Reality check for Spurs
Even with 11 players on the pitch throughout at Molineux, there were no ludicrously high lines or dramatically disallowed goals. There were no controversial VAR checks. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything from Tottenham.
Apart from a brief flurry at the start which saw Brennan Johnson open the scoring, Wolves were on top for the vast majority of this game. It was only their wasteful play in the final third that prevented them from pegging Spurs back sooner.
Ange Postecoglou said after the game that his side’s lack of fluency was to be expected given their absentees, and Wolves are no pushovers under Gary O’Neil. Just ask Manchester City.
But it’s fair to argue that this display exposed the lack of depth in Spurs’ squad that, really, everyone knew existed.
Without James Maddison, Spurs lacked creativity in possession. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg just isn’t that sort of player. In defence, Eric Dier looked shaky throughout his rare start. The authority of Cristian Romero and, in particular, Micky van de Ven was sorely missing.
This is no time for doom and gloom. Spurs are still in the top four – more than anyone expected at this stage – and the progress under Postecoglou is undeniable. But this was a reality check for anyone who believed Tottenham had the depth to maintain their imperious start throughout a gruelling season.
Ten Hag just surviving at Man Utd
Manchester United had £232m worth of talent on the bench against Luton at Old Trafford, while the visitors’ starting XI can’t have cost more than £10m to assemble.
That wasn’t reflected in the scoreline as Erik ten Hag’s side failed to convince yet again.
Despite more than £325m being spent on the starting line-up, they hobbled over the line after struggling to score past a side that are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League.
The misfiring forwards will concern Ten Hag, who hasn’t seen one of his attackers score in the league since Marcus Rashford’s goal at Arsenal on September 3.
United have had to find goals from other sources but are one of the league’s form teams after four wins from five games, which keeps them within sight of their rivals.
“When we start playing well – and it will come – we will be in competition for the top five, top four,” Ten Hag promised after the game.
The doom and gloom has been all-consuming at Old Trafford this season, but Ten Hag goes into the international break on steadier ground. Saturday’s win takes him to 30 wins in his first 50 league games, making him the fastest to reach this milestone at Man Utd.
Perhaps some perspective about Ten Hag’s achievements is needed after months of questions about his suitability for the role. He’s endured awful luck with injuries, an unsettled ownership situation and a unique set of dressing room problems.
The Dutchman has shown he’s a survivor. Now he needs to back up his talk and get his team playing again.
Eze for England
With James Maddison out injured, Gareth Southgate surely has a simple decision to make when he calls up a replacement. Eberechi Eze for England.
The Crystal Palace No 10 was electric against Everton on Saturday. Back from injury and fresh from signing his new long-term deal with the club this week, Eze brought energy and quality to Palace’s attacking play, which has lacked drive at times this season.
He was at the heart of every good move the home side created in the first half, including winning and converting the penalty which got his side back on level terms. It really was the most relaxed spot-kick you’ll see.
Eze thought he should have been awarded another penalty soon after but was instead booked for simulation. VAR replays were inconclusive as to whether Jarrad Branthwaite made contact after Eze’s sublime skill took him past Amadou Onana but a yellow card seemed harsh. “Eze doesn’t simulate,” said Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson afterwards. It hardly knocked him off course, though.
Hodgson – who knows a thing or two about international football – said Eze would be a suitable alternative for Southgate in the absence of Maddison. On this evidence, he looks more than ready for another call-up.
Why Zinchenko is so key for Arsenal
Ben White’s injury in training on Friday meant a recall at left-back for Oleksandr Zinchenko, with the multifunctional Ukraine international showing once again that Arsenal play better with him in the side as they beat Burnley 3-1.
As well as scoring his first goal at the Emirates Stadium in spectacular fashion, perhaps more impressively the 26-year-old also had more touches (116), made more passes (94), won more aerial duels (7) and made more tackles (5) than any other Arsenal player on show in what was a player-of-the-match display in the November sunshine.
Certainly, his manager recognised the role Zinchenko played in Arsenal’s gritty victory, commenting afterwards: “I’m very happy with him. Especially against these teams the fluidity and threat that he brings, the spaces that he occupies and opens for other players is critical.
“I really liked how defensively committed he was today. The goal is a really good example of how he’s living the game – when the ball is far from him, he’s the first on the ball, that’s why he scores the goal. That’s what we need from him.”
So expect the full-back to be one of the first names on Mikel Arteta’s teamsheet when Arsenal return to action at Brentford after the international break.
Solanke on song as Newcastle lick wounds
Bournemouth’s only previous home league win against Newcastle was a 2-1 success in the old Division Two in September 1989.
Paul Moulden scored twice for Harry Redknapp’s team after Micky Quinn had put Jim Smith’s Newcastle ahead after three minutes. That was the first-ever league meeting.
On Saturday, Andoni Iraola knew they didn’t have a better chance of ending that 34-year wait – and Dominic Solanke ensured the Cherries capitalised.
Since the start of last season, no player has had more goal involvements of any bottom-half team than Solanke (20). Here, he had more shots (4), more touches in the opposition box (7) and more possession won in the final third (3) than any other player.
It all amounted to a fourth Premier League defeat of the season for Newcastle. They only lost five in the entirerty of last campaign.
This came with a huge caveat of several key men missing, of course, and Eddie Howe will be grateful for the international break for a chance to recuperate following an unhappy return to Dorset for the former Bournemouth boss. In truth, this could have been far worse than the 2-0 scoreline.