If Sunday’s West London derby between Chelsea and Fulham was a gentle aperitif, Arsenal’s win over Tottenham a fiery main course then the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton was very much a dessert with a kick just when you thought it tasted a bit bland.
Unlike Sky Sports, we shall start at the Emirates where the real action was. According to Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, the NLD is ‘not the biggest’ and even if he is right, the morning of the match is not the time to say it. Even if he is right, all Toby managed to achieve was live up to the stereotype that ‘those foreign lads just don’t understand what a derby is like’ as if no players from abroad come from big cities that might just have a rival across the road.
Anyway, hands up if you feel like Spurs still have the ability to utterly self-destruct? No, not you Jan Vertonghen. You need to learn to keep your hands down. I admit I made the schoolboy error of stepping away from the match for a single moment to return to the fact that Arsenal had a penalty. Naturally, I assumed that Juan Foyth had conceded it confused as to whether his run of give-away-a-penalty-score-a-goal-give-away-a-penalty was due a goal or a penalty.
But no, it was the Belgian who has had better days at the office. He picked up a second yellow with five minutes to go but I am going to defend him here. That second yellow was not his fault.
Eric Dier is certainly a case of nominative determinism at work in football. Yes, I know he scored one of the two Tottenham goals but if there was a reverse Ballon D’Or award given to the player who has regressed most in 2018 then Dier would be a cert to lift it. He was at fault for at least one of the Arsenal goals that turned the game around and his pass to Vertonghen which led to the defender clattering Alexandre Lacazette was the kind of pass the phrase ‘sold him up the river’ was invented for.
This was a derby that actually had a bit of everything; passion, quality, mistakes and goals. Tottenham fans have made a lot of noise as they finally managed to overtake Arsenal in the last season or so but this performance by Unai Emery and his team suggests that top dog status in North London has only been loaned to Spurs.
Once again, Arsenal trailed at halftime and once again Emery made the changes needed to turn things around. Suddenly, Arsenal feel like the best team in London – especially if they can get away with Granit Xhaka as captain.
The best team in London? But what about Chelsea? Well, what about Chelsea indeed. Sure, they beat Fulham on another return to Stamford Bridge for Claudio Ranieri but you get the feeling teams are just sussing out how to slow down the progress of Sarriball. Andre Schurrle had called Ranieri ‘lucky’ before the game and then promptly pulled a hamstring meaning he missed the game. There’s got to be something worth commenting on there.
Amazingly, David Luiz kept his place in the Chelsea side. I half expected him to still be running in the same direction he set off in when ‘trying’ to stop Son scoring at Wembley last week. Chelsea won, as we have mentioned, but they were not good. Their first came from a Fulham mistake by Seri, a player that could actually challenge Dier for that reverse Ballon D’Or award. Their second settled matters but Hazard was non-existent until he played in RLC for number two. Sarri could probably get away with putting Morata and Giroud on the pitch and the same time and playing with 12 men because nobody would notice or complain such is the anonymity both strikers are playing with currently.
The Merseyside derby certainly felt a little more aligned to North London than West London. The first half had plenty of chances for goals but unfortunately for Everton, two of their better opportunities fell to Theo Walcott. Pickford and Alisson showed they are more than just good with their feet by making a couple of cracking saves each. Sadio Mane might not talk to Idrissa Gana Gueye in the week leading up to the match but it did look like Gueye might have been texting his best mate next week asking exactly how many chances he needed before he scored.
And then, injury time. My favourite moment? Klopp celebrating in the penalty area with Alisson whilst the match was still very much on and not getting booked? No. Divock Origi bundling it in with his shoulder? No. No, my favourite moment was Virgil van Dijk turning his back on his shinner, visibly disgusted with the contact he made with the ball.
What Virgil then missed was the ball spinning up high and then down on to the bar, twice, as Pickford wasn’t sure whether to catch it, push it backwards or punch it anywhere. The ball hit the bar twice and landed on Origi’s shoulder and Liverpool won the game.
Here’s a question, folks. Which was the dafter injury time celebration in the last week? Kloppo sprinting across the pitch with a turn of pace Daniel Sturridge only dreams of? Or Jose, slamdunking the water bottles into the Old Trafford ground on Wednesday night? I’ll let you decide.
A statistic that made me chuckle before they arrived at St Mary’s educated me that Manchester United had created fewer chances than Southampton in the Premier League this season. And, as most of us know, barn doors are very safe in Hampshire at the moment as Messrs Long, Austin, Gabbiadini et al take aim.
We also know that United don’t really turn up until they are at least one goal, preferably two, behind. Having huffed and puffed their way to a dubious last-minute win over Young Boys in midweek it was not much of a surprise when Mourinho’s side opted to get themselves really angry by falling 2-0 down to one of the worst teams managed by one of the worst managers in the Premier League.
The gamble worked once again as the Reds were level by halftime meaning that worst Premier League start for 28 years is still very much intact. Seriously, look at the last three results. 0-0 at home to Palace. 1-0 (last minute goal that should have been disallowed) at home to Young Boys. A 2-2 draw away to Southampton. Yes, the Jose Mourinho Pendulum has very much swung over to ‘Jose Out!’ once again.
But of course, it was not the manager’s fault. Post-match he accused his players of not being ‘Mad Dog’ enough, which makes a change from calling them ‘spoilt’ I suppose. And, of course, it is heart they are lacking. Not clear tactical direction from their gaffer.
Bournemouth did alright against Manchester City in a match they were never expected to win. In a season when losing 4-0 to City is considered a ‘good effort’, leaving the Etihad on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline is far from disgraceful. Eddie Howe should ask Peppy G not to pick Raheem Sterling next time the teams meet as the England international made it six from six in this fixture. I bet that doesn’t make the front page of the Daily Mail.
For a team that struggles to score goals, Crystal Palace cannot be accused of lack of effort. They must have racked up at least 50 shots at Joe Hart on Saturday in their win over Burnley. And, frankly, that is a tactic that makes a lot of sense. If I was playing against Joe Hart I would take a lot of shots too. It’s not that Hart is a bad keeper, he made some excellent saves. But he is clearly cursed and if Sean Dyche wants to stay in a job he’d be better off getting Tom Heaton back in nets ASAP.
As for Andros Townsend’s goal, can it be classed as a worldy when we see him try that at least five times a match and five go sailing high, wide or into a defender?
D’Andre Yedlin’s blood should have just about untwisted itself by now following the runaround he was given by West Ham’s Felipe Anderson at St James’ Park. Newcastle’s revival is over which is a good plan by Rafa if he actually wants money to spend in January. Do you remember Chicarito? Yeah, he actually played and actually scored. Twice. Honest.
Watford’s decision to give Javi Gracia a four-year-deal looks more hilarious by the minute. The Hornets fell 2-0 to Leicester City where James Maddison made good by scoring a wonderful volley. Real Football Men the world over exclaimed that the much prefer to see him do that than dive.
Huddersfield against Brighton was predictably ‘meh’ but I am duty-bound to tell you that Brighton won.
We are in December, folks. The greatest month of football in the year. Enjoy it.