5 things we learned from the latest round of Premier League action
Manuel Pellegrini was sacked by West Ham.
Liverpool’s relentless surge towards the Premier League title continued with a hard-fought victory over Wolves, while Pep Guardiola roused his Manchester City troops in the race for second place.
At the bottom, Manuel Pellegrini paid the price for West Ham’s dramatic slump, while results elsewhere, not least 10-man Watford’s whacking of Aston Villa, suggested there is real life in the relegation fight.
But inevitably, it was another weekend in which VAR controversies seized centre stage. Here, the PA news agency picks out five of the major talking points.
VAR from perfect
Another week, another set of VAR controversies, amid increasingly vocal calls for the game’s authorities to act. Norwich, Wolves and Sheffield United were all left feeling hard done by after alleged infractions which were barely discernable to the naked eye. “Thoughts are with football at this difficult time,” tweeted Gary Lineker, while Graeme Souness insisted: “We cannot go on like this,” – echoing the views of many who believe the application of the new technology is in danger of ruining the top-flight game as a spectacle.
Pep steels Manchester City but it is too little too late
Manchester City showed admirable resolve in bouncing back from their defeat to Wolves, even if their win over Sheffield United came with a little help from VAR. But City boss Pep Guardiola will be left to rue his side’s mid-season slump, while the sheer consistency of Liverpool – themselves the beneficiaries of dubious technology – leaves the rest realistically looking to snare second-best even before the turn of the new year. It will be a hard pill to swallow for City’s big-spenders but Guardiola must ensure they retain their new momentum.
Signs of hope for Arteta despite late Chelsea defeat
Mikel Arteta’s first home game in charge of Arsenal might have looked so much better. Arteta’s Gunners dominated their clash against Chelsea for long periods but were let down by a pair of increasingly characteristic defensive howlers. Nevertheless, there was evidence that Arteta’s return has boosted spirits within his flagging squad, exemplified by the ethic and commitment of Mesut Ozil, who earned a standing ovation when he was substituted late in the second half.
Pellegrini pays price as heat intensifies on relegation-threatened bosses
Perhaps the least surprising Premier League news this week was the departure of Manuel Pellegrini after West Ham’s abject home defeat to Leicester. The Hammers are now perching perilously above the relegation zone and must hope others, including Dean Smith’s ailing Aston Villa, continue their own slide towards the abyss. After their 3-0 defeat to a rejuvenated, 10-man Watford, there are increasing signs that Villa will be joining the Hammers in a fight to the finish.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is surely forcing his way into Gareth Southgate’s England plans – as well as ensuring Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton honeymoon continues. Calvert-Lewin has scored five goals in as many games since the departure of Marco Silva, including a brace in the 2-1 win at Newcastle. The 22-year-old has taken his time to impress, but Ancelotti insists he can develop into one of the top strikers in Europe. Southgate will relish another attacking option for the Euro 2020 build-up – and a first full international call-up is surely only a matter of time.