Talking points from the 12th round of the Premier League season:
MAN CITY MISSING THEIR ROCK IN STONES
The way Manchester City conceded four goals at Chelsea in Sunday’s enthralling 4-4 draw underscored how vital central defender John Stones is for the reigning champions.
England international Stones suffered a muscle injury in last week’s 3-0 Champions League win against Young Boys having only recently returned from another injury in August.
Manager Pep Guardiola also lost fellow central defender Nathan Ake before the game at Stamford Bridge and resorted to putting two substitute goalkeepers on the bench.
“I like to work with small (groups of) people,” Guardiola told reporters. “It’s what it is. If they are injured, we’re unlucky. We have done this all the time.”
SPURS NEED ALTERNATE SOLUTIONS AFTER INJURIES
Tottenham Hotspur’s Ange Postecoglou may have won three consecutive Premier League manager of the month awards but he now faces a major test after his side kicked off November with successive league defeats to drop into fourth.
Postecoglou’s biggest problem is how Spurs navigate the next set of fixtures without his best playmaker and defenders after injuries sidelined James Maddison and Micky van de Ven until January and with Cristian Romero suspended.
A patched-up team ran out of gas and a makeshift defence crumbled as they conceded stoppage time goals in a 2-1 loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers while the lack of service to the club’s leading scorer Son Heung-Min was also a cause for concern.
With top-four chasing Aston Villa, Manchester City and Newcastle United to come in their next four games, Postecoglou must find quick solutions if all the Australian’s early good work is not to start unravelling.
CHELSEA MUST KEEP REVIVAL GOING
After a stuttering start to the season, Chelsea showed clear signs of progress in their roller-coaster 4-4 draw against reigning champions Manchester City on Sunday, which followed their 4-1 win at Spurs last Monday.
Coach Mauricio Pochettino spoke of his pride and said “the performance this evening was amazing: we faced a team that for me is the best team in the world.”
The Argentine has previously stressed how his new-look Chelsea have played their best football this season against the big clubs – they have also drawn with Liverpool and Arsenal – while they have struggled against sides that defend deep.
“Today was a massive motivation and … the crowd was amazing, supporting us and we need that, the fans being excited, in the next games when we face teams here,” he said.
THREADBARE NEWCASTLE STARTING TO STRUGGLE
Losing to Bournemouth is never going to be something Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe will enjoy on his return to his former club but the loss of Miguel Almiron to injury will hurt as much as losing 2-0 on Saturday.
A lot is made of the deep pockets of Newcastle’s Saudi Arabian owners but even they must be scratching their heads at the number of players injured or suspended at the club.
With strikers Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson leading the injury list, versatile winger Anthony Gordon had to play as an emergency centre-forward but could not paper over the cracks.
Howe will be hoping the international break will give his staff a chance to get some key players back to full fitness before the absences start to cost even more in terms of points.
DYCHE CHANGING EVERTON MENTALITY
Everton’s improved performance under manager Sean Dyche was on view again as they edged Crystal Palace 3-2 in a thriller at Selhurst Park and showed reliability and tenacity to claim the win, a far cry from the timid side of the last two seasons.
The result makes it six wins and a draw in their last nine games in all competitions as Everton continue to put daylight between themselves and the relegation zone.
They look more organised, fitter and hold a greater attacking threat and have finally banished their away day blues with four victories on the road in their last five games.
Dyche spoke about changing the mentality when he was appointed with the team in relegation trouble last season and, though it has taken a while, he appears to be achieving his aim.