5 conclusions from the Premier League weekend

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Kevin De Bruyne epitomised Manchester City’s deadly mixture of grace and industry. Getty Images

1. Harry Kane is currently the best striker in the world

Kane’s two goals against Huddersfield took his total to 13 goals in September, equalling the highest tallies in a single month by both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The England striker’s performance was so impressive that even the Huddersfield fans clapped him off as he was substituted on 86 minutes.

Kane is able to benefit from Spurs’ multi-faceted threat, particularly from the wing-backs Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies. Tottenham’s play is built around Kane although, as on Saturday, he creates chances for himself and then finishes with ruthless efficiency.

The one drawback for Kane is that he is yet to score in a home game in the league at Wembley. After the international break, a home encounter with 19th-placed Bournemouth is the perfect opportunity. August feels like a long time ago now. Throughout September, few would argue that Kane has been the best striker in world football.


2. Burnley’s away form has been the surprise of the season so far

A 1-0 win at Goodison Park on Sunday gave Burnley their eighth away point of the season, more than they accumulated in the whole of last season. It’s a hugely impressive feat, especially when factoring in the calibre of their opposition.

Burnley’s away results this season:

  • Win – Chelsea 2-3
  • Win – Blackburn 0-2 (Cup)
  • Draw – Tottenham 1-1
  • Draw – Liverpool 0-0
  • Win – Everton – 0-1

Jeff Hendrick’s goal against Everton came after a brilliant team goal, which included 24 passes in the build-up. Sean Dyche delighted in Burnley’s hard-fought victory:

“There was a good mixture today. It was a fantastic goal with a lot of passes – and then real earthy, nitty-gritty defending.”

Burnley are not given the credit they deserve for their attacking inter-play – they are an organised defensive unit, but they also offer a mixture of potent attacking threats. Shrewd summer signing Chris Wood now provides the focal point for their attacking play. Burnley sit in sixth position, and look a fair bet for a top-half finish.


3. Kevin De Bruyne is the key pivot of Manchester City’s attacking force

After a man-of-the-match performance against his former club, De Bruyne now has two goals and four assists in nine matches. In truth, his brilliance extends far beyond those statistics. In a similar vein to teammate David Silva, De Bruyne offers more than mere goals and assists – decision-making in possession, a sublime weight of pass, high intensity off the ball, a varied passing range and explosive pace. Pep Guardiola was impressed:

“He can do absolutely everything… the most shy guy who says: ‘if I have to run 100 kilometres for the team, I will do that. It’s not easy to find that with this kind of talent”

Chelsea’s mistake wasn’t necessarily in selling De Bruyne, it was in selling him without a buy-back clause. On commentary, just before De Bruyne’s winning goal, Martin Keown said, “Although it’s 0-0, if this was a boxing match, it would have to be stopped”. What makes City such a threat is the variety and flexibility of their key weapons, and a relentlessness both on and off the ball. De Bruyne epitomises City’s deadly mixture of grace and industry.


4. Crystal Palace’s confidence is at an all-new low, but Hodgson will keep them up

After the 4-0 defeat to Manchester United, Roy Hodgson also chose a boxing analogy to explain his side’s shockingly low confidence, saying Palace were like:

“A boxer fighting in a class he’s not able to handle. We took blows to the chin and got knocked down, but we didn’t stay on the canvas. We tried to get up as best we could”

With matches against Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea in his first four matches, Hodgson’s start was always going to be tricky. But let’s not dress this up, things are very bad indeed – in fact, with no goals in the first seven matches, this is the worst start ever by a team in the top four divisions of professional football in England.

The flip side of a trigger-happy sacking of a manager so early into the season is that his replacement now has time to make amends. Mark Schwarzer once claimed that Hodgson’s training sessions at Fulham were “meticulous, but it quickly became boring”. After Chelsea, Palace have more forgiving fixtures against Newcastle, West Ham, Everton, Stoke and Brighton over the next two months. Whether boring or not, his side need to get the message, and quickly.


5. It was a weekend to celebrate left-sided wing-backs

The weekend’s action brought a series of outstanding displays from some of the league’s best left-sided wing-backs. The fashionable method of deploying attacking wing-backs to assist in attack but also to sit alongside three centre-backs when not in possession, means that they are arguably the most important players across the squad.

Ben Davies flew the early flag with a stunning attacking display against Huddersfield, getting a goal and an assist in the process. Alongside Kane, Davies has been Tottenham’s best performer so far this season. Most surprisingly, Fabien Delph was one of the stand-out players on Saturday evening. Guardiola was full of praise:

“He’s not scared to play. Even when sometimes we are under pressure on the ball, he tries to play to give us an extra pass and let the opponent run. It helps us a lot to have these kind of players”

Ashley Young, a pillar of perseverance, got an assist for Maroune Fellaini’s first goal. Kyle Naughton, predominantly an attacking force, also shone in a dogged but ultimately fruitless display for Swansea, and Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal got on the score sheet with a rare right-footed strike. Kids now aspire to play in this position. Four years ago, as a dig at Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher rightly said that a full-back used to be either “a failed centre-back or a failed winger”. This is no longer the case – attacking wing-backs are now pivotal cogs in some of the best teams across Europe.

Chris Henderson

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