sport news 10 THINGS WE LEARNED as the Premier League kicked off 2021

A new year brings new hope and the Premier League pushes on in 2021 amid Covid outbreaks and chaos.

Only one match was postponed as the top flight kicked off the new year, with Burnley v Fulham called off because of a number of cases in Scott Parker's squad, although a handful of other teams pressed ahead without a number of coronavirus-stricken players. 

A title race that looks to be one of the most open in Premier League history took another interesting turn as Manchester City's challenge gathered pace when they beat out-of-sorts Chelsea 3-1 despite suffering an outbreak of their own.

That result leaves Blues boss Frank Lampard facing huge question marks over his future - we know the Chelsea board are particularly unforgiving and won't hesitate to make a change if they feel it can rescue their season. 

The Premier League kicked off 2021 with a bang as Manchester United went top of the table

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The Premier League kicked off 2021 with a bang as went top of the table 

 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's revolution at United continued as they went joint-top of the league alongside Liverpool after beating Aston Villa 2-1, while Jose Mourinho's Tottenham bounced back from a sticky spell to dispatch Leeds 3-0.

And just as their rivals are gathering momentum, the champions Liverpool are losing stuttering. 

Here, Sportsmail goes through the 10 things we learned after the Premier League kicked off a new year.  

MOURINHO CAN'T RELY ON KANE AND SON ALONE 

Tottenham's dynamic duo show no signs of slowing down. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were both on the scoresheet once again in their win over Leeds and it was the England captain's deft through ball that found his South Korean team-mate to double their lead on Saturday.

The pair's understanding is almost telepathic - that assist was the 13th time they have combined this season, equalling a top-flight record set by Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer at Blackburn. 

That record will surely be beaten in the coming weeks, and they're just four short of breaking Lampard's all-time record of 36 goals with Didier Drogba at Chelsea. 

Harry Kane (left) and Son Heung Min combined once again in Tottenham's 3-0 win over Leeds

Harry Kane (left) and Son Heung Min combined once again in Tottenham's 3-0 win over Leeds

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But Jose Mourinho needs his other outfielders to contribute, with Steven Bergwijn yet to score

But Jose Mourinho needs his other outfielders to contribute, with Steven Bergwijn yet to score

Jose Mourinho admitted they were both doing 'special things' and will be aware they hold the keys to success this season, but the team's recent winless patch of four games highlights their need for others to step up too. 

Steven Bergwijn - usually found supporting the pair on the right wing - has failed to score this season, while Gareth Bale has struggled to stay fit. 

Toby Alderweireld's goal against Leeds was something of a collector's item, but Spurs need goal contributions from midfield - something they've lacked since Christian Eriksen left. With Dele Alli firmly out of Mourinho's plans, it could be an area to target in January.

SOLSKJAER INSTILLING A FERGIE-LIKE BELIEF 

The sides of old were renowned for getting the job done under Sir Alex Ferguson - often from a penalty or in stoppage time. 

It was the belief that, if the team played their game, they would win it - and that's exactly the philosophy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has created at Old Trafford in recent months. Beating Aston Villa - courtesy of another Bruno Fernandes spot kick - sent them joint top with Liverpool, immediately leading to suggestions we could have a classic title race on our hands. 

Winning games ugly has been a problem for Solskjaer during his time at United, but he deserves credit for going away and rebuilding a team when confidence was rock bottom. His side had secured a late win over Wolves previously and four wins in five represents a huge turnaround in their fortunes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken a leaf out of former boss Sir Alex Ferguson's book after his side showed they can win games ugly

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken a leaf out of former boss Sir Alex Ferguson's book after his side showed they can win games ugly

The Norwegian has turned the club's fortunes around and transformed them into contenders

The Norwegian has turned the club's fortunes around and transformed them into contenders

They've not lost in the league since a dismal 1-0 home loss to Arsenal at the start of November, and Solskjaer is now getting the most out of his attacking options after early-season struggles.

While former United boss Mourinho has had stick for going a goal up and sitting in, only to capitulate, Solskajer's side are always positive and patient in their approach. Their 6-2 win over Leeds last month showed what they can do when the team is in full swing.

A huge game against Liverpool is coming up, and they will need plenty of the same confidence to come away with a result from that. If it's a positive one then we really can talk them up as serious title contenders.

Injuries finally taking a toll on champions 

Monday night's defeat by Southampton was only the second time Liverpool have failed to score in two consecutive games under Jurgen Klopp. 

After draws against West Brom and Newcastle, this latest setback is a sure sign all is not well with the Premier League champions. 

Just as Manchester City and United are on the uptick, the Reds are on an alarming skid, compared to their usual high standards anyway. 

Having papered over the cracks with Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk out for the long haul, the injuries now seem to be catching up with Liverpool and they look drained. 

Playing the likes of Fabinho in defence means Liverpool lose their control in midfield

Playing the likes of Fabinho in defence means Liverpool lose their control in midfield

Joel Matip cannot stay fit either and starting Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, two midfielders, against Southampton is clearly far from ideal. 

Both Henderson and Fabinho add so much to the dynamic of the team in midfield and Klopp's men lose an element of control when they're shifted to the back. 

Diogo Jota's absence is another massive blow given his electric start to life on Merseyside and Liverpool fans will fear that without a sharp turnaround, their title defence may be in jeopardy.  

HUDSON-ODOI NEEDS MORE GAME TIME

Blues boss Lampard has become something of a tinkerer this season as he desperately searches for a winning formula. He's shifted Timo Werner out wide, given chances to Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham, switched his midfield options and rotated his centre-back partners.

In Sunday's 3-1 home loss to Man City he drafted in new signing Hakim Ziyech on the wing despite him only recently returning from injury, but the £37m Morrocan star failed to sparkle. He was brought off for Callum Hudson-Odoi, who netted Chelsea's only goal of the game. 

It wasn't long ago the English winger was being talked about as a Bayern Munich target, but has found himself down the pecking order under Lampard after a £240m spending spree this summer. 

Callum Hudson-Odoi deserves more game time after scoring a consolation for Chelsea in their 3-1 defeat to Manchester City

Callum Hudson-Odoi deserves more game time after scoring a consolation for Chelsea in their 3-1 defeat to Manchester City

He's started just twice in the Premier League, but the 20-year-old has shown he can be effective when given the opportunity. He's started three of Chelsea's Champions League games, and scored in two of those outings. He also came on in their 3-1 loss to Arsenal and provided the assist for their consolation. 

Lampard did give him a chance by starting him in the 1-1 draw against Villa, but he needs more time to get into his groove. With the Euros coming up next summer, he'll be keen to show Gareth Southgate he deserves to be on the plane but he needs a run of games. He could be the key to reviving the club's fortunes. 

EZE COULD SOON BE ON THE 'BIG-SIX' RADAR 

One English youngster that continues to impress is Crystal Palace's Eberechi Eze. No defender has an easy game against Eze, just as Sheffield United discovered on Saturday afternoon. 

The 22-year-old notched his second goal of the season after collecting the ball in his own half and gliding past a handful of players, before slotting past Aaron Ramsdale from just outside the box. 

Eze caught the eye once again for Crystal Palace by gliding past a host of players to score

Eze caught the eye once again for Crystal Palace by gliding past a host of players to score 

He could soon be on the radar of some top sides after some electric displays this season

He could soon be on the radar of some top sides after some electric displays this season

It showed off his confidence to take players on and it is this type of talent that Palace need in order to steer clear of danger. With two goals and two assists he has not exactly set the league on fire but his quality is undeniable, and with some nurturing he could develop into something really special.

The Euros may come too soon for Eze but he has done his chances of a big move in the future no harm by showcasing his menacing dribbling and flair. He scored 14 goals in his final season at QPR and joined Palace for around £17m this summer. 

Hodgson will be aware he may struggle to keep him, but should the big clubs come calling he

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