Dubai: It was business as usual for the Premier League title contenders as Liverpool and Manchester City both picked up another three points.
It was business as usual of an unwanted kind in London as both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal gave up yet more points in what is already just a race to get into the top four places in the standings come the end of the season.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds maintained their six-point lead over City thanks to a gritty 2-1 win over Spurs, showing they have added yet more steel to their armoury as they look good to claim their first Premier League title.
Tottenham have found a fighting spark again, but a loss is a loss — even against title favourites Liverpool — and now they have only three wins from their first 10 games in the league.
With Leicester breaking records and having picked up twice as many wins as Spurs already, and with a youthful Chelsea looking strong under Frank Lampard, Tottenham may be looking at Europa League football next term unless they can turn things around sharpish and get those points on the board.
With there 3-1 win over Norwich City, Manchester United won their first game on the road in the league since February and scored more than one goal for the first time since the opening day of the season. That win took them up to seventh in the table, but it is the team three spots above them that have the cloud hanging over them.
Unai Emery took over from Arsene Wenger last year with a clear plan to get the Gunners back to the top of the game and seemed to be on track with a journey to the Europa League final last season, where they were defeated by Chelsea. His summer shopping looked to be astute as Nicolas Pepe and Kieran Tierney seemed to be the right men to take them to the next stage in their rejuvenation.
The scenes at the Emirates were shambolic as Arsenal surrendered a 2-0 lead at home to Crystal Palace to stutter to a 2-2 draw. While dropping points from a comfortable winning position was bad enough when competition for the top four is getting tougher, it was the behaviour of Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka that spoke volumes about the troubles at the club.
The decision by Emery to substitute Xhaka with Bukayo Saka in the second half after the Palace equaliser was cheered by the home fans who were clearly not impressed with their skipper’s performance.
Xhaka was booed as he wasted time, apparently unwilling to leave the field. He then gestured to the crowd, cupped his ears and mouthed expletives as he pushed away Emery’s offer of a handshake. Xhaka took off his shirt and headed straight down the tunnel.
It was reminiscent of the farce with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea when goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to come off during a game in February. We all know how that worked out for the Chelsea boss.
Xhaka’s behaviour will only cause further divisions between the players, the fans and the manager as frustrations that the Gunners are reverting to the underachieving type they showed under Wenger for many years begin to simmer. A volatile and negative atmosphere appears to have crept back in at the Emirates.
Emery should be worried and he is making the right noises about nipping the situation in the bud before he has a full-blown mutiny on his hands in the dressing room.
“He’s wrong but we are going to speak inside about that situation,” Emery told the BBC about Xhaka. “I want to be calm but, really, he was wrong in this action.”
The only way he will get his house back in order is through his actions in the next few days and then the reactions from his players on the field.
P W D L F A Pts
Liverpool 10 9 1 0 23 8 28
Man City 10 7 1 2 32 9 22
Leicester 10 6 2 2 25 8 20
Chelsea 10 6 2 2 23 16 20
Arsenal 10 4 4 2 15 14 16
Palace 10 4 3 3 10 12 15
Man Utd 10 3 4 3 13 10 13
Sheff Utd 10 3 4 3 9 8 13
B’mouth 10 3 4 3 13 13 13
West Ham 10 3 4 3 12 14 13
Tottenham 10 3 3 4 16 15 12
Wolvers 10 2 6 2 13 13 12
Burnley 10 3 3 4 14 15 12
Brighton 10 3 3 4 12 14 12
Villa 10 3 2 5 15 16 11
Everton 10 3 1 6 10 16 10
Newcastle 10 2 3 5 6 15 9
S’hampton 10 2 2 6 9 25 8
Norwich 10 2 1 7 11 24 7
Watford 10 0 5 5 5 21 5