Liverpool's perfect start and other things learned from the Premier League this weekend

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Liverpool are top of the table after three weeks.

Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford retained their 100 per cent Premier League records as champions Manchester City dropped their first points of the season in a 1-1 draw at Wolves.

Here, we look at five talking points from an eventful weekend of top-flight action.

Gunners game without Ozil

Mesut Ozil was conspicuous by his absence as Arsenal claimed their first win under new boss Unai Emery. Emery was quick to deny reports of a training-ground row with Ozil, stating the Germany international’s absence was due to illness.

How quickly Ozil returns to the starting line-up, however, remains to be seen as Emery’s desire for Arsenal to play with energy and press high was evident during a 3-1 win over West Ham opponents still pointless after three games.

The relationship between Ozil and Emery is under scrutiny.

The relationship between Ozil and Emery is under scrutiny.

Wolves pack at home

Three games in and new boys Wolves have yet to win a Premier League game. But their 1-1 home draw against champions Manchester City was a strong statement that Wolves belong at this level.

Wolves were compact and organised in defence, quick in transition and full value for a point in providing the blueprint of how to combat City.

A first win at West Ham would be welcome before the international break, but no-one will enjoy coming up against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.

Wolves showed their resilience against City.

Wolves showed their resilience against City.

Fox outside the box

You could almost feel Jose Mourinho‘s pain when Harry Maguire drilled home Leicester’s winner in the dying seconds at Southampton. The Manchester United summer target was his imposing physical self at the back for the Foxes and retains his handy knack of scoring goals.

Maguire’s 25-yarder might not have been as trademark a goal as his World Cup header against Sweden last month, but Jamie Vardy was not slow to turn to social media and praise his Leicester and England colleague.

Red all over

Liverpool leapt to the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Brighton making it three wins from three for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

But it was also a red letter day in other ways as four players were sent off in Saturday’s shortened six-match programme – the biggest walk of shame for nearly three years. Adam Smith and Richarlison saw red in Bournemouth’s 2-2 draw with Everton, Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg paid the price of a dive and Huddersfield’s Jonathan Hogg lost his head against Cardiff.

Red mist, indeed.

Richarlison was one of four players to see red this weekend.

Richarlison was one of four players to see red this weekend.

Blunt Bluebirds

Peter Whittingham is in danger of becoming a quiz answer – the last Cardiff player to score in the Premier League. No Bluebird has managed to do so in the six top-flight games Cardiff have played since Whittingham converted a penalty against Stoke on April 19, 2014.

After the goalless draw at Huddersfield – the second time this season that Cardiff have ended up playing against 10 men – Neil Warnock’s side are now the only side in the top four divisions of English football not to have scored.

It doesn’t get any easier with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City next up.

Neil Warnock has his work cut out at Cardiff City.

Neil Warnock has his work cut out at Cardiff City.

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Maurizio Sarri bests Rafael Benitez in battle of former Napoli bosses as Chelsea get hard-fought win at Newcastle

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Chelsea got a hard-fought win against Newcastle.

Former Napoli bosses Rafael Benitez and Maurizio Sarri went face to face at St James’ Park, with the latter claiming bragging rights as Chelsea beat Newcastle 2-1.

Here, we look at the impact of the rival coaches.

Team selection

For the first time as Chelsea boss, Sarri felt able to restore star man Eden Hazard to the starting XI – an upgrade in any circumstances and one that yielded a typically clinical penalty.

There was also a middling first start for Real Madrid loanee Mateo Kovacic as Ross Barkley and Willian dropped to the bench. They were joined there by England’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek following his absence from the matchday squad last week but he did not make the pitch.

Benitez was dealt a pair of injury blows, with captain Jamaal Lascelles and playmaker Jonjo Shelvey both ruled out.

Federico Fernandez, Ki Sung-yueng and Fabian Schar all made competitive debuts in the inevitable reshuffle, with Salomon Rondon in from the start up front.

Hazard made his first start of the season - and got his first goal.

Hazard made his first start of the season – and got his first goal.

Tactics

Benitez, perhaps motivated by the loss of key personnel, adopted a tight, defensive shape and limited attacking ambition. That meant three centre-backs with DeAndre Yedlin and Paul Dummett tucking in to make a back five.

It was an unpretty but mostly effective decision, with the visitors taking 76 minutes to make the breakthrough with a dubious penalty and winning it with a Yedlin own goal.

Sarri continued to deploy his preferred 4-3-3 variant. The only real difference was the presence of Hazard, whose roaming style and ball-playing skill demand a freer role regardless of the system.

As ever the job of relaying the coach’s instructions and preferences fell to his old Napoli cohort Jorginho, a constant communicator in the middle of the park.

Jorginho helped Chelsea control the game.

Jorginho helped Chelsea control the game.

Substitutions

Both sides hooked their primary striker and neither Salomon Rondon nor Alvaro Morata can have much complaint.

Both replacements were involved in the equalising goal but while Olivier Giroud was left claiming a foul on the turf, Joselu was the most alert man on the pitch, sneaking in front of David Luiz to nod Newcastle level.

Willian – on for Pedro – floated in the free-kick from which Chelsea’s winner came, with Giroud winning a crucial far-post header. Ayoze Perez, a late arrival, blasted over from his only real chance.

Joselu made a telling impact from the bench.

Joselu made a telling impact from the bench.

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Mateo Kovacic shows promise on full Chelsea debut but there is much scope for improvement

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Chelsea had to battle for a 2-1 win away to Newcastle United in the Premier League.

Eden Hazard scored from the spot for Chelsea to open the scoring in the 76th minute before Joselu equalised.

Marcos Alonso’s shot was then deflected into his own net by DeAndre Yedlin three minutes from time.

Mateo Kovacic, on loan from Real Madrid, made his first start for the away side and here’s a closer look at his performance.

STATISTICS 

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 0

Shots on target – 0

Touches – 116

Passes – 104

Key passes – 3

Pass success – 92.3%

Dribbles – 0

Tackles – 2

30-SECOND REPORT

Kovacic replaced Ross Barkley on the left side of a central midfield three. The Croatia international initially had moments when he was caught by the intensity of the game and lost the ball in close quarters.

However, he grew into it and began punching balls through the channels. Kovacic was comfortable on the ball but wasn’t able to threaten Newcastle’s goal.

Mateo Kovacic (r)

Mateo Kovacic (r)

GOT RIGHT

Passing – He did his reputation as an accomplished passer of the ball no harm at all. He attempted a total of 104 passes and completed 92.3 per cent of them. His three key passes were more than any other player on the pitch managed.

GOT WRONG

Shooting – Kovacic didn’t take a single shot all game. Given that he had 116 touches and operated primarily on the edge of Newcastle’s penalty area, that is disappointing. Even Antonio Rudiger had a pop from about 35 yards from goal.

Forward runs – With Chelsea attempting to break the deadlock, they needed to commit more numbers forward but Kovacic held back from forays into the box. He needs to provide a great goal-scoring threat, like Marek Hamsik did in the same position for Maurizio Sarri at Napoli.

VERDICT

There’s not too much Kovacic did wrong but he needs to offer a lot more in the role he’s been assigned. He picked up a booking for a late challenge as well. Can do better, a lot better.

RATING: 6/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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