LONDON (Reuters) - Talking points from the Premier League weekend:
VAN DIJK INJURY BLOWS HOLE IN LIVERPOOL’S DEFENCE
News that Liverpool’s central defender Virgil van Dijk requires surgery on an ACL knee injury sustained in a dreadful tackle by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford has rocked Anfield.
The Dutchman, who has started 94 successive Premier League games for the champions, is the glue that holds Liverpool’s defence together and his value to the team is arguably greater than even strikers Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
His absence, which could be for many months, will leave a huge hole that manager Juergen Klopp will find hard to fill.
“Can they win the league without Virgil van Dijk? I think it blows the title race wide open,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports.
CHELSEA REARGUARD A CAUSE FOR CONCERN
For all the attacking threat Chelsea now possess -- highlighted by goals for new signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz on Saturday -- manager Frank Lampard has still not solved the puzzle of his side’s leaky defence.
They blew a 2-0 and 3-2 lead against Southampton on Saturday to draw 3-3. They have let in nine goals in five games, continuing a trend since Lampard took charge.
Lampard has been in charge for 62 games and in that time Chelsea have kept only 15 clean sheets and conceded 99 goals yet most of their transfer business was designed to strengthen at the other end of the pitch, a policy that may haunt them.
BALE RETURNS BUT IT’S SAME OLD TOTTENHAM
Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham Hotspur on loan from Real Madrid offers Jose Mourinho an embarrassment of attacking riches when factoring in the form of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane.
Bale never won any silverware during his first six-season spell at Tottenham, although with 56 goals in little over 200 appearances he turned himself into a superstar.
But however many goals Tottenham appear capable of scoring, their continued search for a first trophy since 2008 will be undermined without a ruthless mentality.
Somehow they allowed a 3-0 lead to slip as they drew 3-3 with West Ham United on Sunday, the visitors scoring three times from the 82nd minute onwards.
NOT SPECTACULAR BUT MAN CITY APPEAR BACK ON TRACK
It has been a troubling start to the campaign for Manchester City but Saturday’s dull 1-0 win over Arsenal would have been hugely satisfying for Pep Guardiola.
City’s attacking firepower is undisputed but since Vincent Kompany left there has been a vulnerability about their defence.
On Saturday, however, one goal always looked like being sufficient with Kyle Walker, Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias benefiting from the defensive shield of midfielder Rodrigo.
It was their first league shutout this season and hinted at a slightly more pragmatic City this season.
GOALS CONTINUE FLYING IN
The first four rounds of Premier League fixtures produced 144 goals in 38 matches, an average of 3.79 goals per game -- a rate not seen in the top flight for 90 years.
And the goal rush continued, if not quite as fast.
Two 3-3 draws (between Tottenham and West Ham and Chelsea and Southampton) and a 4-1 win for Manchester United at Newcastle were the high-scoring games over the weekend when 27 goals were netted in eight fixtures.
West Ham manager David Moyes said part of the glut of goals was defenders now taking more risks, but he said proper defending should not be discounted.
“I think it’s exciting, but as a purist you want to see good defending too, generally if you look at the best teams in the league they will have a good defensive record too,” he said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar
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