Talking points from the English Premier League weekend:
Feel-good factor sweeping Arsenal
Even in the latter years of Arsene Wenger’s long and illustrious reign as Arsenal manager, the atmosphere at The Emirates could often be toxic among the divided home fans.
The same can be said when Unai Emery replaced him and there have been a sizeable minority who have wondered whether Mikel Arteta was the right man to lead Arsenal forward.
But after their best start to a Premier League season since 2004-5, with four straight wins, the feel-good factor has swept the stadium and there is a growing belief in Arteta’s project.
Even when Gabriel made a dreadful mistake to hand Fulham an opener on Saturday (Aug 27), the fans remained very much on board and they roared their side to a 2-1 victory.
There is a long way to go but suddenly the red half of north London has its pride back and the season looks full of promise.
United need focal point in attack
Cristiano Ronaldo’s rich haul in front of goal was among the few bright spots for Manchester United last season but with the Portuguese unable to break into the starting line-up under Erik ten Hag, the team are in dire need of a traditional striker.
Ten Hag employed Marcus Rashford up front in the win at Southampton but he proved ineffective, often drifting wide or dropping deep. The injured Anthony Martial can also operate as a striker but the Frenchman has had limited success in the role.
United often took a direct approach in attack against Southampton but failed to break down their opponents more than once due to the lack of a natural goal scorer, a problem ten Hag will be keen to fix before the transfer window closes next week.
Firmino underlines value to Liverpool
Roberto Firmino has sometimes been overshadowed at Liverpool by Mohamed Salah and their former forward Sadio Mane but on Saturday he showed just how valuable he is after helping to kick-start his side’s season with a vintage showing in a record-equalling 9-0 rout of Bournemouth.
The tireless Brazilian was unstoppable in the first half, creating three assists and then scoring himself – all inside the opening 31 minutes at Anfield.
He scored again in the second half as he showed just why manager Jurgen Klopp holds him in such high esteem and last month called him “the heart and soul of this team”.
Impressive Brighton enjoying purple patch
Brighton & Hove Albion beat Leeds United 1-0 to make it 10 points from a possible 12 in a brilliant start to the campaign and their defensive discipline has been the envy of some of their more illustrious rivals in the competition.
Graham Potter’s side, who are emerging as early contenders for a top-six push, currently boast the best record in the top division, having conceded just once, an own goal by Alexis Mac Allister in their impressive win over Manchester United.
In Pascal Gross they have an experienced figure at the other end of the pitch and the German midfielder scored his third goal of the season to secure the win over Leeds and extend his team’s unbeaten run in the top flight to a club-record nine games.
Gerrard needs to stem Villa’s decline
Aston Villa have won just once in their last eight Premier League games and Sunday’s 1-0 home defeat by West Ham provoked boos around Villa Park as the slump continued.
Steven Gerrard’s honeymoon period is over and the former England skipper is badly in need of some positive results to deflect some of the unwanted spotlight.
Villa’s biggest problem is a lack of creativity with too much of the onus on Philippe Coutinho, who went off injured against West Ham. They have only scored three times and have also gone nine Premier League games without a clean sheet.
With Arsenal and Manchester City up next, the omens are not good for Villa to climb the table any time soon after three defeats in their opening four games.