Plus: Chelsea remain in a state of drift as they are beaten comprehensively by Manchester United; Roy Hodgson is facing tough times at Crystal Palace; Brighton's belief in youth is continuing to pay dividends
Friday 8 December 2023 08:42, UK
West Ham became the first visiting team to win a Premier League game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in April 2019, but they then lost three of their next four visits across the capital. Here, they celebrated long into the night a victory that at half-time had looked so unlikely.
It is six months to the day since Jarrod Bowen's goal secured the Europa Conference League trophy for the Hammers, but there had been a growing concern over how David Moyes' side is able to battle on multiple fronts this time around.
This was the third of 11 games in a 33-day period, and Moyes' side were behind before they got going on Thursday - seeing just 10 per cent of the ball before Cristian Romero's opener.
For Moyes, his remarkable record away to the Premier League's traditional 'top six' would be ended, however. Thirty-nine games without a win and out. How he and West Ham love Thursday nights.
In the end, his side looked fitter and fresher, despite this being their 22nd game already this campaign compared to their opponent's 16th. Spurs have the advantage of not having a hectic schedule given their absence from European competition, but it was evident in the second half how robust this West Ham side are.
It was clear which group of players have become well-versed in playing three games a week.
Spurs have now conceded 13 goals in five league matches, which have yielded a single point.
Given the nature of the two goals, Ange Postecoglou used up all his luck last time out at the Etihad, but following up defeat at home to Chelsea with a loss to rivals West Ham will leave the traditionalists questioning the bigger picture when right now, results are needed to stay with the chasing pack.
After dominant wins over Chelsea and Manchester United either side of the draw at Paris Saint-Germain, where Newcastle were denied by a controversial handball call, Eddie Howe's trusted 10 finally ran out of steam at Everton on Thursday night.
Anthony Gordon had spoken about how battered and bruised the team were after the weekend win over Man Utd but for a fourth match in a row the same outfielders were asked to go again at Goodison. It was a game too far.
Newcastle were a shadow of the pressing monster they have been at St James' Park. They were lethargic with and without the ball and their attacking play was missing sharpness. Tired legs and tired minds - just look at Kieran Tripper's two late errors.
The stats paint the picture: Everton ran over three kilometres further and made 52 more sprints.
But the tests do not stop, with a trip to Tottenham on Sunday and then a key Champions League game at home to AC Milan on Wednesday. Newcastle need to dig deep.
For such a famous and atmospheric old ground, special days have been hard to come by for Everton at Goodison Park in recent seasons.
Going back to the start of the previous campaign, the Toffees have won just eight home games in the Premier League.
The final-day victory over Bournemouth that preserved their top-flight status in May sparked feelings of relief more than anything. But, while this win over Newcastle provided nearly 80 minutes of frustration, what followed was pure joy.
After knocking on the door all game, Everton fired in three goals in less than 20 minutes as Newcastle’s exhausted and injury-depleted side finally caved in.
The result moved the Toffees out of the relegation zone for the first time since their points deduction, a fact that contributed to a party-like atmosphere at full-time.
With Everton set to move to a new home at the end of the season, Sean Dyche’s side were able to provide their fans with one more memory to cherish at Goodison Park.
They can't all be thrillers. They can't all be blockbuster showdowns. They can't all be dominant victories. In Liverpool's previous three Premier League games they beat Fulham 4-3 with a last-gasp turn around, drew at Manchester City and cruised past Brentford. But the low-key win at Sheffield United - where they hardly got out of second gear - will be just as important come the end of the season.
Jurgen Klopp spoke afterwards about the intensive period we're now in. "Play, hopefully win, recover, play again," he said. Liverpool were below their best at Bramall Lane but they got the job done. Klopp called it a "mature" performance and there was something as admirable about how they won this one as when they turn on the style.
Sheffield United, on Chris Wilder's return, made it difficult but Liverpool found a way, with a set-piece goal from Virgil van Dijk and a late one from Dominik Szoboszlai when the hosts were forced to push forwards. But Sheffield United were limited to barely a couple of half chances - a late penalty shout aside.
In a midweek which has seen drama around the title race, Liverpool made sure they kept pace with Arsenal. If Liverpool can pick up points regardless of performance level or occasion, they will amass a significant total which will have them in the mix on the other side of the festive period.
Manchester City were punished for allowing the game to drift against Liverpool rather than killing the contest. Against Tottenham it was a similar story as they spurned golden chances to double their advantage when 2-1 up. This was something completely different.
Aston Villa were better from start to finish. Erling Haaland had two chances. Of course he did. But they came in the 11th minute and were City's only attempts in the game. Never has a Pep Guardiola team had fewer shots. Not City. Not Barcelona. Not Bayern Munich.
At the other end, they allowed their opponent to have 22 shots - another league high during Guardiola's 535-game career as a top-flight manager. Although allowed is a loose term. They were unable to prevent a physical, technical and committed Villa from controlling it.
Villa won possession 13 times in the final third of the pitch - a record against Guardiola's City in the Premier League. There were mitigating circumstances in the sense that a midfield of John Stones and Rico Lewis is far from the strongest that he has fielded.
Rodri was badly missed. City are 43 unbeaten with him in the team, their last five defeats coming in his absence. But at least he will return. They must wait a little longer for Kevin De Bruyne, while Ilkay Gundogan has departed. Can City control like they used to?
After four games without a win, that is the question. City will still be odds-on to win every game from now through to early March with the exception of a daunting trip to Newcastle but having slipped off the pace, they might just need to now. Pressure is mounting.
This was billed as a meeting of two of the Premier League's faltering titans. Two clubs to share a mouth-watering 26 titles, now languishing around the middle part of the table.
But by the end of the night, it was clear there was one side slightly further along in their evolution - and it wasn't Chelsea.
There existed one bright spark for the Blues, Cole Palmer, who continues to look every bit a player worth £42.5m in the market, but his fifth league strike of the season will only be scant consolation for Mauricio Pochettino.
This is a team that lacks leadership, and as such, direction. Chelsea remain in a state of drift and nothing much is improving. One step forward, two steps back.
They faced 18 shots in the first half at Old Trafford, the most they have conceded in the opening 45 minutes of a league game since records began, and 28 overall. Something isn't right, and it's up to Pochettino to ascertain what, before attempting to find a fix.
There's been many fine midfielders to grace the Premier League. Patrick Vieira, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard... Scott McTominay.
Ok, so it's slightly indulgent to lump McTominay in with such esteemed pedigree, but this is a player who is slowly but surely reaching new heights.
The Scotland international, who has also come up clutch for his country recently, has morphed into an all-round No 8 - full of work-rate and industry, guile and creation, as well as goal threat. His double against Chelsea is what has earned Manchester United three points, but it was his performance that elicited high praise from his manager.
"I admire the player," Erik ten Hag beamed post-match. "He plays a really important role."
McTominay has survived the inquest, and emerged the other side as one of the most influential players to remain at Old Trafford. Man United's midfield fix was there all along!
These are testing times for Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace and his comments in a tetchy post-match interview with Amazon after the 2-0 defeat to Bournemouth are unlikely to help matters.
Hodgson, booed by fans after another insipid performance from his side at Selhurst Park, accused fans of being "spoiled" and railed against their unrealistic expectations.
He sought to add context to his comments in his press conference afterwards and it should be noted that he was speaking to Amazon in the heat of the moment. But the message is out there now and he may find it a challenge to undo the damage.
The mutinous scenes at Selhurst Park on Wednesday night, when boos rang out both at half-time and at full-time and a plastic object was launched towards him as he made his way towards the tunnel, showed the relationship is already close to breaking point.
The worry is that he has exacerbated the situation further.
It was a night to remember for Jack Hinshelwood.
The academy graduate, who joined the club at the age of seven, was Brighton's matchwinner, heading home Pascal Gross' cross in the second half moments after denying Yoane Wissa with a goal-line block.
It was those two key contributions in the space of two minutes that decisively turned the game in Brighton's favour and earned him a standing ovation when he was replaced in the 73rd minute.
Not only was a proud moment for Sussex-born Hinshelwood, whose father Adam played 100 league games for Brighton between 2002 and 2009, and his family, but it was another proud moment for Brighton, who have a reputation for continually putting their trust in young players.
Teenagers have now scored 18 Premier League goals in 2023 for Roberto De Zerbi's side, which is the most by a team in a single year since Liverpool in 1998 (25).
Brighton's eye for a gem of a young player is unrivalled and you can see what it means to the supporters, who stayed in their numbers as Hinshelwood jubilantly celebrated his night to remember with them.
We were seconds away from talking about Arsenal's Premier League title charge stuttering and hitting a bump in the road.
Luton had gone toe-to-toe with the league leaders and were moments away from grabbing a famous point on what was becoming a frustrating night for Mikel Arteta's men.
However, Declan Rice's late show meant that in the blink of an eye, the whole mood and narrative changed as the winning goal, in the seventh minute of added time, sparked wild Arsenal celebrations.
Rice described it as a 'massive moment'. Arteta savoured a 'special night'.
Once again it wasn't pretty from the Gunners. It wasn't Arteta's men at their free-flowing best of last season. However, importantly, just like against Manchester United, Manchester City and Brentford earlier in the season, and now Luton, they found a way to get over the line and win.
Not being at your best but finding a way to get the three points. That's a special characteristic. Many would say a title-winning characteristic.
Rice's magic moment and the dramatic victory only add to the Gunners' belief that this could actually be the year that Arsenal end their 20-year-long wait to bring the title back to north London.
David Raya had more reason than most to run the length of the pitch to celebrate with Declan Rice in the 97th minute.
It was his two errors that had left Arsenal losing a game they were in control of and kept the debate going over whether he or Aaron Ramsdale should be their first-choice goalkeeper.
Raya was having a quiet evening until he was dominated in the air by Elijah Adebayo for Luton's equaliser before letting Ross Barkley's strike squirm under his body just eight minutes later.
The pressure has ramped up again on Raya but he still has the backing of boss Mikel Arteta.
"We have to defend better the situations as a team," said Arteta on Raya's mistakes. "There are certain things leading to the goals. It's not about blaming. We have never done it and we won't do it now."
The Arsenal goalkeeper saga goes on.
Amongst the chaos at Kenilworth Road, Ross Barkley showed he's still got it.
The 30-year-old, capped 33 times for England, held his own against Arsenal's £204m midfield in an all-action display.
Barkley had the most touches (63), accurate passes (27), passes in the final third (14), dribbles (8), duels won (15) and aerial duels won (6) of any Luton player.
He played with the same hunger and bite in covering 11.2km so rarely seen since he broke through at Everton in a career spoiled by injury.
Then there was a flash of quality for his goal. A single stepover to buy himself some room in the Arsenal penalty area before firing a low and hard left-footed shot under David Raya. His first Premier League goal in 562 days. Barkley's next should come sooner.
In a game low on quality it was the deft touch of Pablo Sarabia that helped capitalise on Burnley's error in the build-up to Hee-Chan Hwang's winner at Molineux. Sarabia's previous appearance here was also a dramatic one as he turned it around against Tottenham.
This was not so spectacular but it was a reminder he has characteristics that are otherwise a little lacking in a Wolves team full of endeavour. Finding a place for him in the team has been a challenge because he is not a natural fit for the Premier League.
The Spain international has undoubted pedigree as evidenced by a career that has taken him from Real Madrid to Paris Saint-Germain via Sevilla. At 31, and with pace having always been a weakness, his ability to cover the ground and handle the speed has been an issue.
Gary O'Neil has been more comfortable using him as a second striker than out wide because of his struggles tracking back but it is impressive that Sarabia appears to be trying to make it work rather than flouncing about his diminished status since Julen Lopetegui's exit.
Against Burnley, he came close to scoring himself on three occasions as well as helping set up the goal. He took the set pieces and had some neat touches. There are more important players at Wolves but O'Neil recognises there is still a place for Sarabia.
"I thought he was excellent. It was obviously a tough decision between him and Jean (Bellegarde) but just seeing Pablo in training the last few weeks, if you do that much, I can't ignore you, basically. Pablo has managed to put himself right in the front of my mind.
"I am really pleased for him. I know he has been frustrated with the limited time he was on the pitch. I thought he was good for the group tonight, I could see him organising, pushing people, making people come out of their disappointment quickly which is important."
Hwang's goal was the fourth that Burnley have conceded following a defensive error this Premier League season, according to Opta. Under Vincent Kompany, they only made five errors leading to goals in their 46-game Championship title-winning season.
The style has not changed but the standard has. Teams press quicker - Mario Lemina was onto Sander Berge almost as soon as the ball had been passed to him. Once the ball had been won back, Hwang was ruthlessly clinical in finding the net. That is the difference.
Kompany has no intention of altering his approach. How can he? This is what has brought Burnley their success and it was interesting to hear him make a straightforward defence of his style of play when speaking to reporters in the post-match press conference.
"If you line up all the goals we have conceded this season, surely you have seen other types of goals as well? It has not just been about one thing. That has not been the theme. When the other team has had the ball has been when we have really had problems.
"We have had more problems when the other team has had the ball and we were trying to recover it high up the pitch. That is when we were more hurt. If you go through our last five or six games, we have created a lot of chances from [playing out from the back].
"The goal against Arsenal. The penalty against West Ham. If you go through it, nearly all of our chances come from moments like this. The point is more that when you have those chances, you have to take them. This is where we need to step it up."
Kompany is not going to compromise. The plan is not to adopt plan B but to improve plan A. That is certainly possible. But defeat at Molineux was another unwelcome reminder that mistakes are not just more likely at this level but more likely to be punished.