LONDON: Leaders Manchester City maintained their grip on the Premier League title race despite John Stones’s injury, while Paul Pogba inspired Manchester United on his return to fitness.
Eden Hazard sparkled for Chelsea, while Arsenal took the north London bragging rights.
Here are five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:
Loss of Stones a major blow for Man City
The quality of Manchester City’s attacking football this term has left seasoned observers open-mouthed, but with only seven goals conceded in 12 games, their defensive solidity has been almost equally impressive.
The loss of influential centre-back John Stones, who faces up to six weeks out after succumbing to a hamstring injury during City’s 2-0 win at Leicester, therefore, leaves manager Pep Guardiola with an unwanted headache.
Captain Vincent Kompany made some rash decisions on his comeback from injury at Leicester and remains a high injury risk, while neither Nicolas Otamendi nor Eliaquim Mangala possess Stones’s calmness and composure.
City will also miss Stones’s ability to carry the ball out from the back, which has been a key element of their play in the season so far.
Man United are a different team with Pogba
Paul Pogba made his return from a two-month injury lay-off in Manchester United’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle United and his influence on his side’s football could scarcely have been any clearer.
When United fell behind, it was Pogba’s carefully flighted cross that allowed Anthony Martial to head them level and after Chris Smalling made it 2-1, Pogba killed Newcastle off with the hosts’ third goal, tapping in from Marcus Rashford’s intelligent headed lay-off.
The biggest roar of the day was reserved for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s comeback after his own lengthy spell on the sidelines.
But following a sticky period in which United took only four points from a possible 12 in the league, it was Pogba’s verve and vision that transformed Jose Mourinho’s side.
Pulis finds Chelsea a Hazard
A sublime individual performance by Belgian star Eden Hazard opened up hapless West Brom as he scored a double in the 4-0 victory.
Tony Pulis’s hopes of the Wales job — made vacant by Chris Coleman’s resignation — can’t have been helped with his side in freefall and without a win in 10 Premier League matches — and just two in their last 21 — leaving the Welshman in danger of being relegated for the first time in his career.
Chelsea’s comprehensive victory was their fourth successive league win and despite being nine points adrift of leaders Manchester City still puts them in the hunt if Pep Guardiola’s side slip up.
Star power restores Arsenal’s sparkle
When Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette start for Arsenal, good things happen for Arsene Wenger’s team.
In all three of the matches when Arsenal’s attacking stars have been in the line-up, the Gunners have ended victorious.
Saturday’s 2-0 success against north London rivals Tottenham was the latest example. Ozil and Lacazette each laid on an assist, with Sanchez getting on the scoresheet after Shkodran Mustafi’s opener.
Tottenham bemoaned decisions that went against them, but their poor performance made them easy pickings for the fired-up Gunners, who are now just one point behind their neighbours.
Moyes gets the message
If David Moyes was in any doubt about the size of the task facing him in his new job as West Ham manager, the Scot was given a painful first look at the problems lying in wait as Watford cruised to a 2-0 win over his struggling side.
Languishing in the relegation zone and without a win in five league games, West Ham needed a jolt of energy from their new boss, but Moyes was unable to provide it at Vicarage Road.
Goals from Will Hughes and Richarlison exposed West Ham’s creaky defence, while the spluttering displays of Andy Carroll and Marko Arnautovic showed why goals have been in short supply.
Keen to salvage his tarnished reputation, former Manchester United and Sunderland boss Moyes has vowed not to pamper his new players and a dose of shock therapy might be on the agenda when they return to training this week.