Best of the Premier League weekend: FFT's top player, performance – and moan
Performance of the Weekend – Chelsea (vs Manchester United)
There's that power. For a few weeks, the world had been wondering whether Chelsea's upturn in form was significant and, courtesy of their 4-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday, it now has its answer: they were terrific. Maybe not in a flamboyant, Rinus Michels/Johan Cruyff sense, but certainly in the efficiency with which they achieved their objectives.
This was (Chelsea) at their apex predator best, dominating the ecosystem and savagely tearing the bones from a rival
Antonio Conte's adoption of a much-discussed 3-4-3 has brought attacking and defensive balance back to Stamford Bridge and now, after two months of misfires, errant selections and unconvincing performances, momentum is starting to build in south-west London. There's some fire in those Chelsea eyes again.
Interestingly, though, Sunday was more reminiscent of the decadent past than it was suggestive of a glittering future: this was, after all, an archetypal big-game Chelsea performance. It conjured memories of decisive victories gone by in which they would ruthlessly exploit errors and build imposing leads without ever really playing with any swagger.
Their football against United was effective and efficient – errors were seized upon, space was penetrated – but it was never spectacular. Pedro danced around David de Gea at Chris Smalling's invitation, Gary Cahill lashed home a second after some penalty-box floundering, and Eden Hazard finished a precise passing move with a sharp shuffle of his feet; they were the type of goals which have been scored at Stamford Bridge dozens of times before and many of them within games of similar importance.
When Chelsea are playing well and when they are going somewhere, this is how they look. That may sound like faint praise – supporters typically don't enjoy their teams being described in robotic, mechanical terms – but this has always been a club hallmark and it tends to be a reliable indicator for future success.
On Monday night, United held Liverpool at Anfield and, inevitably, Jose Mourinho and his tactical masterclass were carried through the Lancashire streets. Five days later, Conte and his players made Mourinho and his side look hopelessly unprepared.
Contextually, that has to be worth something – to face off with an apparent title challenger in the weekend's marquee fixture and make them look entirely irrelevant? Yes, that must be significant.
It wasn't highlight-reel football, but it didn't need to be. If any club in England holds the modern patent on cold-blooded winning, surely it's Chelsea? This was them at their apex predator best, dominating the ecosystem and savagely tearing the bones from a rival.
Player of the Weekend – Harry Arter (Bournemouth)
Before the weekend, Eddie Howe had rated Arter's chances of appearing against Tottenham as 50 per cent; not a bad performance from someone, then, who was barely fit enough to play.
Howe has obviously learned much from two previous encounters with Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs. Bournemouth were badly exposed in this fixture last season and fared no better at White Hart Lane.
This weekend was different, though: gone was the intent to play as much football as possible and so was the defensive vulnerability which has blighted many of their performances this season. Howe's players were at a technical disadvantage, but they were relentless in pursuit of a point which they thoroughly deserved – and Arter's own performance was emblematic of that.
His role in that game will likely be remembered for a fiery encounter with Moussa Sissoko and also for an ugly lunge on Victor Wanyama which might have caused serious injury. Nevertheless, that shouldn't deflect attention away from just how excellent he was. Arter was his usual energetic self and his passing was typically reliable, but he also brought a tenacity to Bournemouth's resistance.
The hosts played extremely well and probably deserved to win the game, but during their lulls and the periods in which Tottenham exerted ominous control, it was their Republic of Ireland international who continually jolted the visitors out of rhythm.
Arter was his usual energetic self, but he also brought a tenacity to Bournemouth's resistance
He covered a lot of yards – the statistics say he won (6) and competed for (12) more tackles than any other player on the pitch – but that doesn't appropriately describe the pressure he managed to apply to Pochettino's playmakers, nor illustrate how hostile he was able to make the centre of the pitch.
Reducing his performance to that of an inferior player raging against a superior opponent would do him a disservice. Arter was physical, he was gritty, and he did adhere to all those underdog clichés, but he was smart, well-disciplined and now looks well at home in the Premier League.
Goal of the Weekend – Christian Fuchs (for Leicester vs Crystal Palace)
Interestingly, Fuchs's half-volley represented a furthering of a trend: it's amazing how many goal-shy left-backs have scored in similar circumstances. Nigel Winterburn and Sylvinho are both remembered for timeless efforts during their Arsenal careers, Danny Rose took a dropping ball out of the sky and thundered it into the net during a north London derby, and Phil Neville's first goal for Manchester United (although in a pre-season friendly) was similarly excellent.
Add to that list Robert Jarni, Andy Hinchcliffe, Erik Edman and Maynor Figueroa; Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Graeme Le Saux, too.
Anyway, the newest member of that group was Fuchs. What a goal, and what a way to end a 46-game drought. Caught fully and flush, two Steve Mandandas wouldn't have kept that out. Brilliant – as was the reaction of everyone at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Moan of the Weekend – Manchester United's general state
Really? This is what you are now?
Manchester United make a lot of noise. Their commercial department is annoyingly prolific, their signings typically emerge from within a fog of self-congratulation, and they're afforded a special status by British broadcasters which bores the rest of the country rigid.
In the background, too, more cynical members of the community remember the chilling words of a certain executive who once described them as the greatest television show on Earth. That still resonates, just not in the way it was intended to and the perception created is of an "attention first, sporting accomplishment" second kind of organisation.
Isn't it all so shiny? Pogba! Ibrahimovic! Mkhitaryan! Mourinho! It's like a 10-year-old's sticker album.
"But does it work? Do all those expensive faces actually look good on the same page?"
"Have you seen the Adidas advert?"
Sunday was a catastrophe. Not because United lost to Chelsea, not even because they lost 4-0. It was a disaster because it seemed so revealing. Mourinho's team actually enjoyed the majority of possession, was more accurate with the ball and created plenty of chances, but there was so little spirit to what they did.
Antonio Valencia had a good game and David de Gea left Stamford Bridge blameless, but among the other starting players there was minimal resistance to what would ultimately become an acutely humiliating experience for the travelling supporters.
Sunday was a catastrophe. Not because United lost to Chelsea, not even because they lost 4-0. It was a disaster because it seemed so revealing
Individual moments have a seductive quality which often tempts us to read too much into them, but Chelsea's fourth goal had that deeper texture. It was a nice move and one well finished by N'Golo Kante, but was that really Manchester United defending? Or was it a newly promoted team who had come to London for a day out, taken a flogging and decided to tap out of the contest while the clock was still running?
The modern fan enjoys Outrage Bingo and is accustomed to describing mild disappointment in absurdly harsh terms. But on Sunday, United were genuinely an embarrassment.
Mourinho remains a gifted tactician and only a fool would discount his chances of success at Old Trafford, but at the moment he's managing a squad which seems to have been infected by the surrounding culture. United are empty rhetoric, plywood furniture with an elaborate veneer, and were effortlessly skittled in the capital.