Two weeks ago, Liverpool were counting the cost of dropping two points at Watford in stoppage time, anxiously preparing for a crucial Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim and fearing the consequences of the likely sale of Philippe Coutinho. On Sunday, after a scintillating performance in a 4-0 romp over Arsenal, the Reds are up to second in the Premier League with seven points out of a possible nine and overcame Hoffenheim with conviction. The superb display against the Gunners indicated that life without Coutinho might not be so bad overall, with each of the lauded attacking triumvirate of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah finding the net – as did substitute Daniel Sturridge, paying homage to Liverpool’s depth of striking options. Granted, a shockingly feeble Arsenal made life easy for the Merseysiders, but Liverpool still had the clinical nature to punish their opponents and kept their focus at the back on the occasions when the Gunners did threaten.
If life feels good right now for the Reds, it is positively delightful for Manchester United, who hold the Premier League’s last 100% record after the completion of three rounds. Jose Mourinho’s side again had to be patient against Leicester before their superiority told, with goals in the final 20 minutes from substitutes Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini ensuring a third win on the trot. It could have been even more handsome a margin of victory had Romelu Lukaku not fluffed his lines with an earlier penalty, although claims that Kasper Schmeichel was well off his line before saving are legitimate. Leicester avoided the trouncings that United meted out to West Ham and Swansea in recent weeks, but it’s still two defeats from three for the Foxes.
Earlier on Saturday, Liverpool’s next opponents Manchester City were victorious at Bournemouth, courtesy of a 97th-minute winner that had all the hallmarks of what United did so often in their most triumphant era. Pep Guardiola’s men had to take the scenic route to victory, too, after falling behind early on to a wonder strike from Charlie Daniels. Once Gabriel Jesus equalised 10 minutes later, though, it was largely one-way traffic, but the nature of City’s winning goal was controversial. Having been given advantage by Mike Dean for a foul in their own half, that advantage seemed to have long elapsed by the time the Cherries regained possession, but it was incredulously called back and that free kick culminated second later with Raheem Sterling finding the net and jumping into the away end to celebrate with City fans, an act for which he was shown a second yellow card by Dean.
As with Liverpool, the woes of a fortnight ago seem to have evaporated for Chelsea, who notched their second win in a row with a commanding display over Everton. The champions dominated the first half and led 2-0 at the break, with Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata on target. Antonio Conte rejigged his team during the second half to preserve rather than extend the two-goal lead and Everton carved out opportunities to force a way back into the game, but to no avail. A satisfactory three points, then, for Chelsea, who have responded well to that opening day shocker against Burnley.
Speaking of Sean Dyche’s men, they made further hay in London two weeks after their Stamford Bridge heroics when claiming a 1-1 draw against Tottenham at Wembley. It came as little surprise that Spurs had the lion’s share of possession and chances, although it took them until early in the second half to break the deadlock, Dele Alli finding the net from close range. They couldn’t kill off the spirited Clarets, though, and were made to pay in stoppage time when Burnley debutant Chris Wood struck to leave Tottenham stunned. That makes it just one point from two league games at the national stadium for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, and the W word will keep rearing its head until they begin winning regularly in their home fixtures this season.
The early season troubles of Tottenham, though, are mere irritants when compared with the problems West Ham are facing after their third loss in a row left them bottom of the table going into the international break. While they may have been a tad unfortunate to let a point slip from their grasp at Southampton last week, this time they deserved absolutely nothing from their 3-0 hammering by Newcastle, who hadn’t made the best of starts themselves. Striker Joselu opened the scoring to relieve him of the burden of being stuck on zero goals, with Ciaran Clark and Aleksandar Mitrovic piling on the woe for Slaven Bilic and the Hammers.
Across London, there is similar gloom for Crystal Palace, who also go into September waiting for their first Premier League points of 2017/18. Worryingly, it was their second defeat at home already this season and the three points were fully merited for Swansea. Tammy Abraham set the Swans on their way when he struck towards the end of the first half and then the Eagles hit the self-destruct button to leave Jordan Ayew with an insultingly easy finish. Even after just three games in the Selhurst Park dugout, there is already pressure piling on Frank de Boer, who this time last year was in the midst of a 90-day spell as Inter Milan boss. Will his Crystal Palace sojourn be even briefer?
The Eagles remain on zero points, but Brighton are off the mark after their scoreless draw at Watford on Saturday. In a game of very few chances, the standout moment was not one of which Miguel Britos will be proud, the Watford defender rightly seeing red for a disgusting lunge on Anthony Knockaert, who can count himself lucky not to have been severely injured. Brighton’s wait for a first Premier League goal goes on, but at least they have a point on the board and it came against a decent Hornets outfit.
Two of the Premier League’s unexpected 100% records ceased over the weekend. Huddersfield had two wins to their name when they welcomed Southampton to the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday, but had to be content with a 0-0 draw which at least means they have yet to concede a goal in the league. It was a feat that almost didn’t happen, with Saints having the better chances but again failing to make the most of them. Still, with five points from three games, Mauricio Pellegrino has made a satisfactory start to his stint on the south coast.
Also dropping their first points of the season were West Brom, who found themselves in a familiar 1-0 lead against Stoke but this time couldn’t keep hold of it. The first half at The Hawthorns was a dreary spectacle but the game came to life after half-time when Jay Rodriguez nudged the Baggies in front. However, their usually solid defence was all at sea when a horrendous breakdown of communication between Ben Foster and Ahmed Hegazi allowed Peter Crouch a simple finish to ensure a share of the spoils.
The Premier League takes a back seat next weekend as crunch World Cup qualifiers take place, and Liverpool can content themselves with being in a healthy position going into the first break of the season. With seven points garnered from three games, they are already three points better off than at the same juncture a year ago, which bodes well for what will be a hectic autumn. The key early tests have been passed with honours grades, but the next stern examination is just around the corner as they travel to Manchester City on Saturday week.