The Premier League delivered tons of fun again this week, with 24 shots finding the back of the net across the nine games played over the weekend. Incredibly, the most big chances came in the game that had no goals at all, a draw between Manchester United and Burnley. And if any of the goals were important to the way that the Premier League will play out in the long-term, they'd probably be the ones scored by Manchester City's Sergio Aguero.
Sunderland 1-4 Arsenal
Manchester United 0-0 Burnley
Middlesbrough 2-0 Bournemouth
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Leicester City
Watford 1-0 Hull City
West Bromwich Albion 0-4 Manchester City
Crystal Palace 2-4 Liverpool
Everton 2-0 West Ham United
Southampton 0-2 Chelsea
Sergio Aguero is back in Pep Guardiola's good graces
While looking for a way to shake up his side during his team's run of six games without a win, Pep Guardiola opted to start Kelechi Iheanacho up top ahead of Aguero, even when the Argentine was fully fit. "We need to make better decisions in or near the opponents' box. Against United we had chances but the last pass was not correct," Guardiola said before this weekend's game against West Brom. He continued, "if you are strong in the box you don't need too many chances to score goals. At the moment we have a problem with that final period and we have to improve."
Aguero was re-inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday and scored two excellent goals within the first 30 minutes. His second was top class even by his very lofty standards.
"We need Sergio," Guardiola said during a television interview after the game. "We know how important he is for us. He is part of the history of this club and will be forever but I would like to help him. He can still write the most brilliant pages in his career in this club. All of us we are there to help him and of course the first goal is really good and the second as well."
There will still be moments where Guardiola is frustrated with Aguero, and vice-versa, because they're both perfectionists. But this performance and Guardiola's comments afterwards should go a long way towards establishing mutual trust between City's manager and one of their greatest ever players. That should see Aguero become undroppable again while City's form improves significantly.
Arsene Wenger has a good problem with Olivier Giroud returning
An injury to Giroud has forced Arsenal to play with Alexis Sanchez up top instead of out on the wing, but it's something that's yielded excellent returns for the Gunners. Sanchez has been arguably the best attacker in the Premier League this year, scoring six goals and tallying three assists while operating at the center of Arsenal's attacks. Then Giroud made his return to action against Sunderland, coming off the bench to score twice.
Suddenly, Wenger has a difficult selection dilemma. While Arsenal is having a good season, there have also been moments when the Gunners have looked like they lacked a physical presence up top. Does Wenger move Sanchez back to the wing? Does he ask Sanchez to play on the left, where he's played much less often than on the right, to accommodate the in-form Theo Walcott? Or does he leave Giroud on the bench, just for emergencies for the time being?
There's no wrong answer, and no matter what, someone who deserves to be starting is going to be on the bench for Arsenal. That's a great thing -- Wenger will welcome having some depth up front once again.
Manchester United is so unlucky
Different opponent, same story for United. They were the better side and created a ton of great shots, but couldn't find the back of the net. There's no explanation for a team with this shot chart not finding the back of the net at least one time other than plain bad luck.
xG map for Manchester United - Burnley. This seems fine, right?— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) October 29, 2016
Also, people overrate Zlatan as a finisher. His greatness lies elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/OwUf5us0EE
That's not to say United's players were blameless. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in particular, had a bad day in goal. Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton was in superb form, but he only saved 11 of United's 37 shots. A lot of them were just misses, with Ibrahimovic failing to test Heaton with the biggest chance of the afternoon.
Still, there's nothing broken about the way United is playing soccer. They just need to get better at the kicking the ball into the goal part. And when you produce 37 shots -- many of them high quality -- one should dribble into the goal by accident.
Chelsea getting the best out of Diego Costa
After recording their fourth consecutive Premier League win on Sunday, Chelsea is up to fourth, just one point off top spot. Perhaps the biggest factor in their resurgence has been the play of Diego Costa, who is the Premier League's leading scorer with eight goals. He scored his best one of the season so far against Southampton.
Costa scored most of his goals by getting on the end of crosses, through balls and scrambles in the box, but he'll like that he had an opportunity to show off his technical skill.
Mauricio Pochettino struggles to use Tottenham's backups effectively
Injuries have forced changes to Spurs' lineup, which the team thought they'd planned for this offseason. Vincent Janssen, Victor Wanyama and Georges-Kevin N'Koudou -- as well as the currently suspended Moussa Sissoko -- were bought this summer while no first choice players departed. Spurs were supposed to be the same team as last year, just deeper, but their last five games suggest that's not the case.
Toby Alderweireld's injury has left Spurs less able to build attacks from the back, and that's only made worse by how they've filled in for him. Eric Dier -- a good passer, but not as good as Alderweireld -- has taken his place. Wanyama, an inferior passer to Dier, has taken up his vacated midfield spot. Now, Spurs have worse passers in two central positions.
Sissoko's suspension and an illness to Erik Lamela also forced Christian Eriksen out to the right flank, where he was much less effective than he is when he starts in the center of the park. N'Koudou, a true winger, looked dangerous when he entered the game against Leicester, but Pochettino only introduced him in the 80th minute, despite his team's struggles to create chances throughout the second half.
And then there's Janssen, who's yet to score a goal from open play in the Premier League while covering for Harry Kane. That's not necessarily down to Pochettino's use of him, but he has been disappointing, and the misuse of all the players behind Janssen hasn't put him in a position to succeed. If Spurs are going to finish top four again, Pochettino has to find a more effective way to use his backups and arrange his lineup when his starters aren't available.
Welcome to the adventures of Dejan Lovren
Is Liverpool a title-contending team? Who knows. Are they the most entertaining team in the Premier League? Undoubtedly. And no player sums up what makes Liverpool fantastic for neutrals to watch than central defender Dejan Lovren. First, he did... whatever this is.
When you hold down the triangle button too long, bad things happen #CPFC https://t.co/SNaOfWfdZ7— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) October 29, 2016
He only had to endure the taunts of Crystal Palace fans for a couple of minutes before he put his team ahead again, scoring on a corner with an excellent header.
Redemption feels good, even when you're wearing a highlighter #LFC https://t.co/hWT9ocEZ77— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) October 29, 2016
Liverpool went on to win a wide-open game 4-2, scoring the clinching fourth goal just one minute after Palace was denied a big penalty shot. There were 16 shots on target between the two teams in one of the most entertaining matches of the season so far, and The Liverpool Offside summed it up perfectly.
That was an amazing, terrible, slick, awkward match. And it's over. You can breathe again. Or crack open the hard liquor, depending on.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) October 29, 2016
Romelu Lukaku is adding to his game
Lukaku's Everton career has been a little bit of a roller coaster, with just as many spectacular performances as anonymous ones. He's been much more consistent so far this year, and he's doing new things too. He's still using his physical talent and rocket left foot, but he's making better runs and passes too.
That Lukaku goal is the kind of one I want him scoring more often. Poachers goals.— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) October 30, 2016
Everton break forward as Barkley gets a pass away. He continues his run forward and Lukaku picks him out in the box to fire home.— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) October 30, 2016
Lukaku has three assists to go along with his seven goals after he recorded one of each on Sunday. And if he keeps working to become a more complete forward, Everton will feel like they have a chance to challenge for a European place.
Stoke City faces Swansea City at 4 p.m. on NBCSN. You can catch the games online here on NBC Sports Live if you're in the United States. Check Live Soccer TV for listings from other countries.