A look back at the Premier League weekend
With the first couple of doors being opened on your footballing advent calendar, we have now entered the month of December, and this usually tends to be the most significant month of any Premier League season.
Admittedly, the main focus of this article will actually be the action that took place in the final day of November, and although it is isn’t strictly considered part of the run-up to Christmas, there’s no doubting the importance of some of these early festive results.
With the race for the title looking like it might already be done and dusted and the quest for a top four place at the end of the season taking on a new complexion, let’s take a look at the biggest headlines from the most recent Premier League weekend.
Manchester City need a Pep talk
Have Manchester City blown their chances of winning a third successive Premier League title? After only managing a 2-2 draw away at Newcastle United on Saturday and now finding themselves subsequently 11 points behind league leaders Liverpool, you would have to say that this looks like being the case.
And especially when you consider that the defending champions will be without their talisman Sergio Agüero for an extended amount of time, with the Argentine being ruled out through injury for the next few weeks.
How they could have done with the former Atlético Madrid hitman on Saturday, as although they did have the more than capable Gabriel Jesus spearheading the attack instead, there is no doubting that City were lacking their usual spark.
Admittedly, a lot of credit has to go to a Newcastle side who were certainly well-drilled in terms of defensive performance, and although their attacking trio may struggle to find the net, they do have players who know where the goal is.
Jetro Willems was on hand to quickly level after Raheem Sterling’s opener, and when it looked like Kevin De Bruyne’s missile of a shot had won the game late on, there was still enough time for Jonjo Shelvey to earn what must be considered a deserved point for Newcastle.
At full-time, the dejection in Pep Guardiola’s face was obvious, and although he himself has not conceded defeat in the race for the title, he will know that this is now going to be an incredibly uphill task, and it is a task that starts this Tuesday away at Burnley.
Liverpool hold on and go clear
It may not have been an afternoon when the likes of Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah were at their brilliant best, but against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday afternoon, they did not have to be, and that is because of a certain Virgil van Dijk.
The man mountain of a defender is well known for his attributes that help stop conceding goals at one end, though he is not necessarily as well known for attacking attributes at the other. However, they were on display not once but twice at Anfield.
The former Southampton defender was on hand for a first-half double, and at that point it looked as if Liverpool were going to turn the screw further and create a rather long afternoon for the Brighton contingent.
However, there was a twist in the tale, and it was one that saw Liverpool’s Alisson Becker sent off for handball, and from the resulting free-kick, the quick-thinking Lewis Dunk (again, another player not known for goals) slotted home to halve the deficit.
From there, Brighton certainly had their tails up, and if there was to be another goal in the game, the indication was that it was going to be an equaliser for Graham Potter’s men. Unfortunately for the travelling Seagulls, there was to be no late drama.
This meant that Liverpool have now gone 31 league games unbeaten – a streak that equals the club record that was set in 1988. Now, Jürgen Klopp and his players will look to break the record when they play host to Everton on Wednesday night.
José Mourinho the entertainer
There’s no question that in this past week, Tottenham Hotspur have been a team transformed, and although they still have an aversion to Premier League clean sheets, there is no doubt that their season has been given a huge shot in the arm.
A shot that has come courtesy of José Mourinho, and since his appointment as manager nearly a fortnight ago, he has overseen three Tottenham wins in as many fixtures (across both the Premier League and the Champions League).
The most recent of these was on Saturday when they got the better of Bournemouth, and although the mood will be one of celebration after earning a maximum points haul over Eddie Howe’s men, there will still be some cause for concern from Spurs’ new managerial mastermind.
That’s because the game had an almost strange parallel to the win over West Ham United the week before, and it was one that saw the North London outfit race into a comfortable 3-0 lead, only to then switch off towards the end of the game and concede two late goals.
Maybe that complacency sets in because they are so comfortably ahead, but Mourinho will know that one day his new charges will get caught out playing like this, and he will look for a more disciplined display when they travel to Manchester United on Wednesday.
Race for the top four wide open
When Mourinho took over as Tottenham manager, he was 12 points behind his former employers Chelsea, and after the Blues suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats, that gap has now been cut in half.
This will be of concern to Frank Lampard as he oversaw a lacklustre performance at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and after defeat to crosstown rivals West Ham, he will have to make sure that his young group of players don’t continue this slump much longer.
In fairness to West Ham, they were much more resilient than in previous weeks, and debutant David Martin will take a huge number of plaudits for the victory, with the 33-year-old replacing the hapless Roberto in goal.
With Aaron Cresswell scoring early in the second half, the Hammers then had to withstand a Chelsea attacking siege, and even though they had plenty of opportunities, the hosts could not get the ball past the much safer pair of hands that Martin presented.
The win for West Ham means that it is a first league success in eight attempts, and this will ease the pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini. He and his players will now look to build on that success when they travel to Wolves on Tuesday night.
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Words: Man Ngo