Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

1) Ice-cool Kane is up there with the greatest

In scoring the 200th and 201st league goals of his career, Harry Kane reminded us he is not just one of the best centre-forwards of his era but one of the best to ever play in England – and he’s still getting better. Though he is a terrific poacher, what makes Kane extra special is the touch, intelligence and composure that mean he is one of the most deadly players of all time from 15-22 yards – a skill illustrated perfectly in his first goal at the City Ground. His first touch opened up the picture, and his confidence to take the shot early, using the defender as a screen, meant that the keeper would be flat-footed. It was not the most emphatic strike – Kane called it a “scruffy finish” – but his swing was so smooth and true, it followed the line he planned for it anyway. Daniel Harris

2) That sounds like management speak, Stevie

A fixture list that next features the league leaders, Arsenal, and defending champions Manchester City is a severe test of Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa regime. Judging by the groans from the Holte End and the volume of boos as the manager made his way down the tunnel at full-time, a significant proportion of Villa fans have already made their mind made up. Gerrard issued a mea culpa, though veered dangerously into corporate-speak. “In terms of moving forward we have got a choice. We either feel sorry for ourselves and it continues, or we roll our sleeves up.” Gerrard is a regular proponent of such pseudo-motivational gabble. His team, lacking in creativity and relying too much on the magic in Philippe Coutinho’s boots, too often mirror such bland platitudes. The concept, floated on Gerrard’s appointment last winter, that Villa are a grand old club on their way back up is in danger of being sidelined for an unexpected relegation battle. John Brewin

Steven Gerrard gathers his Aston Villa players during a water break in the home defeat to West Ham.
Steven Gerrard gathers his Aston Villa players during a water break in the home defeat to West Ham. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

3) Firmino masterclass gives Klopp selection headache

“Today he showed again why he is a world-class player,” said Virgil van Dijk of Roberto Firmino following the Brazilian’s display against Bournemouth. Firmino reached a century of goals for Liverpool with two in their record-equalling Premier League win, adding three assists for good measure. The Brazilian encapsulated the gulf in class between Jürgen Klopp’s revived side and Scott Parker’s shell-shocked players. Regardless of the opposition, such performances should be cherished. The 30-year-old is in the final year of his Liverpool contract and no longer assured of a regular starting role with the injured Diogo Jota and suspended Darwin Núñez challenging for his place. But his importance, his quality and his entertainment value endures. With Núñez available again for Saturday’s Merseyside derby at Everton, Klopp will have a welcome selection dilemma after the constraints of recent weeks. Andy Hunter

4) Is the Emirates becoming a fortress?

“I just saw a person that I love,” began Mikel Arteta after Arsenal left it late to regain their place as league leaders, coming back from a goal down to beat Fulham. “It’s the first time he’s been in the stadium for two years; he said it was the best he’s ever seen it.” There is a relentless positivity around Arsenal this season, and players who once feared playing in front of their own fans now find comfort at home. Even when Gabriel Magalhães’ mistake allowed Aleksandar Mitrovic to put Fulham ahead, there was only encouragement from the stands. When the defender bundled home the winner, the noise from the Emirates must have carried for some distance through the balmy north London air. Sam Dalling

Arsenal fans having fun at the Emirates.
Arsenal fans are having fun at the Emirates. Photograph: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

5) Tuchel urges Sterling to kick on

Thomas Tuchel has admitted Raheem Sterling is taking his time to find his feet at Chelsea after the England forward’s match-winning performance against Leicester. Sterling made the most of his limited opportunities at Stamford Bridge and was only denied a hat-trick by Danny Ward’s excellent save between his two well-taken goals. But Tuchel expects there is more to come from the player who now has 111 goals from 324 Premier League appearances. “At the moment he is struggling a little bit with his confidence and his dribbling, as you can see,” said the Chelsea manager. “And we were one man down so it was not obvious that he would get a lot of chances to score. But he got three of them and he scored twice. This was super-important, not only for us but for him as an individual.” Ed Aarons

6) Wolves left to rue VAR inconsistency

Should there be greater consistency over referees using monitors for big decisions? Peter Bankes showed Newcastle’s Fabian Schär a yellow card for a foul on Pedro Neto and was not asked to consider the replays as Lee Mason, the VAR, checked for possible violent conduct. But the referee, who had a clear view of Neto’s challenge on Ryan Fraser during the build-up to Raúl Jiménez’s disallowed goal that would have made it 2-0, was then asked to look at the replays and chalked it off. Rúben Neves, Wolves’ goalscorer, said of Schär’s tackle: “Like I said to the ref, there is no chance of him not going to the screen and watch the images because he almost broke the leg.” Peter Lansley

7) Estupiñán offers proof of Potter’s quiet brilliance

Marvelling at Graham Potter’s work has become a cliche, but that shouldn’t mean we should stop. Yes, Brighton are well-backed financially, but that guarantees little without the man at the top to tie it all together. Potter’s principles are the reason his club now sit fourth, with 10 points from four games. There is never any sense of panic about the way his team play, nor does it seem to matter when big players leave. That shows a manager who is clear in communicating his needs and a system that is extremely well defined. On Saturday, Pervis Estupiñán’s fine home debut made the home fans forget all about his predecessor, Marc Cucurella, who Brighton made a profit of over £40m on in just under a year. Those who watched Estupiñán at Villarreal know him to be a left-back with power, intelligence and enterprise. It is exciting to think how much better he might become under Potter’s expert tutelage. DH

Pervis Estupiñán has hit the ground running with Brighton.
Pervis Estupiñán has hit the ground running with Brighton. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images/Reuters

8) Guardiola maddened by set-piece lapses

Manchester City are scoring a lot of goals, but leaking plenty too – nine in their last six Premier League games, going back to the end of last season. Two conceded from set-pieces delivered by Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze had Pep Guardiola concerned despite the breathtaking manner of his side’s comeback. “Set plays: just focus and they are not going to score,” he said. “If you don’t want to concede a goal you will block it. You will attack the ball properly. They scored two goals this way. I’m not saying Eze is not a good taker but you can imagine in the [pre-game] meeting we had, the focus was on [Joachim] Andersen. And he was alone, that was because we were not there. We were lucky today, but tomorrow we might not be lucky and we’ll drop points.” Jamie Jackson

9) Bazunu shines alongside fellow young Saints

It was a typically bold call by Ralph Hasenhüttl this summer to not only sign Gavin Bazunu from Manchester City but to install the 20-year-old, who starred on loan in League One with Portsmouth last season, as his first-choice Southampton goalkeeper. Bazunu impressed against Manchester United but the Republic of Ireland international’s finest moment to date is surely the penalty save he made to deny Cristiano Ronaldo last November. The laser-focused Bazunu is the youngest No 1 in the Premier League and the last line of a youthful Saints defence. Armel Bella-Kotchap, also 20, shone at centre-back in the defeat by United and Hasenhüttl’s faith in youth looks well placed. “The average [age of the team] is not that high but you cannot see it,” Hasenhuttl said. “I’m not scared with this team when I see how quickly they are learning and adapting to this quality.” Ben Fisher

10) Gordon makes his class clear

Chelsea’s pursuit of Anthony Gordon has raised eyebrows and with good reason: £60m for someone who before Saturday had scored just four times in 38 games does not make obvious sense. But when judging a young player it makes sense to consider not what they’ve done but what they’re capable of doing, and if Thomas Tuchel thinks Gordon worth the money, then we should at least wonder why. It’s clear that Gordon has pace and skill, but so do plenty of others – what elevates him is his mentality. His desire to take risks and commit defenders has quickly made him the best thing about watching Everton and now, having confirmed his desire to leave, he is embracing the pressure that comes with such boldness. When he went through on goal against Brentford, he had plenty of time to second-guess himself but stayed calm to slot home superbly, his finish and celebration those of a young man certain he will succeed. DH

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