We’re a third of the way through the Premier League season and the 20 teams are starting to split up into their various groups.
First there’s the title race and Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool all look a cut above the rest – but all three teams winning this weekend shows there’s very little to choose between them.
Then there’s the race for Europe and that really is anyone’s game. Arsenal and West Ham lost their winning streaks to show signs of inconsistency, while Tottenham picked up a much-needed first league win under Antonio Conte to put their name in the ring.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leaving Man United was the main top-flight talking point this week
The Premier League title race hotted up with Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City all winning
The middle of the table sees teams who simply can’t find a win at all. Manchester United’s loss at Watford brought the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer while Everton are sliding down the table under Rafa Benitez with no wins from their last six.
Surprisingly, the pack at the bottom of the table are starting to show signs of confidence. None of the teams in the bottom three lost this weekend and Norwich made it back-to-back wins in Dean Smith’s debut as Canaries boss.
With so much to dissect from this top-flight weekend, Sportsmail looks at 10 things we learned from the latest round of games…
Van de Beek auditions well for the new manager
There were not many positives from Manchester United’s crushing defeat to Watford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found that out when he was dismissed by the Red Devils within the next 12 hours.
But one bright spark of hope for United was the performance of Donny van de Beek, who is now looking to enter a new chapter of his Red Devils career following Solskjaer’s exit.
Donny van de Beek impressed for Man United despite their 4-1 loss to Watford on Saturday
Nobody really knows why Solskjaer didn’t fancy Van de Beek over the past 12 months – the Norwegian promised him more minutes but always tended to pick Scott McTominay and Fred, even when United were out of form.
Van de Beek showed what he could bring to United during his 45-minute cameo at Watford, being at the centre of all the dangerous aspects of the Red Devils’ play in the second half.
As well as bringing United back into the game with a goal five minutes after coming on, Van de Beek nearly made an equaliser for United by slipping through Cristiano Ronaldo for a one-on-one only for Ben Foster to deny the forward with a top save.
It is telling that no player made more key passes during the game than Van de Beek, even though the Dutchman played 45 minutes of the Vicarage Road league encounter.
The Dutchman (third right) scored for United and was their best player in the second half
Van de Beek linked up well with Jadon Sancho on the right, with the latter putting in dangerous deliveries, leading to more Ronaldo chances.
Ultimately, the 24-year-old has shown he is worthy enough of playing more regularly in United’s midfield – and whoever takes over the reigns from Solskjaer will surely have been impressed by Van de Beek’s display.
Sterling and Stones are starting to find their feet now
Several England players have failed to kick on after the Euros this summer, but Raheem Sterling and John Stones struggled at the start of this season at Manchester City.
Stones didn’t play a minute of Premier League football until the middle of October despite being mostly available for Pep Guardiola, with Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte getting minutes over him at centre-back.
Raheem Sterling put in his best performance of the season in Man City’s 3-0 win over Everton
Sterling, meanwhile, had only started two league matches for City before this weekend’s visit of Everton – but the winger put in his best display of the season so far against Rafa Benitez’s Toffees on Sunday.
The England star had opposite man Lucas Digne on toast throughout the Etihad Stadium encounter and was rewarded for his hard work in the first half with a perfectly-timed finish from Joao Cancelo’s pass.
Sterling has been linked with a move away from City after hinting he could quit Guardiola’s project when his contract ends in 2023 should his game time not improve.
But if Sunday’s performance is anything to go by, then it would be very difficult to drop Sterling right now, even though Guardiola enjoys rotating his side on a regular basis.
John Stones (left) is also finding his feet after a difficult start to the campaign with City
Meanwhile, Stones has made it back-to-back league starts and City haven’t conceded in a goal in either of them.
Both the defender and Sterling are key components in England’s core under Gareth Southgate, so a fine run of form for the pair under Guardiola is vital for the Three Lions’ World Cup aspirations.
Cornet could be the difference in the relegation battle
The first half between Burnley and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor was frantic, but filled with poor defending from both teams.
It was therefore a great relief to see some more attacking quality in the second period, the highlight being Maxwel Cornet’s stunning volley to haul the Clarets back to 3-3.
The Ivorian has hit the ground running at Turf Moor after his £12.5million move from Lyon this summer, with Cornet netting five goals in seven league matches so far.
Maxwel Cornet (middle) scored his fifth goal in seven games in Burnley’s 3-3 draw with Palace
The 25-year-old has clearly made a positive impact on Sean Dyche’s squad, with the Clarets losing just one out of their last seven matches – though they still sit in the relegation zone after 12 games.
Dyche should not be worried though: Cornet’s start to life at Turf Moor proves that Burnley have an attacking talisman to compliment the likes of Chris Wood up front.
Not all of the relegation candidates have a talent like Cornet up front – and considering Dyche always tends to find a way when it comes to survival from relegation, the Ivorian winger could be a massive figure in Burnley’s season.
Joelinton improvement shows Howe already making an impact
It was difficult to judge Eddie Howe’s opening match as Newcastle boss against Brentford on Saturday.
While the new Magpies boss trained his players all week, his coronavirus diagnosis on Friday meant he was not in the dugout for his first game in charge.
Joelinton (right) showed signs of improvement in Eddie Howe’s first game as Newcastle boss
But there were signs at St James’ Park on Saturday that the former Bournemouth coach has already made an impact in the north east, even though this is only game No 1 in the Howe era.
The biggest improvement from a home side’s perspective was Joelinton, who was perhaps a surprise name on the team sheet as part of a front three with Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin.
The Brazilian, who cost the Magpies £40million two years ago but has only scored seven league goals to date, made a positive start straight away, with his excellent cross after three minutes finding Wilson in the box, but his strike partner couldn’t finish.
Joelinton then showed his own goalscoring touch later in the half by smashing in an equaliser to level the scores at 2-2, before nearly popping up with a later winner but took too long to shoot.
The Brazilian striker (second right) scored the Magpies’ second in a 3-3 draw with Brentford
Howe’s assistant Jason Tindall revealed that Joelinton will be a ‘big player’ for the Magpies this season and, while there tends to be a new manager bounce after every new Premier League arrival, the striker could start finally paying his large fee off if performances like these are repeated.
Arteta needs a big-game scalp soon if Arsenal are to compete
Not many pundits or analysts backed Arsenal to get a result at Liverpool on Saturday, especially considering the Gunners have now gone a decade without a league victory at Anfield.
Mikel Arteta’s side showed some defensive solidity in the opening 40 minutes but Sadio Mane’s header got the ball rolling for Liverpool and the floodgates opened up in the second half.
Mikel Arteta lost another game against the Big Six via a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday
Arsenal basically rolled over in a big game once again after half-time, with this result following drab performances against Chelsea and Manchester City at the start of the season.
The Gunners haven’t always been like this under Arteta. In fact, during his first 12 months in charge, the Spaniard beat Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, Guardiola’s City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United and Chelsea in the FA Cup final as Arsenal boss.
But Arteta appears to have lost his big game touch in recent months, with Arsenal barely threatening in the losses to Chelsea, City and now Liverpool.
A north London derby victory over Tottenham was a plus point but Spurs showed throughout Nuno Espirito Santo’s reign that most good teams would be able to beat them.
Arteta’s Gunners have now lost against big sides Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool this season
Arteta cannot simply rely on victories against the ‘lesser sides’ if Arsenal have any intentions to compete for the top four.
The Gunners boss has the chance to rectify this sluggish form in the next few weeks, with Arsenal taking on Manchester United, West Ham and Man City over the next six weeks.
Jimenez has put head injury woes well and truly behind him
Next week marks a year since Wolves striker Raul Jimenez fractured his skull at Arsenal, which risked his entire football career.
When the Mexican forward started playing again towards the back end of last season, it was expected that Jimenez would need time to get back to his best and re-establish himself as the Molineux talisman.
And while patience has been needed at the Midlands club in general following Nuno Espirito Santo’s exit and Bruno Lage’s arrival, Jimenez has made a remarkable recovery to be the key No 9 option for Wolves once again.
Raul Jimenez (right) scored the winner against West Ham a year after his fractured skull injury
The striker scored the winning goal for Wolves against high-flying West Ham on Saturday for his third goal of the season. The other two strikes were the winners against Everton and Southampton, and Wolves are now competing for the European slots after five wins in seven games.
Of course, Jimenez has not just resurrected Wolves’ form on his own. The arrival of Hwang Hee-chan at Molineux has added another attacking dimension to the club, while Wolves are proving to be clinical from set pieces with defenders Conor Coady and Max Kilman getting on the scoresheet.
Jimenez is back in the goals and Wolves are a difficult outfit once again.
Clean slate is working well for Dean Smith
Dean Smith has a massive job on his hands to keep Norwich in the Premier League, for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the Canaries are playing probably the biggest game of catch-up the top-flight has ever seen after their dismal start to the campaign. Furthermore, his predecessor Daniel Farke had been in the hotseat for four years, meaning his impact on the team will live on for long after his sacking.
Dean Smith (right) enjoyed a great debut as Norwich boss with a 2-1 win over Southampton
But Smith revealed in his first press conference that every Canaries player would be offered a clean slate and he stuck to his word for his first match against Southampton over the weekend.
The likes of Todd Cantwell and Billy Gilmour, who were barely used by Farke since the start of the season, were put into the starting line-up straight away for the visit of the Saints and the two players enjoyed mixed run arounds.
Chelsea loanee Gilmour was awarded man of the match, after setting up Grant Hanley’s winner from a corner. Cantwell, meanwhle, had a rusty first-half and was hauled off at the break, but Norwich’s attacking game looked better with him in the side.
Smith brought Billy Gilmour (left) back in after he was exiled by former boss Daniel Farke
Todd Cantwell (right) is another Norwich outcast given another chance by new boss Smith
Norwich need something different to what they had before if they are to stay in the division for next season – and a midfield gem like Gilmour presents themselves with that oppotunity.
Cantwell, meanwhile, has big shoes to fill following Emiliano Buendia’s departure to Aston Villa over the summer. Should both players get back in form, then Norwich – who now have back-to-back wins, may stand a chance of survival.
Hojbjerg could be the midfield leader Spurs have been missing
Tottenham have never been short of talismen, especially when Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have managed to stay fit.
But Spurs’ attacking duo have been out of form this season, especially England captain Kane, who has gone from the Premier League’s top goalscorer to scoring just once in his opening 10 games.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (left) played a key role in Tottenham’s fightback over Leeds for a 2-1 win
Thankfully, midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has stepped up for Spurs when it matters this season, with the Danish international playing a key role in his side’s win against Leeds on Sunday by scoring the first goal in the second-half comeback.
It is not the first time Hojbjerg has been key in Spurs’ attacking play since he joined from Southampton last season. In the last six months, the 26-year-old has scored crucial goals in victories over Wolves, Aston Villa and now Leeds for the north Londoners.
Tottenham’s midfield has been in need of a leader for some time. Eric Dier flopped in that position, Christian Eriksen has left while Dele Alli appears to be on the fringes.
Hojbjerg (left) will be a key player who new boss Antonio Conte (right) can use for a foundation
Meanwhile, Oliver Skipp is a young talent while question marks remain over the futures of Tanguy Ndombele and Harry Winks, so Hojbjerg is the main midfield metronome for new boss Antonio Conte to work with.
Ultimately, Hojbjerg is one of the core Tottenham players Conte can build the foundations of his Spurs project on.
Foxes don’t have any more top-class talent that Chelsea can pinch
Leicester’s crushing home loss to Chelsea would have been a disappointment for the Foxes faithful, but the visiting players who earned the Blues the win would have hurt the home fans even more.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were put to the sword by some familiar faces in Chelsea colours. Firstly, former Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell assisted Antonio Rudiger’s opener before Leicester fan favourite N’Golo Kante doubled the league leaders’ advantage with a solo effort.
Leicester’s transfer model is clear: sign the likes of Kante, Harry Maguire and Chilwell on the cheap or develop them through the academy – then move them on for a profit and invest that in the squad.
N’Golo Kante (middle) and Ben Chilwell (right) came back to haunt Leicester for Chelsea
But looking at their recent form and their start to the season as a whole, how many Leicester players are on the verge of being poached by a big club now?
Wilfried Ndidi has been linked to Europe’s elite but a big move would have come ages ago if it was ever in the pipeline, while the likes of Harvey Barnes, Timothy Castagne and Caglar Soyuncu have been too inconsistent for a major transfer.
It ultimately points at a lack of quality in Rodgers’ squad, which is a reason why they are languishing in mid-table after breaking up the ‘Big Six’ in the past few years.
Gerrard is a rare English coach with European touchline tendencies
It will take a while for Steven Gerrard to fully make his mark on this Aston Villa team. That was proved by the fact it took Villa 84 minutes to finally break down a stubborn Brighton side on Saturday.
But Ollie Watkins’ stunning opener granted us the sight we all wanted to see: the Gerrard passion we saw when the former midfielder was Liverpool’s captain and talisman.
The 41-year-old’s touchline celebrations were worth the entry fee alone and proves that Gerrard is such a welcome addition to this competitive Premier League.
Steve Gerrard’s touchline antics were good value for money in Aston Villa’s win over Brighton
The former England captain is a rare product in terms of British managers. He has the explosive passion of Klopp and Conte but it is not just an act. Gerrard is engrained into English football culture and knows what it takes to be a winner.
Villa will have bigger tests and Gerrard has better opposite numbers to compete against – his side face Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea before the New Year – but the Merseyside legend has had a positive start to life in the Midlands and it will be difficult to take your eyes off his team this season.