point.
Many were speculating that Dyche’s relationship with the board was straining after an unsuccessful transfer window and the bad start to the season just furthered those rumours.
However, in more recent weeks Burnley have showed much more fight and have began to put in trademark performances at Turf Moor, picking up four points out of a possible six from their last two home fixtures.
Manchester City 2-0 Fulham
Raheem Sterling’s tricky feet
In a fixture between two teams who struggle to take penalties, of course one was scored, and Raheem Sterling surprisingly set a new record regarding spot-kicks.
The England forward has won 20 Premier League penalties, more than any other player in the history of the competition.
It is a pretty ridiculous stat when you think about, but it does make sense for a player who has insanely quick feet and that was exactly how he drew in Joachim Andersen.
Sterling also netted to open the scoring for Pep Guardiola’s team and it was another clean sheet, something that City have most-definitely struggled for in recent years.
West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United
Pogba’s magic amidst inconsistency
For the majority of this season, Paul Pogba has found himself either on the injury table or bench, but when he lined-up against West Ham United there was always the possibility of a moment of magic and the French world-cup winner certainly provided that.
After starting his first game since the home defeat to Arsenal at the beginning of November, Pogba struggled to stamp his mark at the Olympic Stadium but with United needing a goal, their midfield maestro stepped up.
On 65 minutes Pogba unleashed a rocket with the inside of his right foot to drag his team level and from then on, the result was always going to be in favour of the visitors.
That’s the beauty of having someone like Pogba in your squad, in that he can just produce moments of quality out of nothing, it’s just about finding that consistency and if he does that, United will want to keep hold of him.
Second half flyers or incorrect starting decisions
Manchester United have scored 38 goals this season in all competitions, 25 of which have come in the second half of games.
The introduction of Marcus Rashford & Bruno Fernandes at half-time swung the game in favour of United and they simply didn’t look back once Paul Pogba’s exquisite strike levelled the game.
It’s starting to seem as though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to get his team selections very wrong and his decision-making on a matchday is questionable but the quality of players he has at his disposal are getting him out of jail.
Yes, the results are coming in, but against the better teams, blowing them away in the second 45 won’t work, as proven with PSG, Arsenal & Spurs who have all secured wins over the red side of Manchester.
Chelsea 3-1 Leeds
Ridiculous depth helps Blues outwork Leeds
Since their promotion to the Premier League, it’s been abundantly clear that Leeds adopt a high-tempo pressing game which involves almost constant running, but for the first time this season they were second fiddle to Chelsea for distance covered.
In total Frank Lampard’s side covered 6km more than their opponents, so it wasn’t even by a small margin, it was a pretty clear distance.
Even Olivier Giroud, a striker not exactly known for his sprinting, was putting in the yards to help his team.
Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic were both introduced off the bench and the fact Lampard has those players at his disposal who aren’t even starting, really is a testament to the Blues squad depth that surely make them clear title challengers.