Arsenal vs. Man Utd delivers, Liverpool and Chelsea romp, Man City win again
How often does it happen? Two big teams such as Arsenal and Manchester United come together in a heavily hyped clash of the titans, and then they serve up a forgettable damp squib of a game. It can be so frustrating, but it didn't happen on Saturday.
In fact, we're still not entirely sure what happened Saturday. We suspect that neither is Arsene Wenger. Elsewhere, Liverpool thumped Brighton, and Chelsea swept aside Newcastle. Honestly, if it weren't for Manchester City being apparently incapable of slipping up, this might have been the best title race ever.
Performance of the weekend
Do you remember when David de Gea was a lightweight, willowy man-child as well-prepared for Premier League football as raw eggs are for hammers? Remember how people said that this was Sir Alex Ferguson's worst goalkeeper misjudgement of all time? (There are lots of contenders for that title, by the way.) How things change. This wasn't just one of De Gea's best performances; this was one of the best goalkeeping performances in the history of Premier League. On balance, and after lengthy consideration, we think it's fair to say that Ferguson got this one right.
The past 10 years in a nutshell
We're relatively new to the concept of Expected Goals (xG) in this column. It's a fascinating thing, neither as crucial as its most rabid proponents believe nor as preposterous as its detractors insist. It's not rocket science. It's like "shots on target" but with helpful context. We particularly like the way it clarifies the difference between "we could have scored five" and "we should have scored five." No one is entitled to score five on xG. We've never seen it much higher than three. Until Saturday. Until Arsenal. Until ... God, it must so frustrating to be an Arsenal fan.
A lucky escape
Brighton's penalty against Liverpool was so soft that it took three views and a squint up close at the television screen to figure out what referee Graham Scott had seen. The lightest of touches from Jordan Henderson, it transpires. Fortunately, it made no difference. Liverpool were winning by a large margin, and they went on to win by an even larger one.
But imagine if it had been 0-0 at the time. Imagine if this decision cost Liverpool the game. Imagine what would have happened to the internet. Twitter would be a smoking ruin by now. Facebook would be a minefield. A few of us might have been able to survive in huddled communes on Instagram, but that's no life. Thank heavens for Robert Firmino.
A different kind of curse
We never held with that nonsense about the "Curse of Wembley Stadium," but we're prepared to be open-minded about the possibility of a "Curse of the Manager's New Book."
Since Mauricio Pochettino's "A Brave New World" was released Oct. 28, Spurs have lost to Manchester United, Arsenal and Leicester while dropping points against West Bromwich Albion and, this weekend, Watford. Now, sure: Spurs have had a tough run and a few injuries, and they did beat Real Madrid with that book on the shelves.
But still, do you remember David O'Leary at Leeds United? He never recovered. Let's hope Pochettino got a good deal on the royalties.
Inevitable fight back
In the space of seven days, three teams have built up their fortification and challenged Manchester City to get through them. On every occasion, the challenge has been met. It is one thing to hold this team out for a half, working tirelessly, thinking constantly and contracting the space wherever you see it. It's another thing entirely to do it for the full 90 minutes.
Like a certain other team from Manchester's recent history, this City side will keep ploughing forward until the last whistle. It was David Silva who won the day this time against West Ham, not their usual late saviour, Raheem Sterling. It's yet another three points, and they still hold an eight-point gap over United heading into next weekend's derby.
Morata the merciless
It's ever so strange that Alvaro Morata has been allowed to reach his 25th birthday without ever being trusted to make more than 18 starts in a league season, but it's a run that (serious injury notwithstanding) he should finally end at Chelsea.
There was so much pressure on the Spain international striker when he arrived in West London, not just because of the size of the fee but also because of the strain of replacing Diego Costa, a man so nasty and vindictive that he earned the right to be called "Proper Chels," which is actually considered a compliment in that part of the world. Yet Morata has been marvellous, adding his ninth league goal to his account on Saturday, the fifth he has scored with his head.
Nicest gesture of the weekend
Everton's supporters could just about consider the notion of Sam Allardyce as their manager, but the prospect of Sammy Lee as his assistant was a bit much. Allardyce only has a reputation for dull, functional football, but Lee played for Liverpool for a decade and coached them for even longer. But when chairman Bill Kenwright strode onto the pitch while Lee was warming up the players and made a point of giving him a big hug in front of everyone, it felt like the sting was drawn.
Everton are in trouble. They need a united front. The noise at Goodison, the reception for Allardyce and, most importantly, the result suggest that they have one.
One to watch next weekend
Yes, there are bigger games than Swansea against West Bromwich Albion next weekend, and there are almost certainly more exciting ones too. But keep an eye on this: Swansea are bottom after their defeat to Stoke, and deservedly so, according to their manager, Paul Clement. His bosses sacked two managers last season, and he is running out of time. Meanwhile, the Baggies haven't won a game since August and welcomed Alan Pardew back into football with a dire draw. In short, neither team can afford to lose, and that makes for a fascinating afternoon.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.