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Mo Salah shows signs he's rounding into form, Paul Pogba gets off lucky

Goal of the weekend

From a technical point of view, you could argue that Roberto Pereyra's goal against Huddersfield wasn't that impressive, because he just seemed to run in a straight line without beating many players, the defenders just melting away in front of him.

But there is something undeniably thrilling about watching someone slice through a defence like that, taking the most direct and impassable route and managing to pass it. Ignore the killjoys: what a goal.

Poacher of the weekend

Is he back? If you were being obtuse you could write off goals against Hudderfield, Red Star Belgrade and Cardiff as those of a flat-track bully, but it was more the nature of Mohamed Salah's strike this weekend that suggested at least a partial return to last season's form.

Whereas previously this season he has appeared sluggish, not quite as quick to react to burgeoning chances as before, against Cardiff he was onto a rebound in a flash, slamming the ball home before anyone else could flinch, let alone reach the ball.

Salah may never recreate the absurd scoring numbers of last season, but if he is merely brilliant, rather than otherworldly, that might be enough for Liverpool.

Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring for Liverpool in their Premier League game vs. Cardiff.
Mohamed Salah's goal against Cardiff suddenly gives him four goals in his last three games.

Lucky escape of the weekend

Paul Pogba is a confusing player. When he gets things right he can be imperious, a man you can't possibly imagine being anything but brilliant. But when he gets things wrong, he's probably the most frustrating player in the world.

The purpose of his absurd, "tip-toeing horse" approach to penalties is presumably to confuse the goalkeeper, to induce an early dive so he can pick his spot. But as Jose Mourinho pointed out after Manchester United's win over Everton, it's a technique with a short shelf life. "Goalkeepers know what he's going to do and are waiting, so he has to learn from that," Mourinho said.

Pogba was extremely fortunate that his missed penalty bounced right back into his path, so he could covert and celebrate as if he'd curled in a shot from 25 yards. He won't be that lucky again.

Karmic justice of the weekend

Diving is very firmly among football's dark arts, skullduggery that should be duly shamed and punished. But you can understand why some players do it, Wilfried Zaha in particular. Zaha publicly complained earlier in the season about the rough treatment he gets, but it didn't do much good against Arsenal.

How Stephan Lichtsteiner was not sent off for kicking Zaha up in the air twice is a mystery that only the referee will know the answer to, so when Crystal Palace's talisman had the chance to, shall we say, emphasise the impact of a challenge by Arsenal's Granit Xhaka in the closing stages... well, even if it was right, you can see why he felt justified in taking it.

Young player of the weekend

It's ludicrously early to talk about any end of season awards, but allow this indulgence for now: if David Brooks continues to perform as he has for Bournemouth, he will be firmly in the running for PFA Young Player of the Year. Brooks was superb in the Cherries' 3-0 win over Fulham, as he has been for most of the season, and it's startling how quickly he has adapted to the Premier League after his summer move from Sheffield United.

"He hasn't been overawed," said manager Eddie Howe after the game. "Most pitfalls for younger players are extreme overreactions to success. You've got to be very level-headed, and at the moment he is that."

Questionable approach of the weekend

Being too critical of Rafa Benitez is a tricky business, but at some stage we have to consider what role he is playing in Newcastle's struggles. To be cautious against someone like Chelsea is one thing, but to be so lacking in ambition that you don't manage a shot on target against Southampton is another.

"We have to take into account where we are and where they are, so I think it's a point gained‚" said Benitez afterwards. 'They' are a Southampton side who now haven't scored in five games and are in 16th, two places above the relegation zone that Newcastle are now ensconced in.

Choosing a damage limitation approach against the big boys is defensible if you cut loose a little more against teams around you. The root cause of Newcastle's woes comes from above Benitez, but treating Southampton like a latter-day incarnation of Ajax in the 1970s isn't going to help anyone.

Some of Rafa Benitez's problems at Newcastle are out of his control but that doesn't mean he's blameless for his club's poor start.
Some of Rafa Benitez's problems at Newcastle are out of his control but that doesn't mean he's blameless for his club's poor start.

Mild concern of the weekend

Wolves will be fine this season. More than fine, probably. But might they be even better if they could only convert a few more of their chances? Raul Jimenez, their main centre-forward, has proved a game runner but only has two goals, which is still twice as many as any other player has.

They took 15 shots against Brighton but didn't score with any of them, and only three teams take more shots per game than Nuno Espirito Santo's side. And yet, for all their positive play they only have nine goals from 10 games, the sort of record you'd expect from a side battling relegation, rather than pushing for the European places.

Luckiest moment of the weekend

"It was not a penalty -- it is clear the player dived," said Marco Silva, controlled but clearly still annoyed about the penalty awarded to Manchester United in his Everton side's 2-1 defeat. "That moment makes it easy for our opponents. You are more exposed then because you have to take more risks. They scored a fantastic goal but we had a good chance to score at 2-1."

That's as neat a summary as you can hope for about how single moments in games can impact the result as a whole. It wasn't just that Anthony Martial's dive over Idrissa Gueye's leg handed United a chance to score, more that it changed the whole dynamic of the match. Before that things had been balanced and level, but afterwards United were in control, and Everton's plans entirely changed.

Team of the weekend (4-2-3-1)

Mat Ryan; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Lewis Dunk, Jamaal Lascelles, Charlie Daniels; Luka Milivojevic, Ross Barkley; David Brooks, Roberto Pereyra, Sadio Mane; Anthony Martial.

Here's who made ESPN FC's Team of the Weekend. Did your fave players make it in?
Here's who made ESPN FC's Team of the Weekend. Did your favourite player make the cut?


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