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Raheem Sterling, Zlatan Ibrahimovic impress in Manchester; Liverpool poor

Iain Macintosh casts his eye over the best and worst of the action from the Premier League this weekend.


Behold the 100 percent club. The greatest managers in Europe, perched at the top of the Premier League, bound together by their own perfection. Their names will echo throughout history. Pep Guardiola. Jose Mourinho. Antonio Conte and ... Mike Phelan. The Hull City caretaker manager -- and surely he'll be given the job for real soon -- has won more games in the first seven days of the season than most people thought the Tigers would win in the first three months. There's a long way to go, of course, and Hull are still an absolute mess behind the scenes, but what a start this is by Phelan.

Guardiola has worked his magic quickly. Not only have Manchester City scored nine goals in five days, but Raheem Sterling also suddenly looks his old self again. Sterling has told those close to him that he was desperately disappointed with life under Manuel Pellegrini and staggered at the lack of personal attention he received on the training ground in comparison to what he'd known at Liverpool. And how it showed in his football, particularly in the way his confidence sagged as the game wore on. But now look at him: still running himself ragged in the dying moments and selflessly making goals for others. It's an incredible turnaround.

There aren't many people out there who didn't tip Burnley for the drop, but Sean Dyche's men didn't look like relegation candidates against Liverpool. Granted, Jurgen Klopp's men were accommodating opponents, but look at the quality of Sam Vokes' finish and the power in Steven Defour's driving run. With just 19 percent of possession, Burnley had to be disciplined and organised, and they had to give everything they had. That's exactly what they did. "There's something marvellous about that," Dyche said afterward. He's right.

Hands up. Who thought he was past it? A crucial header in the Community Shield, a long-range drive against Bournemouth and now a brace against Southampton. The 34-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coping just fine with the rigours of the Premier League. Four goals in three games are a pretty convincing counter-argument that he's still got it. There's something of the Cantona about him and the effect he's having on the team. He's a very different sort of footballer, but a very similar sort of person. For the first time in many seasons, Manchester United exude a bit of arrogance again.

Sunderland, odd as it is to say this, started the Wear-Tees derby in ebullient fashion. But the fight was knocked out of them by a ferocious strike from Middlesbrough's Cristhian Stuani. Another one before halftime proved to be enough for all three points. The Uruguayan forward scored only seven times in the Championship for Aitor Karanka last season, but one afternoon against Sunderland was long enough for him to amass nearly a third of that tally. Middlesbrough, unfancied by most this summer, have made a decent start to the season.


To give credit where it's due, Klopp is very good at articulating precisely where Liverpool went wrong. "I saw crosses, really good crosses, when nobody was in the box," he said Saturday. "I saw shots when the whole box was full." But then, he's had a lot of practice at articulating precisely where Liverpool went wrong of late, hasn't he? The Reds ended last season poorly, and there were plenty of signs in their tenser-than-it-should-have-been 4-3 victory over Arsenal last weekend that little has improved over the summer. There's £30 million of Christian Benteke money in the bank now. He might want to spend that.

For the importance of his winning goal, he should be in the Heroes category. But Diego Costa's self-destructive behaviour lands him down here instead. He might think that he's hard done by, but in truth, he is a very, very lucky boy. How stupid do you have to be to take a second booking in a week for dissent and then follow it up with an obvious dive? All this after he so narrowly avoided dismissal for planting his studs in West Ham goalkeeper Adrian's leg on Monday. His luck is not going to hold all season. Sooner or later, he's going to talk himself right off the pitch.

Speaking of getting away with it, how on earth did Francis Coquelin avoid a red card on Saturday? The French midfielder has previous narrow escapes, but even by his standards, this was very, very fortunate. First, he took out Jamie Vardy and earned himself a booking. Then he hacked down Riyad Mahrez, really going the extra mile by making sure to kick him in both shins. Arsenal stand in a precarious position, on the brink once again of crisis. Coquelin really should be more careful.

He'll almost certainly make up for it later in the season, but Heurelho Gomes' idiosyncratic handling let Watford down on Saturday. He was fortunate to get away with one first-half fumble and escaped censure for picking up a back pass in the aftermath. But he wasn't as fortunate when he dropped Eden Hazard's shot in the second half and the ball fell straight to Michy Batshuayi. Gomes is a fine goalkeeper and a huge reason for Watford's recent elevation, but this wasn't one of his better days.

While some will be perturbed by David Moyes' almost immediate assertion that Sunderland are facing another relegation battle, you can understand his pessimism. Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul made a strong partnership against Manchester City, but the former has signed for Watford, and the latter claimed to be suffering from a mysterious back injury amid reports that he wants to sign for Everton. Moyes had a difficult enough job on his hands with the squad he inherited. If the core of the defence is scampering off to pastures new, then he really could be in a spot of bother.

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.


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