Another entertaining weekend in the Premier League was played out, with big teams sharing the spoils and surprise results hampering title challenges.
It was a gameweek where the top two separated themselves from the chasing pack, Crystal Palace finally making strides to crawl out from the depths of the table, and the middle ground of the league becoming more and more susceptible to being dragged into a relegation scrap.
Here are five things we learned from this weekend’s Premier League games:
Mo Salah can become the beating heart of Liverpool
In Liverpool’s 1-1 draw to Chelsea at Anfield, Mo Salah was the key player for Jürgen Klopp’s men as he continued to stretch Antonio Conte’s defence with his sheer speed and incredible technical ability.
While Liverpool have the wonderful Philippe Coutinho, it is Salah, this season, who has proven to be their beating heart and maestro in attack. The Egyptian might be a wide player, but he has already reached double digits (10) for his Premier League goal tally this season, making him the leading goal scorer in the division.
For someone who is predominantly a winger, that is remarkable. Especially when you think that the Premier League has the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Álvaro Morata, Sergio Agüero and Harry Kane as centre forwards.
He might have gone about his business under the radar, but all eyes will now be permanently fixated on Salah, as he proves that he is Liverpool’s most influential and important player this season, while still being underrated by the masses. He looks like one of the bargains of the season having cost the Reds only £35m.
Manchester United win ugly, but it is nothing to be ashamed of
There now seems to be some sort of issue with winning ugly but garnering results. Manchester United worked hard in their crucial 1-0 win against Brighton at the weekend, but some fans were overly critical of the performance and likening it to Louis van Gaal’s tenure.
Under the Dutchman, United would have drawn or lost that game, just like the Red Devils did to Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke in a 14-day period. It was abysmal and he should have been sacked there and then, not at the end of the season.
Even last year, Manchester United would have most likely drawn the game 0-0 – their downfall and reason for why they finished sixth. Mourinho’s record at Old Trafford this season reads: Played seven, won seven. No draws, no losses, one goal conceded.
There is a clear improvement on last season, and it shows with the home performances. If United are to challenge Manchester City all the way, they need to improve away from home, but winning ugly from time to time is a skill that Sir Alex Ferguson mastered when gunning for the title. It is not something to be ashamed of.
Tottenham are not title challengers
There has been plenty of talk in recent months about how Mauricio Pochettino has worked wonders with Tottenham. And while that is the case to a certain degree, some of this praise is farfetched.
The Argentine manager has never won a major trophy as a coach. That is fine, considering he is 45 years old, but then do not come out to the press and say that Spurs are only interested in ‘real trophies’, and not ones such as the Carabao Cup. That might rally the fans together, but what happens when you are out of the Premier League title race before January with very little to play for? Yes, you might be in the Champions League quarter-finals, but, realistically, are they going to win it?
With Spurs’ poor results in the league, such as drawing at home to West Brom, they have practically blown their chance of winning the title this season. Sitting 13 points behind Man City, and five from second-placed United, is not encouraging to say the least.
Spurs fans can blame Wembley all they want, but that does not seem to be the go-to argument when they beat Borussia Dortmund and draw to Real Madrid there in Europe. The fact of the matter is, Spurs’ squad is too lightweight and they are not capable of going through the season of having to play twice per-week. There is not enough depth in quality.
Pochettino is likely to move on to bigger and better things eventually, but he should be welcoming all competitions, not just the Premier League. Perhaps he should try winning the ‘lesser cups’ before putting all of your eggs into one basket.
Antonio Conte should never have let Ruben Loftus-Cheek leave on-loan
The England midfielder has been a bright spark for Crystal Palace this season, even if their season has been rather miserable so far. With Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s domineering performances, it begs the question in why Antonio Conte decided to allow him to leave on a season-long loan.
Yes, Chelsea have a vast amount of talent in midfield, but surely Loftus-Cheek would have been given valuable minutes in his development throughout the season. Tiéméou Bakayoko was bought from AS Monaco over the summer, but looks less than impressive so far, with a howler of a mistake against Liverpool which enabled Salah to break the deadlock.
Loftus-Cheek has been playing at a higher level than Bakayoko, and would have been a valued addition in Chelsea’s midfield this season. If this was handled by a certain Portuguese manager, there would be untold accounts of how it was the wrong decision to let him go to the Eagles on-loan.
But it was just that. Conte made the mistake and now Chelsea are looking to bring him back to Stamford Bridge as early as legally possible (minimum amount of games in his contract with Palace).
Chelsea have looked lethargic and lackadaisical when returning to the Premier League from European competition – something they did not have to think about last season – and the presence of a fresh midfielder, such as Loftus-Cheek, would certainly have helped matters in important games.
Marco Silva is going to become a top manager
It seems to be a regular occurrence that Marco Silva is on the receiving end of praise. But given how vitriolic his arrival was to England, and how well he has done since arriving 11 months ago, the Portuguese boss deserves every bit that comes his way.
Another win for Watford, this time in a 3-0 away win at Newcastle, allows the Hornets to keep pressure on Burnley, who lost to Arsenal at the weekend. The gap is now down to one point.
There is a reason why Everton were gunning for the former Hull manager for so long, even though Watford were adamant he was not able to leave for any amount of money. That reason being he is a very astute manager that is taking the Premier League by storm.
In a year or two’s time, Silva will look back on this decision and think it was the right call made for him. Arsène Wenger will eventually leave Arsenal, as well as a few more managerial turnovers, and so Silva will be in prime position to be able to take them, having more experience in a very healthy-looking Watford side.