Saturday analysis: Is Luis Suarez the best player in the Premier League?
Luis Suarez... the league's best?
Six games, eight goals, one assist, three key passes per game - is Luis Suarez now the best player in the Premier League?
The Uruguayan was in scintillating form once again to help tear Fulham apart in a 4-0 win at Anfield, scoring two goals and creating six chances in a comfortable win. Suarez was given special dispensation by Uruguay to play in this game, ahead of his national team's World Cup qualifying playoff against Jordan next week, and he didn't waste time in stamping a mark on the match with another energetic, exhuberant display.
The 26-year-old has never been the most efficient of players: he completed two of nine take-ons and only hit three of his 10 attempts here on target, two of which found the net, but that's just the point with Suarez. No matter what, he finds the net.
Suarez was heavily linked with a move away from Anfield in the summer, and with Real Madrid still on the lookout for a striker the call may come again in January - the Uruguayan won't be Champions League cup-tied, after all. Brendan Rodgers, however, is hearing none of it. "He is happy here," he said after Saturday's game. "He recognises we have a real genuine chance this year of breaking in there [the top four]."
Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Robin Van Persie, Mesut Ozil and a few others can lay claim, but is there a better player in the league than Liverpool's number seven?
Liverpool 4 - 0 Fulham * Match Report * Stats Zone
Pochettino power drives Lallana to deserved England call-up
Southampton made it eight Premier League games unbeaten with another classy display against Hull City, seeing off the visitors pretty much before they even had a chance to get going. The Saints' crisp passing and energetic pressing was too much for Steve Bruce's side to deal with early on, as the hosts stormed into a 3-0 lead before half time.
One of the defining moments of the game - and perhaps Southampton's season - however, came not in their slick play or the goals they scored but in the one they conceded. Slack play from Victor Wanyama in his own half under no pressure allowed Hull an opening which Yannick Sagbo took with aplomb, much to Mauricio Pochettino's dismay.
A consolation goal, perhaps. Nothing to worry about: write it off as one of those things. Not Pochettino. Eight minutes later, presumably not satisfied with Wanyama's generally casual approach, Pochettino hauled the Kenyan off and replaced him with Steven Davis. It is this demand for perfection, one senses, that has helped guide the Saints to their best ever top-flight start and an unlikely position in third after 11 games.
Adam Lallana has certainly benefitted from his manager's high standards and attention to detail. In front of the watchful eyes of England manager Roy Hodgson Lallana was superb, capping an all-round solid performance with a wonderful effort to make it 3-0. On this display Lallana's England call-up is fully deserved.
Ramires controversial but influential as Chelsea get lucky
Chelsea rarely focus their play down the right hand side - in fact they are one of the teams who do so least in the Premier League, they rank 15th in the division for attacks down the right flank. Against WBA however, Jose Mourinho seemed to form a gameplan with the specific intention of putting pressure on Baggies left-back Liam Ridgewell, and Ramires formed a major part of that strategy. No passing combination was made more than from Ramires to Branislav Ivanovic at Stamford Bridge, with Ivanovic back to Ramires the second most popular combo.
Nevertheless, Steve Clarke's men weathered the storm and were very unlucky not to become the first team to leave with all three points against a Mourinho-led Chelsea in the league. As the Blues strived frantically for a late equaliser, throwing caution to the wind, West Brom had big chances to wrap the game up on the counter-attack but failed to take them, before Ramires' sudden tumble out of nowhere changed the game's complexion for good.
Ramires was a controversial figure here, and no doubt accusations involving the 'D' word will soon come his way. Despite this, the Brazilian put in another solid performance, completing more passes than any player. He also led the way for ball recoveries too, and is emerging as an integral part of Mourinho's new Chelsea.
Fulham look doomed already
Was there ever any doubt Liverpool were going to run away with this game? Let's be honest: none whatsoever. After Manchester United romped into a 3-0 lead before taking their foot off the gas last weekend, it was Liverpool's turn to turn a football match involving the Cottagers into a demolition derby, as Luis Suarez and Co. ran riot at Anfield.
Liverpool have been quite a force at home of late; particularly in the first half, racing into 2-0 and 3-0 leads in their last two games at Anfield against West Brom and Crystal Palace respectively, and Fulham showed all the resistance of a swooning teenager at a Justin Bieber concert, allowing their opponents to kill the game with a 3-0 lead by half time.
The nature of Liverpool's dominance over the 90 minutes, however, was astonishing. 68% possession, 646 completed passes to Fulham's 259 and 32 shots on goal to 4 show how the Reds completely controlled this game, while simultaneously painting a very bleak picture for Martin Jol to ponder.
Is it time for the gruff Dutchman to step aside? FFT would never advocate a manager losing his job, but at the moment Fulham are plummetting quicker than a pebble lobbed into the river that runs adjacent to their stadium. And what's worse, quite a few of the players don't seem too bothered by it.
Bacuna an emerging hero at Villa Park
Leandro Bacuna lit up what had been a quiet game with an outstanding free-kick, breaking the deadlock and setting Villa on the way to their first win in five league games.
Paul Lambert's decision to bring on Matthew Lowton for Karim El Ahmadi had a significant impact on the result. The change allowed Bacuna to push much higher up the field, as Lowton dropped in to play at right back, and the opening goal came just two minutes later. It was Lowton, too, who set up Libor Kozak for Villa's game-clinching second.
Not only was Bacuna's free-kick a delight to behold, the Dutchman was also influential defensively for the hosts, making nine ball recoveries - second only to Yacouba Sylla's 10 - and five tackles, more than any other player. Lambert's successful substitution may now give the Scotsman food for thought, with the possibility of playing both Lowton and Bacuna down the right side an option he may wish to consider.
Fer has the quality but needs to do more
In fairness to Leroy Fer, he has been one of a struggling Norwich side's better players this season so far. He's adapted to English football relatively quickly since signing from FC Twente and is the league's 12th best tackler, averaging 3.4 per game. It's just that, given the Dutchman's natural ability, at times you watch him and are left with the feeling of wanting more.
The Canaries' 3-1 win over West Ham was a fine example of this, although fortunately for the hosts - and Chris Hughton's job security - Fer eventually managed to turn it around.
Fer's passing was wayward and his performance generally lacked any enterprise or desire in the first half. The 23-year-old was a microcosm of his team: plodding along while West Ham took the initiative through Ravel Morrison's goal. In the second half however, Fer was much improved. He attempted more take-ons, managed a better pass success rate and...just generally ran about a bit more, to borrow a Harry Redknapp phrase.
The impact was stark. Norwich turned the tide, with a little help from Jussi Jaaskelainen, and Fer capped off a markedly better second half with a lovely goal to cap the victory.
Quiet day for strikers at Selhurst
Kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes at Selhurst Park after traffic delays in Croydon, and those who braved the pile-ups might be wishing they hadn't bothered after a goalless draw concluded with only four shots on target in 90 minutes.
Everton completely dominated proceedings against Crystal Palace, registering nearly four times the number of passes (547 to Palace's 147), 73% possession and 15 attempts on goal. But their monopoly on the ball did not result in any tangible gains for Roberto Martinez's side, and the visitors left frustrated while Palace picked up a first clean sheet.
Two men who may as well have not bothered braving the traffic were the two strikers: Marouane Chamakh and Romelu Lukaku. For all Everton's neat play, neither striker saw much action. Both the Moroccan and the Belgian received the ball only twice in their opponents' penalty area and neither managed even a shot on target to show for their day's work.