The Manchester derby has been and gone and I think someone forgot to tell Jose United were at home. Pep’s City rocked up and imposed their game on United in the exact way even the guy down the pub would have been able to explain. The very same guy down the pub, with his minimal tactical knowledge, might have also spotted that Ashley Young and Fabian Delph are not really left-backs as it was errors from each of them that led to the two late, late first-half goals. It also turns out that £75m for a player does not guarantee they have a right foot, certainly in the case of Romelu Lukaku. Rom has been accused of not having enough of an impact in the really big games and I disagree. His calamitous clearance led to City’s winner and his inability to take either one of chances from two yards out towards the end meant he had a massive impact on the end of United’s title chase. City now lead by eleven points and you can’t see them losing that.
The first of the two high-profile derbies on Sunday was Liverpool and Everton played in what could almost be classed as a blizzard by British standards. Wayne Rooney’s first touch might have been in the 76th minute but it was a useful one. Here’s a shock. Liverpool dominated proceedings for 90% of the game and one tiny error in defence by none other than Dejan Lovren got punished. Big Sam and Little Sam will have no doubt celebrated with a couple of pints of wine after stealing a point in a way native Scousers would have been proud of.
Someone should really tell Arsenal that they are not good enough to keep giving Premier League teams a goal head start. Southampton led early at St Mary’s with Charlie Austin scoring yet again and it took a late equaliser from Olivier Giroud to get Arsenal a point. It’s all very well taking out your post-United blues on a weak Europa League opposition but a proper team would have gone to a weak Southampton and put a few past them.
Does West Ham’s win over Chelsea mean I have to say something nice about David Moyes now? Credit where credit is due, Moyes has realised what might be possible in a world where you don’t feel obliged to pick Joe Hart. Moyseh even managed to get a high-quality hour out of Marko Arnautovic and that doesn’t happen very often. Chelsea were surprisingly woeful and Antonio Conte declared what we all knew already; Chelsea will not be winning this season’s Premier League title.
So that’s where Jermain Defoe has been hiding. The little man seems to be back with a classic Defoe poacher’s goal and then a delightful lob from out wide in Bournemouth’s somewhat fortunate 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. Less attractive than a Defoe double from Bournemouth was Eddie Howe’s thinly veiled attack on Wilfried Zaha who is the most fouled player in the Premier League because he keeps getting fouled, not because he dives. As for Christian Benteke, if you are going to grab the ball to take the injury-time penalty that would give the team a valuable three points, take it off the guy who has already scored a penalty, ignore the pleas from the stands to let the guy who has already scored one take it and pretend to not hear your boss tell you to give the other guy the ball then you had better not miss the penalty. You can guess what happened next. After the match Hodgson tapped Defoe on the shoulder and said “still scoring them then” to which Defoe responded to the press guys gathering, “and he still dropped me for the World Cup”.
It might be an idea for Newcastle to stop taking early leads. Once again they led within five minutes and once again they ended up losers. It took me 20 minutes to realise that Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez didn’t have a bandage on his head, such is the style and colour of his current hair-do. He scored a classic Mahrez, cutting in on to his left foot and curling it into the top corner. You’ve got to feel for Ayoze Perez, tracking back in injury-time at a rate of knots only to toe-poke it past his own goalkeeper like any proper striker back defending should. Newcastle are dropping down the table.
Burnley and Watford provided one in the eye for the foreign manager brigade. Good old traditional Sean Dyche nicked the win with Scott Arfield showing the feet of a Burnley Messi. Watford have been winning many plaudits and Marco Silva is probably a wanted man, but they do lose a few and I am sure Big Sam has noticed that.
Huddersfield Town were right on the Mounie and they really needed to be having lost several games on the trot. Their 2-0 win over Brighton courtesy of Steve Mounie’s brace was a much-needed spark for David Wagner’s men and fired them back up to 12th.
Did someone forget to tell Stoke they needed to play the second-half as well? Mark Hughes is, according to BBC 5 live, a man who should not be under pressure for his job even though his side’s second-half performance at Wembley was an embarrassment to the legacy of Anthony Pulis and all he built. Stoke are now only three points off the relegation zone and it is not a great leap of the imagination to see them struggle during December and the New Year period. As for Tottenham, Son showed everyone who had not heard he was the Asian Player of the Year exactly why he won the award by scoring and creating pretty much anything good that Spurs did on Saturday.
It’s great to see that Alan Pardew has definitely made a difference at the Hawthorns. West Brom were scoring under Pulis (and then Megson) and are yet to find the back of the net under Pards, but that hasn’t damaged his self-belief or smugness. That is still running at a strong 96%. Swansea’s 1-0 victory thanks to a wallop from Wilfried could be a win that keeps Paul Clement in a job over Christmas.