Manchester City’s title chances look as guaranteed as a John Stones goal right now (four in 10 games!), but things are otherwise heating up nicely in the Premier League – and not just for Michael Oliver.
Jose Mourinho turned on the referee after Tottenham lost the north London derby to Arsenal, his sit-deep-and-score-a-rabona masterplan somehow failing to yield three points.
David Moyes endured another unhappy outing at Old Trafford, his West Ham side showing commendable generosity towards Manchester United by hitting all of their shots wide apart from a Craig Dawson header at the wrong end.
There was also a rotten introduction to Premier League life for interim Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom, as Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy added his name to a special group of golden oldies.
And as for Chelsea… well, they’ve swapped entertainment for that distinctly boring approach of accruing points without losing matches. Yawn.
Derby tale suffers Oliver twist
Erik Lamela’s spectacular goal against Arsenal seemed all the more impudent given Spurs had done everything they could to avoid attacking until that point.
Still, not content with the prospect of a match-winning contribution off the bench, Lamela decided two yellow cards in the space of six minutes was truly the way to mark a north London derby cameo.
The Argentina international became the 91st player in Premier League history to score and be sent off in the same match, but only the fifth to manage it as a substitute, after Hal Robson-Kanu, Ivan Klasnic, Bobby Zamora and David Lee.
It wasn’t the red card that had Mourinho riled, though, but the penalty from which Alexandre Lacazette scored the winner. Suggesting referee Oliver, like Spurs, was feeling fatigued from Europa League exploits, Mourinho opined: “Normally, I am very unlucky with him because my record with him on penalties is astonishing. Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, it does not matter the club. I am very unlucky with such a good referee.”
Oliver has awarded six penalties and two red cards against Mourinho in 21 Premier League games, just ahead of Mike Dean, with three reds and four penalties in 29 Mourinho league matches.
When Dawson’s own goal put United 1-0 up against West Ham 53 minutes in, it struck Moyes that seven defensive players and no shots was not the best way to go about beating his old side.
The Hammers promptly responded with seven attempts on Dean Henderson’s goal, not one of which troubled the United keeper. It was the highest number of shots they have attempted in a Premier League match without hitting the target since a 1-0 home defeat to Stoke City in August 2013, when all nine of their efforts were wayward.
Still, that doesn’t even come close to the ‘record’ in this particular category. Since 2003-04, the team to attempt the highest number of shots without hitting the target is Watford, who fired in 23 errant efforts from 10 different players against Hull City in October 2016.
Perhaps feeling sorry for them, Michael Dawson promptly scored an own goal to gift the Hornets a 1-0 win.
15 – Only Harry Redknapp (15) has managed more away Premier League games at Old Trafford without winning that West Ham boss David Moyes, who has never won in 14 visits (D4 L10). Bogey. pic.twitter.com/IRgIgunFGU
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 14, 2021
Blades might take a Wilder recover
Sheffield United’s decision to part company with Chris Wilder certainly made a big difference at Leicester.
The Blades were battered 5-0 at the King Power Stadium in a resoundingly one-sided contest, their biggest league loss in 21 years. Shipping five goals in their first post-Wilder match was a real statement: in 227 games under their old boss, they conceded five times just once, in a 5-4 loss to Fulham in November 2017. And they never lost by more than a three-goal margin.
All in all, it was a rather grim introduction to top-flight management for Heckingbottom. United’s interim manager became just the third man in Premier League history to lose by five or more goals in his first game in charge, following in the footsteps of Alan Smith in 1994 (Crystal Palace 1-6 Liverpool) and Roberto Di Matteo in 2010 (West Brom 0-6 Chelsea).
Leicester striker Vardy got two assists to pass 100 direct goal involvements in the Premier League since his 30th birthday (81 scored, 20 assisted). Only five players had previously reached that tally after turning 30: Teddy Sheringham (127), Frank Lampard (118), Ian Wright (110), Alan Shearer (102) and Gianfranco Zola (101).
Brilliantly boring Blues
Chelsea’s goalless draw at Leeds was not exactly thrill-a-minute stuff, but it did highlight just how distinctly difficult it’s become to beat the Blues under Thomas Tuchel.
They have conceded just two goals in 10 Premier League games under the German, equalling the record set by Mourinho in his first 10 games in 2004-05. Tuchel is yet to taste defeat in 12 games since taking over at Stamford Bridge, matching the club record for the longest unbeaten start set by Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Chelsea were comfortably in control at Elland Road, limiting Leeds to 38.1 per cent of the possession, their lowest figure in any of their 120 league games under Marcelo Bielsa. However, with great authority comes a great lack of entertainment: Chelsea have had three goalless draws in the league under Tuchel, one more than they did in 57 matches under Frank Lampard.
And really – who would swap fun for the top four? Oh, everyone? Fair enough.
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