They’re still there.
We may not yet have fully settled into the ‘Why not us?’ located. area yet, as the Premier League season has only just passed the quarter-over mark (not the quarter pole, as my equine-handicapped family would love to point out if I mess that up), but we’ll get there soon. And Tottenham Hotspur are still top of the league and looking pretty good.
On Friday they made the journey across London to Crystal Palace, which in the past has been a pretty tough place for just about anyone to get out of. And they played a pretty sticky first half, creating exactly nothing as the raucous Palace crowd began to believe they would once again provide a roadblock to more illustrious opponents. Title challenges are not always destroyed in the homes of one’s fellow challengers, but in the least expected places. Arsenal’s last year was not only lost at Man City or Anfield, but also at Nottingham Forest. Selhurst Park can turn into a very noisy melting pot.
And this was a match that felt for all the world that previous Tottenham teams would have bowed out of, emerging with a sour 0-0 draw at best, and more likely a stupid 1-0 defeat, probably leaving them with a goal from a corner kick. that bounces around three different defenders, or something equally stupid.
Not this one, however. A couple of substitutions, bringing on Emerson Royal for Ben Davies, and eventually Brennan Johnson for Richarlison, and Spurs found two goals after a close first-half close. While most of Spurs’ previous games have been glorious free-for-alls where they came out on top and ordered another drink at the bar while panting and bleeding and laughing wildly, this one felt like the first one they just grounded . out. Maybe also the week before when they had to survive half the match at Luton with 10 men, but that is also Luton.
Does it still feel quite thin? Yes. Any injury that would cause Heung-min Son, James Maddison or Micky van de Ven to miss chunks of time feels like it would be crippling. And Van de Ven is starting to feel like the most important piece, as his pace can get Tottenham out of the trouble they are in, and is vital to the high line they play in. Any cock-up is erased by his ability to chase down any striker that breaks free.
Except: what if that doesn’t happen? The Spurs have no European obligations. They are already out of the League Cup. Even if they max out in the FA Cup in the new year, that means they will play a maximum of 45 games this season. Get a few easy draws in the FA Cup, or bow out early, and those players will only have to worry about league games.
We’ll have to come back to this in mid-December after Tottenham beat Villa, City and Newcastle in four games. But it definitely feels like there’s a steel here that wasn’t there before, that only gets stronger with each passing week and each passed test. Belief can take a team further than you think. With a bit of luck you will mix it and suddenly you have a stew.
What else happened in round 10?
4. Man United just don’t have enough boys
As has been the case for much of the past calendar year, the conversation has been dominated by the discussion of what Manchester United actually are after being kicked in the butt by a team they would like to pretend is their team. equals, but are in fact their superiors, and this is to a considerable extent the case. This time it was in the Manchester Derby, where City narrowly registered a Strive Score to complete a 3-0 win.
And even though everyone has a theory about what Erik Ten Hag is or is not trying to achieve, the turmoil in the boardroom and perhaps another clean-up from the football world, and all the money spent, it may not be that bad. much more complicated than looking at the lineup and asking yourself, “Who on this team is a dude?”
Marcus Rasford? Okay, probably. And that’s it, and he’s not playing like that right now. Rasmus Hojlund might one day be one, but it’s not this day. Whenever an opponent makes life difficult for Bruno Fernandes in any way, he pouts, whines and disappears, only to resurface when it’s time to kick someone and dare the referee to take him away so he doesn’t have to finish the match. . The backline was Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans and Diogo Dalot. No guys there. Christian Eriksen was a guy five years ago. Not now. Sofyan Amarabat? Sit down. They didn’t take anything from the bank except… an alleged serial domestic abuser who can’t do anything but a rough Bruno Fernandes impression, what’s left of Mason Mount after Chelsea let his odometer run until the numbers disappeared, and Anthony Martial who can’t shout louder that he couldn’t possibly care less for several seasons .
The lack of guys is on Ten Hag and the board, because many of these are guys they bought. You know who else has guys? Aston Villa. They have a manager who turns guys into guys. United’s tactics may be indecipherable, the entire club may be moving in eight different directions, but ultimately they just don’t have the guys, nor any idea how to find or develop them.
3. Everton can survive the punishment
The big news at the start of the weekend was that the Premier League made a recommendation to the independent council that will impose the penalties on Everton for their FFP violations, i.e. that they are too stupid not to spend $500 million dollars to a team that can do nothing. that the club gets 12 points. Most in the know will tell you that’s what the Premier League asked for, knowing it would probably result in six points, which is what they ultimately wanted.
If it ends up being six points… Will Everton probably survive? Losing six points would put them in 18th place, and if they were to average points per game they would be at 32 for the season. Does anyone see Luton, Burnley or Sheffield United reaching 32 points?
And in reality, Everton are probably coming in above the point-per-game rate they have. Although their match against West Ham on Sunday was of the standard of a snuff film, they were certainly fair value for their three points. In the end they also got a goal from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and a real striker’s goal:
As we have continued, Everton have a plus expected goal difference and it has been negated by a lack of finishing. Relying on Calvert-Lewin to sort out a series of health is the territory of ‘buying a bridge’, but if it comes to that they will achieve the goals.
If that -12 actually comes, they will be in trouble.
2. Eddie Nketiah is very good because he is not good enough
Usually, we Premier League observers think that Eddie Nketiah is simply not good enough to lead as a title contender. He’s good enough to get that team through a few weeks to a month if the real guy gets hurt. And then he has something like this on his first of three goals against Sheffield United:
Or this dinosaur killer:
Put it this way, if Nketiah plays for Chelsea now, they are probably now closing in on the Champions League places.
1. Something in the water this weekend, right halfway
If I may borrow from the Bundesliga, when was the last time we saw two goals like this in one weekend across Europe? First Harry Kane:
And it was just a few minutes later that Philip Billing did this for Bournemouth:
It must have something to do with changing the clock.
Oh, and VAR:
I can’t leave this week without more VAR discussion! Although there was plenty of mishegas surrounding Hojlund’s foul on Rodri, which gave City a penalty, it was a foul, if not a tad harsh. That can be used on almost any set piece, and there’s an argument that it should be that way to take it out of the game. Hojlund made it clear by simply standing still and grabbing rather than at least trying to give the impression he was running with Rodri. He made it clear that he had been beaten.
The really annoying VAR event this week was during that Bournemouth game, where Burnley had Jay Rodriguez’s equalizer disallowed for offside. The problem was that it took a full four minutes to reach that conclusion, as viewers at home were treated to the replay officials repeatedly zooming in and out on a still image without ever producing the lines we’ve become accustomed to. The fans in the stadium wouldn’t even have had that.
At this point it’s important to remind everyone that the Premier League hasn’t even put to a vote this season the use of automated offside, which you’ve seen in the recent World Cups and the Champions League. It’s not great, but it only lasts just under a minute. That alone makes it better than several refs spending four minutes trying to figure out how the zoom option works.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @Felsgate.bsky.social