MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Title-chasing Liverpool and Chelsea enjoyed wins against lowly opposition in Cardiff and Burnley while Arsenal’s winning streak ended with a draw at Crystal Palace. Manchester United beat Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford. The following are five talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action.
UNITED PENALTY AWARD - WOULD VAR HELP?
Referee Jon Moss ruled that Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye had brought down Anthony Martial in the first half at Old Trafford and Paul Pogba gave the home side the lead, converting the rebound after his penalty was saved.
Everton players felt Gueye had played the ball their manager Marco Silva said Martial had dived.
Would a video assistant referee (VAR) have helped get the right decision?
The first impression of many observers was that Moss was right and initial replay angles did not conclusively show that he was wrong. One close-up replay, though, did show that Gueye made contact with the ball before Martial threw himself to the ground.
Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher, now working as a pundit, said he felt Moss had made the correct decision.
It highlights that while VAR will certainly help reduce injustices, the system’s effectiveness will depend on getting as many angles as possible.
But it also comes down to human judgment. Gallagher was wrong even with video replay help and bad calls will surely still be made when the system, still being trialled in England, is introduced in the Premier League.
Coming into the weekend’s games The Times noted that in 40 matches between the “big six” — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur — and the rest, the big teams have won 34, drawn three and lost three.
Take eighth-placed Manchester United, responsible for one of the draws and two defeats, out of the picture and the dominance of the current top five would be even more emphatic.
The trend continued this weekend with Liverpool beating Cardiff City 4-1 and Chelsea cruising to a 4-0 win at Burnley, although Arsenal drew 2-2 at Palace.
“They have deeper squads, it is getting more difficult to compete. If you look at the table the only real anomaly at the moment is Manchester United,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said.
Is this bad news for the Premier League’s appeal? Not necessarily.
One result of the consistency of the big clubs is that there are just five points between top and fifth in the league, lending even more significance to the games between the top five. The fewer points they drop against mid-table and lowly sides, the tighter the battle for the title.
The “best of the rest” are sixth-placed Bournemouth, who cruised to an impressive 3-0 win at Fulham and are one point behind Tottenham.
Eddie Howe’s side are enjoying deserved plaudits but they face a tough stretch of fixtures with Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City coming up.
If anyone looks capable of upsetting the top clubs it is the Cherries so it will be fascinating to see where they stand at the end of November.
After spending over 100 million pounds ($128.2 million) on players in the off-season, Fulham fans surely expected better for their promoted side than one win and five points from their opening 10 games.
Many pundits have predicted that Serbian Slavisa Jokanovic could be the first Premier League manager sacking of the season if his side cannot beat fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town next week.
But Fulham American owner Shahid Khan comes from the NFL culture where coaches are given time to work with their teams and mid-season firings are rare. He publicly backed Jokanovic after Saturday’s defeat but will also know from experience that, unlike in the NFL, relegation can wreck the best-drafted business plan.
Few expected Ross Barkley to see much playing time under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea but the 15 million-pound signing from Everton has been one of the team’s key performers in recent weeks.
Barkley, now back in the England squad, created the opening goal at Burnley and added the second himself and he looks better every week. At just 24 he is not yet at his peak and that fee paid to Everton in January is looking like a bargain.
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Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond