As we begin yet another international break, the last of the calendar year, let’s review what was a fun-filled weekend of goals, goals, and more goals, and a reshuffling of the order at the top of the Premier League.
There’s a new leader in town, Liverpool, with Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal following closely behind, forming a close-knit top four with a three-team chase pack down to seventh position. At the bottom end, danger bells are ringing for Swansea City and Sunderland already, although the Black Cats finally got their first win of the season on Saturday.
Manchester City, leaders heading into the weekend, had the early chance to cement their position atop the League, playing first out of all the contenders. Having beaten Barcelona in midweek Champions League action, there was an air of positivity and confidence around the club and a home match against a lowly Middlesbrough team was the perfect opportunity for three points.
City played the type of game that “deserved” victory but actually ended up getting them anything but. they still controlled the game and managed serious chances at regular intervals, but they lacked the intensity displayed just a few days prior. Their lack of killer instinct (a familiar refrain around Chelsea games of yore) was palpable as the game carried along with the home team just a single goal to the good. Middlesbrough were resolute from the beginning and manager Aitor Karanka will be happy that they kept fighting to the very end. A stoppage time foray forward produced a cross from the left wing, and unlikely hero Marten de Roon’s late central run earned him and his team an equalising header.
Manchester City 3 Barcelona 1— Ibhubesi 'Mntungwa (@MabasoTF) November 5, 2016
*4 days later*
Manchester City 1 Middlesbrough 1
Therefore Middlesbrough > > Barcelona
Later on Saturday, David Moyes’ Sunderland finally had something to smile about. In an up and down fixture, Victor Anichebe equalised for Sunderland after they had conceded an early goal against Bournemouth. Steven Pienaar then get his marching orders for two rough challenges before Jermaine Defoe scored the winner for his 10-man team from the penalty spot.
The North London derby was the biggest game of the weekend. Two London giants head-to-head: the stage was set for Sunday high noon at the Emirates.
Spurs sprang an early surprise by deploying in a 3-4-3 formation which included Harry Kane returning from a seven-week absence. He was understandably sluggish on his return and laughably tackled his own teammate in the fast-paced match which allowed chances for both teams and kept both Cech and Lloris busy. Goals were surely to come, and near the end of the first half, Arsenal took the lead when a floated freekick was dealt with awkwardly by Kevin Wimmer. Pressure from a pair of Arsenal players made it difficult to head the ball anywhere but into the back of his own net.
The second half had only just started when another defensive error, from Arsenal this time, provided Kane with an opportunity to score from the penalty spot. Cech was beaten and the score was 1-1. Walcott then struck the woodwork with a thumping volley before Arsenal substituted him off in search of victory. Ramsey, Giroud and Chamberlain came on looking to make the attacking difference, as did Vincent Janssen for Spurs. They made no tangible difference in the end, and each team dropped two points. A perfect result for the other title contenders.
139 - Arsenal v Tottenham is now the highest scoring fixture in Premier League history (139 goals). Entertainment.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 6, 2016
Not this time!
With three of the top five dropping points, Liverpool had the chance to vault to the top of the pile. Klopp’s charges have not lost in over two months and sure enough, Watford stood no chance. Liverpool were out of sight by half at 3-0, adding three more in the second to finish with a 6-1 victory.
Liverpool and Chelsea hold an advantage without midweek European football this season, but if their fiery form is anything to go by, they are both hungry to return to it.
17 - Liverpool recorded more shots on target today than any other team has managed in a PL match since Opta records began (2003-04). Top.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 6, 2016
5 - Chelsea have won five of their six Premier League home games this season, as many as they managed in the whole of 2015/16. Renaissance. pic.twitter.com/Et79r4w4QW— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 5, 2016
916 - Liverpool will finish the day top of the Premier League table for the first time since May 6th 2014, 916 days ago. Perch.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 6, 2016
Over in Wales, Swansea had yet to register victory since Bob Bradley took over last month. His tough adaptation period continued when Manchester United visited the Swans on Sunday afternoon.
The Red Devils have also been on a run of poor results, fueled by equally poor performances from their star players. The criticisms they’ve been receiving from all corners finally seem to pay off, with fine performance from several key players. Paul Pogba added to his list of ridiculous long range goals as he powered a volley into the top corner from outside the box. Moments later, Ibrahimovic found himself in a similar position and found the same result as he let fly with a low shot. Wayne Rooney even showed up with assists as Ibrahimovic notched a brace with barely 30 minutes gone.
Swansea managed to get one back in the second half, but it was clearly too little, too late as the clock ran down to a timely break.
When we come back, Chelsea travel to Middlesbrough while Liverpool try their luck away to Southampton. Spurs and Manchester City both have easy looking fixtures (West Ham, home and Crystal Palace, away, respectively), but the headliner will clearly be Mourinho vs. Wenger as Manchester United host Arsenal to start off Matchweek 12.