1. Liverpool lose their Invincibles tag as Tottenham destroy them
Liverpool were the improbable Invincibles. They completed last season unbeaten against the elite, taking 26 points from a possible 36 against the rest of the top seven. They already knew there would be no repeat, but if they could attribute their 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City to the first-half sending-off of Sadio Mane, no such asterisks need to be applied to Sunday’s scoreline. Tottenham beat them 4-1, with Harry Kane particularly prominent. Liverpool can no longer excuse their slip-ups against the rest by arguing they raise their game against the best.
The defensive deficiencies which have long been apparent have been ruthlessly exposed. But for Tottenham, it was a hugely significant win. Not just because it was only their second at Wembley in the Premier League or because they went level on points with Manchester United either. They had not beaten Liverpool in 10 games. Mauricio Pochettino had never defeated Jurgen Klopp. The sense Spurs had an inferiority complex in such meetings was destroyed, along with notions of Liverpool’s infallible, indomitable excellence on the major stage.
2. Wenger’s fantastic front three could yet bring Champions League football.
Good things are supposed to come to those who wait. For a variety of reasons – injuries, second-string sides in the Europa League, the form of Danny Welbeck – it took until Arsenal’s 14th game of the season for Arsene Wenger to start Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil together. The decision reaped an immediate dividend. All three scored in the 5-2 thrashing of Everton. For good measure, Ozil and Sanchez added assists. Aaron Ramsey, the fourth attack-minded member of the starting 11, struck as well. Arsenal recorded 30 shots in total and, but for the excellence of Jordan Pickford, would have enjoyed an even bigger margin of victory.
Wenger has gambled by choosing to keep Sanchez and Ozil while both could leave the club for free next summer even if he seemed to have rather fewer offers for the German than the Chilean. The quality in their ranks means they can play with beguiling brilliance, the sort that makes it all the more frustrating when they fail to sustain title challenges. Yet, flawed as they remain, their talent means they are very capable of securing a top-four finish. Wenger’s wager on unsettled players delivering before they depart may yet bring a reward. He certainly won’t wait another 14 games before uniting them.
3. Huddersfield display the essence of what Mourinho wants.
There are times when Jose Mourinho is a bad loser. Saturday at the John Smith’s Stadium was not one of them. The Manchester United manager was rightly critical of his own team and hugely complimentary about Huddersfield’s. “The team that started with emotion, aggression, intensity and desire, the team that played the game of their lives was the team that won,” he said. “They played like I like. They played with everything they have – aggression, desire, motivation, sacrifice – and we didn’t.”
It pointed to Mourinho’s philosophy. He has not reinvented football; he has always valued traditional virtues. He has understood the importance of doing the basics, of working harder than the opposition, of playing as a team, of displaying a hunger; indeed part of his success has come from persuading supposedly superstar players to display the graft to accompany their craft. United failed to do that on Saturday. It may bode particularly badly for Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, who were hauled off at half-time, but the sense is whichever teams Mourinho sends out will now be charged with copying Huddersfield.
4. Conte shows his acumen with influential changes.
One of the signs of an elite manager is his ability to influence a game from the bench. Mourinho, during his first spell at Chelsea, forged a reputation as a master of substitutions. While Antonio Conte has been feuding with a predecessor, he emulated him with some telling changes to rescue victory against Watford. Two of Chelsea’s final three goals were scored by the replacement Michy Batshuayi, a player Conte rarely seems to trust but one who appears more effective as a substitute than a starter.
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Yet his two-goal cameo does not show the full scale of Conte’s catalytic impact. Chelsea’s second was scored by Batshuayi following a cross from Pedro, who had been moved to right wing-back three minutes earlier. Their third was scored by Cesar Azpilicueta, who went to left wing-back in the same reshuffle, from a cross from Willian, another of those brought on from the bench. Then Batshuayi sealed a victory created by Conte. A troubled spell threatened to get worse. Instead he averted crisis talk with his own interventions.
5. Leicester star under another caretaker – but it doesn’t make sacking right.
One theory is that Leicester are better off under caretaker managers. They sacked Claudio Ranieri and won their next six games under the interim Craig Shakespeare. They axed Shakespeare and beat Swansea under Michael Appleton, the man in temporary charge. Remarkably, the Foxes only have one league win – against Brighton, in August – under a full-time appointment in 2017. Yet if a first triumph since then seemed a case that Leicester are better off without Shakespeare, it is worth noting that the catalyst for victory was Riyad Mahrez, who set up both goals at the Liberty Stadium.
But he also scored in Shakespeare’s last game in charge, the draw with West Brom, and Appleton picked the sort of side Shakespeare might have done. Leicester’s only defeats this season came against Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, probable top-six finishers. It all suggests Shakespeare was harshly treated and they may have won at Swansea with him.