• Liverpool demolished by sensational Aston Villa

It was another fantastic weekend of Premier League action

Sunday 4th October 2020 produced two quite ridiculous results.

One, however, turned the Premier League upside down.

Aston Villa 7. Liverpool 2.

In just 90 logic-defying minutes, the whole dynamic of this new season was changed. Yes, Manchester City were smashed 5-2 by Leicester last weekend, and also dropped points this Saturday at Leeds. But we know that City are prone to the odd defensive implosion.

Yet that doesn’t really happen to Liverpool. They’re the league’s winning machine. They grind out results, even when they’re not playing well. They’re “mentality monsters”. They clutch up. They always find a way to win.

It’s not that they lost, though, that was significant about Sunday - it’s how they lost. This kind of calamity just doesn’t happen at Liverpool. And I don’t think very many know how to react, now that it has.

That impregnable defence was breached again, and again, and again. They were humiliated by a rip-roaring Villa side, who, had they not missed several one-on-one chances and clipped the crossbar, could have easily scored ten.

The Champions began horrendously, as stand-in keeper Adrian gave the ball away cheaply to Jack Grealish, who put the ball on a plate for Ollie Watkins, for the striker’s first Premier League goal. New signing Ross Barkley then missed two guilt-edged chances before Watkins doubled his tally with an emphatic finish into the top corner. John McGinn then blasted in a deflected volley from distance, before Watkins completed an unprecedented forty-minute hattrick with an unmissable header. And, even though Mohamed Salah grabbed two back for Liverpool, a Ross Barkley deflected-strike, along with two more for Jack Grealish, rounded off a historic win for Aston Villa – one that will be talked about for years to come.

"This kind of calamity just doesn’t happen at Liverpool. And I don’t think very many know how to react, now that it has."

The question now, is about the impact of this defeat. Does this earth-shattering result show that Liverpool’s ominous aura of invincibility has finally slipped? Is this a message for the rest of the Premier League that Liverpool are there to be attacked? Or is this just a horrible one-off that will shock The Reds back into life?

Either way, the ease with which Liverpool were cut open by a slick, well-drilled Aston Villa side, who exploited their opponents high line with expert precision, will serve as a “how to beat Liverpool” blueprint that will certainly cause them plenty of problems against the Premier League’s improving opposition. Just like Crystal Palace cutting through Manchester United, Leicester through Manchester City, West Ham through Wolves – I think we can expect a few more mind-boggling results before the season is out.

High-flying Everton up next for Liverpool though – and what a game that looks set to be.

  • United blown away by rampant Spurs.

It says a lot about Sunday 4th October that this was only the second craziest result of the day, but another dazzling performance from Tottenham Hotspur’s attacking superstars inspired an emphatic 6-1 win over a hapless Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Despite a first minute penalty giving United the lead, shambolic defending from the Red Devils let Spurs back into the game immediately through Tanguy Ndombele, before the electric Son Heung-Min gave the visitors a 7th minute lead. A very contentious red card for Anthony Martial, however, swung the balance of the game towards an already superior Spurs side, who wasted no time in rubbing United faces in the dirt, as Son, Serge Aurier and a Harry Kane double completed the rout.

"Ole Gunnar Solskjær may well be fearing for his job - unless he can pull another rabbit out of the hat."

Despite opening day defeat and that bitterly disappointing draw with Newcastle last week, things are suddenly looking very rosy for Jose Mourinho’s men, who’s deadly duo – Kane and Son - have been linking up telepathically over the last few weeks. Reminiscent of that amazing four goals for one, four assists for the other performance at Southampton a fortnight ago, Son’s intelligence, pace and clinical finishing – along with Kane’s delightful passing range, and, of course, predatory instinct in front of goal, terrorised a clueless United defence all afternoon. And, with Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius both to come in, this Spurs attack is starting to look very exciting.

Further back, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s performance in midfield was excellent, as he ran the game admirably and provided a pinpoint assist. He looks, as expected, to be a very shrewd summer acquisition. Full-backs Serge Aurier and Sergio Reguilon were also rampant, providing bursting energy down the flanks all afternoon. Remembering that Spurs had one of the best attacking full-backs in the league, Matt Doherty, sat on the bench all afternoon, and you begin to see a newfound depth to Tottenham, in a squad that is starting to come together very nicely. Expect them to launch a very serious assault for one of those prestigious Champions league spaces come the end of the season.

As for United, it was a performance so bad that a distraught Patrice Evra threatened to resign from his punditry role with Sky Sports. A calamitous defensive showing from £80 million centre back Harry Maguire, including his comical role in the Tottenham equaliser, has drawn scathing criticism from a fanbase beginning to tire of their club’s poor recruitment in defence. There have been warning signs, but, as their dramatic Brighton win perhaps papered over the defensive cracks in this team, this embarrassing defeat has certainly opened them right back up again.

This weekend’s results in particular have shown that no-one is safe in the Premier League at the moment. Manchester United, though, with a weak defensive foundation that their attacking talent can’t bail out for much longer, are looking to be the most vulnerable big fish of them all. And, with a gruelling winter period to come, including showdowns with PSG, Chelsea, Leipzig, Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjær may well be fearing for his job - unless he can pull another rabbit out of the hat.

  • And finally, Bielsa Ball looks to have arrived, at last.

Sir Alex Ferguson. Arsène Wenger. Jose Mourinho. The Premier League has been home to some of the greatest footballing minds of all time.

Few, though, are loved and respected around the world quite like Marcelo Bielsa.

Guardiola called him the “best coach in the world”. Mauricio Pochettino hailed him as his “footballing father”. Diego Simeone said that Bielsa “taught him the most”. Yet, for so long, he’s remained a relatively mysterious man on English shores.

Four weeks into the new Premier League season, though, and we can already see why this enigmatic manager – obsessive and meticulous in his work – is so highly thought of.

His newly promoted Leeds side have not only picked up points, but gained many admirers for their incredibly expansive brand of football, something evident yet again this weekend, as they held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw in a dazzlingly entertaining contest. Not tempted to try and contain the attacking force of City, Bielsa’s men went toe-to-toe with the Premier League giants, charging forward at every opportunity in a breathless second half.

His innovative 3-3-1-3 formation, in which his players are encouraged to be as fluid as possible, is built on an extremely high tempo style of play, where aggressive pressing and direct passing encourages a high-pace counter-attacking system. This has produced exhilarating attacking performances such as the Manchester City draw, along with a desperately unlucky 4-3 defeat at Anfield, and another 4-3 victory over Fulham. From the outside, it looks chaotic and wild, but, as he showed us in a remarkable press conference last year, every game and every action is planned for in unbelievable detail. Every opposition studied, every weakness identified and every move rehearsed.

A pioneer of the modern game, it is a privilege to have Bielsa crouching down on Premier League touchlines this year. His high-scoring, high-octane style of play is only going to bring more goals to what has already been a net-busting season.

Win, lose or draw, if you’re looking for entertainment, Leeds may well be your team.

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