To be fair, the biggest challenger to Liverpool being the thing we remember from this season so far is VAR.
As every week goes past, some of us marvel at the Reds’ dominance and then on the flip side stare open-mouthed at the incompetence of a bunch of qualified referees unable to see the clear and obvious when they get to watch it back 30 times.
If VAR was a Premier League manager, it would have been fired with a healthy pay-off in the middle of November.
If, somehow, it had managed to cling on to its job until this weekend – well, what we saw on this matchday has even the most loyal fans in the stand agreeing it’s time for a change.
In the world of American sit-coms, when a series has started to go on too far and has become a parody of itself they call it ‘jumping the shark’ making reference to the scene in Happy Days when it became clear the show needed to be put out of its misery.
On Saturday, at Stockley Park, the VAR on duty Davie Coote didn’t so much jump the shark as attach rockets to his heels and apply the proverbial football cliche, ‘over the moon’.
Jose Mourinho suffered the Arsene Wenger strain of selective blindness but none of this would matter because VAR would get it right.
Yeah, about that – I don’t buy into the ‘well at least they admitted they were wrong’ line that is being peddled. This isn’t Grandad apologising to Nan because he was late home from the pub for Sunday lunch.
Laughably, mainly because neither team really plays like Champions League contenders, the outcome of this match could have a bit to do with where the respective teams finish – and Chelsea not being brilliant at keeping the ball out of their own net might have felt more comfortable if Spurs had to play half-an-hour or so with ten men.
In effect, it was as if VAR went and VARed their own decision – reviewing the review. Shambles springs to mind.
Frank Lampard will have taken a huge sigh of relief in some ways, because the post-match narrative of the VAR shambles meant everyone forgot to ask the most obvious of questions – ‘Frank, could you explain why you’ve ignored the World Cup-winning goalscorer all season?’
Olivier Giroud’s cameo against United on Monday got him in the starting XI at the Bridge and, of course, he scored. As did Marcos Alonso, another player that Lamps would rather not rely on. The main creator? Ross Barkley, another who Lampard would leave on the bench given the chance.
All three did what was needed to mean Frank became the first manager to beat Jose twice in the same Premier League season.
As for Mourinho, don’t forget it is not his fault. And if you are in danger of forgetting that fact, he’ll remind you pretty quickly. He doesn’t have any strikers. He’s going into battles with a gun that has no bullets. His players are tired.
Yes, Jose – probably tired of you suggesting you are a changed man and then acting completely to the contrary.
Mourinho isn’t so much known for parking the bus anymore – given Tottenham’s defence record. He’s more likely to throw his players under the bus.
If Spurs fans get really lucky, they might get an inkling of what Mourinho is trying to craft this team into by the end of the season. I’m sticking a tenner on a Europa League qualifying group of unhappy individuals.
Of course, that would be the main VAR story of the weekend…
Erm, about that. Personally, I’d have subbed Mr Coote after his performance in the early kick-off but no, he was allowed to VAR on in the evening game at the King Power.
Nobody, not even Brentan, is disputing that City’s penalty was a penalty. Not that it mattered, everyone knew they’d miss it.
I think what people are more interested in understanding is why the City one was correctly given, but Kevin de Bruyne protecting his boyish looks went unpunished?
And that’s before we get into the age-old conversation around why goalkeepers are allowed to commit assault in their penalty area but the minute a strong wind goes near them it is a free-kick the other way?
Had Ederson clattered into Kelechi Iheanacho in such a manner outside the box there is no doubt he’d have been penalised and, probably, sent off. But in the 18-yard box? Do what you want, fella – see if you can nick his Rolex whilst you’re at it.
Amazingly, Rodgers seemed to have forgotten the incident come the post-match chat with Match of the Day and Gary Lineker didn’t bring it up either. Madness.
Either way, Peppy G was determined that this performance was yet another example of his players’ having an amazing mentality – being able to beat a Leicester team, with two wins in nine, 1-0 shows that everyone is still completely committed to the City cause and not in it just for the money. Which, apparently, is why they will all be sticking around no matter the FFP outcome.
Methinks Mr Guardiola might have been told the club’s appeal is pretty strong to be so public about his intentions.
If you think the VAR stuff is over for today, think again – we’re about to start pondering where a shoulder ends and an arm begins. And if you know, can you put Eddie Howe out of his misery?
Bournemouth looked like they should have been 1-0 up at Burnley before VAR ruled that Philip Billing has very small shoulders so the ball definitely clipped his arm.
And if that wasn’t enough, having gone up the other end on a classic counter and equalised, Bournemouth saw their goal chalked off and a penalty given against them in another case of shouldergate. That’s the kind of stuff that gets a side relegated.
Aston Villa were ‘embarrassing’ according to life-long fan Dean Smith and not many would disagree.
Southampton scored courtesy of Shane Long’s, um, midriff and it’s fair to say nothing else sums up the desperation of impending relegation than watching a 37-year-old goalkeeper jog back to his own goal having gone up for a corner.
The Saints cleared said corner and scored, Pepe Reina just about making the halfway line before calling it a day.
With Christian Benteke and Joelinton both starting, not many were expecting a goalfest at Selhurst Park.
Martin Dubravka was his normal self – making some excellent saves before costing his side the match by taking a step the wrong way and encouraging Patrick van Aanholt to curl home the winning free-kick.
Newcastle are suddenly in danger – luckily for them Norwich, Bournemouth and Villa are more stuffed than they are.
Could the Man City news be the worst thing that happened to Sheffield United?
Suddenly there is added expectation at Bramall Lane. This season could end up with Champions League football at the end of it.
Chris Wilder brought some realism to everything by openly celebrating the fact that his side now have 40 points. But with Spurs being so, so bad the 1-1 draw against Brighton feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Manchester United’s social media account took great delight in telling the world how good Bruno Fernandes is after the Portuguese put in a decent performance against relegation-threatened Watford.
Yes, that’s right – the self-proclaimed ‘biggest club in the world’ need to use Twitter to suggest that a player they spent over £50m on is good following one match against a side who might still go down. Times have changed, no?
You can just imagine Roy Keane’s eyes when he gets told about this.
United beat Watford 3-0 and Fernandes scored from the spot before setting up Mason Greenwood late on for the third. Yes, he laid on an assist against a team already losing 2-0. What a buy that lad is.
Any hope that Arsenal were starting to look a little more secure at the back were shot in the head after a single minute against Everton.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin put his foot where David Luiz’s head was far too scared to go and put the Toffees ahead. But, in a period of surprising character from Mikel Arteta’s side, they found themselves winning 2-1 thanks in the main to a wonderful cross from young Saka and a clever little finish from another youth team product in Eddie Nketiah.
Character doesn’t last long at the Emirates though, as Bernd Leno suffered a severe case of the Luiz’s and bottled the chance to stop Richarlison levelling it – you know what Ederson would have done.
Arteta’s half-time team talk must have been pretty simple – just go and do what Everton did. And Yo-Pierre scored 20 seconds into the second half. Job, as they say, done.
Some teams use playing twice a week as an excuse for poor performance – Nuno’s Wolves seem to relish it as they followed up Thursday’s 4-0 spanking of Espanyol with a 3-0 beating of Norwich.
Diogo Jota got another brace, increasing the chances that Man United will be linked to him very soon.