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Talking points from the weekend's Premier League action

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By Reuters
Talking points from the weekend's Premier League action

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) – Here are five talking points from the latest round of Premier League fixtures:

Solskjaer under scrutiny

A day after champions Manchester City banged eight goals past Watford, a meek Manchester United slumped to a 2-0 loss at West Ham United to leave them 10 points off the top of the Premier League with six games played.

Worryingly for United fans the gap to leaders Liverpool, and second placed City, only looks like growing and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to come under scrutiny.

As interim manager in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s sacking last season the former United striker gathered 14 wins in 19 games but since being appointed on a permanent basis in March it is five from 17. The honeymoon period is long gone.

“I’m shocked and saddened by how bad they were today,” Roy Keane, a former team mate of Solskjaer at Old Trafford, told Sky Sports. “Lacklustre, no quality, no leaders, lack of desire. It’s scary how far they have fallen.”

United, who are eighth in the table, face Rochdale in the League Cup this week, then host Arsenal in the league with two wins essential to lift the gloom hovering over the club.

Is VAR sucking the life out of the game?

Former England striker Gary Lineker certainly thinks so after the Video Assistant Referee again played a key role in the weekend’s action with several marginal calls.

Chelsea were denied an equaliser against Liverpool on Sunday when VAR ruled that Mason Mount had been just offside in the build-up to Cesar Azpilicueta’s goal. A day earlier Tottenham Hotspur were denied a goal by Serge Aurier after VAR ruled a millimetre of Son Heung-min’s body had been offside in the move.

The introduction of the technology appears to have cancelled out any benefit of the doubt for attackers, with some suggesting the law needs to be revised to redress the balance.

“Tilting the balance of power in favour of the defender. This cannot be right when football’s role is to produce goals and entertain the fans,” former referee Keith Hackett told the Telegraph. “The authorities need to address the offside law, which pre-dates VAR and therefore does not account for it.”

Manchester City over their hiccup?

After the shock of losing 3-2 at Norwich City the previous week and falling five points behind Liverpool, Manchester City’s response has been devastating.

First they outclassed Shakhtar Donetsk away in the Champions League in midweek, then on Saturday Pep Guardiola’s side thrashed Watford 8-0, scoring their first five goals inside the opening 20 minutes at the Etihad Stadium.

“They will do it to somebody, there will be a nine or 10 out there soon,” Watford keeper Ben Foster said.

Is this the season for a new name in the top four?

With Tottenham Hotspur unable to buy an away win, Chelsea in transition, Manchester United in a rut and Arsenal leaking goals for fun is this the season the top-four gets a new member?

Leicester City are third after six games and West Ham United are fifth, both with 11 points, while Bournemouth are above Tottenham, Chelsea and United.

It is early days but the battle for third and fourth might just involve more than the usual suspects this season.

Liverpool show winning mentality is now ingrained

Liverpool have become a winning machine in the Premier League under Juergen Klopp who has 92 victories from his first 150 games in charge, a stat only bettered by Jose Mourinho.

Sunday’s 2-1 victory at Chelsea was not pretty but means they have started with six wins, as they did last season, and have won 15 on the bounce in the league.

With a five-point lead they will take some shifting.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)