Manchester City sitting pretty whilst Manchester United stutter: Premier League Talking Points

With the Premier League season well underway, Jon Mackenzie brings you some of the biggest Talking Points from this weekend's fixtures.

After nine games have been played in the Premier League, Manchester City look to be moving ahead of the pack, having opened a 5-point lead over their rivals on the other side of the city. Jose Mourinho’s team have been suffering of late and, with a disappointing loss away at Huddersfield, the title challenge that so many expected from his Manchester United team seems to have faded away before it even begun. 

With their clinical deconstruction of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday, it is Tottenham Hotspur who now look most likely to catch City. With Spurs looking forward to a fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford next weekend, though, City will likely come out of the Matchweek 10 a full 8 points ahead of one of them. Unless something happens soon, Pep Guardiola could be running away with the Premier League.

At the other end of the league, there are a number of teams with a long Premier League pedigree who look under threat. Everton have never been relegated from the division but, along with Stoke and West Ham, they could be for the drop if something doesn’t change. Unfortunately for their managers, it is most likely to be them who will give way.

Here are five Talking Points from the weekend’s fixtures.   

  1. 1 The importance of team building

    Whoever you are in the Premier League, it is clear that the whole is more important than the sum of the parts. It is mandatory at this point to make reference to Huddersfield's David Wagner who has come into the club and, within a couple of seasons, transformed them from a lower-table Championship side to a mid-table Premier League side. 

    Bringing in fringe players from foreign markets who are adept at playing his particular brand of pressing football, the German-American has turned players such as Aaron Mooy, Christopher Schindler and Elias Kachunga into household names. Along with Chris Hughton at Brighton, Wagner is showing managers around the league just how important system is.

    But it is not simply the smaller Premier League sides for whom team building is proving to be fundamental: in the battle between Pep and Jose that is currently taking place in Manchester, it is becoming clear how the task of the elite manager is not simply to assemble a squad of world-beating players - you also need to get the most out of them. As things stand, Guardiola is clearly winning that battle.  

  2. 2 Something has to give at Liverpool

    It has become too easy to criticise Liverpool in recent weeks. With a defence that would look sketchy if you saw them playing on your local playing fields matched by a forward line that is misfiring in almost every department, it is hard not to be critical. 

    But it is also hard to know how to resolve the issues that Liverpool face. Even a cursory peruse through the squad that Jurgen Klopp has at his disposal reveals a lack of depth that would likely cause any other manager a headache. Of course, this dearth of options has as much to do with the German as anyone else - but at this point in the season, it is hard to see what other route can be taken.

    One thing is certain though: as things stand, something has to give. For an increasing group of supporters, this should be the manager. However, with the squad selection issues and the lack of viable alternatives, this might not be the best option for the Liverpool owners FSG. Perhaps it is time for Klopp to start thinking about tactical modifications? If he doesn't, then there be little other option than for the owners to decide that he should be the thing that gives. 

  3. 3 You're never too big to fail

    Before the Premier League season kicked off in August, the favourites for relegation were the three teams promoted from the Championship and Sean Dyche's Burnley. Ten games in and Newcastle are 7th, Burnley 8th, Huddersfield 11th and Brighton 12th. Whilst it is too early in the schedule to make any predictions, all four teams are doing enough to expect that they will still be in the division when the 2018/19 season swings around.

    On the other hand, the clubs who are in danger of dropping down a division have some of the most impressive pedigree in the Premier League. Everton have never been relegated from the league and West Ham and Stoke have become solid mid-table sides in recent years. Even Crystal Palace, who have been something of a yo-yo club in the last decade, came into the competition with a new manager and the expectation of success - both of which quickly left.

    In an era of Premier League history where there has never been such an egalitarianism of television revenues, it is clear that no club is now safe regardless of history. In the future, the mid-table clubs would do well to remember that, unless they plan their season carefully, then they could be in danger of dropping down into the lower leagues.

  4. 4 The managerial merry-go-around never stops turning

    If none of the clubs are safe in the Premier League then neither are any of the managers. This weekend saw Mark Hughes, Slaven Bilic and Ronald Koeman all lose their games in the Premier League, their clubs slip lower down the table and, you would think, their P45s slip further along the boardroom desks. 

    For better or for worse, the managerial merry-go-around never stops in the Premier League. There is no doubt that much of this results from the money at stake for club owners. But there is a positive to this high turnover. There is an increasing realisation, however slow it might be, that good managers are available in foreign markets. And as these managers slowly filter into the Premier League, the league itself will only benefit from it.

    Which brings us back to the curious case of Jurgen Klopp. Because despite the successes of David Wagner and Marco Silva, two coaches who play a similar brand of high-octane football, the Jurgen Klopp project seems to be stuttering. Klopp, you would think, is safe in his job at least until the end of the season. But the managerial merry-go-around may yet turn for him. And if it does, we'll realise just how unforgiving the highest league in English football is.

  5. 5 Spurs show United how to chase a title

    After a week in which Mauricio Pochettino showed Jose Mourinho how to play for a draw, the Argentine manager has done it again and shown his counterpart how to chase a title. 

    As always the master of the media, Jose Mourinho came out with his excuses before and after the game - bemoaning players missing through injury, along with a lack of desire on the part of his players. Pochettino, who has been battling injury problems of his own, simply got on with the task at hand and dismantled a Liverpool fresh off the back of a 7-0 victory in Slovenia in the midweek.

    Of course, any comparison of Tottenham and Manchester United is unfair. Spurs have spent frugally ever since their chairman Daniel Levy joined the club whereas United have spent close to half a billion pounds since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013. Even with his glittering trophy cabinet behind him, the only acceptable achievement for him at this point is a title challenge. But it is Pochettino who is showing Mourinho how best to do this at present. 

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Jon Mackenzie


Jon Mackenzie is the Football Editor at RealSport.

Regularly appearing on talkSPORT radio, his work has also featured in The Economist, The Blizzard, Tifo Football and on the Futbolgrad Network.

A UEFA and Premier League-accredited journalist, Jon also founded A Team of John O'Sheas podcast and hosts it every week.

Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Mackenzie