Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal and more: 10 talking points from the Premier League this weekend

Ben Burrows, Lawrence Ostlere, Harry Latham-Coyle
Liverpool took a big step in the title race: Getty

1. Watford bounce off the bottom

With sides like Sheffield United and Brighton flying high in the Premier League table, and with Newcastle United, Burnley, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace all going along nicely, there was a real danger of Watford – stranded on five points going into Friday evening’s trip to Carrow Road without a win – being cut adrift from those clubs tipped for a relegation fight before the season began.

Now, after beating struggling Norwich, Watford are off the bottom and buoyant. What’s more, they have a player in Gerard Deulofeu with the ability to score and make the goals that they will need to survive.

2. Reece James earns his stripes

Reece James made his first Premier League start for Chelsea after a number of impressive cameo showings in recent weeks. James is very much a coming force after drawing rave reviews during a loan spell at Wigan, and produced a full Chelsea debut showing to prove he can take the right-back berth on a more permanent basis.

Wilfried Zaha seldom had a sniff throughout the 90 minutes, partly due to Crystal Palace’s commitment to defending, but also due to James’ excellent tracking, tackling and natural positional sense. He looked comfortable in possession and combined nicely with Willian down the right, offering an outlet and adding threat down the flank.

On this evidence, Cesar Azpilicueta will have a real struggled pushing James out of the side. Just as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori have taken their opportunities and ran with them so far this season, James seems set to join the youth movement in the Chelsea first team.

3. VAR rocks Wood; Wood mocks VAR

A fine home win for Burnley over a team in West Ham United who are beginning to tumble down the table, and Burnley were propelled to victory by a goal from Chris Wood.

That could perhaps read two goals, with the New Zealander twice putting the ball in the net, with the first chalked off for the most marginal of offsides after VAR intervention, with some doubt over the positioning of Ryan Fredericks’ foot at the moment the pass to him was delivered.

Wood took the opportunity to lampoon the technology with his celebration, feigning a referral of his own by replicating the actions of referee Kevin Friend with finger to the ear and arm outstretched. Fun for Burnley, not so much for West Ham, who are having a rather miserable time of things at the moment.

4. VAR – what is it good for?

You though the VAR drama was confined to the Burnley game? No – Sheffield United were the aggrieved party despite picking up a solid away point against Tottenham Hotspur.

If the point of VAR is to overturn the howler, then spending more than two minutes agonising over whether a shoulder or a toe or a hip or a fingernail is offside, then what are we even doing?

The Blades were on the wrong end of an offside decision that could be described as marginal-at-best, with David McGoldrick’s goal ruled out for an offside in the build-up. Was it even offside? That this question can be asked is an indictment in and of itself.

A screen inside the stadium displays a VAR check (Getty Images)

5. Silva staves off sack?

Another week, another disappointing Everton performance. The Toffees were well on top against a Southampton side that started awfully at St Mary’s, and should really have been out of sight before half-time.

But they weren’t, and when Danny Ings found an equaliser soon after the resumption, it appeared Marco Silva’s job was in real danger, with an international break (a perilous time for an under fire manager) looming, and Everton looking increasingly moribund.

Yet Richarlison’s winner seems to have kept Silva safe – for now, at least – as Everton secured their fourth win of the season.

6. Vardy guns down Arsenal again

If any one player was to decide this game, it had to be Jamie Vardy. The striker heavily considered a move to Arsenal after Leicester’s Premier League triumph but opted to instead stay with the Foxes and push for further success, and, in hindsight, that looks a good decision.

He found a ninth goal in his last nine appearances against the Gunners just as Leicester seemed to be tiring from the toil as Arsenal frustrated well, sweeping home from inside the box to finish off a lovely passing move – one of many that Leicester produced during the 90 minutes. James Maddison’s crisp drive into bottom corner capped another such movement to secure a well-deserved three points.

Vardy scored against Arsenal again (Getty)

7. All over for Emery

The Spaniard may be appealing for calm, but after another deeply disappointing performance a storm is brewing behind the scenes at the Emirates.

The talk is that the Gunners’ top brass will hold tight during the international break but the writing appears to be on the wall, regardless of how the rest of this season goes.

He’s lost the fans and once that happens it’s a long way back – just ask Arsene Wenger – and with his contract up in the summer the Unai era appears all but over.

8. Villa should have known what was coming

Ruben Neves has not been quite the goalscoring threat of last season yet in this campaign, but his expertly taken strike in the first half against Aston Villa was a reminder that he remains perhaps the best long-range finisher in the league.

It was his 10th goal from outside the 18-yard box in his brief Wolves career, and while his lurking position was cleverly disguised by some decoy runners, you had to wonder how Villa did not see it coming.

9) Martial brings the threat

He didn’t score, but Anthony Martial reminded Manchester United what they’ve been missing while he was out with injury.

His pace as part of a speedy triumvirate with Dan James and Marcus Rashford either side proved too much for Brighton to handle. That point was exemplified in the second half when his direct dart in behind eventually led to United’s crucial third that took the game away from Brighton when they had just taken a foothold.

Martial now has six goals and six assists in his last 13 starts at Old Trafford in all competitions, and in this post-Lukaku era is proving essential to United’s goalscoring threat.

10) Alexander-Arnold is a player of the year contender

It is very early days, of course, but at this rate would you rule out Trent Alexander-Arnold being player of the season should Liverpool clinch the title? The phrase ‘full-back’ barely begins to cover his contribution on Sunday, sweeping passes across to his partner in crime Andrew Robertson, making driving runs through the pitch and picking difficult balls out of the sky like a ballerina.

There is some argument about whether he might eventually be better suited to a midfield role, but in truth it doesn’t seem to matter. Wherever he plays, Alexander-Arnold is going to have an enormous influence on the biggest occasions.