Another wild weekend in the Premier League is done and dusted. We get you caught up on the action with the Weekend Review.
JUMP TO: Not so Spursy now | The thing about Arsenal is … | Will the real Chelsea please stand up? | Bournemouth’s win was remarkable | In recognition of Salah’s brilliance | Hope for Watford | Robin van Greenwood | Kean hung out to dry | Luckiest moment of the weekend
Mourinho is getting the best and more from Spurs
There have been small signs of the old Jose Mourinho since he took over at Tottenham — the good Jose Mourinho, the one you probably hated if you didn’t support his team but definitely loved if you did. But perhaps Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Wolves on Sunday was the biggest one yet, a victory achieved with a late header that was frankly a robbery, Wolves arguably aggrieved they didn’t get all three points, let alone none at all.
“It’s one of these victories where quality is not enough,” said Mourinho after the game. “If you’re not a team — a real team, in the real sense of what the word ‘team’ means — it’s impossible.
“[Tottenham’s players] are very, very good. I tell that before the match, and I tell the same after the match.”
Mourinho’s most basic remit is to get the best from this squad, to make them more than the sum of their parts, because his predecessor had seemingly lost the ability to. Results like this suggest he’s getting toward doing just that.
Shaka Hislop takes aim at Arsenal and their lack of a plan following the Gunners’ loss against Man City.
City defeat displays all of Arsenal’s problems
It’s probably a neat summation of how things are and have been at Arsenal that they conceded a third goal to Manchester City when down to 10 men, a scenario completely of their own making. Who knows why they removed Sead Kolasinac before Bukayo Saka was ready, and who knows why Saka wasn’t ready in the first place, but it speaks to the dithering attitude that has pervaded this club for years. If you’re so inclined, you could throw in Kolasinac himself ducking slightly out of the way for Kevin De Bruyne’s first strike, as further evidence of their issues.
Of course, these were isolated incidents that you can read too much into, but if you really want to understand the state of things at Arsenal you just have to look in the dugout. Freddie Ljungberg might turn out to be a fine coach one day but the only reason he is there is because the club sacked Unai Emery with seemingly no earthly idea of what they would do next. It surely couldn’t have taken them by surprise that a change might have to be made, so to have no succession plan in place or even in mind is absurd.
Losing 3-0 to this City side is not the end of the world but the scoreline could have been much, much worse. It turns out those nine electric minutes against West Ham may well have been the exception, rather than the rule.
Alejandro Moreno says Chelsea need to figure out a way to get results when things “are not perfect.”
Which is the real Chelsea?
How worried should Chelsea fans be about this slump? They have lost four of the last five in the league, three of which have given a previously beleaguered opposition manager a little hope and optimism.
Perhaps the most worrying thing about Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth was that, while you’d struggle to say Bournemouth dominated or anything close to it, this wasn’t a smash and grab and Chelsea can’t really consider themselves unlucky.
“Today wasn’t a ‘We’ve created a load of chances day,'” said manager Frank Lampard afterwards. “We created two or three great chances and we need to take them if we want to improve.”
So which is the real Chelsea? The one that lost just two of their opening 12 games or the one defeated in four of their last five? Is this a young, inexperienced side with a young, inexperienced manager reverting to the mean or just suffering the sort of blip that is inevitable in such a situation? Their upcoming games should be fascinating: next, Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur.
Wounded Bournemouth’s win was remarkable
Regardless of Chelsea’s weaknesses, it was still an extraordinary victory for Bournemouth, not only because it was just their second in 11 games and broke a run of five straight defeats, but because they did it with a squad laid waste by injuries. They were without nine first-teamers on Saturday, including the scorers of 13 of their 18 goals before the game, then they lost another three when Josh King was forced off in the second-half.
The trick now for Bournemouth is to make sure this result truly stops the rot rather than it simply being a one-off. Instinctively you think they couldn’t get dragged into a relegation scrap given their quality of squad and manager, but teams are only ever too good to go down until they aren’t. Getting a few injured players back will be great, but the mental boost of this victory could be just as valuable.
Ale Moreno says that while Liverpool keep winning, he wonders when they’ll hit the standards expected of them.
Let’s remember how good Salah is
The problem Mohamed Salah has is that, after two seasons of otherworldly brilliance, more basic brilliance doesn’t get quite so much attention. His two goals against Watford — both exceptional and inventive in their own ways — brought his total up to nine in 14 games, and if he continues on that pace he’ll finish the season on 25 or thereabouts. That would have been comfortably enough to be the division’s top-scorer last season, and indeed in 13 other Premier League seasons too.
Liverpool again eked out a result at the weekend without playing brilliantly. In fact, if it was against a team who had put their boots on the correct feet, something Watford seemed to have neglected if their finishing was anything to go by, they would almost certainly have lost. But again, you would hesitate to call it luck, given how many times they have won in just this manner. There isn’t much lucky about having 49 points from 17 games and a 10 point lead before Christmas.
Their real strength perhaps lies in the fact that Salah hasn’t been getting quite as much praise this season. There’s so much to eulogise about in this Liverpool team, so many players to declare their best or their key threat, that any one of them can win them games. This weekend, it was Salah. Next time, it will be someone else. They’re football’s answer to Whack-A-Mole: If you neutralise one, another pops up and you continue until one of you gives in. And it probably isn’t going to be Liverpool.
The numbers look bad, but there’s hope for Watford
The statistic that was circulating all weekend is that no team has ever survived in the Premier League with as few as nine points from 17 games. In theory that emphasises Watford’s doom, but after watching how they played at Anfield, you couldn’t help but develop a little more faith in their prospects.
The pessimist might say that their abject finishing — with Ismaila Sarr and Gerard Deulofeu particularly at fault this time — will cost them, as it has so far: they’ve scored a pathetic nine goals so far this season. But a more optimistic view is that they keep creating chances at that rate, they will start picking up points soon enough.
The FC guys question Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ability to keep Man United inspired after their draw vs. Everton.
Greenwood evokes comparisons with the greats
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn’t been shy of comparing Mason Greenwood, only 18 for a couple of months, to some of Manchester United’s most recent greats. In recent days it was Wayne Rooney, but it’s a comparison that cropped up a few weeks ago that feels more apposite.
Greenwood’s equaliser against Everton, a low, reverse shot that required a bit of luck to go through some defensive legs, was nonetheless unerring, a finish that was very reminiscent of Robin van Persie, a comparison Solskjaer agreed with when put to him in November.
The interesting thing now is whether Greenwood’s form, finishing ability and increasing confidence will persuade United that they don’t actually need a striker in the January transfer window. You would imagine that will place a lot of pressure on an extremely young player, but both manager and club seem extremely invested in the idea of giving youth a chance. Expect to see plenty more of Greenwood.
Craig Burley says Everton’s Duncan Ferguson subbing Moise Kean on and off is a poor look for the manager.
Ferguson hung Kean out to dry — and for what?
Perhaps Duncan Ferguson felt he was making the ultimate pragmatist’s move by substituting the substitute, Moise Kean, in the closing stages of Everton’s trip to Old Trafford. Perhaps this was a kick up the rear for a player who has already been punished this season for lax timekeeping. Perhaps this is an exercise in tough love.
But Ferguson should also remember that in all likelihood he won’t be Everton manager for too much longer. The word is that the club want someone more established, and so Ferguson will have to either leave or return to his job a little lower down the chain. There might be no chance for him to work with Kean, to teach him that being humiliated in front of 75,000 in person and millions more on TV was actually the right thing for his development, to ensure that this didn’t just look like a petty power move.
Even Kean’s biggest cheerleaders can’t argue that he has been a success so far at Everton, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to be hung out to dry like this.
Luckiest moment of the weekend
Everton might consider themselves a little fortunate to get away with their point against Manchester United on the general balance of play. But they enjoyed even more fortune for their goal, and not even just because it bounced in off a hapless Victor Lindelof.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s challenge on David De Gea — forearm in throat, barged with no little force — was reminiscent of the sort of stuff Nat Lofthouse used to get away with in the 1950s. The rules have changed just a little since then, as ably demonstrated just a day earlier when a very similar, if not near-identical foul by Wesley on Mat Ryan saw a goal disallowed for Aston Villa. It might be unrealistic to expect absolute consistency over subjective decisions, but everyone at United can feel aggrieved.
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