Daniel Storey: Is Mourinho responsible for Dele Alli's rapid reinvention?

Daniel Storey casts his over the Premier League's weekend action.

Is the title race over in November?

All over bar the shouting? Anyone associated with Liverpool will be insisting that there is an awfully long time left for them to suffer an injury crisis or loss of confidence.

Alisson’s suspension will add to Fabinho’s enforced absence. We have seen teams capitulate from this position before.

But everything points to Liverpool sauntering to the title. They have suffered setbacks but seem to jump over obstacles with remarkable ease and are in far ruder health than Manchester City.

Virgil Van Dijk celebrates scoring his second (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Virgil Van Dijk celebrates scoring his second (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Chelsea’s home defeat to West Ham extinguishes any lingering chance of them mounting a meaningful tilt. Leicester might well be Liverpool’s closest challengers.

Saturday was the embodiment of Liverpool getting it done.

They have kept precious few clean sheets this season, had their goalkeeper sent off and Jurgen Klopp watched on as his front line failed to click.

But there is always a queue of players to step up and be counted. If the attackers don’t fire, the defence provides two goals and two assists.

The run of regular matches without rest in five different competitions will concern Klopp, but there is no reason for anyone to panic.

Get through that unscathed — and Klopp will be happy to sacrifice the EFL Cup — and Liverpool should have plenty in the tank to hold off even a perfect Manchester City run. It’s going to happen.

New manager, more of the same from Arsenal

That Arsenal avoided defeat at Carrow Road was largely thanks to Bernd Leno, who made a string of second-half saves to keep Norwich at bay and the score at 2-2.

But any hope that Arsenal’s on-field problems would evaporate with the departure of Unai Emery have been extinguished.

Daniel Storey: Is Mourinho responsible for Dele Alli's rapid reinvention?

They continue to defend with all the composure of a toddler running through a busy playground. This is not an easy problem to solve.

Freddie Ljungberg deserves no blame given he only had one training session as manager but it his team selection was a surprise.

Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi, three of the most obvious Arsenal scapegoats, all started. There was no place in the team for Kieran Tierney or Lucas Torreira, and the substitutions were a little odd.

Ljungberg will retain plenty of goodwill from Arsenal supporters, but they must avoid the mistakes made by Manchester United in being sucked in by the performance of a caretaker, even if things improve.

The quantity and variety of names on their shortlist suggests the club do not have a clear idea what they’re after.

End of Watford’s experiment with ex

Perhaps we should give some credit to Watford for addressing their mistake with some haste. Had they persisted with Quique Sanchez Flores for any longer, their relegation would have been rubber stamped. He won one of his 10 matches in charge.

But you do have to question the decision makers when a club sacks a manager, appoints a manager, sacks that manager, appoints the old manager and then sacks that manager.

If Javi Gracia and Flores underperformed to leave Watford bottom of the league, neither were helped by the club’s refusal to address defensive shortcomings over the summer.

Reports suggest that Chris Hughton is the No. 1 target to replace Flores, and that makes some sense. Hughton’s modus operandi is to improve defensive resilience and worry about scoring goals later, and that is precisely what Watford require.

But it’s hard not to conclude that this is an appointment with one eye on next season in the Championship. There is simply not enough quality or strength in depth in the squad.

West Ham and Martin find unlikely salvation

West Ham are a baffling team, impossible to read.

Just as you think they have found some form, their incompetence catches you off guard. Just as you think Manuel Pellegrini’s sacking is beyond doubt, they win at Stamford Bridge and keep a clean sheet.

The victory over Chelsea is not a solution to all of Pellegrini’s problems.

This club has seen too many false dawns for that. But after a sticky period Declan Rice protected the defence superbly and David Martin was a comfortable step up on the hapless Roberto.

Most importantly, Michael Antonio offered more when holding up the ball and linking play than Sebastien Haller has in weeks.

There was also an intensity to West Ham that was embarrassingly absent against Tottenham a week earlier. A lack of quality is one thing; a lack of effort and hunger another entirely.

That offers some evidence that the players have not given up on Pellegrini’s tenure. Now to take this spirit to Molineux in midweek.

Alli undergoes rapid reinvention

It would be unfair and inaccurate to state that Dele Alli has only started playing since Jose Mourinho arrived at Tottenham.

Alli had actually improved in the weeks before Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking, albeit without contributing goals and assists.

Daniel Storey: Is Mourinho responsible for Dele Alli's rapid reinvention?

But Alli has certainly been given an added jolt of energy since Mourinho’s appointment.

The new manager has immediately given Alli licence to get closer to Harry Kane as the central player in the three behind the striker rather than on the left of a 4-3-3.

That contains plenty of logic: it replicates Alli’s role in Tottenham’s successful 2016/17 season.

Watch Alli for even 10 minutes against Bournemouth and you see the difference.

It is not that everything now comes off where once it didn’t, but that he has swagger with ball at feet that makes it hard for defenders to know what he will do next and the presence of mind to drop into pockets of space in order to pick up possession.

That is exactly what Mourinho is looking for.

“He plays in a position where he feels happy and comfortable,” Mourinho said of Alli in his post-match interviews.

“We also give him space for his creativity which he always has. I think he played three phenomenal matches since I arrived.”

The new Tottenham manager has his teacher’s pet.

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