This was a favourable time for Jose Mourinho to take over at Tottenham. West Ham’s home form has been wholly unreliable, with their team booed off more often than cheered over the last two months. Olympiakos at home in the Champions League allows Spurs to put one foot in the knockout stages, before Bournemouth visit the London stadium. Mourinho will hope for an early run of wins to lift the mood. That is his usual modus operandi in a new job.
Tottenham were far from perfect on Saturday, and would surely not have won the match had Lukasz Fabianski started in goal for West Ham. But there were enough green shoots on show to suggest that Mourinho can work with what he has for now. Dele Alli has improved over the last few weeks but produced his best performance in months, while both of Mourinho’s wide players scored and Harry Winks impressed again in central midfield.
Mourinho values his holding midfielders dearly, and Eric Dier must improve upon his first-half sloppiness if he is to hold down a place in the team. Serge Aurier did what Serge Aurier does, bright moments in attack ultimately undermined by a piece of sloppy defending during West Ham’s late comeback attempt.
But Mourinho will be mighty pleased as he prepares for his first home game in charge. His appointment was not met with universal supporter approval. In those circumstances, making a positive first impression was crucial.
Mourinho could not have picked a better first opponent to break Tottenham’s winless away run. A team is supposed to be worked hard to gain an advantage in a local derby, but West Ham are a team without fight. When away supporters chanted that Manuel Pellegrini was going to be sacked in the morning, home fans applauded in response.
The mood amongst supporters was embarrassment blended with anger. They jeered Roberto whenever he managed to catch the ball without making a calamitous error, groaned every time Sebastien Haller allowed the ball to escape his control and exclaimed their displeasure on the numerous occasions a player in claret and blue shirked a tackle.
The worst that a team down on its luck must be is resilient and difficult to break down. The spaces between West Ham’s defence and midfield were an open invitation to Tottenham to expose their defensive deficiencies, and it is down to Pellegrini to find a solution. His team have conceded 20 goals in their last eight matches. Probably write that sentence somewhere on his P45.
Everton desperately wanted Marco Silva to work out. They pursued him twice, both before and after his Watford sacking. Marcel Brands afforded him great faith and a sizeable transfer budget both last summer and in 2018. Silva cannot plead many mitigating circumstances.
Everton should not turn back to David Moyes or Mark Hughes, as has been reported. They now consider themselves to be a progressive club with eyes on playing a certain type of football. There are managers abroad who would consider Everton to be an excellent project, and Eddie Howe would be an excellent coup. Going back to either a former manager or a pragmatist would be a lurch in an entirely different direction.
But that doesn’t mean Silva deserves any more patience or time. This season alone they have lost to four of the current bottom half and also lost to Burnley and Sheffield United without scoring. Even more alarming is that they are only four points above the bottom three having played only three matches against the current top seven.
Alexandre Lacazette’s late equaliser may have avoided another lamentable Arsenal defeat, but it did little to lift the mood at the Emirates. It’s never a good sign when supporters might have preferred their team to lose rather than draw if it accelerated the manager’s departure.
No defeat for Arsenal, but an incredibly poor performance against a team down on its luck and with their own manager under significant pressure. Southampton had 21 shots, managed more shots on target than their opponents, and should have converted their chances to put the game beyond Arsenal.
Unai Emery should already have lost his job. There is a huge weight of evidence that proves he is unfit for his purpose now and never will be. The lack of effective action this week, and Arsenal’s decision-makers will prove that they are no more suitable for their roles. What a mess.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer understandably preferred to focus on Manchester United’s stirring comeback from 2-0 down at Bramall Lane as proof his team believe in him and his management, and Solskjaer’s first two substitutions did indeed change the game.
But this was still an afternoon in which Solskjaer and his team took backward steps. The visitors were woeful for the first 70 minutes, bettered by a team that wanted it more and a manager who is more capable than his opposite number of organising a side and having them play to an exact tactical plan.
On the balance of play, it would have been a travesty had Sheffield United not collected at least a point.
Solskjaer’s position now comes under far greater scrutiny with Mauricio Pochettino out of work, such an obvious natural fit to come in and build something special as he did at Tottenham. United are now ninth and level on points with Pochettino’s former employers.