What did we learn from the Boxing Day fixtures?
Well, that was a Christmas feast, wasn't it? Plenty of goals, an inflammatory press conference, and dubious refereeing decisions. Boxing Day served up a Christmas treat. Time to digest.
Snappy Mourinho fooling nobody
Manchester City buy full-backs for the price of strikers
That was Jose Mourinho response to a question regarding his comfort with Manchester United's progress. He would later add that the roughly £289 million he has spent so far--official statistics inevitably vary--was "not enough, not enough."
It was a deflection tactic and nothing more, proffered in the proud United tradition that includes Sir Alex Ferguson's observations on Phil Dowd's waistline and Louis van Gaal stealing a page or two from Rafa Benitez's book of "facts." Jose knows his United team are miles behind City. Rather than admit Pep Guardiola's side is superior due to better coaching and tactics, the Portuguese lobbied for further investment. Everyone loves a manager with his hand out.
Mourinho's surliness was sparked by United becoming involved in a 2-2 goalfest with Burnley, of all sides. Sean Dyche's Clarets showed both stoicism and attacking effectiveness, qualities that have seen them visit Liverpool, Tottenham, and Chelsea without losing.
United was laboured in its play. If Mourinho is asking for money, the board should ask whether he can turn further investment into the slick style that Guardiola has fashioned at the Etihad. All it would take is allowing Henrikh Mkhitaryan to play the way he knows best and finding one or two more Jesse Lingards. The young Englishman chipped in another brace to rescue his boss from the need for even further deflection.
Spanish connection spurs Chelsea win
A whipped ball in from the right on the edge of the area. An onrushing Alvaro Morata rising to meet Cesar Azpilicueta's invitation. The net rippling. It is a script we have seen many times before; six to be exact. That is how many times the Spanish defender has assisted his countryman this season. Theirs is the Premier League's most fruitful partnership.
After just one goal in his last seven, Morata has now scored in two consecutive games, shrugging off a blip that was not helped by injury. He still looked a little rusty, but if 'Dave' provides a cross for the towering forward, he will inevitably score.
While Morata's game looks to be improving, that of Romelu Luaku, with whom he will be perennially linked given their transfer saga, shows few signs of adapting to life at Old Trafford. The Belgian is not fighting away the demons he faces in front of the net. He has improved in his hold up play, creating opportunities for others. The last thing he or anyone else wants, however, is to become the next Emile Heskey.
Terrible decision costs Hammers vital three points
A turbulent, fascinating match that should've been praised for its entertaining quality was marred by controversy. Bournemouth was gifted a late equaliser courtesy the linesman. Perhaps the man was jealous over missing out on It's Round and It's White's 12 Days of Football.
Whatever the cause, David Moyes saw a win stolen from his team. The Scot had seemingly orchestrated an inspiring 3-2 win for his ever-improving Hammers when Nathan Ake headed across goal in the dying minutes and a subtle touch from Calum Wilson saw the Cherries clinch a draw. Or not. Or yes.
The play was initially ruled offside, Wilson deemed to have touched the ball. Bizarrely, though, the referee overturned the initial decision, concluding the Cherries' forward did not touch the ball. Replays show he clearly did. Even live, there appeared only one decision to give.
Can Liverpool finally build on momentum?
Liverpool's 5-0 thumping of Swansea means they have scored 12 goals in three games. Four goals every ninety minutes is truly exceptional. Going forward, Jurgen Klopp's side is electric, potent, virtually unstoppable.
Yet this has been the story of their season, not to mention Klopp's reign at Anfield. A few very positive, entertaining wins, interrupted by drudge. Draws, losses, and stupid errors again threatened to leave them empty-handed at the Emirates despite having gone 2-0 up.
Liverpool has three fixtures coming up. None are easy. Leicester City at Anfield is followed by Burnley at Turf Moor(!), then a Merseyside FA Cup Third Round clash. You might as well make it four. The Reds then host Manchester City.
Klopp's side must take its momentum into these fixtures to cement a place in the top four. As New Years resolutions go, that is a minimum. Beating Everton to kick-start the cup campaign is also important. The grand old competition is their only viable route to silverware this season.