Quite a game, no? Nick Miller watched Arsenal's thrilling 1-1 draw with Everton and saw two teams who have improved, leaving certain others trailing...
Another rotten day for David Moyes, whose desperation for a win was epitomised by the selection of an unfit Robin van Persie in attack. It's looking pretty worrying indeed...
In his new book 'Preparense Para Perder' (Prepare To Lose), Spanish journalist Diego Torres describes the moment Jose Mourinho discovered that he would not be replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
'When he learnt he (Ferguson) had chosen Moyes, Mou was incredulous,' writes Torres. 'He screamed: "But he's won nothing!"
'They were the most miserable hours of Mourinho in his time as manager of Real Madrid. What most disturbed Mourinho was the conclusion that in public he would look a fool. He felt cheated by Ferguson and feared some might stop taking him seriously.'
While Torres apparently has an axe to grind with Mourinho following the pair's prickly relationship over the past three years, it is plausible that there might be some truth to his sensational account. It would be a surprise if Mourinho had not been interested in the United job when it suddenly became available at the end of last season and he certainly appeared to stall on confirming his appointment at Chelsea as Ferguson's departure unfolded.
Perhaps those events have contributed to Mourinho's glum demeanour since his return to Stamford Bridge and although he declared he was 'The Happy One' at his unveiling - much to the delight of assembled journalists - the Portuguese has looked anything but in nearly four months of his second tenure.
If Mourinho is fearful that Ferguson's rejection might lead to people not taking him seriously, his management of Chelsea in the first month of the campaign has reaffirmed his penchant for playing hardball. Mourinho has been entirely serious in his treatment of Juan Mata as he looks to impress his ideas on the Blues' squad, and his sparing use of the playmaker has been supported by those who attest to the manager's infallibility.
Mourinho's decisions so far have contrasted greatly with Moyes' start at Manchester United. While Moyes has been overly cautious not to judge his players, demanding time to get to know his squad, Mourinho hasn't hesitated in dropping Chelsea's player of the season for the last two years. One manager is perhaps being too patient in his assessment while the other has been typically hasty.
Indeed, it could be argued that Mourinho's particular style of man-management would have been perfect for United. The one area in which Ferguson failed to impress over the last three seasons was his leniency with underperforming players as the likes of Anderson and Nani were indulged beyond belief. In awarding Nani a new five-year deal, Moyes has continued the trend, whereas Mourinho would likely have laid down the law that there can be no passengers if you want to be a winner in his team.
That is the message the manager has given to Mata in recent weeks - a pointed distraction following two disappointing defeats - and Chelsea's assistant coach Steve Holland reiterated Mourinho's stance when he claimed that 'luxury' players can only be carried in so many matches. As Mediawatch pointed out on Wednesday, however, Mata's crucial performances in victories over United, Arsenal and Spurs last year dismiss Holland's claims as self-serving nonsense.
There may be a point to Mourinho's concerns that Mata must adapt his game and improve his defensive qualities, but the main issue is with the manager's delivery of his message. 'It's my way or the highway,' is the Portuguese's position, which risks alienating both Mata and David Luiz - coincidentally, Rafa Benitez's closest allies - and also suggests he hasn't learned from the breakdown in his relationship with several Real Madrid stars last season.
It often seems that Mourinho manages by franchise, storming into a new job with his distinct philosophy and impressive CV to support his whims. "I'm not going to change. We want the team to play in a certain way," he said after back-to-back defeats to Everton and Basel. "I don't want to defend with a low block. I don't want central defenders in midfield. I don't want long balls to strikers."
Mourinho's comments were a thinly veiled dig at his predecessor, with whom he has always shared a bitter rivalry, and some have claimed that his sparing use of Mata and Luiz is an attempt to distance himself from Benitez's regime. But surely even Mourinho wouldn't be so petty as to risk losing the duo in January as he continues to make a statement with his selection of Oscar as Chelsea's main number 10 and Mata as the experienced understudy.
It is odd, though, that Mourinho has rejected Chelsea's style over the past two seasons by dropping the Blues' best and most aesthetically pleasing player during that period. It seems inherently negative to place so much importance on the team's number 10 being able to tackle, rather than make the most of creative talents that saw Mata provide more assists (25) than any other player in the Premier League since he joined Chelsea at the start of 2011/12.
At the beginning of the summer, Mata's future was probably the last concern that needed to be addressed - other than rewarding him with a new contract - and Mourinho's distraction with this perceived problem has impeded his willingness to solve more pertinent issues. Chelsea desperately required a new striker and a new central midfielder in the transfer window, but a convincing solution was found for neither as Samuel Eto'o arrived as a sticking-plaster alternative to Wayne Rooney and youngster Marco van Ginkel signed as a long-term option in midfield.
That John Obi Mikel or the 35-year-old Frank Lampard are still partnering Ramires in the middle underlines Mourinho's negligence, and had the manager insisted on recruiting a new first-team midfielder - such as Sami Khedira - then perhaps less defensive responsibility would be required of Mata. At Spurs, Andre Villas-Boas has built a platform in midfield that allows his more creative players freedom to invent, while Mourinho appears to be working his team backwards. The attack should never be limited by a demand to address weaknesses in other areas of the pitch.
Much of Chelsea's ambitions this season rest on Mata and Mourinho finding a compromise, but at present only one is willing to adapt. The question remains: why should the manager not also show flexibility to tweak his style to the players he now has available? No-one can doubt Mourinho's record, but the mark of a brilliant coach is someone who can translate his methods to different teams and circumstances. At the moment, it seems Mourinho is too embroiled in the past to safeguard Chelsea's future.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
@ted maul...It's plausible that it's a malicious fabrication, but it's also plausible that it's the truth. Do you disagree with that? Afterall, that's all Matt was actually implying.- bernsteinforpm