Major EPL talking points
LONDON — Liverpool surrendered ground on the leaders after an incredible collapse at Bournemouth, while Alexis Sanchez kept Arsenal firmly in the hunt.
Matip injury would be significant Hands have been wrung and doom predicted about Philippe Coutinho’s injury, likely to keep him out of the Liverpool team until next month. And to an extent, rightly so: he has been their most impressive attacking threat this season, and the sight of that front four dovetailing has perhaps been the most pleasing in the division. However, the 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth on Sunday suggested that another injury absence might be more significant, namely Joël Matip.
The Cameroonian centre-half has been a quiet, calm example of consistency, exactly the sort of thing that Liverpool missed against Bournemouth. The simple scoreline, plus a cursory viewing of the game, indicated Jürgen Klopp’s men will be okay scoring goals without Coutinho, but preventing them without Matip who has a minor ankle injury, could be more problematic.
Mourinho losing his touch The troubling thing about José Mourinho in the past 18 months or so is that new weaknesses keep emerging in his teams. His apparent ability to get players to do anything for him went west, as did defensive solidity, and now there is apparently a lack of mental fortitude. The late penalty conceded fairly clownishly by Marouane Fellaini, then converted by Leighton Baines, was the fifth goal Manchester United have conceded in the last 10 minutes of games this season, costing them eight points. Those points would have put them just one behind Manchester City and snapping around the Champions League places: as it is they are a fairly distant sixth.
Mourinho protested after the game that in all his team’s six draws they have been the better side, but it’s not much use if they continually throw results and points away at the last.
Past could be Spurs’ guide Are Tottenham Hotspur ready to make their move again? When Spurs lost at Chelsea on the Saturday before last, their Premier League record stood at W6 D6 L1 and they sat fifth in the table, which was a mirror image of their numbers from the corresponding point of last season.
Last time out they then drew at home against Chelsea, whereas on Saturday they hammered Swansea City. In other words, Spurs are statistically better off now than when compared with their superb season of 201516.
What happened last season was they went on an extraordinary run at around this time. Can Mauricio Pochettino’s team fashion a repeat? Their elimination from the Champions League was a blow but they could benefit from a clarity of domestic focus. Harry Kane is back from injury and firing and there were signs of greater collective fluency against Swansea. Pochettino’s players have tended to enjoy a physical dividend from his conditioning programme. He senses a turning point. Wenger looks for consistency Even if he famously banned Arsenal’s players from eating chocolate, Arsène Wenger must have been relieved to crack open his advent calendar on Thursday after another disappointing November. Their return of 1.7 points per game in the Premier League was a slight increase on previous years, but a costly Champions League draw against Paris Saint-germain and the tame defeat of Wenger’s second string by Southampton in the EFL Cup last week showed his side remain vulnerable. The dismantling of a West Ham side in disarray was the perfect response, even if Arsenal’s manager knows there will be much stiffer tests ahead with trips to Everton and Manchester City to come this month.
“Recently, we lost a little bit the quality of our game, and we started [to lose] a little bit with results,” he said. “A draw here, a draw there, a draw against PSG that was not completely convincing, and today we found the flow again. So I think we just have to concentrate on the quality of our game and try to repeat that week in, week out.”