Premier League Good Weekend/Bad Weekend: Liverpool roar at Anfield, Swansea climb into the light
- This was the first time Burnley have won a point from a losing position in the Premier League since drawing with Chelsea in February 2015.
Dyche doesn't believe that his Burnley side get the recognition they deserve and, given the way they nullified Chelsea on Saunday afternoon, he might have a point. The 1-1 draw at Turf Moor wasn't characterised by any cup final-like effort on the hosts' part, but rather their organisation. They protected their box extremely well, blunting Chelsea's attacking edge and marginalising Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in the final third.
Those who didn't watch the game will note Burnley's 29% possession and draw their own reductive conclusions, but this was truthfully a controlled performance which relied more on Dyche's acumen than his mastery of cliched intangibles. Is he overrated, underrated, or just rated? What does it really matter – he's a fine manager enjoying an increasingly excellent season.
Rarely have Chelsea looked that blunt this season. Yes, it was a cold, difficult day which perhaps didn't suit Antonio Conte's precision football, but the Italian's side were jolted from their rhythm by the opposition rather than the weather.
Manolo Gabbiadini & Southampton
Goals have been a problem for Southampton. Charlie Austin's serious injury may have been bad luck, but for each of the past three seasons they've lacked a potent centre-forward. Graziano Pelle vaguely threatened to be that player, scoring 11 and 12 goals in his two respective seasons, but the Italian was always more blunt object than truly modern frontman.
So Gabbiadini has arrived just in time to solve that long-standing issues and his two goals on Saturday helped to arrest an alarming skid. Over the coming weeks and months, his signing should be proven to be excellent business. His breakout season at Sampdoria seems a long time ago now and his more recent career was spent in Gonzalo Higuain's shadow at Napoli, but these formative Southampton games are serving as a reminder of what a smart, eclectic finisher he is.
Three goals scored already in England, each of them different. Another victory for Les Reed and Southampton's recruiting department.
Poor Ben Davies: he spent most of this game looking like he was trying to catch a plastic bag in a hurricane.
While Mane was at the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool lost four games, drew three, and won just one. It was illustrative of how good a player he is, but also of how essential his attributes are to Jurgen Klopp's way of playing. Mane is arguably his club's only penetrative force and, against a Tottenham side employing a perilously high line, he was at his knifing best. Two goals inside the first 20 minutes and only denied a first-half hat-trick by a fabulous Hugo Lloris save, he twisted Davies into a knot and created slapstick chaos in what had previously been the Premier League's meanest defence.
Mane can run hot and cold, but he's such an ideological match for Klopp that it's difficult to contest that he, more than Coutinho, Henderson and Firmino, dictates the potency of this Liverpool side.
- Gylfi Sigurdsson has been involved in eight goals in his last eight home Premier League games (three goals, five assists).
In the middle of January, Clement's post-game teamtalk following the 4-0 loss to Arsenal bled through the press-room walls at the Liberty Stadium. And those players deserved to bear the brunt of that muffled anger.
The squad Clement inherited may have had its flaws, but it was also weak in spirit and that's what he's been able to fix. Since that drab day in south Wales, Swansea have beaten Liverpool at Anfield, Southampton at home, and came within an eyelash of a point against Manchester City.
The 2-0 win this weekend was comprehensive and shouldn't be asterisked by Leicester's own, susbtantial failings; the distance between where Swansea where two months ago and where they find themselves now – emotionally, tactically, and even in the table – is absolutely vast.
- Spurs conceded eight shots on target; the most in a 1st half for Tottenham since Opta started collecting shot date in 03-04.
Pochettino is too honest to take comfort in the injuries to Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen and he'll know that, with or without the left side of his defence, Tottenham's performance at Anfield had no real mitigation. In a quieter moment, he might ask himself why – against a Liverpool who had struggled fruitlessly against compact, deep defences all January – he encouraged his own backline so far up the pitch. The Argentine may admittedly have been let down by some flimsy individual performances, but his tactical outline for the game was still shaky and served little purpose beyond the creation of oceans of attacking space for Sadio Mane and friends.
This was a blemish on Pochettino. His side have improved greatly, but they retain both an irritating frailty and a propensity to underperform woefully at critical moments. It's rare for a team of Spurs' stature to come away from a game without a single reason for encouragement, but Saturday night at Anfield was just such an occasion. Pochettino's team were comprehensively outplayed and he, strangely, was fundamentally out-coached.
Tony Pulis, Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
What on Earth was all that about?
Like a rejected plotline from a budget soap which never quite made it to television, Pulis, Hughes, and Shawcross have been engaging in their own melodrama over the past few days. Somehow – and we're yet to really learn why – Saido Berahino's transfer and historic drug ban led to Pulis calling Shawcross a "loser" on his answerphone, Hughes getting mightily upset, and a rather pointless tension escalating between Stoke and West Brom.
It all sounds rather like a boorish schoolyard jape, or perhaps the consequence of ordering one of those automated messages advertised in the back of Shoot! in the mid-1990s. Either way, there's clearly not enough of this in modern football. Everyone's furious, but nobody really understands why.
It's just not there anymore, is it? Whatever anti-relegation voodoo Allardyce once had, it seems to have been misplaced – or perhaps diluted by the chastening events of the past year? In the past, he attacked dysfunction, figuratively grabbing players by the neck and shacking them until their performance improved. For whatever reason, his grip isn't nearly as strong now.
There should be some evidence of his impact by now, something to cling to and believe in
The win at Bournemouth should have been a turning point for Crystal Palace, but they've tripped over their own feet and rolled back into the gutter. Losing 4-0 at home to Sunderland is a blackmark on any CV and, though the narrow defeat to Stoke was superficially an improvement, Allardyce will know that this is not the time indulge in phantom positives.
There should be some evidence of his impact by now, something to cling to and believe in. Alas, the hope offered by the performance at the Vitality Stadium has already been burnt away and, with Swansea winning on Sunday, Palace find themselves walled inside a relegation mini-league at the foot of the table.
Allardyce has been subdued in recent press conferences and there isn't much evidence of life in his team, either. He and Palace are circling the drain.