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Arsenal's passivity must change; Spurs' Son makes case for player of the year

There's still a Monday night game to come but the weekend review is not lacking for talking points as Nick Miller runs through the highlights and lowlights.

Problems of the weekend

It was the passivity that was most concerning. Arsenal were pretty good in the first half against Manchester City, relatively speaking. But in the second half they appeared to lack all sense of purpose, almost accepting of their fate.

Arsenal are not the first and won't be the last team to be mercilessly picked apart by Manchester City, but it was the ease that will trouble Unai Emery. All three of City's goals were essentially training ground exercises, attacking the right side of Arsenal's defence before crossing into the middle where Sergio Aguero, placed exactly where he should be, was available to complete formalities. When things go to plan, City are deadly, but when an opposing team is a bit more proactive and tries to disrupt them, they can be stopped. Arsenal did none of that.

Part of the problem was personnel. Stephan Lichtsteiner was a fine player in his day, but there was a reason City directed so many attacks down Arsenal's right. Shkodran Mustafi is probably a lost cause by now. Laurent Koscielny cannot be relied upon to do everything. And yet in a transfer window when Arsenal had limited means, they ignored their defence in favour of recruiting an attacking midfielder, while trying to sign a winger.

But it's not all down to the players. They haven't kept a clean sheet away from home in the league this season: excusable when you're conceding to City, not so much Fulham and Crystal Palace. That's down to the manager too. As is the passivity. That needs to change.

Bad but good performance of the weekend

Raheem Sterling didn't have a brilliant game by his standards against Arsenal. A few passes went astray, his decision-making was often quite poor, he didn't quite have the spark he frequently does. But he still set up two of Aguero's goals.

That tells you a couple of things. Firstly, that even when he's off form, like all the best players he can still make key contributions. And secondly, that he functions as a crucial part of the City footballing machine, one of the men placed deliberately to provide that final pass across goal. It's worth remembering that a couple of summers ago he might have gone to Arsenal in a swap deal involving Alexis Sanchez, but Pep Guardiola rejected the idea out of hand. A decent call.

Player of the weekend

Even though we're only just past the halfway mark, it's around this time of year that we start talking about player of the season awards and Son Heung-min has to be among the contenders. Sure, his winning goal against Newcastle had plenty to do with suspect goalkeeping, but not many players have such an impact on a team where they are not the obvious star.

That could change in the coming weeks, though: with Harry Kane still out Spurs will look to Son for just those two things. After three international tournaments in the last eight months, the trick will be to manage his fitness, both physical and mental, so that he can have the impact Tottenham need.

Encouraging sign of the weekend

With the necessary caveat that it was only Huddersfield, Maurizio Sarri will take heart from a couple of things in Chelsea's 5-0 win on Saturday. It wasn't just that Gonzalo Higuain scored twice, more that he already seems to have some decent chemistry with Eden Hazard, but also how emphatic and decisive his two finishes (albeit one helped by a slight deflection) were.

On both occasions Higuain had a little time to think about things, and on both occasions he was cold-eyed and merciless, not qualities you would associate with Alvaro Morata efforts this season.

Combination of the weekend

Speaking of understandings between two attacking players, how about Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford? "Good players make each other better," was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's response after, for the second time in a few weeks, Manchester United's winner came from a brilliant Pogba pass cooly finished by Rashford.

The reasons for these two flair players playing with flair since United's change of manager are not a mystery, but the important thing for United is they have two of the world's most exciting young players combining perfectly. Whoever the manager is, if that continues then they won't go far wrong.

Potential schadenfreude of the weekend

Everton go into their next fixture on the back of seven defeats in their last 12, and having lost to Southampton, Millwall in the FA Cup and Wolves since majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri declared himself dissatisfied with their progress a month ago.

That next fixture is away to Watford. Do you think the club Marco Silva agitated to leave in favour of Everton would enjoy it if they nudged him towards the Goodison exit door?

Inconsistency of the weekend

Eddie Howe seemed dejected after Bournemouth's defeat to Cardiff on Saturday. Understandably, for a couple of reasons: firstly, to lose that game a few days after monstering Chelsea will inevitably be deflating, but secondly because he knows there is a big opportunity for Bournemouth this season.

With Chelsea facing Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, the European spot normally reserved for that tournament will almost certainly go to the seventh-placed team in the Premier League. Admittedly, those early stages of the Europa League can be a pain and a hinderance, but simply in terms of kudos it would cap the Bournemouth story off nicely.

"We've been searching for consistency all season and we've never felt like we have fully broken that," said Howe. "The mental side for me had a huge bearing on today. It's not been the first time this season where you could probably question that within the team."

If their mental state is compromised then it could be a significant concern, but Howe has managed to solve most problems in his time at the club, so you wouldn't doubt that he'll sort this one out too.


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