Chelsea 'rebuild' way ahead of schedule; Watford continue surprise start to season
Nick Miller breaks down all the highs and lows from week four of the 2018-19 Premier League season in our Weekend Review.
Goal of the weekend
It's quite easy to complicate football: sometimes in a good way, sometimes unnecessarily. Which is why sometimes it's nice to enjoy the simple things -- and what could be more simple than someone kicking the ball really, really hard? So hats off to Alexandre Lacazette, who sealed Arsenal's win over Cardiff with a tracer bullet that Neil Etheridge did everything right to save, but it was just too powerful. Extremely enjoyable.
Performance of the weekend
Watford, who rallied to beat Tottenham 2-1 on Sunday, are a confusing team. How many of their players do you think the casual fan could name? How many casual fans could even tell you the name of their manager? They change the man in charge so often that it's almost impossible for the latest incumbent to firmly lodge in anyone's mind, but if Javi Gracia continues this way for much longer, then he'll be around for quite a while.
Liverpool, Chelsea, Watford: if someone had asked you to predict one team that would win their first four games, you would probably have got one right, maybe two, but not three. Gracia has got his team playing in an effective, compact way with Roberto Pereyra on one flank, Will Hughes tucking in from the other, Abdoulaye Doucoure running their midfield and some physical presence up front.
It's certainly working very well at the moment. This is a club who have treated instability as a virtue all these years, but might now be reaping the benefits of sticking with what they've got for once.
Double-edged sword of the weekend
This week has shown you can basically use any facts to back up any argument you want, given a bit of thought. For example: If you wanted to make the case that continuity and patience were lost virtues in the modern game, you could say Tottenham's win over Manchester United was helped by their lack of summer transfer activity.
Alternatively, if you wanted to point out that every team should strengthen whenever they can, you could say Tottenham's lack of summer transfer activity left them with no options when they were losing at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
See how easy that was?
The truth probably leans more towards the latter, not least because Spurs are one twanged Harry Kane hamstring away from the vaguely harrowing prospect of Fernando Llorente starting up front most weeks. Watford were the better team at Vicarage Road, but if Spurs had better options available to come off the bench, they still might have got away with it.
Victory of the weekend
Mauricio Sarri's predicted date of around October for his Chelsea team to start looking like his Chelsea team is still a while away, but they've now won their first four games and sit level top of the table.
Winning while the squad familiarise themselves with Sarri's methods is obviously good in the short-term, but it's useful for him in the long-term too. If they're collecting three points as Sarri is shaping them the players will, logically speaking, be more likely to trust him and his methods, and thus take on board what he's saying. A successful work-in-progress should mean that the finished product is all the better.
Missing man of the weekend
That's now 12 games in a row that, when Crystal Palace have played without Wilfried Zaha, they have lost. It's easy to just say a team can't perform as well without their best player, but to be so reliant on him isn't healthy. Just imagine if they'd sold him.
Burgeoning crisis of the weekend
Manuel Pellegrini might take comfort in the fact that this isn't unprecedented. West Ham lost their first four games of the 2010-11, too. The trouble is, they were relegated that season. The West Ham board clearly weren't planning to be in a relegation battle this season, but if that's what their campaign is about to become, one wonders if they really have the right manager.
Pellegrini has his strengths, but you suspect digging a team out of a scrap at the wrong end of the table isn't one of them. And if that's not where they are already, that's where they're heading. Their next three league games are at Everton (where they've won once in the last decade), then at home to Manchester United and Chelsea. The atmosphere at West Ham is already getting toxic. Imagine what it would be like if they don't win any of those upcoming games.
Cameo of the weekend
Ten minutes, one penalty won, one red card. In terms of value for money, it was difficult to beat Marcus Rashford's brief spell on the pitch for Manchester United at Burnley on Sunday.
Luckiest moment of the weekend
Man United might have been among the most fortunate teams last season, according to ESPN's Luck Index, but Rashford did not get away with his indiscretion at Turf Moor.
Jose Mourinho called his young forward 'naive' after the game, which is true, but it's his opponent in the tussle who should be criticised the most. Phil Bardsley should most certainly have been sent off himself, not for the the pseudo headbutt he returned after Rashford had delivered his, but for the cowardly kick out that started the whole thing off.
Bardsley then looked shocked and outraged when Rashford retaliated: you might call his reaction experienced, but really it was just sneaky and dishonest. Ultimately, it didn't have much impact on the result of the game, but Bardsley was much more deserving of a red card than Rashford.