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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Gulf in class between the best and the rest continues to grow

Five things we learned from the weekend

Manchester United's Paul Pogba
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1 Battle royal for Champions League spots
Manchester City are 1-7 for the Premier League and even at this early stage look in control of the title race, so the real interest towards the top could be which two teams will miss out on the Champions League.

Just four points separate second-placed Manchester United from sixth-placed Arsenal, who put in their best performance of the season to comfortably see off north London neighbours Tottenham 2-0 at the Emirates.

Arsenal remain the outsiders in the Champions League hunt at 13-8 but if they can maintain the standards they set against Spurs it should put them in the mix with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil capable of causing maximum destruction when interested.

It was a bad 90 minutes for Spurs yet they have already shown their qualities this season, while Chelsea seem to be finding a bit of decent form judging by a third straight Premier League win to nil against West Brom as Eden Hazard gets closer to peak fitness.

Jose Mourinho's attacking options increased significantly with the return from injury of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the
4-1 victory over Newcastle and Liverpool had few problems breaking down previously stubborn Southampton, who are the kind of team who used to trip up Jurgen Klopp's men in the past.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho started a Premier League game for the first time together at Anfield on Saturday so that may explain why Liverpool found it easier to unpick a packed defence.

2 Pulis on brink as Baggies boss
Beating Chelsea was always going to be a tough ask for West Brom, but even a positive performance may have been enough to quieten the growing 'Tony Pulis out' brigade at the Hawthorns.

Pulis had been able to pride himself on building teams who can frustrate and defend well, although once that disappears what else is left?

West Brom are winless in the Premier League since August 19 and it feels as though a managerial change will come soon.

3 Coleman needs to find a new goalkeeper
One of Simon Grayson's final acts as Sunderland boss was to drop goalkeeper Jason Steele following a number of awful performances but replacement Robbin Ruiter was rubbish in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Millwall.

Ruiter made two incredible howlers and new manager Chris Coleman needs to find a goalkeeper his defence can trust. It's a difficult enough job to have taken on without worrying that every shot that goes near the keeper will find its way into the net. 

4 Bradford find a way to always bounce back
Resilience is something Bradford have in spades, and they have not lost successive league matches since defeats over the Christmas period of 2015-16.

It was odds-on that that run would be ended at Wigan on Saturday following last week's loss to Plymouth, but the Bantams punched above their weight to deliver a deserved 2-1 success over the title favourites.

5 Hatters a home handicap snip
Cambridge arrived at Kenilworth Road with one of the best defensive records in Sky Bet League Two but they left Luton having suffered a 7-0 drubbing as the Hatters demonstrated their attacking prowess.

It was the third time this season that Luton have scored at least seven in a home league game as they claimed a seventh success at Kenilworth Road this term.

Six of those have been by at least two goals and they had ten men in the other win so when the Hatters get on a roll expect them to cover the handicap as well as claim maximum points.

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Just four points separate second-placed Manchester United from sixth-placed Arsenal, who put in their best performance of the season to beat Spurs
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