Well, they say the top teams get those big decisions, donâ€™t they?
The top three teams in the Premier League won their matches courtesy of penalties – and so did Manchester United. West Ham, good but not good quite enough to be considered in that group, werenâ€™t given theirs – and you could pretty much guarantee theyâ€™d have got it had they been one of City, Liverpool or Chelsea.
Letâ€™s be clear here – Salah made a bit of a muppet of Tyrone Mings and no matter what Stevie G thinks, that one was a pen. Admittedly, Villa probably should have had one too after Alisson pawed at Danny Ingsâ€™ shins after a bit of a cock-up in the Liverpool backline.
But Cityâ€™s against Wolves? Never in a million years. The ball hits Moutinho in the armpit first before just about touching the area of the shoulder that the Premier League have gone to great lengths to explain equals â€˜not handballâ€™. Still, it helped Raheem Sterling get his 100th Premier League goal so it doesnâ€™t really matter, right? The lack of a Wolves response also saw Ederson notch up his 100th clean sheet for City – hardly surprising given the daftest of ways Raul Jiminez found to get two yellows in the space of 30 seconds. Given how much football he missed when his cheekbone and skull got rearranged against Arsenal, youâ€™d have thought he might have had a little more sense.
Could the Leeds and Marcelo Bielsa love-in be coming to an end? Quite possibly, though the Argentine footballguru was not helped by a shocker of a decision to give Chelsea their second, and ultimately winning, spot-kick. Rudiger, a big strong central defender, fell as if he had been kneecapped and, again, it was hard to argue â€˜clear and obvious errorâ€™ once the decision had been made – in the same way there was no chance of it being overturned if that had not been given in the first place. This was the third penalty of the match – fortunately (or not, as the case maybe) there were no complaints with the other two.
Up at Carrow Road, Dean Smith called it â€œthe softest of softâ€ but thatâ€™s what happens if you are Norwich and you are playing against the big boys. Cristiano Ronaldo felt Max Aaronsâ€™ hand on his shoulder for a millisecond and that is all it took for decks to be hit, whistles to be blown and fingers pointing to spots. Ronaldo, of course, needed no second invitation to bail United out once again.
As previously mentioned, West Ham will know they are truly a top-four side when they get their fair share of tight calls go their way. Their trip to Burnley was as dull as it was cold but the only hot point was when Craig Dawson was felled by Dwight McNeil in the area. If you want â€˜clear and obviousâ€™ this was a pretty suspicious candidate and you have to believe that Craig Dawson, as classic a centre-half as there appears to be left in the game, wouldnâ€™t know how to â€˜initiate contactâ€™ even if he was told to.Â
Things donâ€™t really go your way either when you are Newcastle United – and letâ€™s put karma to one side. Playing a Leicester side without several players available and Jamie Vardy keeping warm on the bench, they will have felt this was a chance to gather a little more momentum. That feeling didnâ€™t last long as another penalty was given, prompting a Geordie breakdown not seen since Keegan picked up the mic back in the 90s. Leicester ran out 4-0 winners, slightly tempering the pain of finding themselves in the UEFA Conference League in the New Year.
Arsenal continue to baffle. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang continues to deal in ill discipline. The Gunnersâ€™ skipper was dropped for the second time this term for breaking some part of the Arteta code but was not missed – if anything, his absence helped Arsenal be better (if you ignore the first 15 minutes). Southampton could be in genuine trouble this season if teams like Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley wake up a bit – they were completely out-fought and out-played by Lacazette et al.
Brentford will be thinking they should be well on the way to safety – they picked up three late points against almost-local-ish-rivals Watford on Friday night. It was the first penalty of the weekend awarded, maybe it was a clue – but it was dispatched sans-Toney and the Bees are closer to the Champions League places than to the relegation zone. The same can categorically not be said about Watford.
Everton were clearly fooled into thinking they were back at it having beaten Arsenal last time out. Crystal Palace, hardly on a great run themselves, only had to be better than Everton and, like many, they were. Itâ€™s not often, or even ever, that Palace beat Everton and it was a corker from Gallagher to seal all three points. All agent Benitez jokes aside, it would be weird if it was him who led them into a relegation battle.
Letâ€™s take a look at the best of the rumours to inject a bit of fun into this weekâ€™s rubbish.Â
Real Madrid have taken one look at Ronaldo being asked to run around a bit and reckon now is the time to tempt him back to La Liga. Makes sense, but knowing United theyâ€™ll end up with Eden Hazard in return, unless Moyes ups his Â£21m bid. West Ham there, looking to return to their old transfer blueprint of overpaying for old has-beens.
Ralf Rangnick has dipped deep into his scouting database and pulled out two relative unknowns that he feels could inject some energy into the team. Thereâ€™s a kid playing in Germany called Jude Bellingham and another midfielder at Leeds called Kalvin Phillips. This is what heâ€™s getting paid the big bucks for.
Rangnick clearly isnâ€™t fussed whether Paul Pogba signs a new deal or not but one thing he is fussed about is players disappearing to sunnier climes to â€˜recover from injuriesâ€™. There will no more of that on Ralfâ€™s watch – and probably no more Anthony Martial either, whoâ€™d rather play for a club that picks him.
Having already signed an Argentine called MacAllister, Brighton want to move for a Chilean international called Brereton. Blackburnâ€™s Ben Brereton stuck Diaz on the end of his name in a bid to â€˜pay respect to his Chilean rootsâ€™ after he got called up for the last Copa America. Anyway, since becoming Brereton-Diaz heâ€™s become rather good and Graham Potter values that rather good at Â£20m in January.
Barcelona, the club with no money, are ready to pay â‚¬50m+ for Cityâ€™s Ferran Torres. They would also like to offer Chelsea trio Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen money they donâ€™t actually have to join them in the summer.Â
Newcastle, who do have money, have decided Jesse Lingard will be their marquee signing backed up by the signatures of Aaron Ramsey and Ainsley-Maitland Niles. Donâ€™t worry about that defence, eh Eddie?
Finally, Arsenal are prepared to offer Â£70m for Fiorentina goal-getter Dusan Vlahovic. Vlahovic is prepared to ignore the call and wait for something a little bit better.