10) Chelsea 5 EVERTON 0
The visiting Toffees didn’t lay a glove on Chelsea as Antonio Conte’s side took a 3-0 half-time lead before adding another couple in the second half to move to the top of the Premier League for the first time this season.
Chelsea were mightily impressive but the Toffees offered no resistance. Romelu Lukaku was paired with Yannick Bolasie up front as Everton tried to match the hosts by moving to a back three, but the plan failed miserably; Thibaut Courtois didn’t have to get his gloves dirty as Everton managed not one shot on target.
“It was not about the system, the difference was the mentality to win the game,” said Koeman. “You have to accept sometimes in life your opponent is by far the better team.” Which, of course, might have something to do with the system…
9. Bournemouth 6 HULL 1
After flirting with the top of the table in the opening weeks of the season, Hull’s descent had already begun by the time they arrived at Bournemouth.
Mike Phelan had only that week agreed to take the manager’s job on a more permanent basis and the owners will have been having immediate regrets after the Cherries scored three in each half.
“I feel very embarrassed,” said the manager. “I’ve got a team here who show what they can do when they want to. We’ve got to grow up.” Eight defeats in 12 games later, Phelan was gone.
8. Leicester 3 LIVERPOOL 1
The stark contrast in Leicester’s performance took the spotlight off how bad Liverpool were at the King Power Stadium, but it didn’t escape Jurgen Klopp: “It was not good enough in the beginning, not good enough in the middle and in the end.”
Klopp has to take his share of the blame. Playing a high defensive line which featured Lucas Leiva gave Jamie Vardy the perfect platform to be Jamie Vardy again, with the Liverpool manager’s refusal to adapt to the strengths of the opposition becoming a real concern for the Reds.
But, whereas Lucas was exposed for reasons largely beyond his control, the rest of his team-mates simply failed to compete. Four of Liverpool’s five Premier League defeats this season have been against clubs who started the day in the relegation zone, which suggests issues with mentality as much as system.
7. Leicester 4 MAN CITY 2
Pep Guardiola reacted to the 3-1 home defeat to Chelsea by switching to a back three of Bacary Sagna, John Stones and Pablo Zabeleta. The ploy lasted all of five minutes, by which time Leicester were 2-0 up.
Jamie Vardy latched on to a dreadful back pass from Stones to make it 3-0 in the second half and City, playing like strangers to each other, had no answer.
Guardiola’s men were four down before they had their first shot on target in the 82nd minute. Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick was followed by Nolito’s strike which made the match appear much closer on paper than it was on grass.
6. Liverpool 2 TOTTENHAM 0
The Reds hadn’t won in five games during a miserable January, while Spurs had lost only one of the previous 15 but the visitors were rolled over during a first half that made many, including Mauricio Pochettino, question their readiness for a title challenge.
“We were poor. They were better. No complaints,” said Pochettino after seeing his side beaten by two first-half goals form the returning Sadio Mane. “We started the game very sloppy. It is difficult to understand. In the first 45 minutes you saw a team that is not ready to fight for the Premier League.”
Ben Davies and Eric Dier were particularly woeful in a makeshift defence missing Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen, but basic technical errors were the main concern rather than any more complex tactical problems. The rot started at the back and spread through the entire Spurs side.
5. SUNDERLAND 0 Southampton 4
After sticking four past Palace the previous week, a buoyed Sunderland had the chance to climb out of the relegation zone when they hosted Southampton, who had lost six of their previous seven matches. Instead, they remained rock-bottom after a pathetic display in which they conceded a couple of goals in either half.
The Black Cats may feel hard done by with the opener, which came off Monolo Gabbiadini’s arm, but his second just before the break came after a brilliant turn which he was given the freedom of the penalty area to make. The third came courtesy of a Jason Denayer own goal before the hosts’ defence parted to allow Shane Long to help himself to a fourth.
David Moyes was taking his squad to New York after the game and the players appeared more concerned about sustaining a knock that may have seen them miss the jolly-up. Didier Ndong’s tame 30-yarder was their only shot on target as Sunderland got back to being Sunderland after giving their fans some brief respite.
4. Chelsea 4 MAN UTD 0
Jose Mourinho’s worst ever defeat in the Premier League and surely his most humiliating.
The tone was set within the opening minute, when Pedro capitalised on Chis Smalling’s dallying before rounding David De Gea and putting the Blues ahead. The Blues were sharper and hungrier with Mourinho having no answer to Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2, with this being only the third game Chelsea had used the new system.
Mourinho said before the game he would not “celebrate like a crazy kid” if his United scored at his former home, but there was never any danger of that. Instead, the Portuguese coach took offence at Conte whipping up the Stamford Bridge crowd when the game was well won, but that was the least of his problems on a day seventh-placed United looked a long way from going on their subsequent 16-match unbeaten run that moved them up to… sixth.
3. Chelsea 3 ARSENAL 1
Four days later, the Gunners were woefully poor but wonderfully predictable at Stamford Bridge. One away fan was called an ‘idiot’ by Gary Neville for bringing a ‘Wenger out’ sign to the game, but at least he showed commendable vision to know what was coming.
Wenger clearly didn’t, despite the story having being played out so many times before. It took the Gunners 35 minutes to have a touch inside the Chelsea box, by which time they were already behind. Eden Hazard’s goal then summed up the difference between the two sides, with the brilliant Belgian ruining Francis Coquelin on the way to clinically wrapping up a devastating counter-attack.
Travelling Gunners fans had expected a reaction to the home defeat to Watford, but all they got was the mentally-fragile, tactically-exposed, same old Arsenal.
2. CRYSTAL PALACE 0 Sunderland 4
The scoreline tells its own story. Bottom-placed Sunderland ‘produced a performance for the ages’, according to their website’s match report, but that doesn’t do justice to how abject their hosts were in the first half.
Sam Allardyce engaged in a brief waltz with the Palace mascot on his way to the dugout before his new side took on his old one. He made the return trip 45 minutes later with boos ringing in his ears after seeing Palace ship four to the division’s worst team. That dissent from the stands boiled over, with one fan confronting Damien Delaney, and though the scoreline didn’t get any worse in the second half, the performance was little better.
Allardyce apologised to the fans after the game as, perhaps realising the mess he was in, he began to shift the focus for Palace’s struggles onto the players he inherited from Alan Pardew.
1. ARSENAL 1 Watford 2
Arsene Wenger wasn’t on the bench but Arsenal worked as if the boss wasn’t watching at all. From his position in the stands, the manager witnessed a home performance that lacked focus, cohesion and application on a night Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham also dropped points.
The Gunners failed to register a shot on target in the first half, with Watford going into the break with a 2-0 lead. The hosts improved marginally in the second half but the damage was done.
“It was obvious we lost duels and were not sharp enough,” said Wenger. “It looked more mentally that we were not ready for the challenges.” It didn’t get any better the following weekend at Chelsea.