Knee-Jerk Reactions From The Premier League, Week 8: Mourinhoitis

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They say to wait until Week 10 before looking at the table. But what fun is that?

As the Premier League sadly heads into another international break, we look back at another thrilling weekend of goals, tactical trends, and (almost) meltdowns.

Wolves are the best of the rest

After steamrolling to the Championship title in 2017-18, Wolves are living up to the hype. Nuno Espirito Santo has stuck with the 3-4-3 formation that worked so well last season, and as a result his team look like a well-oiled machine. They’ve conceded just a single goal in their last five matches, and that was in a hard-fought draw at Old Trafford.

Summer upgrades like Joao Moutinho in midfield, Jonny at left wingback, and Raul Jimenez up top have all slotted into the side with ease. Jimenez, in particular, looks at home in the Premier League as a physical-yet-savvy target man—his average of three shots per game is above the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexandre Lacazette.

It was one of the old guard who made the difference this weekend, though, as Matt Doherty scored the winner in Wolves’ 1-0 win at Crystal Palace. The 26-year-old has been imperious at right wingback, bombing up the flank and putting in dangerous cutbacks.

Unlike their newly-promoted counterparts, Wolves look capable of much more than just scraping together 40 points—if they remain consistent, a European spot isn’t out of the question.

Oh, and their kits are pretty.

Jose Mourinho will be sacked before Halloween

Yes, Manchester United pulled off a miraculous comeback. Yes, it was the much-maligned Alexis Sanchez who dramatically netted the winner. But don’t be fooled, there’s still a lot wrong with Jose Mourinho’s United.

Let’s start with the lineups—Mourinho seems to select his starting eleven with the intention of triggering as many angry tweets as possible. Or maybe he’s trying to sabotage fantasy managers who have been brave (see: dumb) enough to stick with United players?

The defending is what’s most alarming about this United team, though, as Mourinho sides have always been sound at the back. Newcastle, a team who have scored six goals this season, sliced open the Red Devils with ease—the game could have been put to bed in the first half if it weren’t for a fantastic David De Gea save.

Fun fact: Fulham, Huddersfield, and Cardiff are the only teams who have conceded more goals than Manchester United this season.

Next up: Chelsea away.

The two-man strike partnership is back

Football evolves, tactics transform, and the classic strike duo is left out in the cold. Gone are the days of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke tormenting defenses with telepathic understanding and movement, as an extra man in midfield is now far more useful than an extra target in the box for Europe’s best teams.

Until now. The weekend’s biggest wins—Bournemouth 4-0 Watford and Arsenal 5-1 Fulham—were the result of successful strike partnerships. Callum Wilson and Josh King (we’re calling the duo Wilkingson whether you like it or not) scored or assisted all four of the Cherries’ goals, linking up brilliantly for the third.

Elsewhere in London, Arsenal lined up in a 4-4-2 for the first time in, well, a long, long time. Their second goal was straight out of the strike partnership handbook: Danny Welbeck knocked down a clearance for his partner, Alexandre Lacazette, who slammed it in on the turn.

At Anfield, meanwhile, two sides playing 4-3-3 cancelled out for what could either be called a turgid stalemate or an intriguing tactical battle—we’ll let you decide.

Arsenal are top four favorites

After starting the season with two defeats, Arsenal have quietly put together a six-game winning streak in the Premier League. The headlines have revolved around Maurizio Sarri’s remarkably quick revolution at Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp’s newly resilient Liverpool, but Unai Emery has steadily breathed new life into an Arsenal side that’s looked stale for years.

Admittedly, Arsenal have ridden their luck during their winning run, consistently getting away with gifting the opposition too many chances. Their 5-1 win at Fulham, though, was their most complete performance of the season so far.

Downright horrendous on the road last season, Arsenal delivered a vintage away win at Craven Cottage, compact in defense and refreshingly direct in attack. In Lucas Torreira, the Gunners seem to have found the scrappy-yet-technical midfielder they’ve been crying out for.

With Spurs looking jaded and Manchester United suffering from third-season Mourinhoitis, Arsenal fans will feel optimistic about getting back into the top four.