Another weekend down in an intriguing Premier League season. This season, the League is essentially two divisions: fourteen clubs playing away, existing on the fringes of the Top Six mega-league. The marketing of the weekend hung on Sky's Merseyside v Manchester Sunday bonanza, but it was the London clubs who had the better weekend: 4-0 wins for Spurs and Arsenal keep them on Chelsea's coattails, now seven points clear after a facile 3-0 win over the champions, Leicester.
It was a more difficult Sunday for the denizens of the northwest, with a failure to beat Liverpool more or less ending Manchester United's hope of winning the title. Liverpool, for their part, are now seven points off the lead, but with Chelsea coming to Anfield in a couple of weeks, and ten of their remaining 17 games at Anfield, and Phil Coutinho returning to fitness, Jurgen Klopp will not be conceding the title anytime soon.
That is exactly what Pep Guardiola has done, however: a limp and chastening 4-0 defeat at Goodison Park - the heaviest of his managerial career - ending with a concession, with Guardiola's first season now entering damage limitation mode, with the main objective now Champions League qualification. It's with that game we start.
Bravo Four Zero
Claudio Bravo will be stuck forever in the cruel paradox of his name in the context of his inability to ever do anything good. Bravo was signed and Joe Hart deported to Turin as less a choice of goalkeeper than it was a declaration of style by Guardiola; that his goalkeeper would play out from the back. This is an admirably principled stance by Guardiola, but it has been scuppered by the fact that Bravo is unable to make any saves.
This opinion is borne out by the figures: per Opta, of the last 22 shots he has had to save, Bravo has contrived to concede 14 goals.
Guardiola may have to channel Groucho Marx if he is to save City's season and avoid the humiliation of the Europa League next season: he has his principles, but he may have to find some more. Beginning with a new goalkeeper.
Defending the Indefensible
As bad as Claudio Bravo is, he hasn't been helped by the dissolution of City's defence ahead of him. City's defensive problems are not for want of investment: they have splurged £41 million on Equalim Mangala, £28.5 million on Nicolas Otamendi and £47.5 million on John Stones. City have conceded 26 league goals: more than any other side in top seven. Spurs have the best defensive record, having conceded just 14 goals thus far. It is proof that money is not always the answer: their first choice back four of Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Rose, along with ALL of their reserves (Davies, Vimmer, Trippier and Cameron Carter-Vickers) cost a total of £43.3 million, which is less than one John Stones.
Jurgen Klopp complained of Manchester United's long ball tactics in the closing stages of the draw at Old Trafford. In a remarkable commitment to balance, the total amount of long balls played by each team this season has been calculated, and Liverpool have played the most: 1417 to United's 1346. Also, 19% of United's passes yesterday were classed as long balls, compared to 20% of Liverpool's.
Tip of the Hat to Milner
In a recent interview, Jurgen Klopp says that he doesn't watch James Milner take penalties for Liverpool. Instead, he says he prefers to turn around and listen to the reaction to the goal. It shows how reliable Milner is from the spot, and has scored all six of his penalties this season.
A Premier League goal for Milner is a good sign for Liverpool: he has never been on the losing side in a game in which he has scored, a run stretching to 46 games. Most surprising is that he shares this record with Darius Vassell.
46 – James Milner has never been on the losing side in a PL game where he has scored (46 games); a joint-record with Darius Vassell. Charm.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2017
Thou Shall Not Pass
Tottenham sauntered past West Brom on Saturday lunchtime, with Tony Pulis bleating afterward of how far the Top Six are ahead of the rest, and the hopelessness of even attempting to compete with them. Compete was exactly what West brom did not do: a 4-0 defeat in which they were comprehensively out-passed. For example, Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama completed more passes than the entire West Brom team: 158 vs 154.
Mousa Dembele (84) and Victor Wanyama (74) completed 158 passes today; more than the entire West Brom side combined (154).
Total control. pic.twitter.com/kX4ETkG8tQ
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 14, 2017