You can fully understand why Pep Guardiola and his backroom staff were raging. It did indeed look like Trent Alexander-Arnold handled the ball in the penalty area, and slow-motion replays hardly seemed to help Michael Oliver or VAR’s explanation that his arm was not in an unnatural position.
But from then on, Liverpool played like champions elect. Their counter-attacking ability is truly phenomenal. The attacking intent from both full-backs is like nothing we have ever seen in the Premier League,particularly when switching the ball with their accurate crossfield passes. The front three has long been the best in the country; nothing changes there.
Liverpool have the hex on Guardiola and City, and that hex may well take them all the way to their first Premier League title. They toyed with the second best team in the country, delighting in the way that they eroded City’s spirit and rampaged at them with pace and skill. Nine points looks unsurmountable.
Arsenal board must act quickly on Emery issue
If Arsenal acted this week to remove Unai Emery from his position, they could reasonably claim to have managed a difficult process well. There were reasons to believe that Emery could have succeeded in taking Arsenal back into the Champions League, even after he failed in that task last season.
By allowing him to have 12 league games of this season, including fixtures against Liverpool,Manchester United and Leicester City, Emery has been given enough chances to prove he has takenArsenalforward over the summer and wasted each one. Sacking him over the international break would at least demonstrate a willingness to fix this situation.
And yet by all accountsArsenal are prepared to place even more faith and patience in Emery, and back him to turn around this run of dismal form despite there being no persuasive evidence in Arsenal’s performances. They have a stodgy, lethargic, attack despite possessing a set of capable attacking players, and on Saturday tried to defend deep without the competence to thwart their opposition. As soon as they fell behind, the game was lost.
If Arsenal do indeed give Emery more time to get it wrong, Arsenal’s hierarchy have this failure on their hands. The accusation is that — like Manchester United — a Big Six club can only really fall permanently when a culture of mediocrity isembraced by those in power. That is precisely what is happening at the Emirates, and precisely what is so infuriating for Arsenal supporters.
Wilder continuing to break new ground at Sheffield United
It is the most astonishing statistic in the Premier League. With their draw at Tottenham on Saturday, Sheffield United made it 60 matches in all competitions since they last lost by more than a single goal. This season alone, they have beaten Arsenal, lost 1-0 to Liverpool, drawn with Chelsea, and beaten Spurs. They are not fifth in the league by some statistical quirk or because they have faced exclusively bottom-half teams, but because Chris Wilder has been the standout manager in the division.
You do not manage to achieve that type of run without comprehensive defeat without the manager demanding total commitment from every player. Liverpool, Manchester City, and no other club in the country have matched it, despite Sheffield United having far lesser players. But Wilder inspires a mentality that no other manager does. He has an intelligent, innovative tactical plan and an ability to dampen the impacts of fatigue.
At some point, Sheffield United will lose heavily. But Wilder has already established them as a Premier League club, and taken them close to halfway to the points total that will guarantee their second consecutive season of top-fight football for the first time since 1994.
Why would Rodgers place any limit on Leicester’s potential?
Brendan Rodgers has batted away any talk of a Leicester City titlechallenge, understandable questions given their remarkable achievements of 2015/16. Rodgers will know only too well that there is little point placing undue expectations upon a team of players that is enjoying its football and has cemented a place in the top four.
But Rodgers also knows that there is no ceiling to Leicester’s potential this season. Liverpool are a far stronger team than any of Leicester’s rivals in 2015/16, but then evencomparing them to this Liverpool team is a compliment given the gap in resources between the two clubs.
The most important thing is that Leicester are a club moving quickly in the right direction, under a manager intent on taking them there. If they break into the top four this season, brilliant. If they finish fifth, fair enough. Because this project feels sustainable, and feels special too.
Is Pellegrini the next high-profile managerial casualty?
Manuel Pellegrini must have known that he needed a response from his players. West Ham were wretched at home to Newcastle last week, pushing them further down the Premier League and pushing the manager into crisis mode. It’s at times like these that you learn most aboutPellegrini’s ability to draw more out of his players.
On this evidence, the battle has been lost. West Ham were humiliated at Turf Moor by a team that had just lost to Sheffield United by the same scoreline. There is too little quality in the final third despite serious summer investment, and the defence looks paper-thin when an opponent applies some pressure. Pellegrini looks like he run out of options and run out of belief. That normally only ends one way.