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Premier League hits and misses: What's happened to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Can Leicester go all the way again?

Mikel Arteta admitted he couldn't see the "spirit" of his Arsenal team as Ollie Watkins' quick-fire double helped Aston Villa return to winning ways at the Emirates on Sunday night.

The Gunners offered very little in reply with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failing to register a single shot on target. The forward has scored just two Premier League goals this season and not from open play since against Fulham on the opening weekend.
Indeed, Aubameyang has registered just 10 shots on target in eight league games - a growing concern for Arteta following a second straight home defeat.

"It's a team function and a collective thing we have to do more with the end product," the Spaniard said when Aubameyang's struggles were put to him.

"Of course, we can talk about if he's in the right or wrong place but he was scoring before. We need to maintain the numbers we had defensively in our organisation and we have to improve our attacking numbers if we want to compete with the big teams."

This was a collective setback for Arsenal, but where so often Aubameyang would drag them to victory last term, the goals have dried up ever since he signed a new three-year contract in September.

It was the first time he's played the full 90 minutes in a home Premier League match for Arsenal without attempting a shot, but part of a growing trend that will worry Arsenal supporters.
Ben Grounds

Leicester look the real deal - can they keep it up?

When Leicester won the Premier League in 2015/16, we asked if they could keep it up. They did. When they were in the title race until Christmas last season, we asked if they could keep it up. They couldn't.

That recent history suggests it would be premature to cast too harsh a judgement on Brendan Rodgers side's sensational start, with six wins from eight in the Premier League and six in a row across all competitions.

Certainly, the early signs are good. Last season they fell apart without Wilfred Ndidi and never really recovered. This season, they have had him fit for two of their eight games, and are currently enjoying their best-ever start to a Premier League season.

This is not a prophecy that Leicester are going to win the Premier League. Some of their rivals have more resources, more quality and crucially, more experience of success.

But at the very least, there is little to suggest last season's top-four surge was a flash-in-the-pan effort. Thrashing Leeds and Braga and then beating Wolves needed three different performances, but Leicester passed all three tests comfortably. In Wesley Fofana they look to have landed a gem at the back - and one they badly needed as we saw after the restart last season.

The real question will be that longevity. The coronavirus break did little to help Rodgers' boys last season, but they had picked up only 14 points from the 12 games beforehand anyway. Stopping that drop-off this season - which given their Ndidi-less form so far looks a possibility - will be key.

And anyway, the esteemed wisdom has been wrong before. If you cannot dream of a title challenge in these crazy times, when the intensity of the truncated calendar is playing havoc with every team to differing extents, then when?
Ron Walker

Liverpool coping without VVD so far

When Liverpool lost Virgil van Dijk to injury against Everton, their detractors rushed to question how they would possibly cope without their star centre-back. Six games on, and with just three goals conceded, Jurgen Klopp will be satisfied with how his squad have stepped up to cover the Dutchman's absence.

There have been tough tests along the way, including Serie A top scorers Atalanta, who were shutout on Tuesday, and there have been a variety of players used alongside Joe Gomez.

Nat Phillips came in and delivered a man of the match performance against West Ham, 19-year-old Rhys Williams has seamlessly stepped into the world of Champions League football, and on Sunday fit-again Joel Matip brought his experience and composure to the backline at the Etihad.

The German was making just his third Premier League start since October 2019 but you wouldn't have guessed it. Up against Manchester City's wealth of attacking talent, he and Gomez limited Pep Guardiola's side to just two shots on target.

There is still a long way to go but so far Liverpool's capable youngsters and more experienced centre-back options have shown the immediate panic about the implications of Van Dijk's injury were a little excessive.
Peter Smith

Man City still struggling to hit usual levels

Manchester City head into the international break not in the top-10 of the Premier League. Pep Guardiola could be forgiven for being a little disoriented; he is used to looking down rather than up in terms of a league position. This has been the worst start after seven league games of Guardiola's managerial career in terms of points, wins, goals scored and conceded.

Of course, some context is needed. City have a game in hand and a win would take them into the European spots.

However, my eyes still haven't been completely taken with Guardiola's boys so far this season. It's their own fault for the sky-high limits they have set in previous seasons but their intensity seems to be more Korma than Vindaloo on the spice radar.

In the opening 20 minutes against Liverpool, they looked a level or two inferior to the champions. With some cuter final balls or finishing then Jurgen Klopp's men could have built a meatier lead. Gabriel Jesus' goal came against the run of play and was a big turning point. Up until then, City created little of note - a common theme for their season so far.

"Their lack of goals is a big concern for City," noted Roy Keane.

The expected goals data back that up. In the last three season under Guardiola, their attacking xG has averaged out at 2.56 per game. This season that figure is at 1.57.

If the top-two from last season are going to fill those places again, City need to find more.
Lewis Jones

Barkley ready to rekindle Euro 2020 hopes

It barely caused a ripple outside of Aston Villa's Bodymoor Heath training complex when as Gareth Southgate's 29-man squad for November's games against Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Iceland was revealed, Ross Barkley's name was not on that lengthy list.

His loan switch to Villa was in some quarters derided as a backwards step, but the former Everton midfielder continued his resurgence as Villa ripped Arsenal apart at the Emirates.

Dean Smith said: "He's a marquee signing for us to bring in on loan and has been around a club that are perennial winners. He wanted to get game time to try to get into the Euro squad. His performances at the moment will certainly be nudging Gareth [Southgate], showing he's hungry for business. He's playing extremely well."

The 26-year-old is someone who has progressed through his career always happy to defy his critics. His improvement has gone a little under the radar, but the man himself will not have given up on making a late dash for next summer's tournament, along with Jack Grealish.

With Smith managing to operate the two technicians so effectively, Barkley's latest display has given Southgate plenty to consider, fuelling the debate over England's absence of creativity ahead of another international window.
Ben Grounds

Kane saves the day for Spurs again

As if anyone needed reminding, Harry Kane is still Tottenham's hero and turned up with the goods once again on Sunday. He bailed them out of a potential embarrassment, nodding home in the 88th minute to secure a 1-0 win against winless West Brom.

It was his 150th Premier League goal - leading nicely on from his 200th Tottenham goal on Thursday - with only Alan Shearer (212) and Sergio Aguero (217) reaching the landmark faster than Kane (218).

Despite a general lack of creative spark from Spurs, the England captain was the one trying to make something happen. He had a total of seven shots - the most of his team - and although only one was on target, it was the winner. It takes Kane to 13 goals in 14 games across all competitions for Tottenham so far this season, including ten assists.

In his post-match press conference, manager Jose Mourinho said: "When you go to stats in relation to the strikers, I always say that the stats should be how many goals they've scored and what he did for his team in the matches where he didn't score. With many strikers, their history would be an incredible number of goals that they scored plus zero.

"With Harry Kane, you have this number of goals, this number of assists, this number of balls recovered, this number of duels won, this number of balls he saved his team in a defensive set-piece. This is Harry Kane.

"So for me, it is not about one more goal or one less goal. It's about what he is as a player."

Kane did well on that front too. He was involved in 19 duels - again, the highest among the Tottenham team - and won 47.4 per cent of them with eight being aerial. As Mourinho said, Kane continues to demonstrate his ability and contributions across the field as a Premier League legend in the making.
Charlotte Marsh

West Brom show spirit - but no points

West Brom should have taken at least a point against Tottenham. They were by far the better side in the first half and worked their blue and white socks off to try and keep an in-form Spurs from scoring after the break.

But despite an 88th minute gut punch, Slaven Bilic was practically gleeful at full-time, telling Sky Sports: "If we play like this in every game, then we will have a chance… If you have chances against Spurs, you'll have chances against less quality teams.

"I told the guys that every game is an opportunity and we showed that today, but this is a bonus game… We're disappointed but at the same time, very positive about the performance."

They did not look like a team without a win this season but that is the crux of the matter - after eight games, West Brom have just three points on the board, have the worst goal difference in the league and are in danger of being cut adrift before Christmas.

They also need to improve their final product. Hugo Lloris made just two saves and there was also a sensational off-the-line clearance from Eric Dier. Yes, they were without the creative sparks of Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana, but there were a few wild shots flying around.

But you hope Bilic is proven correct and West Brom can keep producing the same impressive performances, especially against the teams around them, and can go a step further to secure those vital points.
Charlotte Marsh

Source: Sky Sports 

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