theScore examines the most important Premier League developments by answering 10 key questions that arose from Saturday’s slate of action.
Is Dele reborn under Mourinho?
Dele Alli’s display in the 3-2 win at West Ham on Jose Mourinho’s debut had the looks of a player reborn under a new gaffer. Individual displays can rarely be as neatly summarized, though Dele was a menace all over the pitch.
The England man assisted on Heung-Min Son’s opener and miraculously kept the ball in play while seated on the touchline for Tottenham’s second. Dele paired five recoveries with four tackles while creating two chances playing in an advanced central midfield role. A complete performance.
Has Pellegrini’s tenure reached indefensible levels?
Manuel Pellegrini is on the hot seat after the home defeat to Spurs established the sixth loss in eight matches in all competitions for West Ham. The other two outings were draws, and with the Hammers sitting perilously close to the drop zone, surely the Chilean’s time in east London is up.
Flashback to the 2010-11 season under Avram Grant as West Ham appear utterly uninspired under Pellegrini. He’s not entirely to blame. Backup ‘keeper Roberto was shambolic against Tottenham, and Issa Diop, Aaron Cresswell, and wide duo Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko were poor.
Which manager is getting sacked next?
Pellegrini’s not the only manager mired by a rough run. Everton’s home defeat to Norwich City and Arsenal’s comical draw versus lowly Southampton at the Emirates puts both Marco Silva and Unai Emery on notice. Neither deserve to keep their jobs.
Everton permitted the Canaries to score twice, and for the first time away from Carrow Road since opening day for their first away win of the season. Arsenal have failed to win in five consecutive Premier League games for the first time since 2011. Sack Silva, sack Emery, and sack Pellegrini. Heck, Watford might be wise to fire Quique Sanchez Flores for the second time in three-and-a-half years. Sack everyone.
Are we in the era of ‘Kloppage Time’?
Liverpool love to leave it late. The Reds continue to make a habit of winning matches in the waning minutes this season, with Roberto Firmino providing the most recent example in a long line of last-gasp heroics. The Brazilian’s scrappy 85th-minute tally at Selhurst Park gave the Premier League leaders a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, ensuring that Jurgen Klopp’s side remains eight points up on second-place Leicester City.
Liverpool have now earned seven points this season with goals in the 85th minute or later, and supporters, referencing Manchester United’s famed ability to strike in “Fergie Time” during Sir Alex Ferguson’s heyday, have subsequently coined the phrase “Kloppage Time.” Not for the first time this year, Liverpool weren’t convincing, but come the end of the campaign, we could look back on their resilience as the decisive factor in leading the club to a first-ever Premier League title.
Is Vardy poised for another goal run?
Leicester City star Jamie Vardy’s 82nd-minute penalty secured a 2-0 win on Saturday at Brighton and Hove Albion, and for the second-place Foxes, that’s now five league victories on the spin and a comfortable 10-point cushion on fifth-placed Wolves.
It’s also been a stellar run for Vardy with five goals in five contests. He holds the Premier League record for goals in consecutive outings with 11 in 2015-16, and Leicester’s next four fixtures come against Everton (15th place), Watford (20th), Aston Villa (17th), and Norwich (18th). Vardy should at least hit nine straight before facing Manchester City and Liverpool over the holiday period.
Is Howe set for hot seat treatment?
Eddie Howe is beloved at Bournemouth, and for good reason. The former Cherries defender rescued the club from Football League relegation in his first season in charge after starting the campaign on minus-17 points. He returned to the team in 2012 to engineer two more promotions.
The league’s longest-serving manager might be on thin ice after the home loss to Wolves means Bournemouth have won just one of eight. It’s unlikely Howe will be dismissed, but with Bournemouth’s next match marking Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham home debut before December clashes against Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea, it could get worse for Howe before it gets better.
Pukki or Ings: Which striker is most valuable to his team?
The Premier League is littered with world-class strikers, but are there two who are more valuable to their team than Norwich’s Teemu Pukki and Southampton’s Danny Ings?
Against Everton, Finnish star Pukki racked up an assist, and his six goals on the season account for nearly 50 percent of the Canaries’ haul. Similarly, Ings has five of Southampton’s last six goals and 46 percent of the Saints’ 13 tallies this season.
Was Sarri right about Kante?
Former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri was heavily ridiculed last season for his usage of all-world midfielder N’Golo Kante. Why, many bemoaned, would you ask the indefatigable star to play in a more advanced position? Throughout his career, Kante has excelled as a ball-winning machine who tends to sit slightly deeper than his peers and cover up their mistakes.
Perhaps the chain-smoking Italian was onto something. The diminutive Frenchman’s goal against Manchester City on Saturday had all the hallmarks necessary to make any “traditional” attacking midfielder blush. Kante timed his run from deep to perfection, held off Benjamin Mendy, and after a perfect first touch to maintain his forward momentum, finished with aplomb. Now on three tallies this season – in just six appearances – he needs one more goal to equal his best-ever Premier League output, which was established last year.
Can City sustain title push without Aguero?
It’s hard to imagine that a squad loaded with so much talent at every attacking position could be doomed by an injury to a singular star, but the potential absence of Sergio Aguero looms large right now for Manchester City. The Argentine striker, who sits third in Premier League scoring with nine goals, hobbled off during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Chelsea after suffering an apparent lower-body ailment in the second half.
Already nine points adrift of Liverpool and nearing the always hectic holiday portion of their schedule, can the Citizens maintain their title fight if Aguero is forced to miss an extended period of time?
Who’s been the league’s best player this season?
With a third of the campaign in the rearview, there have been plenty of individual performances this season that merit praise. Obvious choices include Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane.
That just scratches the surface, and surely one of Vardy, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi or James Maddison deserves a shout. What about Chelsea’s Jorginho, who leads the league in most passing metrics, or Sterling’s City mate Kevin De Bruyne, who has a league-best nine assists? A wealth of options.