What a weekend of football: massive scorelines, dodgy refereeing decisions, and one failed new manager bounce.
There’s plenty to sink our teeth into here. We now know it’s Liverpool who will top the table this Christmas, although Jürgen Klopp has played down its significance in the wider title race.
Elsewhere, Ole Gunnar Solskjær shed his P.E. teacher tag to outsmart managerial icon Marcelo Bielsa in the first clash between Manchester United and Leeds in years — but we’ll get to all that.
Here are you 10 talking points from gameweek 14 in the Premier League:
Liverpool put on a champion’s display
There was no Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez or Thiago, Mo Salah was rested, and the Reds were up against a Crystal Palace side known for their defensive solidity. Regardless, Liverpool rose to the challenge and then some, emphatically dispatching Palace 7-0 to record the club’s largest ever away win in the Premier League.
Roberto Firmino was unplayable, Sadio Mané moved like a man possessed, and Salah came off the bench to devastating effect, netting the sixth and seventh goals. This was a Liverpool side playing at maximum efficiency, laying down a clear marker and showing the rest of the league why they remain firm favourites to win it all again come 2021.
Southampton are this week’s best losers
In the aftermath of Saints’ 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Saturday, manager Ralph Hasenhüttl noted that his side actually performed better than when they beat City in this fixture last campaign. Raheem Sterling’s goal came against the run of play as Southampton pressed and harried their opponents all afternoon, forcing mistakes high up the pitch, and transitioned at speed.
Saints were unfortunate to lose star striker Danny Ings to a muscular injury towards the end of the first half — something that limited their attacking threat. Pep Guardiola’s side kept it professional, though, and controlled the game in the second half to seal three valuable points.
The Stones renaissance continues
Fun fact of the day: John Stones has started four of Manchester City’s last five league games, and they’ve kept a clean sheet in every single one. You’d have been laughed at in the summer for suggesting Stones would displace Aymeric Laporte at the heart of City’s defence, but that’s exactly what’s happened.
Stones and Rúben Dias have formed a brilliant partnership at the back, and while City haven’t been their usual free-flowing selves in attack, they have been rock solid defensively. Stones barely put a foot wrong at the weekend, and is starting to look every inch of the player many predicted he would become during his early playing days.
Everton and Arsenal head in opposite directions
What a turnaround it’s been for Everton. After a breathtaking start to the season, the Toffee’s form plummeted as they lost four matches over a five game period from October to November. Now, though, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have recovered their early-season form to win three on the bounce.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are nearing rock bottom. The Gunners 2-1 defeat to Everton on Saturday evening was their fourth in five league games. The club now find themselves just four points off the relegation zone as it becomes ever clearer something needs to drastically change. Could this be the end of the road for Mikel Arteta?
Parker is as confused as the rest of us
“What puzzles me is that, at real speed, the referee has decided to give a penalty, which I understand. We now have VAR, where he gets to look at a screen, and I don’t understand what he’s seen different from what I’ve seen.” Scott Parker was left scratching his head following referee Graham Scott’s decision to award Newcastle a penalty — and you can hardly blame him.
Callum Wilson was initially clipped outside the penalty area before going to ground in the box… only for Scott to point to the spot. As Parker said, it’s understandable if a referee makes that mistake in real time, but after watching multiple slow-mo replays, it becomes inexplicable. Another howler from team VAR.
Sheffield United’s winless misery goes on and on
Chris Wilder must have feared the worst when John Lundstram was shown a red card after just 40 minutes in Sunday’s early kick off. The Blades had failed to win a single game this season and were left with a mountain to climb following the first half dismissal.
However, in typical fighting spirit, Sheffield United battled away and took the lead courtesy of Jayden Bogle’s debut goal for the club. Then heartbreak struck. Three minutes from time, Danny Welbeck swooped in to level things up and deny Wilder’s men an invaluable three points.
Spurs’ title challenge looks over before it even started
There was talk in the build up Tottenham’s game with Liverpool about whether Spurs should be considered genuine title contenders. Even after the loss, the narrative remained that Spurs went toe-to-toe with the Reds and would be able to regroup and go again.
Unfortunately for Spurs fans, it seems as though José Mourinho hasn’t quite rid them of their soft underbelly. They looked limp and lacked imagination at the weekend when hosting Leicester, who duly capitalised on their lacklustre display to take all three points in what became a relatively routine victory. Only a week on from title talk, we’re now back to discussing Tottenham’s top four credentials.
Other teams beware of Leicester when they come to town
Talk to fans of most sides and they’ll tell you their club always turns up against the big sides only to the flop against supposedly weaker opposition. For the most part, such claims are over exaggerated, but that’s not the case for fans of Leicester City this season.
Away wins over Manchester City, Arsenal, Leeds and now Spurs have all been offset by home losses to West Ham, Aston Villa, Fulham and Everton. It would appear the underdog tag very much suits the Foxes, who look far more comfortable playing away from home on the back foot than when they’re expected to dominate opponents at the King Power Stadium.
Manchester United thrive in Bielsa’s world of chaos
Leeds United have fast forged a reputation in the Premier League as a team who love to play at a frantic pace. While most newly promoted sides adopt a defence-first style, Leeds have instead taken a gung ho approach which has so far seen them rewarded and punished in equal measure.
It proved to be the latter in Sunday’s clash with United, as the Red Devils took full advantage of Leeds’ openness to run riot in a 6-2 victory — with midfielder Scott McTominay scoring the fastest brace in Premier League history. It was a huge result for Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s United, who’ve now recorded six wins in their last seven league matches and moved up to third.
Allardyce endures a baptism of fire
West Brom and football fans alike were left shocked last week following the announcement that the Baggies had dismissed manager Slaven Bilić. West Brom only found themselves two points from safety, and were coming off the back of a draw with Manchester City, making the decision even more perplexing.
Renowned firefighter Sam Allardyce was Bilić’s replacement, and took to the dugout for the first time on Sunday as the club welcomed Aston Villa to the Hawthorns. It’s fair to say things didn’t go to plan — Villa’s 3-0 victory heaping yet more misery onto West Brom and highlighting the extent of the job on Allardyce’s hands.