The top-of-the-table clash between Liverpool and Manchester City might not have lived up to expectations but the Premier League’s oldest ally of entertainment, Jose Mourinho, made sure there will be plenty to stew over going into the international break.
Mourinho will go down swinging
There was something gloriously ‘Mourinho’ about Manchester United’s last-gasp 3-2 comeback win over Newcastle on Saturday.
The United boss has become something of an anti-Midas in the past couple of months. After falling 2-0 behind inside the first quarter, it appeared the brooding tetchiness that has swamped Old Trafford – and probably anyone else who has had the misfortune to come into contact with the Portuguese recently – was set to be lanced to the backing track of 4,000 or so Geordies singing ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’.
It didn’t happen. Newcastle did what Newcastle does and obligingly rolled over in a second half that saw United pile on three late goals and reminded their fans of another life under Sir Alex, thanks to a bloke named Alexis.
It was too much for Mourinho to handle and, after it was reported the previous night that he was set to be sacked regardless of the result, he waged the type of rant that ensures whatever happens on the pitch he remains the Premier League’s number one box office item (for now).
Mourinho’s latest slapstick routine in front of the cameras centred around an apparent ‘man-hunt’ of which he glumly suggested he is somehow always the unlucky beneficiary.
It was peak Mourinho, highlighted by a suggestion he would be blamed for the rain in London, but one that resonated with United fans who have resolutely stuck by their former Chelsea boss.
You can make your own judgment why that is the case but after seeing their club slip from the glorious dominance of the Ferguson era to a time when revenue stream building under the auspices of Ed Woodward prevail it is easy to see why a little bit of passion might get their vote of approval.
Mourinho may still get the shove but you suspect United’s troubles will yet linger.
Mahrez completes non-event
Manchester City’s trip to Anfield fell flat of its billing as an early-season title decider. Title deciders in October usually do to be fair but if there was any doubt the hype machine had been dusted off and turned up to a tad prematurely new City signing Riyad Mahrez made sure of it with a late penalty that might still be airborne now.
City were the better team for the majority but arguably the sharpness of both teams was not helped by spending midweek away in the Champions League – where both flattered to deceive.
It won’t go down as a classic – goalless draws don’t tend to – but the lack of goalmouth action was almost certainly down to the fact both sides fully respected each other’s attacking threats.
Last season City could afford to be more gung-ho against Liverpool, as they romped away to the title, and were burned by the Reds as a result. There was no such adventure this time around as both sides were content to share the spoils and move on undamaged.
Gunners going all right
Perhaps the only thing more surprising than Arsenal’s 5-1 away demolition of Fulham was the fact it represented their ninth successive win in all competitions. When did that happen?
The Gunners have flown under the radar under new boss Unai Emery, probably because the post-Wenger clips of Arsenal TV have been, let’s face it, a lot less entertaining.
Rants about Petr Cech’s passing range and Mesut Ozil’s work-rate have been replaced with the blossoming strike pairing of Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while in central midfield Arsenal appear to finally have the type of player in Lucas Torreira who provides the tenacity and guile of which Wenger decided were not required once Patrick Vieira left the club.
With a friendly run of fixtures to come before Liverpool arrive in north London in early November the Gunners fans could be forgiven for getting a little excited.
Morata scores again
Eden Hazard has been the best player in the Premier League by some margin this season and after firing Chelsea ahead in an otherwise comfortable 3-0 success over Southampton he went about proving his miracle-worker status. He set up out-of-sort striker Alvaro Morata with the sort of opportunity he couldn’t dare miss.
Morata missed a sitter moments earlier, after replacing Olivier Giroud, but Hazard’s turn of pace and deft of a pass provoked the type of finish from Morata that Chelsea bought him for.
In a Chelsea side still over reliant on Hazard, it was a second goal in as many games for Morata, who surely must do more if his side are to mount a realistic title challenge.
Bournemouth’s young boss Eddie Howe has established a well-earned reputation for eye-catching football and it was fitting that, on the six-year anniversary in charge of the Cherries that his side marked it with a 4-0 win at Watford.
Christian Kabasele’s first-half dismissal played a significant part in the result but Bournemouth made the high-flying hosts pay.
You would do well to recognise most of their players in the street but unheralded front two Josh King and Calum Wilson are a handful for any team and in young Welshman David Brooks, who scored his second goal in as many games, they have another player who appears ready to benefit from Howe’s progressive style.
It is a philosophy that will have its fair share of low points – they were inexplicably beaten 4-0 in their previous away trip to Burnley – but if you’re a Bournemouth fan right now it’s all part of the fun after they were a club on the brink of going out of business only a decade ago.