Sandwiched between last weekend’s disruption and the upcoming international break, the Premier League returned on Friday to provide fans with a slightly reduced schedule this weekend.
Although Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Leeds, Brighton and Crystal Palace all missed out, the weekend’s action still provided managers with plenty to chew over — and each Premier League boss will view the two-week break as a sensible time to sit down and reflect upon the first two and a half months of the campaign.
With that in mind, Sportsmail has assessed all the major talking points from the top flight this weekend, summarising ten things we learned from the seven fixtures.
Brendan Rodgers suffered another humiliating defeat as Leicester lost 6-2 against Tottenham
Son is back with a vengeance
Tottenham’s Golden Boot-winning superstar Son Heung-min began the campaign in a rotten vein of form, causing several fans to lose patience in his lacklustre performances.
Perhaps perturbed by the £60million arrival of Brazilian forward Richarlison, who has since rivalled the South Korean for his spot in the left wing, Son looked a shadow of the player he showcased last season, returning no goals and just one assist in his opening six league matches.
As a result, Spurs boss Antonio Conte handed the 30-year-old his first benching of the season at the weekend against strugglers Leicester — and it proved to be just the wake-up call Son needed.
Out-of-form Son Heung-min came off the bench to net a stunning hat-trick against the Foxes
The winger replaced Richarlison with a point to prove in the 59th minute, rocketing a quickfire hat-trick past the Foxes to launch Conte’s side to a 6-2 win. It was as if Son had been scrolling through the Tottenham fan forums during the first half, soaking up the criticism.
After blitzing through Leicester’s defence to score his first long-range stunner, the wounded animal simply nodded to the home fans with modesty and sincerity, as if to apologise for his recent run of form.
And just in case one wondergoal wasn’t enough to hammer home the point, the South Korean rifled in a second, this time with his left foot, before completing the hat-trick four minutes from time.
Guardiola knows just what to say to inspire Grealish
After launching an impassioned defence of club record signing Jack Grealish earlier this week, Pep Guardiola was repaid with an exceptional performance from the England star.
As critics swarmed to point out Grealish’s underwhelming goals and assists record since arriving at the Etihad, the Manchester City boss reassured the 27-year-old by publicly insisting that he is ‘happy’ with his performances.
It only took Grealish 55 seconds to thank Guardiola for his vote of confidence, converting Kevin De Bruyne’s smart assist against Wolves at Molineux.
Jack Grealish scored after just 55 seconds to repay Pep Guardiola’s faith and patience in him
Just over half an hour later, the winger drew a lethal challenge from Nathan Collins which resulted in a red card, helping the champions to a comfortable 3-0 win.
With Grealish set to head out on international duty with England, it was just the boost of confidence the ex-Aston Villa star needed.
Although Guardiola needs him to emerge a star winger at City this season, with Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus having exited the Etihad, the Spaniard’s patience in Grealish is paying dividends.
Southgate snub was the reality check Mings needed
It’s been a bizarre start to the season for Tyrone Mings, who was first stripped of captaincy by Steven Gerrard and then dropped for new signing Diego Carlos before rediscovering his place in the team.
Reinstated only thanks to Carlos’ long-term injury, Mings showed a noticeable drop-off in confidence on the training ground as a result, according to the Aston Villa manager. Gerrard admitted his leader had become ‘quieter’ in the dressing room.
Due to the setback and Villa’s failure to keep a clean sheet until this weekend, the centre-back was dropped by Gareth Southgate ahead of England’s Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany.
Tyrone Mings had a strong defensive display after losing his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad
Eager to win back Southgate’s favour, Mings put in a commanding performance against Southampton on Friday, marshalling his side to a 1-0 victory.
His strong and aggressive display will no doubt have riveted the England manager’s gaze as he continues to weigh up which centre-halves should be on the plane to Qatar.
Marc Guehi, John Stones, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Fikayo Tomori and Harry Maguire have each been called up for international duty on this occasion.
If Villa can continue to shut teams out, Mings has every chance of winning his spot back ahead of the World Cup.
Fulham can score plenty without Mitrovic
With record-breaking hitman Aleksandar Mitrovic leading the line, Fulham would be forgiven for focusing their entire attack around their star striker.
In many ways, they already do, but the Cottagers proved on Friday against Nottingham Forest that they can still find the back of the net without the Serbian on the scoresheet.
After Mitrovic scored 43 goals in the Championship last season, it was clear that teams would look to nullify the 28-year-old at all costs, even if it meant offering additional space to Fulham’s support players in forward areas.
Fulham are proving they can still be dangerous without Aleksandar Mitrovic on the scoresheet
Tosin Adarabioyo’s second-half equaliser was a prime example. As Ryan Yates and Scott McKenna clung to Mitrovic from the corner — even flooring the striker in the process — Fulham’s centre-half was able to evade Yates and charge in for a simple header past Dean Henderson.
New signings Joao Palhinha and Willian then combined for the second goal before defensive midfielder Harrison Reed busted a gut to meet Bobby Decordova-Reid’s cross into the penalty area and score the third.
If Silva’s side have shown anything in the opening seven matches of the season, it’s that they are far from a one man team.
O’Neil is more tactically astute than first appears
Many raised an eyebrow when Scott Parker was axed by Bournemouth so early in the season, but the south coast club have since managed to turn the tide.
In the most part, that’s thanks to interim boss Gary O’Neil, who has done everything right should he wish to take up the position permanently after the international break.
Whilst the Cherries’ chiefs are still likely to opt for a manager with more experience, O’Neil has demonstrated a clear tactical awareness since taking over temporarily, no more so than in the 1-1 draw against Newcastle on Saturday.
Gary O’Neil made a handful of smart substitutions in Bournemouth’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle
After the ecstasy of taking the lead against the run of play through Philip Billing, Bournemouth were drawn level from the penalty spot just five minutes later — and it looked as though the Magpies would then go on to snatch a winner.
But O’Neil made a handful of shrewd late substitutions to freshen personnel and stem the flow of Newcastle’s attacks.
After replacing Marcus Tavernier for 22-year-old Jaidon Anthony to help with tracking back on the wings, the interim boss brought on right-back Jack Stacey for attacker Ryan Christie to shore up the defence.
He then made two additional substitutions in injury time to frustrate Newcastle further and hold on to the 1-1 draw.
Schmeichel’s exit is punishing Leicester
Winless and sitting rock bottom of the Premier League, it’s fair to say Leicester have suffered an abysmal start to the campaign.
Despite the disastrous form, the Foxes are in fact in the top eight for goals scored this season, proving their woes have predominantly been in defence.
Letting go of club captain and star goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to Nice on a free transfer seemed a puzzling decision at the time, and after the first seven matches it has proved to be a catastrophic decision.
Leicester have yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League since Kasper Schmeichel’s exit
Brendan Rodgers urged in pre-season that Leicester were blessed with a ‘No 1 goalkeeper’ in Danny Ward waiting in the wings, but the 29-year-old has shown he is not up to the task of matching Schmeichel’s presence, at least in the short-term.
Following the 6-2 drubbing against Tottenham on Saturday, Ward has conceded 22 league goals from just 43 shots, meaning the Welshman has let in more than 50 per cent of the attempts he has faced.
Rodgers has a big decision to make as to whether he brings in new deputy stopper Daniel Iversen after the international break.
Leaky Forest are in trouble
Entertaining fans is no doubt important in football. Scoring goals is also essential.
Despite somewhat achieving both of those things so far, Nottingham Forest’s leaky defence is single-handedly earning them a return ticket back to Championship.
Following back-to-back 3-2 away defeats to fellow Premier League newcomers Bournemouth and Fulham, Steve Cooper’s side sit 19th in the division, despite scoring more than West Ham, Wolves and Everton so far.
Boss Steve Cooper has plenty to chew over with Nottingham Forest conceding 17 goals so far
While it does take time to embed new summer signings — of which Nottingham Forest have an unprecedentedly high amount — the Reds need to get points on the board quickly and the best way to do that is by shutting up shop.
After the international break, Forest have a few winnable fixtures against Leicester, Aston Villa and Wolves before a tricky run of games.
Cooper’s troops face Brighton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Brentford, Palace and Manchester United before breaking for the World Cup.
Vieira looks a shrewd signing
Recovering from their disappointing defeat by Manchester United two weeks ago, Arsenal reclaimed top spot with a confident 3-0 win against Brentford.
With Martin Odegaard out injured, it was the perfect opportunity for new signing Fabio Vieira to demonstrate his abilities — and he passed the test with flying colours.
His slick interplay in the first-half was followed up by a long-range stunner shortly after the break, showing to Arsenal fans that he can chip in with goals while their first-choice playmaker is unavailable.
Arsenal’s summer signing Fabio Vieira scored a stunner as he stood in for Martin Odegaard
In fact, all three of the Gunners’ goals were scored by players absent from Mikel Arteta’s squad last season, with marquee signing Gabriel Jesus grabbing the second and William Saliba scoring the opener, having returned from his loan in Marseille last campaign.
It is not yet clear whether Arsenal will mount a serious title challenge to rival reigning champions Manchester City, but the recruitment this summer has taken them one step closer to where they want to be.
Dogged defending is the way to go for Lampard
Everton’s 1-0 win against West Ham was arguably the most boring match of the weekend — if not the season so far — but that won’t bother Frank Lampard in the slightest.
The Toffees head coach has noticeably worked on toughening up Everton’s feeble defence of last season and was rewarded with his second clean sheet of the campaign against the Hammers.
While they had to be patient for their first win of the year, the Merseyside club are now six matches unbeaten in all competitions and it’s thanks largely to their work in defence, conceding just three goals during that run.
Neal Maupay’s superb strike helped Frank Lampard and Everton beat West Ham 1-0 on Sunday
Lampard’s new-look centre-half partnership between Conor Coady and James Tarkowski is bearing fruit, as the English duo both excel at leading and organising the team from the back.
Nathan Patterson has also quickly emerged a fan favourite amongst the Toffees faithful, showing toughness and spirit with strong tackling on the right hand side.
As Lampard continues to find his feet in the Everton role, he will take great confidence in his team’s new-found ability to shut out teams, especially when playing at Goodison Park.
Dier’s purple patch may land a World Cup starting spot
Since Conte’s arrival in north London, Dier has slowly but surely re-entered the thoughts of Southgate, who has rewarded the centre-back’s resurgence with a spot in his Nations League squad.
Although Dier is not without his critics, the 28-year-old has proved an instrumental part of Conte’s success in defence since arriving at Tottenham.
Eric Dier boosted his World Cup hopes after scoring and defending expertly in Spurs 6-2 win
Spurs hold one of the best defensive records in the league with just seven goals conceded, behind only Manchester City and Everton amongst teams to play all seven matches so far.
The defender also chipped in with a goal of his own at the weekend, rising highest to direct Ivan Perisic’s corner past Ward with a glancing header.
Southgate’s success from set-pieces at the last World Cup could play a factor in his decision-making, especially if Dier can find the target once more ahead of Qatar.