The Premier League is expected to get you on the edge of your seat and Gameweek 11 didn’t disappoint, with some massive clashes that not only delivered football of the highest quality, but some off-field drama that had the rumour mills going into overdrive.
With so much noise, it can be difficult to focus on the noteworthy stuff, but worry not for The Statesman has outlined the major talking points for you:
Chelsea beat United, but manager Antonio Conte dominates headlines for wrong reasons
Going into the weekend’s highlight clash—Chelsea vs Manchester United— the Blues were reeling from an embarrassing midweek loss at the hands of Roma (UEFA Champions League) and were under severe pressure to clinch three points.
They did, thanks to Alvaro Morata’s thumping header, but their manager Conte’s pre and post-game interviews threatened to overshadow an important victory.
After dropping defender David Luiz from the match day squad, Conte insisted in his pre-match presser to Sky Sports that the decision was a tactical one. If so, then keep the centre-back on the bench, as an experienced player can always help the team with his presence even if he’s not actually playing instead of bashing him to the stands.
And then after the game, Conte was asked by whether Luiz still had a future at the club, to which he tersely replied: “I don’t know. He has to train well with the rest of his teammates.”
Blues fans are fearing another saga which has shades of Diego Costa, especially with the January transfer window nearing.
And if you thought that was enough drama from one game, you were wrong.
The two had been trading barbs via the media all week and Conte wasn’t impressed by what he heard or read as he coolly stated after the game: “Winning the game is important, not shaking the hand. Respect must be earned on the pitch, not off it.”
Almost like a soap opera and to further complicate matters for the Blues, who haven’t had the best of starts to their Premier League title defence, technical director Michael Emenalo stepped down on Monday.
Rumours of major disharmony are swirling in West London and it remains to be seen whether that’s the last we are hearing of any of the aforementioned.
Clarets’ astonishing away form continues
Move aside Manchester City.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley are the team to watch this season.
Yes, seriously. Not only have the Clarets mastered the art of 1-0 win this season (four and counting), but they an insane away record.
After their thrilling opening-day triumph over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Burnley forced the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool to drop points at Wembley and Anfield, respectively.
They then beat Everton at Goodison Park before suffering their first away loss of the season to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City (completely understandable given their form) and bounced back with a 1-0 win at Southampton to remain level on points with Liverpool (fifth) and Arsenal (sixth).
So from six games on the road, Burnley have won thrice, drawn twice and lost just once. That’s a better record than most of the ‘top’ sides, let alone rest of the league.
Along with Watford (ninth) and Brighton (8th), Burnley are among the smaller sides that are punching above their weight and fans are loving it.
Arsene Wenger’s perplexing strategy against Manchester City
Arsenal fans were incensed after their side’s 3-1 loss against Manchester City, a harsh reaction you might think considering the imperious fettle the Citizens are in, but their gripe was more towards their manager’s odd team selection for the important clash at the Etihad Stadium.
Arsene Wenger opted to keep club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette on the bench and started Alexis Sanchez as the centre-forward for the tie against the Sky Blues.
Why would you spend £56 million on a proven striker and then bench them for a tie against a direct rival?
The Gunners faithful were aghast when the team sheets were announced and to reinforce the point, Lacazette came off the bench to score an excellent goal to reduce the deficit in the second-half.
Against a side that dominate possession but yet have a susceptible defence, surely playing a striker, who’s fast, technically adept and a lethal finisher, makes sense?
Not, if you’re Arsene Wenger.
The French tactician was perhaps going for a different strategy, but it clearly backfired and his decision to keep Lacazette on the bench will go down as a blunder, for had his compatriot been playing from the off, perhaps the scoreline would have been different.
Everton, yes Everton, muster sensational comeback against Watford
While all the spotlight was fixed on Manchester City’s entertaining 3-1 win against Arsenal and then on Chelsea’s engaging 1-0 triumph over Manchester United, there was another game that deserved your attention.
Manager-less Everton, down 2-0 with less than 30 minutes to go against Watford, mounted an incredible comeback to equalise proceedings via strikes from Oumar Niasse (67’) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (74’).
After Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes had been substituted in the second-half, the teams were braced for an extra-long injury-time period.
The sides played an gargantuan 12 minutes of injury-time and two penalties were awarded, of which only one was scored.
Everton fullback Leighton Baines put the first spot-kick away in the 97th minute to seemingly ensure the hosts would clinch three points, but then there was drama in the other box as Watford winger Richarlison went down from a Jordan Pickford challenge.
Former Everton midfielder Tom Cleverley stepped up but buckled under pressure and sent his 100th minute penalty wide, much to the relief of the home crowd.
So there you have it, a nail-biting finish to an enthralling game and a massive win for the struggling Toffees, who climbed out of the relegation zone just as the final international break of the year came around.