Manchester City moved 11 points clear of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League, while Big Sam’s Everton revolution continued apace and even David Moyes had something to shout about.
Here, we review five things we learned from this weekend’s top-flight action.
1. It ain’t over till it’s over – except this time
Cancel all the nerve-jangling title countdown programmes. Forget the last-day helicopter ride around two or three prospective inauguration venues. Never mind the mind games. Manchester City’s 2-1 win at derby rivals United on Sunday sealed the destiny of this season’s title race. Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking side simply cannot lose from the position they are now in, 11 points ahead of their city rivals and seemingly set to soar to new heights. What is bad for the TV ratings is great news for those who love to see the game played in its purest form.
2. Whatever happened to Romelu Lukaku?
Manchester United’s big-money signing of Romelu Lukaku looked a bargain at twice the price when the former Everton man kicked off his Old Trafford career with 11 goals in his first 10 games. But now the ailing Lukaku looks less a saviour, and more a symptom of Jose Mourinho’s attacking malaise. Having scored just twice in his last 12 games, things went from bad to worse for Lukaku on Sunday as he effectively set up both of City’s two goals – consigning United as bit-part players in a title race he was bought to influence.
3. Prettiness can wait at Goodison
You know what you’re getting with Sam Allardyce, and it is hard to see how Everton fans would not be happy with it now. After a cataclysmic start to the season, studded with various Europa League humiliations, the former England manager has ridden to the rescue and already elevated the once-ailing Toffees into the top half of the table. Sunday’s Merseyside derby illustrated Allardyce’s methods at their best – strangling the life out of their opponents and snatching some degree of reward. At the very least Allardyce will ensure his latest club guarantee their top-flight status. The question is, what happens when mere survival is no longer an option?
4. David Moyes may just silence the doubters
If David Moyes’ appointment in succession to Slaven Bilic set pulses racing in east London last month, it was largely a cause for anger-management. But the man West Ham fans did not want is showing signs of turning round their fortunes, following up last week’s creditable performance at Manchester City with a tactically-astute triumph over Antonio Conte’s ailing Chelsea. The result was no flash of outrageous fortune: the well-disciplined home side out-performed their opponents in every area of the pitch, and Marko Arnautovic – who received an ear-bashing from Moyes upon the manager’s arrival – rose to the occasion to seal a hugely-significant win.
5. Benitez: Messiah, or a soon-to-be naughty boy?
It did not take long for Newcastle fans to crown Rafael Benitez their latest in a long line of Messiahs after he lifted them back to the top flight at the first attempt last season. But things are quickly turning sour on Tyneside, where one point from seven games and elongated takeover talk have left the Magpies in the thick of a relegation battle, and Benitez surely considering whether his superbly curated, high-profile career would be better served elsewhere. The weekend loss to Leicester could prove a turning point. Without cash for reinforcements in the January transfer window, it is increasingly tough to imagine how long Benitez will sit it out in the north east.
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