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The Premier League restart – what we’ve learned

English football’s back! But what can we make of the first flurry of games? Understandably there were a lot of rusty performances in the first games back in action for almost three months. But what has the Premier League restart really taught us, if anything?

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Arsenal have lots to do

The break hasn’t been kind to the Gunners. Since the restart, they’ve lost the first 2 games against Brighton and Man City, and look a far from cohesive unit.

Goalkeeper Bernd Leno was injured during the Brighton game to compound the misery, but this was a sloppy start from Arsenal. They dominated against Brighton for the majority, but defensively it’s the same old problems. David Luiz had a nightmare cameo against Man City, gifting two goals before a red card put him out of his misery.

For Brighton’s equaliser, the defence was all over the place and they never recovered. Neal Maupay’s 95th minute winner seemed an inevitable symbol of the Gunner’s fragile back line. Mikel Arteta has a lot of work to do to avoid a mid-table finish.

City back to something like their best

With Liverpool’s title win now a foregone conclusion all but mathematically, Manchester City have played without pressure since the Premier League restart. As a result, their performances have been fantastic to watch. Two wins from two, eight goals scored and none conceded, and an average possession of 70%. This has been close to vintage City.

Pep Guardiola has given minutes to Phil Foden, and the Englishman has impressed. Raheem Stirling has hit the ground running, and Kevin De Bruyne was the best player on the pitch against Arsenal.

This season might be over for them, but next season already looks a prospect.

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Relegation will go to the wire

While Norwich sit rooted to the bottom of the table and look doomed, the four teams above them are separated by just 2 points. Between them, they can’t seem to find a win.

Aston Villa grabbed a point against high-fliers Sheffield United, but then lost narrowly to Chelsea. Bournemouth were just as dire as before the lockdown in their 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace. And West Ham are sinking fast after 2 losses on the bounce.

Watford seem the only side capable of pulling away under Nigel Pearson. They earned a hard-fought point against Leicester, and have gentler games against Burnley and Southampton coming up.

You’d be hard pressed to find the worst two teams out of those four.

Liverpool’s eventual title win will be underwhelming

Ending a 30 year wait for a league title will be a momentous occasion for Liverpool and their fans. But when it comes, there’s no hiding that it will feel massively underwhelming. And it isn’t just because of the empty stadiums.

Their 0-0 draw in the Merseyside derby might just have been a glimpse into the stroll ahead. The Reds never needed to get out of 3rd gear, with a 20 point lead in the table eliminating any pressure. How many more games will be played at half-pace, with no fans, and no euphoric feeling of relief when the trophy is finally lifted?

Of course, the title will rightly be celebrated. But the circumstances will take the sheen off the achievement to say the least.

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Fernandes and Pogba look quality for United

Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Spurs was a rusty encounter lacking much quality, but the best player by far was Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese has adapted to United’s midfield with ease, and he looked just as fresh and ready in the Premier League restart.

United fans have been drooling at the prospect of the so-far enigmatic Paul Pogba linking up with Fernandes in the Red Devils’ midfield. Pogba came on as 63rd minute substitute and immediately made an impact. His jinking run into the Spurs box drew the foul that won a penalty, converted by Fernandes.

Some stellar passes between the pair highlighted the potential quality in United’s midfield, a position where they’ve been sorely lacking for a number of years. Early days, but very promising indeed.

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