Premier League hits and misses: Can Duncan Ferguson land the Everton job full-time?
The best of the weekend's talking points, from Duncan Ferguson doing his job prospects no harm to Leicester's pantomime villain and more rough treatment for Adama Traore...
Last Updated: 16/12/19 10:17am
Manchester United must have a special place in the heart of Duncan Ferguson. During his time as a player, he scored more Premier League goals against United than any other opponent.
Those performances and career-changing moments against them helped him become a Toffees legend. Fast forward two nearly decades and Old Trafford might just have been the place where he convinced the Everton hierarchy that he's the man to lead Everton into the post-Marco Silva era.
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Despite having to play without four of the starting XI that started in the win over Chelsea due to injuries and illness, Everton adapted well to the changes, playing with great tenacity and character with Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin providing a strong outlet in the final third.
Ferguson even showed the ruthlessness to hook the underperforming Moise Kean after bringing him on just 18 minutes earlier, claiming he "needed to make a substitution to kill a bit of time".
An authoritative act and one that potentially shows that he's not a manager to be messed with. Everton now have a big decision to make.
And 'nothing' is putting it kindly.
Liverpool were sub-par at Anfield on Saturday, struggling to break down a positionally stubborn Watford who looked like they were trying to impress their new manager.
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But for the first time in weeks, Mo Salah did not play like he was carrying an injury. That midweek rest against Everton looks to have been vital, scoring four in three games since, and more importantly, he's showing the audacity that originally made him loved on The Kop.
His turn and curling shot for the opener was superb, and came from nothing, sandwiched in-between two huge chances for Watford.
Interestingly, Salah played much further up the pitch than Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, and was able to play on the shoulder of Watford.
Salah is no longer trying to do it all, from deep, and it's working. The match-winning goals should see his confidence flourish.
Pep Guardiola did not even think Manchester City played well. They did not have to play well. Arsenal have become that easy to play against and any lingering hope that Unai Emery's absence might spark a turnaround can now be dismissed. This is a club in disarray.
Arsenal have not gone this long without a Premier League home win in almost a quarter of a century. This was only the second time that they have conceded three first-half goals in the competition. Never have they had fewer shots on target since moving to the Emirates.
There was so much wrong but that fact that the Gunners were down to ten men when the third goal went in seemed to sum it up. Sead Kolasinac left the field. Bukayo Saka was not ready to come on. Gabriel Martinelli went to left-back. Kevin De Bruyne scored.
Organisation is a thing of the past at the Emirates these days. The only thing that prevented Mesut Ozil receiving more vociferous abuse as he trudged from the pitch when substituted in the second half was the feeling - shared by fans and player - that the only thing likely to be achieved by rushing his departure was the sight of City extending their lead.
The time for scapegoats should be over at Arsenal. This is a collective failure that stems from the top but spares neither players nor coaching staff. All of which might be more palatable if there were any sense that a plan is in place to stop the rot. Do Arsenal know the plan for tomorrow? They do not look like they know the plan for today.
As the ball was making its way towards De Bruyne for the breakthrough goal on Sunday, it looked like just the sort of opening that results in the player ballooning the shot over the bar. The ball was bouncing uncomfortably. It wasn't easy. De Bruyne made it look that way.
Is there a player with better technique in the Premier League? The only candidate for a cleaner striker of a football than De Bruyne's right foot is his left foot. The way that he passed the ball into the corner for his second goal showed that. Only Bernd Leno's magnificent save prevented the Belgian from completing a first-half hat-trick.
"I think you're shooting's a joke mate, to be honest," Phil Foden told his team-mate when being interviewed on Sky Sports after the game. It wasn't funny for Arsenal but it was a joy for the neutral. This is an unusual talent and the Premier League is fortunate to have him.
The feeling walking away from Stamford Bridge was one of boredom in terms of Chelsea's attacking output. Chelsea passed without purpose and time and time again took the wrong option. Frank Lampard also acknowledged the lack of excitement in their play, although he dodged using the word 'boring'.
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Lampard said: "We didn't get the fans excited enough. The fans shouldn't be excited if we're playing 10 balls across our back four. That's not a team I want to manage."
The lack of creativity in the final third for a team jammed packed with high-quality players is becoming quite staggering.
If you just looked at the shot count, you'd assume Chelsea did everything but score and made Aaron Ramsdale make save after save. But that wasn't the reality.
Players made poor decisions under the pressure of playing in a frustrated environment - summed up by Cesar Azpilicueta's late cross into the box from deep which went straight into the arms of Ramsdale.
Chelsea have scored just 11 Premier League goals at Stamford Bridge - the same amount of home goals as Aston Villa and two less than Norwich. It's very easy to stop Chelsea at the moment; be organised and defend deep. West Ham did it, Everton did it and now Bournemouth have achieved it.
Lampard needs to find a solution. The race for top four is very much on again.
Brendan Rodgers went for continuity as he opted to field an unchanged side during Leicester's 1-1 draw with Norwich, but on day when things didn't click for the Premier League title pretenders, Kelechi Iheanacho took on the role of pantomime villain.
Speaking after the Foxes' dramatic 2-1 win over Everton earlier this month, Jamie Carragher claimed he had witnessed the best performance from the £25m Nigerian striker since his move to England.
Rodgers has handed the former Manchester City man an extended run in the team, but the Northern Irishman acknowledged the need to take drastic action after Iheanacho sparked an angry confrontation on the half-hour mark.
Leicester were already being overrun in midfield when the 23-year-old gleefully ignored the fair play rulebook by refusing to return a throw after Norwich had kicked the ball out in order for Emiliano Buendia to receive treatment.
The Canaries were spitting feathers, led by Todd Cantwell - who duly saw yellow for grabbing Iheanacho by the face as he lay on the ground after Christoph Zimmerman brought his attempts to fire a controversial equaliser to an abrupt end.
Parity would soon be restored through Tim Krul's unfortunate own goal, but that wasn't enough to save Iheanacho from an early bath as Rodgers immediately opted to beef up his midfield.
"Young Kelechi misread the situation. I don't know what he was thinking," Rodgers said on the incident. "Most times the ball would be given back. Then it led to a situation that could have led to a red card which would have been unfortunate."
Jan Vertonghen had the last laugh for Tottenham but Adama Traore certainly didn't deserve to find himself on the losing side at Molineux. Spurs struggled to deal with his dribbling all afternoon and he was on the receiving end of some increasingly robust attention.
Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Harry Kane were all booked for fouls on Traore during 14 second-half minutes. That beats the record set by Brighton the previous weekend when Lewis Dunk, Dan Burn and Dale Stephens were booked in the space of 17 minutes.
Twenty-four players have been yellow carded for fouls on Traore this season in all competitions. In the Premier League, no player has been fouled more in the final third.
These are not insignificant infringements either but lunges on a player often running at speed. Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is clearly concerned about what is happening.
"I think the referees know and realise they should punish the tackles," Nuno said afterwards. "It's tough to defend and opponents do what they have to do. Fouls over and over again, you should not allow them. They have to act immediately to prevent injury."
Few players in the Premier League are as important to their respective clubs as Jack Grealish is to Aston Villa. Grealish has contributed four goals and as many assists - both the joint-highest totals in the squad - on the pitch and his Birmingham roots link the team with its supporters off it.
The problem for Villa is that their reliance on Grealish means that when he isn't quite at his best, the team also suffers. That was the case at Bramall Lane where Villa's No 10 found himself isolated from an inside forward role on the left wing and unable to influence proceedings in any meaningful way.
Of Villa's starting XI, five players had more touches than Grealish who managed just 47 all game and problematically when he did have opportunities to make a difference in the final third, he squandered them.
Shortly after John Fleck had opened the scoring, Grealish nodded a header inches wide of the post when he should have tested Dean Henderson, before his costly penalty miss late on ensured that Villa's hopes of salvaging anything from the game were extinguished.
As Dean Smith acknowledged, the Blades deserved their victory on the day, but the result marked a third successive defeat for struggling Villa. With fixtures against Southampton, Norwich and Watford to come in their next three Premier League matches, Villa need Grealish to be at his best if they are to pull away from danger.
Nigel Pearson could have been forgiven for feeling frustrated after Watford's defeat at Liverpool but the main emotion after seeing his side go to Anfield and create the better chances is likely to be optimism. Watford may have become the first team not to score at Liverpool so far this season but it wasn't because of a lack of opportunities.
Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ismaila Sarr both miskicked when well placed. Troy Deeney failed to connect completely when any decent contact would have opened the scoring. Those chances were spurned. Liverpool's weren't.
On another day, Watford could have won. But that day will need to come soon because it has been a recurring theme for them this season. No team in the Premier League has a bigger gap between their expected goals - based on the quality of their chances - and their actual goals. Watford should have scored 20. Instead they have nine.
Is this bad fortune? An issue that can be resolved in time if confidence returns? That is the hope for Pearson and if it proves to be the case then Watford's top-flight status could yet be salvageable. The fear, of course, is that it is symptomatic of the team's deficiencies. What is certain is that Pearson will need to turn things around quickly for Watford to stay up.