As Christmas approached, we were dished out a Saturday football treat, as Barcelona took Real Madrid to the in El Clasico, and Juve and Napoli pulled clear of Inter in Serie A, while on Saturday madness engulfed the Emirates as Arsenal and Liverpool reached levels of pandemonium.
But as we approach Christmas, what are the take-home lessons this latest round of football matches gave us?
Liverpool and Arsenal show why they won’t win the league anytime soon
It was thrilling scoreline in North London, more than it was a thrilling game, as the 3-3 draw at Hornsey Road bothered on utter madness in attacking, even less sanity in defending, while the goalkeeping only went and stole the show. There was a moment in stoppage time, when Mesut Ozil’s poor cross was almost turned by Liverpool goalie Simon Mignolet, which just about summed up the game, like both sides were doing their best shambolic impression, as a certain Ekine Moseph put it, they were cut from the same cloth. The scoreline was another classic to add to the collection of this fixture down the years, but some of those have been either title deciders or pivotal to the title race, this time it’s simply about finishing fourth. At this rate, it’s all they can fight for.
Have Barcelona killed off La Liga race?
That Barcelona beat Real Madrid was one thing; that they did it comfortably away at their rivals without having particularly to be at their best was another, and that probably summed up La Liga this season. Ernesto Valverde’s team haven’t been at their best this term, yet haven’t lost since that Super Cup (ironically at the Bernabeu in August), while the other challengers have suffered defeats this term. Real Madrid are 14 points behind them with a game in hand, Valencia have gone from mighty challengers to 11 points behind before the winter break, and second placed Atletico suffered their first loss of the season at Espanyol, and are nine from the Catalans. You wonder what would happen should Barca hit top gear, and you also wonder if they would ever have to.
Serie A looks like the only place for a title race this term
That Napoli didn’t let their heads drop after that home loss to Juventus a few weeks ago is huge credit to them, the Partenopei recorded another win on Saturday, a game where Marek Hamsik went out on his own as the club’s all-time top scorer. That being said, they still have Juve breathing down their necks, Inter may have slipped in the past couple of games but they’ll still be a challenger come the New Year, and Roma, while seven points behind, have a game in hand. Even Lazio could throw their hat in the ring. With the rest of the top five leagues not quite showing a title race this season, Italy’s first division may have siphoned all the intensity and drama that’ll come with one.
Milan hit another low
The one-week training camp that Milan set up did no wonders this weekend, as Atalanta were the latest side to leave the Rossoneri on the floor. Manager Gennaro Gattuso has shown an honest front so far, and seems willing to give things a go, but he doesn’t seem like the right man (who is these days?), as Milan will enter 2018 in 11th position, after their summer outlay. That there are rumours that Vincenzo Montella is another thing entirely, almost like the club was run by politicians. Milan have made a joke of their season so far, yet not many are laughing.
Snigger all you want Everton fans, Allardyce’s system is proving effective
At the end of the game against Chelsea, Everton ‘keeper Jordan Pickford was breathless in an interview, explaining how his side had to graft, as they battled their way to a point at home to champions Chelsea. The Toffees showed discipline and commitment, something that was obvious in its absence under Ronald Koeman earlier this season, and they might have even nicked the win late on. They still haven’t lost under Sam Allardyce so far, and while the fans continue to express dissatisfaction at the style, it’s been more than effective so far. With Big Sam, it rarely isn’t.
Premier League: Manchester City 4-0 Bournemouth; Leicester 2-2 Manchester United; Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool; Brighton 1-0 Watford; Stoke 3-1 West Brom; West Ham 2-3 Newcastle; Southampton 1-1 Huddersfield; Burnley 0-3 Tottenham; Everton 0-0 Chelsea; Swansea 1-1 Crystal Palace
Serie A: Juventus 1-0 Roma; Milan 0-2 Atalanta; Lazio 4-0 Crotone; Cagliari 0-1 Fiorentina; SPAL 2-2 Torino; Chievo 2-3 Bologna; Udinese 4-0 Hellas Verona; Napoli 3-2 Sampdoria; Sassuolo 1-0 Inter; Genoa 1-0 Benevento
La Liga: Deportivo 1-3 Celta Vigo; Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona; Valencia 0-1 Villarreal; Real Betis 0-2 Athletic Bilbao; Espanyol 1-0 Atletico Madrid