Premier League talking points: Talisman Salah, Pochettino pressure and Man City reaction

We pick out the big issues ahead of this weekend's English top-flight fixtures

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah needs one more goal to reach 150 in the Premier League. Reuters
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Can Salah inspire Liverpool title charge?

When Liverpool were thumped 4-1 at Manchester City back on April 1, the gap between the two teams – and former title rivals in previous seasons – had become a mighty chasm. “Too passive, too open, too deep, too far away from anything,” admitted manager Jurgen Klopp after the match.

Little did Klopp know that the defeat at the Etihad Stadium would be Liverpool's last in a Premier League run that has now reached 17 matches, and will hit 18 if the can avoid defeat in Saturday's tough game away to Tottenham Hotspur.

Six matches into the new campaign, the unbeaten Merseysiders sit two points behind City with only the 100 per cent record of Pep Guardiola's side keeping them off top spot.

And the talisman of Liverpool's team remains Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian forward has seemingly been unaffected by a summer of speculation linking him with a move to Saudi Arabia, making a flying start to the league campaign with three goals and four assists.

His Liverpool record now stands at 190 goals in 312 appearances across competitions and he will move into the all-time top 10 Premier League scorers list if he finds the net another eight times – bringing him level with Michael Owen on 150.

“He's breaking record after record. We have a very, very special player on our hands. A mentor as well, a leader,” said Klopp this week. “I see a real professional with a lot of experience and I see a man who can lead this team without being the captain, and he does that.”

How will Man City react to rare defeat?

Treble winners Manchester City, meanwhile, head into their game at Wolves on Saturday feeling a sensation they have not experienced in a while – the painful sting of defeat.

The 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup was City's first since the Community Shield shoot-out defeat against Arsenal, and came on the back of six league victories and a Uefa Super Cup win.

In fact, it was only City's second loss in 36 matches, but Guardiola was quick to shoot down the idea that a clean-sweep of trophies was on this season's wishlist.

“You think the target was to win the quadruple? Honestly, it’s not,” the Spaniard insisted. “We competed really well and we are more than satisfied to win the treble.”

Have Pochettino and Chelsea turned corner?

On the face of it, a narrow 1-0 League Cup win over Brighton might not have sent the pulses racing at Stamford Bridge but it might just turn out to be a crucial one for Chelsea.

Nicolas Jackson's strike was Chelsea's first since Enzo Fernandez scored his first goal for the club against AFC Wimbledon in the same competition on August 30.

Since then, the Blues had failed to score in three league matches after successive 1-0 home defeats against Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa sandwiched a goalless draw at Bournemouth.

“Give me time,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said after the Villa defeat, and while a run to the League Cup final will provide some respite – they have been drawn at home to second-tier Blackburn Rovers in the fourth round – it will be a case of one step forward, two steps back if they lose Monday's West London derby away to Fulham.

Can flattened Blades bounce back?

Hapless Sheffield United slumped to a disastrous 8-0 home defeat against Newcastle last week, with the scoreline flattering the Blades, who could easily have lost by double figures.

“You could see moments where Newcastle outfought us and outran us. That is not acceptable,” said manager Paul Heckingbottom after the biggest league defeat in the club’s history. “I can't stand here and say anything positive,” admitted captain John Egan.

Heckingbottom had the unenviable task of trying to lift his team ahead of their game at West Ham on Saturday.

There are five other occasions that teams have lost 8-0 – Sheffield Wednesday (Newcastle 1999), Wigan Athletic (Chelsea 2010), Aston Villa (Chelsea 2012), Sunderland (Southampton 2014) and Watford (Manchester City 2019), while Wigan were also beaten 9-1 (Tottenham 2009).

Wigan, whose two tonkings came in the same season, were the only team to avoid defeat in their next matches, beating Sunderland 1-0 after conceding nine against Spurs while their loss at Chelsea came on the final day of the campaign.

Only three clubs that have suffered heavier defeats in Premier League history, with Southampton twice (against Manchester United in 2021 and Leicester 2019), Bournemouth (Liverpool 2022) and Ipswich Town (Man United 1995) all losing to the Premier League record scoreline of 9-0.

Only Bournemouth last season (a goalless draw at Wolves) would avoid defeat in their next game.

Can promoted clubs end winless run?

There is still little sign of green shoots for any of the three sides promoted from the Championship last season.

Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton Town have now had the worst combined start of any promoted sides in Premier League history, ahead of their respective games against Newcastle, West Ham and Everton.

The winless trio have a combined points total of three, with each having managed a draw. In a combined 16 games, they have scored 12 goals and conceded 41. Only once before in Premier League history have all promoted sides failed to win one of their opening six matches.

In 2004/05, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and Norwich City had a combined tally of nine points after six games each.

Palace and Norwich would be relegated by the season’s end, while the Baggies survived by a single point despite going on a 13-game winless run during the campaign.

Updated: September 29, 2023, 4:39 AM