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Teams bunched up at the top of Premier League table a good sign

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Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale failed to impress in his first start in the Premier League since September. Picture: EPA, NEIL HALL

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta refused to get drawn too deeply into Aaron Ramsdale’s performance at Brentford on Saturday but the England goalkeeper can hardly be expecting to keep David Raya out of the starting line-up after a nervy display.

Raya could not play for Brentford, the club from whom the Spaniard is on loan, giving Ramsdale his first start in the Premier League since September but he failed to impress.

He got away with two mad moments in the first half and, despite Arteta praising his courage, Raya is likely to be back between the posts at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers next week.

Some have questioned Arteta’s treatment of Ramsdale, and Saturday’s jitters were perhaps a result of that, but it looks ever more likely he could seek a move in January.

Is it a two-horse title race?

After a succession of two-horse or even one-horse Premier League title races in recent seasons, the evidence after 13 rounds of the current campaign suggests things might be different this time.

Arsenal, who went toe-to-toe with Manchester City last season, moved ahead of Pep Guardiola’s side into first place in the table on Saturday but it is desperately tight at the top.

Six points cover the top six and Liverpool, who have slugged it out with City on a couple of occasions, are clearly back in the mix while fourth-placed Aston Villa are beginning to imagine a title tilt.

City remain favourites, but a bunching up at the summit augurs well for an absorbing second half of the season.

Blues hit the buffers again

Chelsea went into the international break on a high after a 4-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur and thrilling 4-4 home draw with Manchester City but their hard-earned momentum was thrown away in a shambolic second half at Newcastle United on Saturday.

Against a Newcastle side with a long injury list and huge Champions League game at Paris St Germain tonight, Chelsea had the chance to make another big statement. Instead, they lost 4-1 with a display so meek that manager Mauricio Pochettino said he would have the players in for Sunday morning training.

Chelsea remain in the top half of the table only on goal difference and every time they seem to take a step forward, they take two steps back with more questions asked than answered.

Magpies’ injury fortunes improve

Newcastle United’s 4-1 win over Chelsea was welcomed by the club not just for the goals they scored but the fact they did not add to their long injury list as they crushed the Londoners.

Striker Alexander Isak returned after a month of struggling with a groin issue and scored within 13 minutes, relieving the pressure on a Newcastle attack that has spent more time in the sick bay than the penalty box recently.

Isak managed 80 minutes before being substituted and though the list of players still out remains a long one, manager Eddie Howe will hope his side are through the worst of their recent run of injuries so they can get the season back on track.

Red Devils’ Mainoo makes impressive first start

Manchester United’s England Under-19 midfielder Kobbie Mainoo made a memorable first start on Sunday, earning praise for his starring role in United’s 3-0 victory at Everton.

The 18-year-old’s poise in his 72 minutes had fans suggesting manager Erik ten Hag had unlocked a “cheat code”.

Former United captain Roy Keane told Sky Sports: “He looked a Man United type of player. Nice and brave, lots of courage. I loved watching him.”

Mainoo made his Premier League debut in February as a substitute and then impressed on United’s pre-season tour of the US before suffering an ankle injury.

“He has a lot of abilities and it was a really disappointing moment in pre-season when he got so badly injured,” Ten Hag told reporters on Sunday.

“I know he can progress a lot if he plays many such games as today.

“I know young players especially will develop very quickly. So we thought this was the moment to bring him in. We prepared him properly and he did a great job.”

Reuters

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