Manchester City are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League after the latest round of Premier League fixtures.
Pep Guardiola’s side won 2-1 at Arsenal while rivals Chelsea and Liverpool played out a hugely entertaining 2-2 draw.
Meanwhile, Manchester United lost 1-0 at home to Wolves while Leeds moved eight points clear of the relegation zone by beating struggling Burnley 3-1 and Everton’s poor form continued as they lost 3-2 at home to Brighton.
Check out my team of the week and then make your own selections towards the bottom of the article.
Goalkeeper – Jose Sa (Wolves)
Jose Sa: This was a tremendous victory for Wolves at Old Trafford but more importantly thoroughly deserved.
They dominated the first half and held their nerve in the second. There were a number of impressive performances by the visitors but the man that literally saved the day was Jose Sa.
The save by Sa from Bruno Fernandes in the final seconds of the game was top class and the reaction from his team-mates proved the point. When Rui Patricio left Molineux for Roma I thought Wolves would really struggle to replace him but Sa has been outstanding.
Did you know? Only Ederson (11), Aaron Ramsdale (nine) and Alisson (nine) have kept more Premier League clean sheets among keepers than Jose Sa this season (eight).
Defenders – Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Conor Coady (Wolves), Nathan Ake (Man City)
Davinson Sanchez: This is the second time this season I’ve selected Davinson Sanchez for my team. I saw Sanchez play against Mura in Slovenia in the Europa Conference League competition and he was truly awful. However, since that game he has been unrecognisable in a Tottenham shirt.
Antonio Conte has made a defender out of Sanchez and so too Eric Dier. Both men have been impressive since Conte’s arrival and the reason Spurs have steadily climbed up the table. The question now is will Conte get any money to strengthen the squad in order to try and clinch a top-four spot? I suppose we will soon find out.
Did you know? Davinson Sanchez has scored two goals in his past five Premier League games for Tottenham, more than he’d netted in his first 108 games in the competition (one), while his header was the latest winning goal Tottenham have scored in a Premier League game since Opta has exact times of goals in the division (from 2006-07), timed at 95:45.
Conor Coady: This might have been the first defeat under Ralf Rangnick but victories over Burnley and Norwich did nothing more than paper over the cracks that exist at Manchester United.
To see Wolves outplay Manchester United for so long must have be a real concern but the ease with which Conor Coady, Romain Saiss and Max Kilman saw off Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood was even more worrying.
This was an excellent team effort by Wolves. Meanwhile, Manchester United look like a team of superstars all wanting the spotlight and sulky when they don’t get it. When Luke Shaw suggests in a post-match interview they lack intensity, aggression and commitment then there is a problem in the dressing room and someone needs to fix it and fast.
Did you know? Conor Coady made more clearances (four) than any other Wolves player against Manchester United.
Nathan Ake: The clearance off the line by Nathan Ake against Arsenal was quite brilliant and a game changer. I have seen Ake produce moments like this before when he was playing for Bournemouth. He has proved to be a very cool customer in these situations.
Gabriel could take a note out of Ake’s book when it comes to keeping a cool head. Why Arsenal were so aggrieved by Gabriel’s sending off I don’t know. He was caught on camera deliberately disturbing the penalty spot with his boot, a most despicable dirty trick, and then chases down the referee to tell him why his penalty decision was wrong. Then he intentionally blocked Gabriel Jesus after the City striker turned the Arsenal defender on the halfway line.
Gabriel is a good defender but totally lost it against Manchester City.
Did you know? Nathan Ake won all seven aerial duels he contested against Arsenal on Saturday, his best 100% such ratio in a game in his Premier League career.
Midfielders – N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)
N’Golo Kante: There was a moment in the game when N’ Golo Kane appeared to outrun Mohamed Salah in a race towards his own goal. Not only did I not realise Kante was that quick but the France international appears much more comfortable on the ball than I remember him at Leicester. Of course since those days he’s won another Premier League title, a Champions League and a World Cup. His performance against Liverpool was outstanding and epitomised all the qualities of a player who has grown in to a world-class player.
From what I’m told he’s a world-class individual as well.
Did you know? N’Golo Kante regained possession 14 times against Liverpool, more than any other player in the game. Only once has the Frenchman won back possession on more occasions in a single Premier League match (16 for Leicester v Swansea in April 2016).
Alexis Mac Allister: Brighton have not scored three goals in a game all season. To do it away at Everton is impressive when you consider the Seagulls’ record at Goodison has not been the best. The star of the show was Argentine Alexis Mac Allister, who took both his goals brilliantly.
Brighton now sit ninth in the table and have the distinct whiff of European football in their nostrils. Brighton’s success at Goodison reflects very badly on Rafael Benitez and Everton who sit six places below Brighton and eight points adrift. I know there are injuries, nevertheless something is not right at Everton and I’m not entirely sure Benitez is going to be given the time to fix it.
Did you know? Alexis Mac Allister has scored four goals in his 14 Premier League games this season, three more than he managed in his two previous campaigns combined (one goal in 30 appearances), while his opener against Everton on two minutes and 43 seconds was Brighton’s fastest away Premier League goal and their third quickest in the competition overall).
Mateo Kovacic: I’ve never been totally convinced that Chelsea was the right club for Mateo Kovacic but his performance against Liverpool was a bit special. It wasn’t just his goal that was breathtaking but the way he pulled Chelsea back into the game and in the end might have won it for the Blues. He also formed an excellent midfield partnership with Kante.
It would appear that Thomas Tuchel is getting the best out of the Croatian, which is more than could be said for Romelu Lukaku. Read more about my thoughts on the latest row at Stamford Bridge in the Crooks of the Matter below.
Did you know? Mateo Kovacic has been involved in seven Premier League goals for Chelsea this season (two goals and five assists in 13 appearances), only in 2014-15 with Inter has the Croatian been involved in more goals in a single season across the big five European Leagues (eight – five goals and three assists).
Manuel Lanzini: What superb feet. It was the control by Lanzini with his right followed by his left foot that provided the opening for such a superb finish. Having performed the most difficult skill by bringing the ball under control, the Argentine then smashes the ball past Vicente Guaita in the Crystal Palace goal.
Readers will know I am no fan of the video assistant referee but the technology is there to correct ‘obvious errors’ missed by referees and the handball by Luka Milivojevic was missed by Michael Oliver. The question now is can the Hammers creep into the top four? A couple of additions in the transfer window and who knows?
Did you know? Manuel Lanzini has scored 25 goals in total in the Premier League, with 52% of them coming in London derby matches (13).
Forwards – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Yoane Wissa (Brentford), Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Mohamed Salah: I heard my non-selection of Mohamed Salah in my team of the year got one or two a little hot under the collar. Well, I make no apologies for that. Salah made my team of the season but crudely chased the Golden Boot award.
His selfishness had a negative effect on Sadio Mane in particular and, in my view, had an adverse effect on Liverpool’s campaign last season – a point I made at the time.
This season Salah looks like a team player again and his goals are coming naturally. He is no longer looking for cheap penalties and is back to the player he was the season Liverpool won the title, and that’s why he makes my team of the week.
Did you know? Mohamed Salah has scored four goals against Chelsea in the Premier League, the joint most any player has scored against them after playing for them in the competition, along with Kevin de Bruyne.
Yoane Wissa: I’m not entirely sure how the Bees are getting the results against the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and now Aston Villa but they are and going to Brentford Community Stadium is proving to be something of an ordeal for some teams. The Bees, along with their fans, have made their ground a fortress since their arrival in the Premier League.
There is no doubt that the club’s strategy is to make the atmosphere as intimidating as possible for the opposition. To do that you need to create some excitement of your own and Yoane Wissa did exactly that by providing a cracking equaliser. As for Aston Villa and their manager Steven Gerrard, the honeymoon is over. And we are about to see what Villa and Gerrard are really made of.
Did you know? Yoane Wissa has scored more goals (six) than any other Brentford player in all competitions this season, while his equaliser against Aston Villa was the Bees’ first Premier League goal from outside the box.
Sadio Mane: I must say I’m not entirely sure Mane should have remained on the field after his challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta but I’m delighted he did. The Senegal international was booked for the foul but managed to behave himself for the rest of the game and made a significant contribution to a classic football match.
Mane is a tough player but an honest one too. Quite often referees have to assess the character of a player when he’s not sure if the offence was deliberate or not and in Mane’s case his honesty seems to provide him with the benefit of the doubt.
Nevertheless it was an excellent battling performance by Mane and the last before he left for the Africa Cup of Nations. I wonder what the title race will look like when he returns?
Did you know? Since the start of his first season with Liverpool (2016-17), only Harry Kane (40) has scored the opening goal in more different Premier League games than Sadio Mane (37), while the Senegalese forward is also the first Liverpool player to score in consecutive appearances away to Chelsea in the competition. He also received the earliest booking (15 seconds) on record in a Premier League game (since 2006-07).
Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.
The Crooks of the Matter
For the second consecutive week, I find myself having a pop at Chelsea’s manager Thomas Tuchel, which is slightly disappointing, as I am an admirer.
However, the German manager insisted that Romelu Lukaku’s comment, that he was “not happy” with his bit-part role at Chelsea and a return to Inter Milan in the future was not out of the question, was considered too disruptive by Tuchel and so he left the club’s record signing out of the game against Liverpool.
Has Tuchel got carried away with his own self-importance? Lukaku, like all top players, is desperate to play, and the bigger the match, the better. So Tuchel leaves him out of their most important game of the season over a throwaway comment? Why not use the situation to your benefit and allow the player to prove how much playing in Chelsea’s starting line-up actually means to him?
What impact this latest decision by Tuchel will have on their already fragile relationship is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that Chelsea missed Lukaku against the Merseysiders in a game the Blues desperately needed to win to keep up the pressure on Manchester City. Tuchel now has a much bigger problem to solve and that is how he patches up the rift with Lukaku, or risk losing the club’s record signing permanently.
If Tuchel thinks he holds all the cards in this delicate situation he is very much mistaken. The modern game exists in an era when top players have agents who are prepared to ask for a transfer on behalf of their client if they lose their car park space at the training ground, never mind their place in the team.
This is a time for cool heads and a little wisdom at Stamford Bridge. I suggest if Roman Abramovich is intent on winning a domestic trophy this season, or getting anywhere near to retaining the Champions League title, he needs to have a quiet word with his manager and remind him that his £97.5m investment needs to be loved and protected, not chastised like an errant schoolboy. Chelsea’s future success in a number of areas depends on it.
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