What a weekend of Premier League football. With none of the so-called big six winning, the door was left open for outsiders to rise to the challenge.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s action summed up just how unpredictable this season has been. Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal all tasted defeat, while the Manchester clubs played out a bore draw and Spurs let a lead slip through their hands.
But with disappointment comes opportunity, and with the big boys slipping up, it presented a chance for the smaller clubs to climb a couple of rungs higher up the league ladder.
Here are your 10 talking points from gameweek 12:
Wolves’ transfer business called into question
Last summer saw Wolves offload wing-back Matt Doherty and forward Diogo Jota for a combined total of £55m. Their replacements came in the form of Nélson Semedo and Fábio Silva, costing £72m. That’s a net loss of £17m and, after the start Wolves have made to the season, many are beginning to question the logic of the deals.
A last-minute loss to Aston Villa on Saturday — via a penalty Semedo gave away, clipping John McGinn from behind — consigned Wolves to their third loss in five matches. Silva, too, is yet to have a real impact, with the striker failing to find the net in any of his first eight appearances for the club.
Gayle comes back to haunt West Brom
Back in the 2018-19 season, Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle found himself on loan in the Championship with West Brom. The striker demonstrated his quality, scoring on 23 occasions in the league to fire the Baggies into the playoffs. Many fans wanted to resign Gayle permanently upon winning promotion last season, but the club instead opted for Huddersfield hitman Karlan Grant.
That decision came back to bite them on Saturday, as Gayle came off the bench in their match versus Newcastle to score the eventual winner. Grant, meanwhile, has just one goal to his name in seven Premier League appearances this campaign, and was subbed off at halftime.
Manchester Derby snooze fest
If you fell asleep during this one, we don’t blame you. Rather than living up to its derby day billing, the clash between Solskjær and Guardiola’s sides proved to be a timid affair. Neither team took the contest by the scruff of the neck, and any intensity the game had soon fizzled out.
City appear scarred from their early-season slip ups — most notably shipping five at home to a counter-attacking Leicester side — and have since been deploying both Fernandinho and Rodri in a double pivot. And while this tactical switch has sured them up defensively, it has led to a lot of stale, meaningless possession, as demonstrated on Saturday.
Ancelotti finds Plan B at just the right time
After a superb start to the season, Everton got themselves into a bit of a rut between late October and November. The Toffees lost three league matches on the bounce before scraping a win away to Fulham then took just one point from a possible six against Leeds and Burnley. It appeared all their early-season hard work was being undone.
That was until Saturday, when Carlo Ancelotti’s men rallied to beat Chelsea 1-0. Everton lined up a in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with four centre-backs across defence and Gylfi Sigurðsson playing in behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The shape gave Everton greater defensive solidity and showed a different side to them, a tactical switch Ancelotti will no doubt have been delighted with.
Who are you and what have you done with Vestergaard?
What a difference a few weeks make. Last summer saw Saints centre-back Jannik Vestergaard linked with a whole host of clubs. The Danish international had largely underwhelmed since his €12m arrival from Germany, and many fans were happy to hear they may be seeing the back of him.
Fast forward to now and Vestergaard has become a mainstay in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s defence. Not only that, he’s been one of Southampton’s standout performers, scoring three times already this term and earning a WhoScored rating of 7.31. Vestergaard was at his imperious best again on Sunday, as he helped Saints to a 3-0 victory over Sheffield United.
Sheffield United are starting to feel like relegation certainties
We’re now 12 gameweeks into the Premier League season and Sheffield United sit rock bottom with a solitary point to their name. Blades boss Chris Wilder enjoyed great success last campaign as the league’s surprise package, finishing ninth, but this time around they seem to have lost their edge and that element of surprise.
The 3-0 loss to Southampton on Sunday was their eleventh of the season and leaves them eight points adrift of safety already, with only a third of games played. At this stage, there looks to be little hope for United, with it now falling on the board’s shoulders to make a decision on Wilder’s future. You’d imagine he’ll be kept on given the amazing job he’s done to date, but you never know in football.
Mourinho encounters a familiar problem
José Mourinho famously once remarked that 2-0 was his favourite score line in football; a comfortable lead that can be defended while his sides look to play on the break. Well, if 2-0 is his dream, 1-0 may well be his nightmare.
That was the case on Sunday, at least, as Mourinho’s Spurs tried to sit on a 1-0 lead rather than going for the jugular and trying to kill the game off. They invited Crystal Palace onto them and were eventually punished by way of a Jeff Schlupp equaliser. Spurs remain top of the table but fans must be feeling that this was two points dropped.
Fulham look like a team reborn
Jamie Carragher said that Fulham were nailed on for relegation after their 3-0 loss to Aston Villa in late September. Scott Parker’s side had lost their opening three Premier League games and it seemed the Sky Sports pundit had already written the Cottagers off.
Since then, Fulham have gone on to record vital wins against West Brom and Leicester, and on Sunday put in arguably their most impressive performance to date as they held current champions Liverpool to a 1-1 draw. Fulham now sit in 18th, just one point from safety, and with a different defence and forward line to the one that started the season, look to have a real chance of survival.
Leicester’s formation change shows Rodgers the way forward
Many Foxes fans bemoaned Brendan Rodgers’ team selection upon seeing the line up on Sunday. As they have done for the majority of the campaign, Leicester fielded a back three with wing-backs, a formation they’ve struggled to break teams down with when playing lesser opposition.
The first 15 minutes against Brighton was no different. The Seagulls created a couple of decent chances and looked to be causing problems. Rodgers then reverted to a back four, pushing Marc Albrighton up to left wing in a 4-2-3-1 and, within minutes, Leicester came alive. Three unanswered goals and an emphatic display will surely show Rodgers that the back four is the way to go from here on out.
Aubameyang is back to scoring ways…
Oh dear, Mikel. There was a lot of promise surrounding Arsenal going into this season. Arteta was meant to be the coaching genius who had finally found a winning formula and was building something special. Alas, the Gunners have slipped from bad to worse to disastrous this campaign, and now sit in 15th without a league win in five outings.
Part of Arsenal’s problem has been their shot-shy striker, Pierre-Emile Aubameyang. The forward boasts a decent strike rate with the club but seems to have somewhat lost his mojo in recent weeks, finding the back of the net just twice in the league all season. He finally scored a third on Sunday… unfortunately it bundled into his own net, and compounded Arsenal’s misery as they lost 1-0 to Burnley.