Premier League winners and losers: Firmino, Arsenal and more
Liverpool's Brazilian flair proves too much for Man City, Arsenal miss the chance to go top of Premier League
Firmino and Liverpool. Jamie Carragher hailed Liverpool’s 4-1 win at Manchester City as the Merseyside club’s best away performance in the Premier League era. It was high praise from one of the Reds’s most-consistent players of the past 23 years. Philippe Coutinho is fast-becoming Liverpool’s most-reliable player in Jurgen Klopp’s current squad and his performance at The Etihad wasn’t a surprise after he dazzled at Chelsea last month. The real delight was Roberto Firmino. The £29m summer signing has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League but Klopp has made progress with the former Hoffenheim midfielder. Brazil’s snub was Liverpool’s gain as the Reds manager worked with his South American playmakers during the international break and the fruits of their labour were obvious at Eastlands. Firmino made his first assist before he scored his first goal of his Premier League career in a devastating performance. The 24-year-old’s ability to time his runs in behind the City defence caused confusion between Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala. The next challenge for Firmino will be finding the consistency of Coutinho.
Jamie Vardy. Jamie Vardy is the man of the moment in the Premier League. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has bemoaned the world-class talent leaving the Premier League for Europe’s major leagues in recent seasons, including Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez. It is refreshing that it is an English talent that is the Premier League’s deadliest finisher this season. Vardy equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 successive Premier League games in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Newcastle United. The recent England international has been linked with Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur after his impressive start to the season. He will have a chance to prove his quality to Louis van Gaal when the Red Devils make the trip to King Power Stadium to face the leaders next weekend.
Arsenal. Arsenal have faltered twice in recent weeks when presented with the chance to take top spot in the Premier League. A goalless draw with in-form Tottenham was a credible if disappointing result with home advantage before the international break. But, with the benefit of hindsight, their failure to beat West Brom and move ahead of City on Saturday is a blow. Leading 1-0 after Olivier Giroud’s opener, the Gunners were training 2-1 at half-time after James Morrison’s leveller and Mikel Arteta’s own goal. In particular, Wenger’s decision to bring on the 33-year-old Spaniard ahead of Mathieu Flamini following Francis Coquelin’s knee injury raised eyebrows. The Gunners are capable of producing the best attacking football in the Premier League, but their squad is looking stretched ahead of a testing festive period. The two points dropped at The Hawthorns could be significant with a flurry of fixtures to come.
Manchester City. It is remarkable that City remain the favourites to win the Premier League title despite losing 4-1 for the second time this season. It highlights the lack of any standout teams in the Premier League that the Citizens remain the team to beat thanks to their collection of big names stars. Manuel Pellegrini opted to start Demichelis and Mangala ahead of summer signing Nicolas Otamendi, and it was a gamble that backfired as the City centre-halves had a chastening experience against Liverpool’s nimble playmakers. Their firepower will keep them at the top of the table, but fitting the Premier League’s reputation as the most unpredictable division in the world, City are frighteningly inconsistent.
Honourable mentions: Everton (Winner), Jermain Defoe (Winner), Southampton (Loser), Man United (Winner).