x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Premier League talking points: Manchester City set record-breaking pace and Sean Dyche's stock will never be higher

As we head into the international break Richard Jolly looks at some of the main talking points from the past four weeks

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola shouts instructions during the 3-1 win against Arsenal at Etihad Stadium. Lee Smith / Reuters
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola shouts instructions during the 3-1 win against Arsenal at Etihad Stadium. Lee Smith / Reuters

Manchester City set record-breaking pace

“It is two months in a row without one draw,” said Pep Guardiola after Sunday’s 3-1 victory against Arsenal. “It is win, win, win.” It does involve counting the penalty shoot-out triumph against Wolverhampton Wanderers as a win but in the Premier League, Guardiola is correct. Manchester City have reeled off nine straight wins. They have equalled the best start in the division’s history, dropping only two points in 11 games. They are on course to score 131 league goals. Part of the worrying element for their title rivals is that they have prospered in the absence of left-back Benjamin Mendy, with Fabian Delph proving an excellent alternative, and that they have already beaten three of the top six.

Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has gone seven games without a goal in all competitions following another blank against Chelsea. Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has gone seven games without a goal in all competitions following another blank against Chelsea. Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA

Manchester United have lost ground

City have eight points more than Manchester United. They have scored 15 more goals than their neighbours. Rewind to the last international break, however, and rather less separated the local rivals. They were twinned on points. City had only scored one more goal. So United’s last month, with eight points dropped, two goals scored and two games lost, could prove decisive in the title race. Romelu Lukaku has gone seven games without a goal in all competitions, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s form has deserted him and the injured Paul Pogba has been sorely missed. The most damaging result was the shock loss at Huddersfield Town but Jose Mourinho’s negativity in the stalemate at Anfield now looks a mistake.

Tottenham's Harry Winks celebrates after Spurs' third goal against Real Madrid, scored by Christian Eriksen. Dylan Martinez / Reuters
Tottenham's Harry Winks celebrates after Spurs' third goal against Real Madrid, scored by Christian Eriksen. Dylan Martinez / Reuters

Tottenham have taken a huge stride forward

Alex Ferguson famously claimed his team-talk simply comprised of three words: “Lads, it’s Tottenham.” These days Mourinho boasts of keeping a clean sheet against Spurs, noting that Real Madrid conceded three and Liverpool four against them. Even while losing at Old Trafford and exiting the League Cup after having a two-goal lead against West Ham United, Tottenham have had a terrific month. They have three statement results, including a draw away at Real, and have done so with some outstanding attacking and with the rookie Harry Winks looking at home on the biggest of stages.

Sean Dyche’s stock will rarely be higher

There is a temptation to think that if Sean Dyche does not get a big job now, he never will. Everton are looking for a manager. Burnley, from a town with a population of 73,000, are level on points with Arsenal and Liverpool after a summer when they made a transfer-market profit. Only the top three have conceded fewer goals, which is a sign of Dyche’s excellence as a defensive strategist. Few sides are as organised, as fit or as spirited. It is probably impossible to take Burnley higher. If Dyche does not get the Everton job now, he may be condemned to spend his managerial career with mid-table and smaller clubs.

Watford's Troy Deeney, centre, is pulled away by Richarlison after an altercation with Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen. Tony O'Brien / Reuters
Watford's Troy Deeney, centre, is pulled away by Richarlison after an altercation with Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen. Tony O'Brien / Reuters

The wheels come off at Watford

Go back three weeks and Watford were in the top four, savouring their highest league position since Graham Taylor’s first spell in charge, after beating Arsenal. Three subsequent games have all been lost, with Watford’s irritation probably increased because they led away at both Chelsea and Everton. Troy Deeney, who turned the game against Arsenal, is serving a ban for throttling Joe Allen, and Marco Silva’s side have one of the division’s worst defensive records.

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and Steve Cook, left, celebrate after the match against Newcastle United at St James' Park. Cook scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win for Bournemouth. Scott Heppell / Reuters
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and Steve Cook, left, celebrate after the match against Newcastle United at St James' Park. Cook scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win for Bournemouth. Scott Heppell / Reuters

Bournemouth stop themselves being cast adrift

Bournemouth made a dreadful start to the season. They only took four points from their first eight games. They knew they had a difficult December, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea on the agenda. They needed points before then if staying up was not to become mission improbable. They have got them, pulling off surprises by winning at Stoke City and Newcastle United in consecutive away games. They remain in trouble and have still scored too few goals, with the summer signing of Jermain Defoe yet to pay dividends, but they have shown a determination and a defensive resilience that indicates they will not go down without a fight.