Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. Picture: MICHAEL STEELE/REUTERS
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. Picture: MICHAEL STEELE/REUTERS

London — Thomas Tuchel seems to have his finger on the pulse at a Chelsea side ready to challenge for the title. At the same time, Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his work cut out if the Red Devils are to be in the running come the end of the season.     

Some talking points after a Premier League weekend of goals, controversy and Liverpool’s main man Mané:

Tuchel magic still rubbing off on Chelsea: The best managers earn their corn in the 15 minutes at half-time, and Thomas Tuchel did exactly that as he got his message across in spectacular fashion at Tottenham Hotspur.

The German was clearly unhappy with what his side produced in a scoreless first half in north London on Sunday, but his team responded with a dominant second-half display to win 3-0.

Sometimes it is a change of tactics that works, but Tuchel demanded greater intensity and a better attitude. He also made the astute decision to send on N’Golo Kante for Mason Mount and the Frenchman immediately gave Chelsea’s midfield superiority.

The Blues are unbeaten in the league after five games and Tuchel continues to show the wisdom of Chelsea hiring him in the wake of Frank Lampard’s sacking as he invariably gets all the big decisions right.

Man United not playing like title contenders: Manchester United pulled off a second consecutive late away win by beating West Ham United 2-1 with a spectacular Jesse Lingard winner and a last-gasp penalty save by David de Gea, but they won’t sustain a title surge with such scrappy performances.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side struggled to have any control of the game and were repeatedly opened up by West Ham, just as they had been in their previous away trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers where they won 1-0 with an 80th-minute goal.

United have conceded 26 shots in their last two away games and still appear particularly lightweight in defensive midfield, as Fred and the returning Scott McTominay were repeatedly beaten to the ball and outmuscled.

For all the stardust sprinkled by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored again, and the signings of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, United still look far from the finished article, in contrast to title rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.

VAR controversy rears its head again: Before the weekend the season has been relatively free of the kind of VAR gripes that seemed to be a weekly occurrence last time out. But Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers had plenty of reason to vent his frustration on Sunday as his side went down 2-1 at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Brighton’s first goal came from a penalty awarded for handball by Jannik Vestergaard, although Leicester were incensed that referee Stuart Attwell changed his original decision not to award a spot kick after consultation with his assistant.

Rodgers felt VAR should have stepped in, arguing that Vestergaard was being fouled by Neal Maupay. To make matters worse, VAR then ruled out two Leicester second-half goals.

“Jannik has been fouled, he’s been pulled down and of course his arm is up because he’s been fouled and then the ball heads onto his hand without [him] even looking at it,” Rodgers said.

“It was a very, very harsh decision and, like I said, the process, the fourth official didn’t see it, the referee had given a corner, the linesman, who was quite a way away, gave it and then obviously for it not to be looked at by Stuart was disappointing so I didn’t think it was a penalty.”

Sterling fails central striker audition: Manchester City’s inability to sign a striker ahead of the new season has not been an issue in recent weeks as the goals flowed, but Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Southampton showed not all of the club’s forwards can fulfil a central striking role.

Ahead of Saturday’s match, City had scored 21 goals in their previous four home games in all competitions. But against Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side at the Etihad Stadium, the champions mustered one shot on target in 90 minutes.

Raheem Sterling, one of England’s standout performers at Euro 2020, got his chance to shine as a No 9 but offered very little threat, with his manager struggling to find words of praise for the forward after the match.

“He was active in terms of movement,” Pep Guardiola said. “Today we struggled a bit. He was always dangerous and ready to try to do it.”

Mané the main man again: There were times last season when Liverpool’s Sadio Mané cut a frustrated figure, unhappy with the form that resulted in 11 Premier League goals from 35 appearances. That was well below the standard he had set in previous years, but there are already signs that the Senegal international is getting back to something like his best.

His goal against Crystal Palace on Saturday that broke the deadlock in a frustrating first half for the Anfield side is his third in Liverpool’s last four Premier League matches.

It was also his 100th for the club in all competitions and broke a Premier League record for most consecutive goals against a single opponent with his ninth in a row versus Palace.

A fit, firing and happy Mané makes all the difference for Liverpool.

Reuters

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