Well, that was a lot more fun than this new-fangled UEFA Nations League stuff, wasn’t it? I mean, who wants to watch evenly matched teams drawn against each other when you can have huge mismatches like Chelsea vs Cardiff, Bournemouth vs Leicester and Tottenham vs Liverpool each weekend?
The biggest ‘clash’ of the weekend was supposed to be at Wembley. Actually, scrap that. It was supposed to be at the new White Hart Lane but that wasn’t ready and might not be until 2019! That is almost as off schedule as the Poch seems to be into turning Spurs into a side capable of winning silverware.
Gini showed his bottle to give Liverpool the lead at Wembley, a lead they never really looked like losing considering the performance of Vorm in the Tottenham goal. Wijnaldum said after the win that Liverpool had spotted he wasn’t very good so had worked in training on exploiting that fact, something we could see in the first goal. Liverpool have won five from five and feel like they haven’t really hit top gear yet.
Tottenham were pretty woeful throughout, which kind of sums up their last fortnight or so. Poch switched their shape to a diamond but it wasn’t very shiny and Harry Kane spent 90 minutes trying to find his way out of Virgil van Dijk’s pocket – a slightly different game for Kane against Liverpool at Wembley compared to last season where he got Lovren subbed off after half-an-hour.
Are Tottenham Champions League contenders based on this performance? Don’t be so silly. Are Liverpool serious title contenders? You know what, they just might be – if you can say that after five matches when they’ve barely played anyone.
It is easy to get carried away about players and teams in the Premier League and we often find ourselves throwing around words like ‘world class’ and ‘great’ after performances against average or bad teams like Tottenham or Cardiff City.
Maurizio Sarri has claimed Eden Hazard is ‘the best in Europe’ which may well be true, but to say it after he scored a hat-trick against relegation certainties Cardiff? Come on now, all that shows is he can be a flat-track bully like the rest of them. If Eden sparkles against a City or a Liverpool and wins Chelsea those kinds of matches, then we can talk about him being better than some of those other players.
For a brief moment, Sol Bamba might have felt like he belonged in the Premier League, that he was good enough to be in such fine company. By the end of the match, he could well have been longing for a spell back in the Championship where he really belongs. Bamba gave Cardiff a shock lead at the Bridge, but his deflection on Hazard’s second and then his clumsy challenge to give away the penalty leading to Hazard’s third pretty much ruined his, and Cardiff’s, afternoon. Chelsea, though. They also have five from five. Watch out Liverpool, the title isn’t in the bag yet!
David Silva played his 350th game for Manchester City on Saturday against Fulham and scored his 50th Premier League goal – 50 being the same number of passes that led to Silva beating the Fulham keeper from about three yards. Credit to Fulham, they didn’t try to be Newcastle and took the game to City. The problem was, by taking the game to City they pretty much gifted the game to City. Leroy Sane might have a body language issue according to some but he certainly doesn’t have a lack of pace issue as he was threatening throughout. Raheem Sterling scored, but have you ever seen a more unconvincing tap-in to an open goal from one yard? The nicest part of this game, for me, were the Manchester City mascots – two sisters in their late 90s who have had season tickets for City since 1930. They even remember when Silva had hair.
Whisper it quietly, but there might be some actual man-management going on at Arsenal. Something that has been missing for at least a decade might be having an unsurprising positive effect. Unai Emery has not been shy about criticising Mesut Ozil in public and it was the retired German international who scored what turned out to be the winning goal against Newcastle. Granit Xhaka has probably ensured people forget how bad he is in midfield for another month by thwacking a free kick into the top corner but, personally, I felt a bit for Rafa. He sets a team up not to lose, he loses. He sets a team up to win, he loses. I refuse to see Rafa get drawn into a relegation battle with Neil Warnock, but it could actually happen.
Who remembers when Wes Morgan won the Premier League? I know, right? It’s almost as if that player died that season and was replaced by a cartoon character. Morgan, and his Leicester teammates didn’t have a great trip to the South Coast on Saturday when they went to Bournemouth which is surprising, as Claude Puel normally does very well down south, eh Southampton fans, eh?
Disappointingly, that crisis at West Ham United seems to have blown over. West Ham went north to Everton, never a happy hunting ground. Except this time, it would appear. Manuel Pellegrini was given an ideal 65th birthday present, three goals leading to three points on Merseyside. People (OK, OK, me) have doubted West Ham hugely already this season but a brace from Yarmalenko and a goal from big Arnie was enough to see West Ham move off the foot of the table.
Ryan Fraser, the player Newcastle fans stupidly thought they might be signing when the newspaper headlines “Mike Ashley buys House of Fraser” broke last month, was in fine form as Bournemouth led 4-0. The end result was 4-2, leading England defender Harry Maguire to suggest the final score was not a fair reflection. The size of the social media reaction was as big as Maguire’s forehead as even the most loyal of Leicester fans politely disagreed.
Burnley are in trouble, I tell you this for free. Wolves dominated their 1-0 victory over Sean Dyche’s men who seemed to be fatigued in the middle of September. Well, that’s what the Europa League qualifiers do to you and UEFA want to add a third cup competition to the agenda. 7th to relegation, that would be a shame as we all like Dyche, don’t we?
Crystal Palace, as mentioned in my preview column on Friday, has some brilliant team selection news before the trip to Huddersfield. Zaha was back, but even more importantly Christian Benteke was out injured meaning there was nobody wilfully trying to miss the target from six yards repeatedly. As a result, Palace won and guess who scored? Wilf Zaha and what a goal it was.