Liverpool’s grip on the Premier League summit relinquished following their 0-0 draw with Southampton on Saturday, with Chelsea now leaders.
After a gruelling international break that saw Adam Lallana suffer injury and Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino‘s air miles reach five figures, the Reds travelled to St Mary’s looking to continue their fine run of form.
Taking on a hit-and-miss Saints outfit in gloomy Hampshire, Jurgen Klopp‘s side were held to a frustrating stalemate, despite dominating for much of the afternoon.
This opened up the early race for the title, with Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham all keeping their eyes firmly on the trophy.
Elsewhere, there was a change of hands at the bottom of the table, in another interesting weekend of Premier League football.
Updated Table & Results
Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal
Mata 68′; Giroud 89′
Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester City
Wickham 66′; Toure 39′, 83′
Everton 1-1 Swansea City
Coleman 89′; Sigurdsson (pen) 41′
Southampton 0-0 LIVERPOOL
Stoke City 0-1 Bournemouth
Sunderland 3-0 Hull City
Defoe 34′, Anichebe 62′, 84′
Watford 2-1 Leicester City
Capoue 1′, Pereyra 12′; Mahrez (pen) 15′
Tottenham 3-2 West Ham
Winks 51′, Kane 89′, (pen) 90+1; Antonio 24′, Lanzini (pen) 68′
Middlesbrough 0-1 Chelsea
West Brom 4-0 Burnley
Phillips 4′, Morrison 16′, Fletcher 37′, Rondon 64′
Are Chelsea Title Favourites?
Chelsea made a shaky start to the season under Antonio Conte, with reports in October even suggesting the former Italy manager could be sacked, but the Blues have since turned it around.
Sunday’s 1-0 win away to Middlesbrough saw Chelsea keep their sixth consecutive Premier League clean sheet, with the transformation of summer signing David Luiz at the heart of this improvement.
Luiz, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Gary Cahill all look revitalised under Conte, but perhaps most worryingly for Liverpool, at the Riverside, Diego Costa netted his 10th league goal in just 12 games.
Chelsea are now serious contenders for the Premier League title, with the Reds’ 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge on September 16 now looking increasingly important.
Will Yaya be City’s Secret Weapon?
Before City’s trip to southeast London on Saturday, Yaya Toure’s only appearance for the club in 2016/17 came in the second leg of August’s Champions League qualifying clash with Steaua Bucharest.
New manager Pep Guardiola had exiled the illustrious midfielder following a series of ill-judged comments from Toure’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, with a January exit seeming likely.
But Toure marked his return to the City squad with both goals in a convincing victory over Crystal Palace, and provided a reminder of his talent as a powerful attacking threat, bursting from the middle of the park.
Few could see a place for Toure in Guardiola’s hardworking City squad, but the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich may just have revealed his secret weapon in this season’s title challenge.
Should Referees Explain Their Decisions?
When approaching referees at the top level of world football, there is a difficult balance to strike, with officials requiring considerable protection in order to maintain integrity.
However, there comes a point in which referees should be required to explain their decisions; and not, as has been the case with both Graham Poll and Howard Webb of late, after they have retired.
In Bournemouth‘s 1-0 win away to Stoke City on Saturday, Roger East waved away a clear foul from Ryan Shawcross as Callum Wilson surged through in the penalty area, while Mike Dean’s decision to send off West Ham United defender Winston Reid for two late yellows against Spurs was equally questionable.
Even the reputable Mark Clattenburg endured a difficult afternoon at St Mary’s, and while human error can be expected and appreciated, there is currently little responsibility taken.
The Story of Liverpool’s Weekend
Saturday’s 0-0 draw saw Liverpool drop valuable points on the road, despite overwhelming Southampton and having 15 shots on Fraser Forster’s goal.
An impressive defensive display from the likes of Forster, Virgil van Dijk, Jose Fonte and Oriol Romeu kept the Reds at bay, and gifted Chelsea an opportunity on their trip to the Riverside.
While Middlesbrough produced a convincing fight, with Adama Traore, Gaston Ramirez and Marten de Roon continually knocking on the door, Costa’s solitary goal was enough to seal the victory.
As a result, the Blues moved to the top of the table, with Liverpool’s stint as league leaders lasting just 13 days.
Furthermore, City’s Toure-inspired win away to Palace saw Guardiola’s side draw level with the Reds on 27 points, with only Liverpool’s higher tally of goals scored keeping them in second.
A draw for Arsenal and Spurs’ late winner showed that the early five-horse race for the title looks to have many more twists and turns along the way.
Elsewhere, Liverpool’s next opponents, Sunderland, sealed their second win of the league campaign at home to Hull, with this also being their second successive victory in the top flight.
Both Jermain Defoe and Victor Anichebe look to be in fine goalscoring form, while Jordan Pickford has been a revelation between the sticks.
However, with Papy Djilobodji suspended for the Black Cats’ trip to Anfield on November 26, Sunderland are still unlikely to add to their first clean sheet of the season with another shutout against Klopp’s Reds.
Sunderland‘s brief resurgence under David Moyes must not be overlooked, but it also must not be overhyped.