Where are the excuses now? Jurgen Klopp certainly can’t be blamed for his team selection against West Brom, with each of the ‘Fab Four’ in the starting line-up, but a Baggies side that has not won since August came to Anfield to do a job and they did it. Liverpool had their fair share of chances throughout the night, with Roberto Firmino dragging a shot just wide in the first half and Mohamed Salah unable to get a clean contact on two headed chances, but they were still indebted to Loris Karius for a couple of good saves to prevent the visitors from completing a right smash-and-grab. When the ball was finally put into West Brom’s net, referee Paul Tierney adjudged that Dominic Solanke’s hand was the reason why and so the Kop celebrations were punctured.
After four consecutive 2-1 victories, Manchester City reverted to steamroller mode on Wednesday, smashing four past Swansea without reply to set a Premier League record of 15 wins in a row. The tone of the match was set right from the off, with the Swans facing an unrelenting juggernaut, and it was a moral victory of sorts that they held out until the 26th minute, David Silva flicking to the net from inside the six-yard box for the opening goal. Kevin de Bruyne’s free kick from the corner of the penalty area doubled the lead and Silva got his second of the night shortly after half-time. The scoring was completed in the closing minutes by Sergio Aguero, with City’s performance so scintillating that it drew applause from the magnanimous Swansea supporters. Paul Clement’s men weren’t necessarily poor by any means; they just had no answer to a team that looks set to write its way into Premier League legend.It was a defensive masterclass from the Baggies, but an attacking force as potent as Liverpool’s should have made them pay. Anfield is far from a fortress these days, with five of the nine Premier League games played there so far this season ending in draws. In a season where only Manchester City have excelled, Liverpool are squandering ideal opportunities to tuck themselves away comfortably in a Champions League position. Instead, they end the week in a lowly fifth place.
Manchester United got the same reward as City on Wednesday night, namely three points, but the manner in which they secured their win over Bournemouth could hardly have been in starker contrast to their crosstown neighbours. It was most certainly not a thing of beauty from Jose Mourinho’s men, who needed a 25th-minute goal from the under-fire Romelu Lukaku to avoid dropping points at home for the second time in four days. United had other chances, most notably when Anthony Martial skied over from six yards and Marcus Rashford struck the angle of post and crossbar, but again they needed a bailout or two from David de Gea to keep them in front. When the final whistle came, it came at the end of a sustained period of Bournemouth pressure. Still, whereas Liverpool bottled it in front of their home supporters, United at least ticked the required box at Old Trafford.
Chelsea put their London derby defeat to West Ham swiftly behind them on Tuesday night with a comfortable 3-1 victory at Huddersfield. The John Smith’s Stadium has been a tough place to visit for several Premier League clubs this season but the champions dominated right from the off and their pressure told on 22 minutes, Tiemoue Bakayoko’s shot taking a touch on its way into the net. The Blues were two to the good shortly before half-time when Willian’s header beat Jonas Lossl and the game was over as a contest just four minutes after the interval, Pedro firing in Chelsea’s third. The second half was a stroll for Antonio Conte’s men, although they were denied a clean sheet in stoppage time as Laurent Depoitre registered a consolation for Huddersfield.
Arsenal slip to seventh after being held to a scoreless draw at West Ham, although it was another away point for which they might be grateful considering that the two best chances of the game fell to the home side. Marko Arnautovic had the ball in the Gunners’ net in the first half, but came out the wrong side of a marginal offside call. Arsenal dominated proceedings after the interval but spurned several opportunities, with Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere the chief culprits. After surviving sustained pressure, West Ham so nearly won it at the death as Javier Hernandez’s shot bounced off the crossbar and then onto, but not over, the line. Arsenal rode their luck, but a third winless game in succession leaves them chasing the other top four contenders. The improving Hammers, meanwhile, can be quite satisfied to have emerged from games against Chelsea and Arsenal with four points and two clean sheets.
Tottenham returned to the top four on Wednesday after seeing off a stubborn challenge from Brighton to win 2-0. The match was like a session of attack versus defence for long spells, with the visitors packing their penalty area in attempting to resist the Spurs tide. They managed to do so until five minutes from half-time, when Serge Aurier produced either a stupendous shot or an awful cross that looped over Mat Ryan and into the net. There was also an element of luck about the clinching goal in the 87th minute, Son Heung-min’s header deflecting off a Brighton player on its way to the net, but Spurs were good value for their two-goal victory all told and they seem to have put their difficult November behind them.
Burnley spent Tuesday night in a Champions League position after their last-gasp win over Stoke propelled them into the top four. The form book suggested that this was a home banker at Turf Moor but the under-pressure Potters had all of the first half chances, although none of them were taken. Burnley upped their game after half-time and came close through Steven Defour. The Clarets survived a late scare when Peter Crouch spurned an opportunity and, on 88 minutes, Ashley Barnes found the top corner of the Stoke net to send the Burnley fans into raptures. Their fairytale season shows no sign of abating, with Sean Dyche’s men level on points with Tottenham and Liverpool, while Mark Hughes must wonder what more he must do to get Stoke out of their current plight.
Leicester might be eighth in the table, but with Wednesday’s 4-1 thrashing of Southampton putting them within five points of the top four, they might just fancy a cheeky push at the Champions League places. Claude Puel enjoyed a dream return to St Mary’s and he only had to wait 10 minutes for his team to take the lead, Riyad Mahrez given all the time he needed to lash the ball home from outside the box. Shinji Okazaki made it 2-0 when he turned home a rebound following a decent stop from Fraser Forster and it got even better for the Foxes before half-time, Andy King netting from close range for their third goal. Dusan Tadic pulled one back for the Saints on the hour mark but hopes of a remarkable comeback were soon put to bed as Okazaki netted his second of the night to wrap up a fourth win on the trot for Leicester.
After four months rooted in the bottom three, Crystal Palace finally hauled themselves out of the drop zone on Tuesday night following a dramatic win at home to Watford. The visitors were in front after just three minutes, Daryl Janmaat making the most of insipid Palace defending, and for a long time it looked like the Dutch international’s early intervention would be enough to give Marco Silva’s men the points. A sombre game burst into chaos in the final few minutes, with Tom Cleverley collecting a late red card before Bakary Sako equalised right on the 90-minute mark. Not content with one point, though, Palace kept rolling the dice and got their reward in stoppage time, James McArthur rifling the ball to the Watford net to give the Eagles a sensational victory after being behind for almost the entire match.
Palace now have plenty of momentum in their fight against relegation, but Newcastle have absolutely none as they crashed to a seventh defeat in their last eight at home to Everton on Wednesday. The Geordies weren’t found wanting for effort, but what wouldn’t they give for some luck right now after twice seeing superb strikes rebound off the woodwork. Everton’s winning goal also owed to Newcastle misfortune, with Karl Darlow unable to hold what looked a routine shot and Wayne Rooney alert to the loose ball to turn it into the net. The Toffees showed little intention of going after a second goal, content to slog it out for a clean sheet and clinch a third win in four games since Sam Allardyce took charge. A stoppage time red card for Jonjo Shelvey compounded Newcastle’s misery and they now find themselves right in the sort of trouble which has suddenly become a distant worry for Everton, who in Allardyce’s four matches have almost doubled their points tally from the previous 13.
Liverpool have failed to win their last three Premier League games at Anfield, so it may be no harm that their next two fixtures are on the road. The first of those takes them to Bournemouth on Sunday, with the 4:30pm kick-off meaning that the other top four contenders will all have played their weekend games first. That could leave Klopp’s men desperately needing all three points at the Vitality Stadium, the scene of that horrendous 4-3 collapse last season when the Reds blew a two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes.