BAD WEEKEND FOR VAR
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool served up a festive classic on Sunday but sadly it was referee Paul Tierney and VAR that dominated the post-match analysis.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was infuriated by several decisions that went against his side in a 2-2 draw.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane was only booked for a dangerous tackle on Andy Robertson with VAR deciding not to upgrade it to a sending off. Yet Robertson’s equally rash tackle on Emerson Royal later was changed from yellow to red.
Liverpool also had what looked like a clear penalty not given when Diogo Jota was shoved in the back by Royal as he prepared to shoot — with VAR not intervening.
Earlier in the day, Newcastle United were denied what looked like a penalty when Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson appeared to foul Ryan Fraser — a decision pundit Alan Shearer described as “disgusting”.
After a relatively positive season for officials so far, things certainly seem to have taken a backward step in recent weeks with glaring inconsistencies the biggest gripe.
ARE MAN CITY ABOUT TO RIDE OFF INTO THE DISTANCE
Manchester City were not even at their best, according to manager Pep Guardiola, after a 4-0 win at Newcastle United made it eight Premier League victories in a row on Sunday.
It means the champions will be top of the table at Christmas for the first time since 2017 and have won 34 league games in the calendar year — a top-flight record.
During their stroll to the title last season they put together a 15-game winning streak and the way they are playing at the moment, few would bet against them matching that.
With Chelsea faltering, it looks like being a two-horse title race between City and Liverpool, but Juergen Klopp’s side know their margin for error is minimal.
ARSENAL’S MARTINELLI LOOKING THE REAL DEAL
Much has been made of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang being stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and his omission for wins against Southampton, West Ham United and Leeds United.
But with the form Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli is displaying, Aubameyang may well now be surplus to requirements.
The 20-year-old Martinelli produced two clinical finishes in a 4-1 win at Leeds United, following his goal against West Ham in midweek, and looks set for an extended run in the side.
CHELSEA HAVE A VALID POINT OVER WOLVES POSTPONEMENT
Chelsea had no cutting edge for the second match in a row as they drew 0-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers and slipped six points behind Manchester City following two wins in their last seven games, putting them in danger of dropping out of the title race.
They wanted the fixture to be postponed after seven positive COVID-19 cases in their squad, specifically because their travel and time together in camp threatens more infections, but were left angered when the Premier League said the show must go on.
It is not only the number of players missing due to COVID-19 infections that brings into question the sporting integrity of the matches but also the positions they cover.
Chelsea have struggled up front without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who have tested positive for COVID, and Kai Havertz through illness. They are not absences for the knocks and niggles that usually sideline players.
HOWE HAS MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB AS NEWCASTLE FLOP AGAIN
Newcastle United’s drubbing by Manchester City highlighted the main problems Eddie Howe must solve if his team are to stay up – the defence is as porous as the attack is toothless.
A defensive mix-up gifted City the lead after five minutes at St James’ Park, while the Magpies’ attack mustered only one shot on target over 90 minutes.
Too often Newcastle’s players operated as individuals rather than as a unit, and it made it easy for Premier League leaders City to contain the home side and hit them on the break.
The January transfer window will soon be open but before bringing in new players there is plenty Howe could be working on to organise the ones he has. They won’t beat the likes of City any time soon, but they can perform a lot better than this.