1. The pressure continued on under-fire managers
Everton announced the sacking of Ronald Koeman on Monday morning. After the 5-2 washing at the hands of Arsenal, the Dutchman spoke of a “negative situation”. It was a wild understatement – his former side have only one win in their last six matches, and are currently sitting bottom of Group E in the Europa League and third bottom in the Premier League.
The eerie silence around Goodison Park was indicative of the stale mood surrounding the club. Koeman spent over £140m in summer, without significantly improving the starting line-up. As ever, focus should also be placed on those in charge of recruitment but, ultimately, he had to go. With no replacement lined up, the players have now been left, ahem, holding the baby.
Further pressure was piled on two under-fire managers – Mark Hughes and Slaven Bilic. After an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Brighton, Bilic’s job looks in danger, although the West Ham owners are more patient than most. Stoke have relied on solid home form in previous seasons. In a quirk of the fixtures, they are yet to play a team at home who finished in the bottom half of the table last season. Brighter days are ahead.
2. Kevin De Bruyne continues to take the p**s
Despite facing a Burnley side with one of the best away records in the league this season, De Bruyne yet again dominated in cantering fashion. On current form, City’s three goals at home felt like a relative disappointment.
The Belgian racked up a 90% pass completion rate, particularly impressive considering his forward-thinking mentality, constantly searching for probing through-balls between the lines. His assist for Leroy Sane’s second-half goal could not have been played any better – a thing of beauty – perfectly weighted and into the German’s path.
Bernardo Silva last week claimed that De Bruyne could yet emulate the achievements of fellow countryman, Cristiano Ronaldo. Five Ballon d’Ors may be a step too far, but De Bruyne can, at the very least, expect to be in the list of nominees in a year’s time.
3. Several goalkeepers made significant individual errors
In general, the standard of goalkeeping across the Premier League has never been higher. Nor has the scrutiny. This weekend saw a series of errors from erstwhile elite goalkeepers.
Petr Cech needlessly dallied on the ball several times, resulting in Everton’s consolation goal in stoppage time. Once the league’s best, Cech is perhaps a victim of an ever-changing role, and a new-found desire to have the man between the sticks as an additional outlet for the team in possession.
Simon Mignolet was also all over the shop at Wembley on Sunday, at fault for at least two goals, admittedly not helped by his calamitous centre-backs. It’s a headache Klopp refuses to remedy.
Joe Hart flailed yet again on Friday night. It’d be churlish to suggest he owns compromising photos of Gareth Southgate, but how he can be deemed England’s best goalkeeper is either an elaborate practical joke or a sad indictment on the quality of our squad. Sadly, it’s more likely the latter. Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Fraser Forster and Ben Foster, while very capable, are struggling for form and all sit in the bottom half of the league table.
4. Manchester United’s poor form is just a blip
Last week’s goalless draw at Anfield raised concerns about Manchester United’s aspirations away from home. A lacklustre 2-1 defeat to Huddersfield added yet more questions, although this will prove to be a temporary blip.
If Manchester City continue to swat away opposition with relative ease, this season may well see a record points total. Mourinho’s negativity, both tactically and as an interviewee, is a symptom of a much wider issue. The only surprise is that it has come at a time when United were playing their best football since Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial reign.
In the summer, I predicted United would finish top, just ahead of City. I stand by that claim. Although United’s success rests on being more adventurous away from home, which this season is more relevant than ever before. Now five points adrift of City, with an in-form Tottenham side next up at Old Trafford, a quick response is essential.
5. Super Sunday finally lived up to its billing
Goals were expected on Sunday between two teams out-of-sorts, Arsenal and Everton, and two teams with a strong inclination for all-out-attack, Tottenham and Liverpool. The result was a combined total of 12 goals.
Mesut Ozil spearheaded a dynamic attacking display, ruthlessly punishing a wounded, ten-man Everton side. Arsenal, last week taunted by Troy Deeney as having “no cojones”, have now quietly moved into fifth spot – one place above the striker’s Watford side.
The second match bettered the first. Harry Kane bagged goals number 19 and 20 of the season in all competitions – a stunning record considering his struggles in August. Liverpool also played their part in the entertainment by forgetting the very basics on how to defend. Excellent for the neutral.
Amid the super-publicised, big-budget, whizzing hysteria and funky graphics of Sky, this Sunday’s action finally lived up to the hype.