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Positive signs emerge from Manchester United, reason for worry at Chelsea

Nick Miller breaks down all the highs and lows from matchday nine of the 2018-19 Premier League season in our Weekend Review.

Goal of the weekend

There's something incredibly satisfying about a goal that you can see coming well before the player has even pulled his foot back, that surely even the goalkeeper knows where it is heading, but still nothing can be done about it. Riyad Mahrez's strike against Burnley falls into that category, the Algeria international picking out the top corner with laser-guided precision.

Surprising positivity of the weekend

It's been hard to find anything positive to say about Jose Mourinho or Manchester United in recent weeks, so let's break the habit of the season.

First, it would take someone particularly obtuse to blame him excessively for the melee at the end of United's 2-2 draw with Chelsea. A victory had just been whipped from under his nose at his old club, after which Chelsea coach Marco Ianni had two tries at rubbing Mourinho's nose in it. He can probably still expect a letter from the FA, but any draconian action would be harsh, particularly as he and Chelsea counterpart Maurizio Sarri seemed to shake hands and make up after the game anyway.

Also, Mourinho's admission that he wasn't happy with the point should be classed as a positive, too. Given how things have been going for United, he might have been grateful for a draw at Stamford Bridge, but he recognised that they should have won.

Surely that sort of attitude -- a reasonably beleaguered manager thinking so much of his team that he's not satisfied with a point away to prospective title challengers -- must be viewed as a positive ... surely.

Worrying trend of the weekend

Chelsea remain unbeaten, Ross Barkley's late goal preserving that record for another week, but there remains a strong hint that a fall might be on the way.

The unscientific sense that Chelsea allow a lot of scoring opportunities is backed up by the statistics: According to Opta, they have allowed 17 clear-cut chances this season, comparing poorly to Liverpool (seven) and Manchester City (five). By rights, they should have conceded way more than the seven goals they actually have allowed. This has clearly been useful in allowing Sarri to start his tenure as well as he has, but also suggests an element of luck has been involved, and that this run might not last much longer.

Surprising assist of the weekend

On more occasions than is ideal for a player who cost nearly £30 million, Moussa Sissoko barely looks like a footballer. He often resembles a dog chasing a large ball, never quite in control and you're never certain about what's going to happen next.

But against West Ham on Saturday, Sissoko had one of those days where he looked effective, at least for a spell. And, crucially, that spell included the run on the right that finished with him skimming a precise cross to Erik Lamela for Tottenham's only goal.

"Football is up and down. You have to try to keep the balance," Sissoko said afterward. "Today was a good afternoon for me." If only he had more of those.

Metaphor of the weekend

"It's like a dog; if you don't give him his favourite toy and you throw something else, he thinks: 'No, I don't want that, I want the other one.' I want to play high press. So that's how you develop, step by step, doing different things. Now we have to be better in the midfield press."

After Liverpool's narrow win over Huddersfield, Jurgen Klopp was talking about there always being an area of his team he thinks can improve. Probably. It's a bit tricky to fully decipher a metaphor about dog toys.

But these are positive days for Liverpool, and another victory without playing especially well can be thought of as another positive. If only because they are collecting points, while at the same time having enough motivation, because of those moderate performances, to improve. And a consistent desire to get better is the only way they will catch Manchester City.

Performance of the weekend

Ultimately it might not make a difference. If Neil Warnock keeps a Cardiff City team that, in terms of quality level, frankly belongs in the upper-mid reaches of the Championship, it will be a miracle to rival Leicester City winning the Premier League.

But there's nothing like the mixture of relief and purest joy that comes with a struggling team winning their first game of the season. "It's just a great feeling for everyone at the club really," Warnock said afterward. And when you watch the crowd after Kadeem Harris sealed the victory over Fulham, it's impossible not to believe him.

Substitutions of the weekend

If making good substitutions is an art, then hang Marco Silva's efforts against Crystal Palace in the Louvre. Ademola Lookman, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun were summoned from the bench at 0-0, and shortly afterward the first crossed brilliantly for the second to make it 1-0, before the third sealed things a minute later for Everton. For some, the jury is still out on Silva, but you can't argue with his work this weekend.

Sickener of the weekend

Conceding two late goals is never fun, but it will have been a particular kick in the pants for Palace, given their upcoming fixture list. Their next four games are against Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United.

They're on seven points now, two off the relegation zone; they could conceivably not gain another before the end of November, which would leave them floundering as Christmas approaches. Palace will almost certainly not go down this season, but they're not making it easy for themselves.

Luckiest moment of the weekend

Newcastle already have enough stacked against them without cruel fate/bad refereeing decisions joining in kicking them, too. The corner from which Brighton scored their (heavily deflected) winner was very clearly incorrectly awarded, coming off the chest of Solly March rather than any Newcastle player.

Rafa Benitez's side are still to find a win this season; had this been correctly given as a goal kick, then perhaps they might have managed it against Brighton.

Team of the Weekend


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