It was a weekend where Pep Guardiola’s party was crushed by Jose Mourinho, Tottenham and Liverpool took over at the top of the table, and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy’s seventh goal in ten games proved that – whoever agreed to pay £72 million for Kepa Arrizabalaga – might want to think again about his job. Those were some of the obvious outcomes, but here we look at some of the other things that you may have missed out on.
On the move by Robertson
In recent weeks, at the new training center in Kirkby, there has been more drama in Liverpool’s treatment room than an episode of Holby City. During his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Virgil van Dijk has become a frequent visitor, Trent Alexander-Arnold picked up a calf injury against Manchester City, Joe Gomez underwent surgery for a tendon in his knee and Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho are all nursing one or another injury. Mo Salah, meanwhile, tested positive last week for Covid-19. So what happened against Leicester City yesterday? As Liverpool won 3-0 against a team that believed it could send the decimated champions a bloody nose, everyone else stepped up. No one did more for Liverpool than Andy Robertson, who was Leicester’s constant threat to the left, set up a cross for the goal of Diogo Jota to make it 2-0 and had the second most of any player with 94 touches on the pitch. After the international break, when, considering his country’s qualification for the European Championships, the Scotland captain was not quite up to speed, he played the role of game-changer here, creeping up the left side and creating all kinds of problems for the visitors.
Nothing in the form of a penalty for Manchester United
Another week, another move, step, shuffle and target, by Bruno Fernandes. That is 44 punishments for the Red Devils now in 127 games. There is another immutable, universal truth: if conditions permit, Manchester United will obtain a penalty. Even a foul by Fred on West Brom midfielder Sam Gallagher at Old Trafford on Saturday was not enough to warn referee David Coote that he should have interfered before Juan Mata’s cross deflected from the arm of Darnell Furlong. Fernandes’ first attempt was parried by Sam Johnstone, but the alert Coote found he had jumped away from his line before turning left. It was Coote’s right judgment, it was just a shame he hadn’t realized the equally obvious violation just seconds earlier by United’s Brazilian midfielder.
Shape of Spurs’
It’s winter, the time of year when starlings perform, before plunging into their nests, the act of murmuring, twisting and turning over a roost in polymorphous forms. Maybe Jose Mourinho spent the international break watching the BBC nature show Winterwatch re-runs. There were times against Manchester City when every single Tottenham player was in the frame of the camera as they formed a swirling mass which seemed almost bound by a cord. Seeing it was instructive, as Tottenham looked for the first time and felt like they were ultimately “a Mourinho team” as they cut off the space City so loves to work in. It’s been a year since the Portuguese were hired at Spurs, and it will be put to the test next weekend against third-place Chelsea at Stamford Bridge if the work he’s done so far is enough to turn them into title contendors. After that, the games against Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester are back-to-back.
Does anyone understand the rules anymore, actually?
When a last-minute penalty for Aston Villa against Brighton was cancelled, Dean Smith said he was shocked, denying his side the chance of a point at Villa Park. Kevin de Bruyne spoke eloquently when he shared frustration as to why when he set up Aymeric Laporte for the equalizer against Spurs, Gabriel Jesus was penalized for handball, but it was eventually denied when Mike Dean consulted the sidelines monitor. The Belgian pointed out that in recent years the laws had changed so much that he had no longer known what was what. It would add more clarification to give referees a microphone and permit conversations between the referee and his video assistant. Moreover, those in the dark could gain a better understanding of why the officials vote