Seven things we learnt in the Premier League: Pep Guardiola is no magician, Antonio Conte's Chelsea finally click

Kane absence is costing Spurs, Xhaka nearly costs Arsenal dear, Phelan uncertainty has hurt Hull, Stoke soar where Sunderland slump and why Southampton are so special

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The Independent Football

Guardiola may be good, but he’s no magician

It all seemed to be going so well for Pep Guardiola. 10 wins on the trot, a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table and the trio of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne all playing on the same wavelength. But oh how the tables have turned.

Draws with Celtic and Everton sandwich a comprehensive 2-0 loss to Tottenham, and suddenly City face the daunting trip to Barcelona on Wednesday with the very real risk of going four matches without a win.

Things don’t get much easier afterwards, with in-form Southampton – more of them later – set to visit the Etihad Stadium before the Manchester derby in the EFL Cup at Old Trafford.

It’s not completely inconceivable that City could reach the end of October having not won a match since 24 September, yet everyone was ready to hand out the league trophy to Guardiola less than a month ago.

Conte’s Chelsea begin to click

After a difficult run of games that brought defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal, Chelsea finally looked like the talented team they should be in Saturday’s 3-0 win over struggling Leicester City.

The Blues, again deployed in a 3-4-3 formation, benefitted greatly from having Marcos Alonso let loose on the left, and he in turn allowed both Eden Hazard and Diego Costa to roam to great effect.

It was also the best performance we’ve seen from N’Golo Kante since he moved south to Stamford Bridge, and – perhaps fired up against his former side – he proved why Conte was right to wax lyrical about the France midfielder before the match. It looked like the first time we’ve seen Conte’s style reap rewards for Chelsea, and could be a sign of things to come.

 

Kane absence is costing Spurs

Tottenham put in as close to a perfect performance as is possible without manager to win at the weekend, as the 1-1 draw with West Browmich Albion meant that they missed out on the chance to go top of the Premier League.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has been keen to stress that his team have been hampered by injuries, and none more so than the one to Harry Kane.

It took a late equaliser from Dele Alli to cancel out former Tottenham midfielder Nacer Chadli’s opener, but without Kane in the side, Spurs have struggled to display that cutting edge that the England striker brings to the side. His replacement, Vincent Jansson, simply can’t match Kane’s eye for goal, and while the likes of Son Heung-min and Alli are making up for it, Spurs desperately need Kane to return to lead their title challenge.

Xhaka must learn if he is to avoid becoming a liability

Granit Xhaka plays on the edge of the law. His disciplinary record proves that too often he falls foul of it, with eight red cards since April 2014 one of the worst ratios in European football.

His dismissal on Saturday in the 3-2 victory over Swansea was nothing more than stupid, but if he is to avoid the wrath of the Arsenal faithful – and more importantly manager Arsene Wenger – then he needs to cut out the rash tackles from his game.

Other than his moment of madness and an error that led to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal, Xhaka was impressive against the Swans. His passing was quick and precise, he intercepted the ball on a number of occasions and his tackling set the tone for an Arsenal side that no longer allows itself to be bullied. The problem is though that there was no need to make the thoughtless trip on Modou Barrow, and on another day the Swiss would have cost his side three points.

 

Phelan uncertainty has not helped Hull

The start of the season brought plenty of optimism after what was a summer of doom and gloom, following Steve Bruce’s exit and a rather poor transfer window. Three wins on the spin suddenly triggered talk of Hull being ‘the next Leicester’, but the falls back to earth has been fast and hard.

One point from six matches has seen Hull plummet down the league table and they now sit precariously above the relegation zone with just a point between them and 18th-placed Stoke. Hull were the favourites for relegation at the start of the campaign, and ever since the uncertainty surrounding Phelan’s position emerged, their form dropped off. Hull have conceded 18 goals in their last five matches in all competitions, and any hopes that ending the doubts over Phelan’s future by appointing him permanently would lift their form proved to be short lived as Bournemouth put six past them at the weekend.

It’s looking increasingly more desperate at the KCOM Stadium.

Stoke come good but writing is on the wall for Sunderland

In what was billed as an early relegation encounter, Stoke prevailed to add more misery to David Moyes’s bad start at Sunderland.

The Potters recorded their first win of the season and after draws with Manchester United and West Brom, things don’t seem so bleak at the Britannia. Mark Hughes has often made slow starts during his managerial career, but time and time again he comes goo to finish the season strongly, and it looks like the same may happen this year.

The same cannot be said for Sunderland. Winless in the league and rooted to the bottom of the league table with just two points to their name, it looks like there is no escaping the drop this time around. Moyes is good enough that he can give them a lifeline, but he needs to do so before the January transfer window opens and he can strengthen. Fail to do that, and the Championship beckons for the Black Cats.

There’s something special about Southampton

What is it about Southampton that means they can sell their best players year-on-year and still maintain their pursuit of European football? For any club looking to build a successful model, then look no further than the Saints. What they’ve done since dropping down to League One has been remarkable, and the comfortable 3-1 victory over Burnley on Sunday displayed once again why they will be in the mix for Europe come the end of the season.

Having sold both Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane in the summer and let manager Ronald Koeman join Everton, many believed the Southampton bubble may finally have burst. But in Claude Puel’s side, Southampton have plenty of match winners, the most likely of which has proven to be striker Charlie Austin, who finds himself being touted for an England call-up.

In recent years Saints have lost the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Luke Shaw, Callum Chambers and also another manager in Pochettino, yet they continue to strive forwards with smart purchases in the transfer market and a renowned academy that produces a constant stream of talent. For that, they need to be commended.

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