Rejoice, the Premier League is back. And on Saturday, after yet another window of exciting international football, it was back with the usual post-break bang. With no shortage of surprises and so many awesome stories worth telling, picking one that stands out from the crowd is actually quite tough.
However, it is crystal-clear (sorry, Chelsea fans) that the main conversation topic here is that so-far-unstoppable force which is Manchester City. To be fair, nobody expected any result other than a solid home win against a pretty inconsistent Stoke City side. Yet, the flamboyant fashion of the absolute battering of the Potters—7-2 the final scoreline— was pretty eye-opening on where this team is right now and, more importantly, how serious its bid to the title is. It could have easily been double digits for Pep Guardiola’s team, which dominated the game in the same way of the golden years at Barcelona. Consistency was City’s Achille’s heel during the past season and is now the goal for the remainder of what looks like a very promising campaign.
The Sky-Blues pulled 2 points clear of their inter-city rivals Manchester United, who opened Matchweek 8 in a 12.30 AM kickoff game at Anfield, for another round of arguably the most fascinating fixture in English football. And guess what? For a second straight year, the home of the Reds got Mourinhoed again. The match was not as dull as the 0-0 scoreline would suggest, though: the Mané-less and discombobulated Liverpool team was clearly the one on top most of the time, with a few good chances and a penalty claim. United were just solid: but they escaped Anfield with a good point and are still pretty safe in second place.
Utter madness and absolute scenes unfolded in the 3PM matches, and beyond. Spurs won a Premier League match at Wembley! And NO, I did not make this up. The fixture against Bournemouth was not the most challenging or demanding. But we all know the Liliwhites’ Wembley woes very well; and they actually continued from a performance standpoint, which was all but brilliant. But at the same time, playing good-looking football has not always paid off for Tottenham, a “one-man team” that got the job done and broke the last Wembley taboo thanks to a goal by Christian Eriksen. Yup, neither a goal nor an assist for the one-man, i.e. Harry Kane.
The biggest of two huge shockers, however, came from a few miles south-east of Wembley. After 7 games without even scoring a goal—let alone points—dead-last Crystal Palace defeated the reigning champions Chelsea 2-1 at Selhurst Park. Another occasion in which Antonio Conte’s side just has not looked like the perfect, Contean machine that annihilated the opposition last year and, with most of the squad away for a good 7-10 days, the break is very likely to have had a significant impact. However, the top of the League is now 9 points away and the Blues, currently in fifth position, are simply struggling to keep up so far. On the other hand, Palace looked okay defensively throughout the entirety of the contest and deservedly got the 3 points. Not bad for Roy Hodgson, who was appointed just 48 hours before the game.
At 5.30, the second big upset. An Arsenal collapse is not that big of a surprise anymore, but Watford in fourth place and two points clear of fifth is actually quite amazing. With more than 20000 fans swarming Vicarage Road, the Hornets found the back of the net twice late in the game (Deeney [P] 71′, Cleverley 93′), after Per Mertesacker had propelled the Gunners to a deserved first-half lead in one of his rare appearances. Marco Silva’s boys claimed a very late first home victory of the season, while frustration keeps building up for the North London giants.
With Burnley only able to get a point out of a very frustrating 1-1 draw against West Ham, and Swansea claiming three very important points against Huddersfield at the Liberty Stadium, the overcrowded and unpredictable bottom half of the standings sees 12 teams in the span of just 6 points. Among the early relegation-candidates, newcomers like Brighton as well as established teams like Everton and Leicester. Cheer up, y’all: the fun is back.