The north London derby played out to a 1-1 draw on Sunday, Stoke City landed another blow to Chelsea‘s misery-laden campaign, West Ham United and Everton drew at the Boleyn Ground and Jamie Vardy scored yet again.
Here are five talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action.
Chelsea’s Misery Continues in Jose Mourinho’s Absence
Mourinho was given a one-game stadium ban after confronting referee Jonathan Moss at half-time during the Blues’ 2-1 loss to West Ham towards the end of October, with the Portuguese accepting the charge, saying “it is stupid to fight a fight you know you are going to lose.”
Peddling a me-against-the-world stance throughout the 2015/16 campaign, Mourinho has consistently deflected the blame for Chelsea‘s poor performances away from himself.
Against Stoke on Saturday, he may have been given a viable reason.
But while this result should be a cause for concern for Mourinho, it was the way in which his side folded that should be the primary issue. At present, Chelsea are lacking passion, power and creativity, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic all underperforming.
Mourinho returns to the dugout after the international break, but he may be wishing he didn’t have to. Chelsea‘s loss may have left them out of the running for a top-four finish.
Manchester City Blunted by Aguero, Bony Injuries
With Daniel Sturridge making only three league appearances this season so far, Liverpool are fully aware of the impact of an injury to a first-choice centre-forward.
Wilfried Bony, City’s only senior striking option beyond the Argentine, trudged off with a hamstring injury in the first half at Villa Park, with manager Manuel Pellegrini opting to move £59 million summer signing Kevin de Bruyne into the No. 9 role.
But against Villa, both he and support option Raheem Sterling struggled.
The backs-to-the-wall displays of centre-backs Micah Richards and Ciaran Clark aided Villa’s cause, but City created few openings to truly trouble Remi Garde’s side.
With 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho City’s only other option in attack, Pellegrini may be forced to dip into the transfer market in January—as Aguero continues to make his recovery.
Garry Monk Under Pressure as Swansea Head Into Troubling Winter
But while the Swans currently sit 14th in the league table, that Monk’s future is under debate is a miserable indictment of modern football’s short-term view.
In 2014/15, Monk was lauded as a contender for the Manager of the Year award, with the former Swansea centre-back also mooted as a possible replacement for Roy Hodgson as England manager; Monk had just led his side to eighth place, their best-ever top-flight finish.
At 36, Monk represents one of the most promising young managers in the Premier League.
However, as Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins glances over his side’s winter fixture list, the possibility of Monk’s departure continues to loom.
Tottenham Hotspur Favourites for Top-Four Finish
Spurs have long been the Premier League‘s also-rans; the honourable mention; the bridesmaid, but never the bride. Chairman Daniel Levy seemed content on building a profitable business, founded on sixth-placed finishes and big-money departures.
But in sacking Tim Sherwood and replacing him with Mauricio Pochettino, Levy set in motion a transformation at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino took time to implement his demanding tactical philosophy, but as Sunday’s 1-1 draw with north London rivals Arsenal proved, Spurs are now a fully formed, top-level side.
With a fine balance of youth and experience, Pochettino has crafted a side capable of outrunning and outgunning the very best Premier League sides, and Spurs are now favourites for a top-four finish.
In many ways, this is what Fenway Sports Group will be hoping to replicate following Klopp’s arrival this season—and supporters should take note of the bedding-in process required.
Spurs currently sit in fifth, four points above Liverpool, and the Reds face a fight to catch up.
Rob Elliot Finding Form as Newcastle’s Backup Stopper
The double blow of Karl Darlow and Tim Krul’s injuries left Newcastle United desperate clawing for cover, with manager Steve McClaren even claiming the latter is worth “18 or 20 points a season” to his side.
But as the Magpies held on for a 1-0 win away to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday, the Republic of Ireland international produced a performance of sheer fortitude.
Elliot made five saves at Dean Court on Saturday, more than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this weekend, and it was the 29-year-old that secured Newcastle victory—Bournemouth had 20 shots on goal to the away side’s two.
As Darlow continues his recovery and Krul sits out the rest of the season, Elliot will be hoping to establish himself as a regular option for McClaren.
Liverpool travel to St. James’ Park in under a month’s time, and Elliot could play a major role in keeping the likes of Christian Benteke, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino at bay.
Our 5 Premier League talking points is a new feature we’ll be running each Monday, let us know your thoughts and what we should cover in the comments below.