Both Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and his Liverpool counterpart Juergen Klopp chose to highlight the Premier League’s refusal to accept the temporary use of five substitutes following Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
That was probably not a coincidence and it is likely that there will now be a push from the bigger clubs to persuade those teams which had opposed five subs to relent.
FIFA and UEFA have allowed a temporary expansion from three to five subs during the ‘COVID era’ to help clubs cope with the increased workload of compressed schedules.
The Premier League made use of the exemption for the resumed part of last season after the COVID enforced break but the smaller clubs voted against doing the same this term because of concerns that the extra subs gave the big teams, with greater strength in depth, and additional advantage.
Klopp argued that there is no such advantage while Guardiola’s striker Gabriel Jesus raised the prospect of increased injuries for players.
It may be that smaller clubs, whose squads may be showing signs of wear and tear, adopt a different stance if the matter is put back to a vote of the league’s 20 teams — something Klopp and Guardiola certainly seemed to be pushing for.
Strangely though, Guardiola only used one of three subs on Sunday and Klopp brought on just two.
He was hardly a bargain at 33 million pounds yet Moroccan Hakim Ziyech was not regarded as Chelsea’s stand-out signing when he joined from Ajax Amsterdam during the transfer window.
But his performance in a 4-1 win over Sheffield United on Saturday showed that he might just be the man to fire Frank Lampard’s side on a title chase.
With his cultured left foot, Ziyech was at the heart of Chelsea’s attacking threat, providing two assists and creating six other chances for his team mates, more than any other player in a Premier League match this season.
German striker Timo Werner will be licking his lips at the prospect of Ziyech providing his ammunition this season.
Leicester scaled the top of the Premier League on Sunday thanks to a Jamie Vardy penalty, and they could even afford the luxury of a missed spot kick by the striker as they started to show the kind of consistency that made them champions in 2016.
“Nine wins out of 11 shows the mentality of the team. Our football was outstanding against a very good side,” Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said following his side’s 1-0 win over Wolves, singling out his side’s defensive resilience for praise.
If the Foxes can keep this strong run of form going, a new fairytale season might just take shape.
After an impressive start to their first top-flight campaign for 16 years Leeds have received something of a reality check after successive heavy beatings.
On Saturday they went down 4-1 to Crystal Palace, having also been beaten by that score against Leicester City on Monday.
Most worrying for manager Marcelo Bielsa will be his side’s defensive frailties. While they were again potent in attack against Palace and dominated at times, they have now leaked a joint-worst 17 goals in eight games.
Refreshing as they have been so far, they have dropped to 15th and some tightening up might be required if they are not to get sucked towards a relegation battle.
Weekend Action Roundup
The revolving door at the summit of the Premier League continued spinning on Sunday as first Tottenham Hotspur and then Leicester City reached it before Liverpool stumbled in their bid to reclaim it with a draw at Manchester City.
Southampton had begun the day as unlikely leaders but Harry Kane’s late goal, his 150th in the Premier League, earned Tottenham a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion.
That put Jose Mourinho’s men into first place with 17 points from eight games but a couple of hours later Leicester’s 1-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, sealed with a Jamie Vardy penalty, hoisted them up to 18 points.
Champions Liverpool were on course to move top when Mohamed Salah fired them ahead from the penalty spot after Sadio Mane had teased Kyle Walker into a foul.
But Gabriel Jesus equalised after a smart turn and City could have been in front before halftime had Kevin de Bruyne converted a penalty awarded via a VAR check after his cross was adjudged to have struck the arm of Joe Gomez.
De Bruyne sent his kick wide.
The second half petered out as Liverpool ended the day in third spot behind Tottenham on goal difference while City, yet to really get going, remain in 10th.
Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp said the poor quality of the second half was a result of a punishing schedule and said clubs should be allowed to use five substitutes as they were after Project Restart at the end of last season.
“This year, the October is like a December, the November is like the December and December is still like a December,” Klopp said. “If we continue like this, and hopefully we can play the Euros next summer, let’s see which players can take part.”
Aston Villa returned to winning ways with a dazzling 3-0 win at Arsenal in which Ollie Watkins was twice on target.
They moved up to sixth place with 15 points, having played a game less than the teams above them.
Tottenham fielded Kane, Gareth Bale and Son Heung-min from the start for the first time in the Premier League but the formidable trio were kept quiet by a gritty West Brom side who are yet to win a league game this season.
But Kane popped up late on to head in Matt Doherty’s long pass to secure a third consecutive win for Tottenham.
Leicester, who out-lasted Tottenham in the 2015-16 title race, appear to be mounting another challenge.
Vardy’s 15th-minute penalty proved enough against Wolves although he also had another spot-kick saved.
“It’s been an incredible start, I’m so happy for the players,” manager Brendan Rodgers, whose side face Liverpool after the international break, said.
“I have always said failure is learning and if anyone says us not getting into the Champions League last season was failing then, OK. For us it was about learning and developing.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar