MAKE sense of the present Premiership if you can. Arsenal moved very briefly into second place on the back of a totally abysmal performance against a Sunderland team reduced for half the match to nine men; a game I saw and suffered. Chelsea, after their encouraging start, with a galaxy of gifted foreigners, crashed 5-1 at Liverpool, were humiliated 3-1 by lowly Blackpool at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup and then, at last coming to life and making many chances, still couldn't stop Nottingham Forest stealing a late point at the Bridge. Southampton, who looked quite pitiful when I watched them lose 3-1 at Selhurst Park to Wimbledon, promptly bounced back with their first, handsome win of the league season, 4-0 at home to a Middlesbrough team which, early on, had looked potential challengers for the championship. Of course the form of Matthew Le Tissier has a vast amount to do with what Southampton do. He was abysmal at Selhurst, scarcely in evidence, save for an awful back pass blunder in the second half which presented Wimbledon with a goal. But his new manager Graeme Souness has him back now for afternoon training sessions and is working on cutting down Le Tissier's weight. Against Middlesbrough he was outstanding, though both his goals were somewhat strange. The first direct from a corner, the second surely offside. Arsenal now at long last have Arsene Wenger in place, but whatever his virtues the man is scarcely a magician and can't be expected to make bricks without straw. When Pat Rice presided over his last game as temporary Arsenal manager, he announced that his players had been 'brilliant, absolutely brilliant'. Well, brilliance must, like beauty, lie in the eye of the beholder, for neither in Cologne, where I travelled with them, nor against Sunderland did the Gunners look remotely brilliant. Rice's own tactical ingenuousness had something to do with that, but the core and crux of the matter is that Arsenal are horribly suspect in defence and still have no midfield maestro to continue the tradition which ran through Alex James, Jimmy Logie and Liam Brady. Tony Adams is back and that is a major plus. His public confession to alcoholism was courageous, though I cannot say it came as a massive surprise. As Wenger remarked, he looks lean and strong and fit. Though I do wish he would stop talking, like some American boxer, in the third person. 'Tony Adams this, Tony Adams that.' We do, after all, know who he is. Manchester United are sure to make a serious bid to keep their title, and the signing of the hitherto obscure 23-year-old Norwegian striker, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has been inspired. He cost, as we know, a tenth of what Newcastle United splashed out for an Alan Shearer whom they did not really need, and now he is scoring goals with what you might call modest abandon. Refusing credit for one he coolly took at Old Trafford against Spurs, when his hesitation wrong-footed the Spurs defence, he insisted it was because he was momentarily blinded by the floodlights! Newcastle United and Liverpool are Manchester United's chief challengers and Liverpool look by far the better balanced team, unrecognisable from the side I saw plod to a goalless draw at Millwall in a pre-season friendly. Steve McManaman continues to look one of the most talented players in Britain whose presence in midfield must surely be essential to the England team. Dominic Matteo, who looked cool and good a couple of seasons ago playing on the left of defence or midfield, looks even better as a centre-back, where Liverpool now have an embarrassment of riches. Patrik Berger, when used just behind the front line - rather than actually up front, as happened for much of the recent win at West Ham - will continue to score goals. But I am not wholly convinced of the goalkeeping of tall, young David James; he punches too much for my liking. Newcastle, like Aston Villa, disgraced themselves in midweek Scandinavian UEFA Cup matches. When the teams met the following Monday on Tyneside it was an altogether different affair; which actually made you wonder, not for the first time, whether the Premiership works well in its own terms, not in terms of serious European competition. How strange that it should have taken the talented Dwight Yorke so long to adjust his sights, scoring three goals which could have been four at Newcastle in a team reduced to ten for half the game. How Villa could have done with those goals the previous week! As for Newcastle's defence, even manager Kevin Keegan had to admit to its deficiencies. Steve Watson, versatile though he be, is a vulnerable right-back, Darren Peacock a strong but erratic centre-back. For the foreseeable future, Newcastle's hugely expensive team will keep living dangerously. Brian Glanville is Senior Football Correspondent for The Times of London.