LONDON: It’s almost like old times in English football with Arsenal and Liverpool joint top of the table.
That is the stuff of modern history: Arsenal last won the championship in 2004 and Liverpool right back in 1990 before the creation of the Premier League. London’s pride has been represented most vigorously in recent years only by Chelsea who last won the league ‘only’ in 2010.
Here is the attraction of the Premier League this season: the intrigue of change. Incumbent managers at Arsenal and Tottenham and Liverpool all made wise use of the transfer market in three very different ways.
That has allowed them to seize early advantage over rivals such as Chelsea, Manchester City and champions United who are all led by new managers still learning about their strengths and weaknesses of their players.
Arsenal had 60pc of the first-half possession in a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich. However, with the fans looking for more magic from Mesut Ozil, they were caught out by a right-wing raid. Morgan Amalfitano’s right-wing cross was then headed home at the near post by Claudio Yacob.
Twice, early in the second half and with Per Mertesacker nowhere in sight, Nicolas Anelka should have scored. Arsenal, needing only a draw to claim the leadership, escaped and – as happens so often – equalised through England midfielder Jack Wilshere.
Now it was Arsenal’s turn to step up the pace under the impetus of the influential arrival of substitute Tomas Rosicky as Ozil faded. West Brom keeper Boaz Myhill made a brave save from Olivier Giroud and Arsenal thus edged ahead of Liverpool on goals scored.
Meanwhile Jose Mourinho proved himself the master of substitutions as Chelsea claimed their first away win of the league season, by 3-1 at Norwich.
Chelsea took a first-half lead through Brazil midfielder Oscar then conceded a messy equaliser to Anthony Pilkington midway through the second half. The goal may have suggested to Schalke spies that Chelsea’s central defence is no longer the impregnable fortress of 2012.
Mourinho, angry that his team had not killed off the game in the first half, sent on Samuel Eto’o, Eden Hazard and Willian. The switches proved decisive just as Norwich were looking the more likely winners.
Willian and Oscar set up Hazard for a second goal on the counter-attack and then Willian swept home a magnificent left-foot strike to mark his first league appearance since Chelsea snatched him from Tottenham’s grasp in the closing hours of the transfer window.
Mourinho said: “To win here was important and deserved and difficult. In the first and second half the game was easy to kill but we didn’t. So I looked to my dugout and tried to change the game and all of them gave an important contribution.”
Tottenham, perhaps still tired after the Europa League trip to Moscow, fell off the pace after a surprise 3-0 defeat at home to West Ham who had not scored away from home previously.
West Ham, who even played without a ‘proper’ centre-forward, had not won at White Hart Lane since 1999. It was their best win at Spurs since a 4-1 victory in 1994.
Spurs were overtaken not only by Chelsea but by Southampton.
After seven matches last season Southampton had conceded 20 goals; this season they have conceded only two. Hence they are up in the European places after a 2-0 win over Swansea with goals from little midfielder Adam and Jay Rodriguez.
League Cup holders Swansea, playing their seventh game in 20 days, have lost on all four occasions that they have conceded the opening goal though they were unlucky when Nathan Dyer’s first-half strike rolled along the goalline after hitting a post.