29 goals, 3 games where teams won 4-0, and the Premier League saying goodbye and thank you to a pioneer of the English game, it was another exhilarating weekend in the domestic show piece.
Tottenham go 2nd as Harry Kane bags a hattrick against West Brom
A 4-0 win over West Brom, and a hattrick from Harry Kane, does not do justice to the dominance that Spurs showed in this victory. Spurs equalled their club record of 6 Premier League wins in a row, and despite the fact they were only 2-0 up at half time, they had 78% possession, and 10 shots on goal.
When Spurs play this well they render the opposition totally irrelevant. West Brom only wanted to defend but they could not even do that. Spurs dominated the ball, attacked every time they had it and never even left themselves open to the counter-attack. It was a complete display of Pochettino football, as good as any in his two and a half year tenure at White Hart Lane.
This was Spurs’ seventh straight win in all competitions, their best run since this time last year. They are in second place and are playing at least as well now as they did at their peak last season. They could not catch Leicester City then, but Chelsea this year could yet be catchable, depending on whether Diego Costa is more committed to the team or to himself.
The only downside for Spurs was the ankle injury to Jan Vertonghen, he rolled his ankle in the 2nd half, and Pochettino himself said the injury “looks bad” he will be a major doubt to face Man City next weekend.
Goodbye and thank you Graham Taylor
Sadly, last week English football lost one of its great characters, as former England manager Graham Taylor passed away at the age of 72 on Thursday. Up and down the Premier League, Taylor’s memory was celebrated, before kick off with a minute’s applause. However, Vicarage Road is where the most poignant of tributes was delivered.
Taylor is considered by most, to have been the most successful manager in Watford’s history. He brought the club up from the old fourth division, to second in the top flight in 5 seasons, and led the club to the 1984 FA Cup final.
Before the game, there was a mosaic from the Watford fans spelling out the initials GT and a heart. Throughout the afternoon there were chants of “One Graham Taylor” The game was also attended by Taylor’s wife Rita and daughters Joanne and Karen while at half-time a number of former Watford players went on to the pitch to talk about their memories of Taylor.
The game itself finished 0-0, but this was one of these days where the result was an afterthought. Watford captain Troy Deeney summed up the way that Watford, and football in general, felt about Taylor
“There are no words that I can use to sum up how great a man he was and we just wish his family all the best at this difficult time.”
Swansea go bottom of the league, as Arsenal ease their away-day issues
It was the 2nd game of the day, that saw a team score 4 goals past an opponent, as Arsenal comfortably beat Swansea 4-0 in Paul Clement’s first game in charge of the Swans. Clement, who became Swansea’s 3rd manager of the season, was left with no illusions as to how hard the job would be. Clement was brought in, to save the South Wales side from a drop into the Championship. However, the evidence from this performance suggests that Swansea are in free fall towards that league.
One of Clement’s priorities is to improve the Swans’ defence, the worst in the league having now conceded 49 goals, and the way his players shackled Arsenal early on with their high pressing was encouraging.
But when Oliver Giroud made it 1-0 in the 37th minute, Swansea collapsed and never looked like they were capable of getting back into the game.
They were slack in their marking and slow to react to the Gunners’ movement, summed up by the space in which Alexis Sanchez found himself in the Swansea box when he scored the fourth.
The result sent Swansea to the bottom of the table, and they must travel to Anfield next week to play Liverpool.
Clement has a hell of a job in front of him to maintain Swansea’s Premier League status.
No Payett, no problem.
It wasn’t a great 7 days for West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, thumped 5-0 by Man City in the FA Cup, his star player Dimitri Payett made it clear he had no interest in playing for the Hammers anymore. Far from ideal preparation for this London derby, with Crystal Palace. However, his team responded with a 3-0 win over Palace, which moved West Ham up to 12th place.
The mercurial French man is known for his flair play, and some stunning goals, and it would’ve come as a surprise to most Hammers fans, that Andy Carroll took over where Payett had left off. With West Ham 1-0 up, Carroll scored a stunning volley, that he would call the “Best goal of my career”
Slaven Bilic praised the team performance afterwards, and was keen to take the focus away from Payett, and praise the team.
“Payet is a great player so you are losing quality, but the team showed it is about the team and not individuals. This is a great example for that.
No Costa, no problem
Antonio Conte had his own individual player issues, with Diego Costa last week. It has been claimed that Costa’s head has been turned by the offer of the riches of China, and that resulted in a training ground bust up with his manager. Conte cited a back injury, in his decision to omit Costa from the match day squad to the trip to the champions, and many wondered how Chelsea would cope without their top scorer.
The answer was not very much, as Chelsea beat Leicester 3-0, with fullback Marcos Alonso scoring twice, and Pedro wrapping up the points with a header in the 71st minute.
Whatever the truth behind Costa’s absence, Chelsea proved they can win without him.
They used Eden Hazard to lead the line rather than turn to £33m summer signing Michy Batshuayi, who was left on the bench and still awaits his first league start.
This result took Chelsea 7 points clear at the top of the league, and even without Costa, it may be particularly hard to dislodge them from that spot.
Pep concedes the league title, as Everton hit City for four.
A stunning performance from Everton, especially from Everton youngster Tom Davies, saw Pep Guardiola concede that Man City would not win the Premier League. Everton confined Guardiola to the heaviest league defeat of his managerial career. They were clinical, and despite only having 29% possession, Everton scored from every shot they had on target.
City’s defence crumbled when put under pressure and former Everton player John Stones had a day to forget. They look disorganised, Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, do not have the command of the game that captain, and perennially injured, Vincent Kompany has. While their goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, does not have the stability, that Joe Hart had.
City now sit 10 points behind Chelsea and when asked if the gap was too great, he said:
“Yes. Ten is a lot of points.”
Points are shared between old rivals
The honours were shared between Manchester United and Liverpool, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 84th minute equaliser, cancelled out James Milner’s 27th minute penalty.
It was a game that had plenty of action, but lacked the quality that the build-up had promised. On United’s end, the front 6 were nullified in the first half, as Jurgen Klopp identified that Michael Carrick was the key to making the engine room tick. He instructed his players to get on top of Carrick quickly and this unsettled United enough, that Jose Mourinho bought Carrick off at half time for Wayne Rooney, a switch that allowed United to play much better the second half.
It was also an afternoon to forget for Paul Pogba, the world’s most expensive footballer was a passenger in this game, and it was his handball in the box that gave away the penalty that Milner scored from. He also had a glorious chance at 0-0, but put it wide of the box. It was also not Ibrahimovic’s best performance of the season, but his goal (his 19th of the season) showed the winning mentality he has brought to United.
Liverpool ended their fierce rivals 9 game unbeaten streak, and now find themselves in 3rd place and 7 points off the top. They will be disappointed not to have won this game, but a draw in the grand scheme of things seems like a fair result for both sides.
By Rich Lee @RichLee2202