On a weekend when a supposedly meaningless mid-table north London derby suddenly became very meaningful indeed, at the top Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United found points harder to come by than a European golfer. Express reporter Matthew Dunn thinks he knows the reason behind Pep Guardiola’s knowing smile at the end of it all.
REFUSING TO JACK IT IN
PEP GUARDIOLA had no sooner got off the Stamford Bridge pitch with three points tucked under his belt than he was sending out clues about what the Manchester City motivation this year.
“Just three points but important ones against the kings of the Champions League,” he told pitchside reporters virtually before having chance to catch his breath.
That is a phrase he used to use for Real Madrid. By piling it on Chelsea, he is hanging an albatross around their neck – setting them up as The Target.
His players are not used to being deferential to anybody and certainly won’t see them as second best to the Chelsea side which beat them in Porto in the summer.
The challenge before Saturday’s match and for the rest of the season to the City dressing room is for the players to go out and show who is the real kings are.
Chelsea are being set up to be shot down.
THE trouble is, the moment Cristiano Ronaldo swaggered back through the door, many at United felt that their problems had been solved, not just merely papered over.
Ronaldo’s goals may hide the fact that United’s midfield is nothing to build a title challenge on, but when they fail to appear, the cracks are exposed.
Over the next two seasons, the revitalising arrival of one of the world’s greatest ever players will lift United closer to the race for a first title since the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
But it is only when the club recruits a proper central cog – with all due respect to Scott McTominay and Fred – that they will find the consistency to return to the very top of the pile.
BEES CAN ALWAYS STING YOU
WHEN, without playing particularly well, you have got yourselves 3-2 in front with just over 20 minutes to go, true champions kill off games.
As discussed last week, that’s exactly why God invented James Milner in the first place.
To add to the defensive liabilities of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota…
And Brentford are a team who are going to lie down in the face of nobody this season.
In-game decisions could be key with the title race set to be a tight one. Klopp may just have got that one completely wrong.
THE PROGRESS OF THE PROCESS
TIME was passing so slowly while Arsenal fans waited for Mikel Arteta’s “process” to kick into place that the club hierarchy had been considering renaming the Clock End of the Emirates Stadium as the “Calendar” End.
And yet it all came good in just 34 minutes of the north London derby, of all games.
After two unimpressive 1-0 wins, it was the moment everything really started to tick.
The spark of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka seemed to ignite the players around them and quite simply, Tottenham were nowhere near good enough to cope.
Now, for all the euphoria, they need to take stock of where they are.
10th in the Premier League with aspirations of being able to sneak one of those European places.
It is the sense of entitlement that was holding Arsenal back so long. Fans need to hope it is going for good to uncover the gems that can build a new narrative for the club.
ON THE final whistle, Harry Kane led a desperate band of brothers to salute the handful of Tottenham fans at Arsenal who had stayed to the bitter end.
Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg with Oliver Skipp on the periphery. The rest did not even both.
Even this small group looked like weary troops trudging back to the trenches even though too many of their number had gone and too little fight was left.
This is rock bottom for Spurs – a place they have not been since the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool in 2013 that saw Andre Villas-Boas lose his job.
Yet all Nuno Espirito Santo does is talk about “problems” and ”mistakes”.
He needs to find some solutions and right answers, fast.