So credit where credit is due for his terrific performance against Crystal Palace. The nature of their draw, with a late equaliser conceded deep in stoppage time, will mean it feels like two points dropped rather than one point earned for West Ham, but without Hart on top form they could easily have left Selhurst Park with nothing at all.
His finest moment was a diving save from a terrific Yohan Cabaye free-kick, from which the Frenchman was already wheeling away in celebration.
Hart’s performance was summarised most accurately by Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. “He was literally saving everything."
For all their shambolic defending on the road this season, it is worth mentioning that Liverpool have let in just one goal at Anfield all season. Only Manchester United have conceded fewer at home.
Admittedly, David Wagner’s Huddersfield were unlikely to pose the biggest attacking this weekend. But considering just how haphazard Jurgen Klopp’s side were against Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday, this was a welcome return to defensive stability.
That it came without Dejan Lovren, injured in the warm-up, is perhaps no coincidence, although other members of that defence have been equally culpable at times this season.
More encouraging for Klopp will be the ongoing consistency of left-back Alberto Moreno, seemingly inspired by the arrival of Andy Robertson as competition, and the ever-growing excellence of young Joe Gomez at right back.
Many Chelsea fans have been calling for Rudiger to be given a regular starting place after the side’s somewhat turbulent to the season, and Antonio Conte has duly obliged for two Premier League matches in a row.
That has led to back-to-back victories for the champions, over Watford and Bournemouth. The fall guy has been Gary Cahill, who now has a genuine fight on his hands if he wants to wrestle back a starting berth from a Germany international who appears to be growing in stature with each game.
Rudiger was terrific against Bournemouth in a match that Chelsea utterlyal legend Emmanuel Petit says Unai Emery should be sacked.The Gunners are sixth with just four wins in 12 Premier League games.He told PaddyPower: “I believe it’s time for Unai Emery to leave Arsenal. The results are not good at all. I don’t recognis dominated, despite the narrow 1-0 scoreline. He was quick across the ground, strong in the air and more accomplished with his passing than many would have been expecting upon his arrival from Roma for £29m.
At just 24, . Under a manager as obsessed with detail as Conte, it is surely onwards and upwards from here.
The game’s gone! Football has lost its head! It’s only Kyle Walker! Such were the reactions to Walker’s £50m transfer fee this summer, and understandably so. This was unprecedented territory for a right-back, and it was hard to justify.
Such sums are, of course, still hard to justify. But at least Walker is doing his bit. In fact, he’s doing more than that. Walker has been consistently excellent this season, playing in a far more tactically and individually complex role under Guardiola than he has ever been tasked with before.
Admittedly, it’s easy to look good when City are battering teams into submission as they have been for much of this campaign. Yet Walker has been a major part of that, providing pace from deep and the constant width that allows City’s creative players to strut their stuff infield.
Walker’s presence has certainly been good for Raheem Sterling, which can only be good for England’s World Cup ambitions. Fittingly, it was Walker who whipped in a perfect cross for Sterling’s goal in the 3-2 victory over West Brom.
Murray, now 34, could have been forgiven for thinking his Premier League days were over when he was loaned out to Brighton last season. He would not have been alone.
And yet here he is, back in the top flight and back in the goals. In the absence of Tomer Hemed, Murray has stepped up when his side have needed some firepower.
Two goals against West Ham last week fired Chris Hughton’s side to a valuable three points, while his powerful back-post header secured another point at home to Southampton this weekend. He may not be the most mobile, but here is a man who will forever know the way to goal, and that is precisely what Brighton will need if they want to stay afloat this season.
Whose stock is falling?
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what Ayew’s strengths are. He seems quite quick, but he’s certainly not fast enough to frighten Premier League defences. He seems to dribble a lot, but he rarely weaves through challenges. He seems to find himself in decent positions, but he hardly ever makes the right decision.
Swansea manager Paul Clement has already said this season that he wants to see more from Tammy Abraham and Wilfried Bony, but the same can be said for Ayew. Abraham, at least, is chipping in with some goals.
Ayew has one in the league this season. Last year, in 42 appearances across all competitions, he scored only five (as an aside, he got seven yellow cards). Frankly, Swansea need attacking players like Ayew to deliver the goods, particularly now Gylfi Sigurdsson has left for Everton.
The struggling Renato Sanches has received most of the spotlight this season, but the glare should also be directed at Ayew. He could have given Swansea a crucial 2-0 lead over Arsenal on Saturday, but tried to dink Petr Cech rather than providing Abraham with a tap-in. Such errors are punished against teams like Arsenal. Such errors cost teams their place in the Premier League.
There were laughable scenes at Vicarage Road on Saturday, and not just because Darren Fletcher scored an actual goal. Stoke and Watford demeaned themselves and delighted spectators with two embarrassing cases of handbags-at-dawn in the final minutes of .
Troy Deeney’s manic grin as he grabbed a chunk of Joe Allen’s throat
Supposed hard man Ryan Shawcross flying across the turf after a Deeney shove
Long-haired Watford coaching staff leaping into the melee with locks swirling in the wind
The brief and completely half-hearted attempt of the well-mannered Will Hughes to get stuck in.
It was petulant, immature and unbecoming. It was also magnificent.
Amid all the weekly controversies over team selection and refereeing decisions, the most curious decision of the weekend was made by whoever nominated Begovic as man of the match in Bournemouth’s clash with Chelsea.
Begovic was at fault for , letting the low shot past him far too easily at the near post, and could easily have thrown away another goal when he gifted the ball to Hazard in the first half. Only Alvaro Morata’s profligacy saved him.
There was, in fairness, one terrific stop from Morata. But this was not an evening to remember for Begovic against his former club, on his 200th Premier League appearance.
He has been otherwise solid in a tricky start to the season for Eddie Howe’s side, and he was not helped by his defence on this occasion, but top-flight goalkeepers simply cannot afford to make one major error against teams like Chelsea, let alone two.
Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams, Leighton Baines. All in their 30s, and all hardly blessed with speed at their youthful peaks.
Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Demarai Gray. A trio bristling with speed and a canny ability to exploit open spaces.
It is any surprise, then, that Everton were so ruthlessly ripped apart by Leicester’s front three in the first half at the King Power Stadium?
Gray, in particular, was having a lovely time. It was a total mismatch, and it shone a light on one of Everton’s most pressing problems: refreshing that back-line. Too often they have been criticised for falling deep in games, but here was a prime example of why they really cannot push higher up the pitch.
As a rule, Monday Morning Football is never fond of having a pop at referees. What’s the point, when there are far more interesting things to discuss that are more complex than simple human error?
But then along comes a decision like Kevin Friend’s call to give Liverpool a penalty for the most innocuous shirt-pull in the Huddersfield box.
“I have no idea why he whistled,” said Huddersfield manager David Wagner. “If it was for holding then we have to have five or six penalties in every game.”
Precisely. Either make it a hard-and-fast rule and punish everyone for doing it, or apply some common sense. You can’t pick and choose, or we will never know where we stand. Friend’s only saving grace was that Mohamed Salah could not score from the spot.
13 – Arsenal have won their last 13 games at the Emirates in all competitions. It is their longest ever winning run there.
– Watford had 14 shots against Stoke City, but not one of them hit the target.
18 – All 18 of Georginio Wijnaldum’s Premier League goals (for Newcastle United and Liverpool) have been scored at home.
41 – All 41 of Javier Hernandez’s Premier League goals have been scored from inside the penalty box.
100 – Daniel Sturridge’s strike against Huddersfield Town was the 100th club goal of his career.
Goal of the weekend
Out of principle, Monday Morning Football is unable to award the title to Darren Fletcher. On paper, his goal sounded wonderful. A volley on the edge of the box, straight from a corner. It reads like a Paul Scholes classic. But no. Fletcher committed a crime against football aesthetics by side-footing the shot, rather than blasting it with his laces. Unacceptable.
Instead, we will award the title to Raheem Sterling, for another vintage Guardiola goal. One-twos in the build-up, then it’s worked out to Walker, who finds Sterling for the tap-in. A glorious team effort.
Jason Burt’s team of the weekendTactics corner, with JJ Bull
Before kick-off, David Unsworth spoke of the importance of giving Everton fans the kind of football they wanted, playing on the front foot and creating width for strikers. By the end of this one he must have wished they didn’t want quite so much.
, happy to absorb tame, uninspired build-up and strike quickly with pace and power. Claude Puel played to Leicester’s strengths, Unsworth played into Leicester’s hands.
From kick-off the standard was set, as Phil Jagielka humped a long ball out to the left wing, giving Leicester possession from a throw-in immediately. It’s supposed to be difficult to win the ball back in the Premier League, and while Leicester worked hard off the ball throughout, they didn’t have to try that hard… especially after a simple opening period to the game rewarded them with two goals.
Everton’s plan seemed to be to send high balls into the box for Calvert-Llewin, a nimble, quick striker best at playing on the shoulder, against a central defensive pairing of Harry Maguire and Wes Morgan, who towered over him like a cartoon wrestling tag-team. It didn’t look like working even once.
Things changed after half time as Unsworth switched to a 4-4-2 diamond but Ronald Koeman has struggled all season to make this group of players look good – nothing seems to work.
Leicester, obviously, were always going to play on the counter attack – it’s what they do – and the decision to attack with a high defensive line was curious. And with Jagielka, who makes a post office queue look quick, next to a seriously out-of-form Ashley Williams at centre-back, providing some defensive cover might have made sense.
Higher up the pitch, nothing worked. Mirallas kept wandering inside and disrupting the shape, Rooney cut a frustrated figure throughout, a big gap was left between midfield and defence. Playing two wingers and two strikers away from home in the Premier League was… not ambitious… but certainly ill-advised.
“The second half was much better,” said Unsworth after the game. “We gave them a two goal start and didn’t perform. Formations and tactics go out the window if you don’t play on the front foot and for some reason we didn’t.
“(At half time) I wanted an extra man in midfield and an extra striker and we felt the best way was to do it with a diamond. For whatever reason, first half it didn’t work. You’ve got to be reactive and show the players that you’re on the front foot as well.”
The positive for Unsworth is that he realised his team was in trouble and made changes early on. He knows it didn’t work, realises this is not an easy fix. The negative though is the lack of clear, clever strategy, players in straight lines, passes being sent over the top of the midfield. If you want to ping it into channels you sit deep, like Leicester. If you want to pass-and-move you need to put players into space to receive the ball – this was a mish mash of both and none.
“Whoever gets the honour of being Everton manager, including myself, needs time with this set of players. You need time and time on the training ground to implement those ideas.”
Unsworth won the Under-23 league last season and must know what he’s doing. On this evidence though, his ideas include playing a suicidal high line against Leicester, playing a left-footed inside forward on the left wing and fielding a fairly standard 4-2-3-1 wioach Ryan Giggs won’t hear criticism of Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.Bale’s commitment and professionalism has been questioned in Spain.But Giggs says: “We played a game [on Tuesday] and he looked really good, sharp and really fresh, I’m excited to sth instructions to, effectively, get stuck in, get on the front foot, show some desire etc.
With a different group of players, perhaps he’d be able to turn Everton’s season around. Maybe he’s the next Sir Alex Ferguson. Perhaps we’ll get the chance to find out. Everton can’t afford to get are threatening to pull out of talks with Manchester United for Paul Pogba.Fed-up with United’s stubbornness in negotiations, Real are prepared to turn elsewhere to boost coach Zinedine Zidane’s midfield options.And while he views Pogba as a summer it wrong.
Key question of the week
Are Bournemouth losing their identity?
When promoted teams find success in the Premier League, it tends to be for one of two reasons. They are either well organised, defensively solid units who are hard to beat (eg Burnley), or they are committed to a certain style of play that makes them a unique proposition (eg Swansea under Brendan Rodgers).
For two seasons under Eddie Howe, Bournemouth fell into the latter category. With their passing football, high-energy pressing and array of midfield schemers, Bournemouth have been relentlessly impressive in the top flight, other than a mid-season blip last year (they still finished ninth).
So it is was endlessly frustrating to see Howe line his players up so defensively against Chelsea in their 1-0 defeat on Saturday. There were none of the passing triangles we have come to expect from this side, none of the energy without the ball. Instead they sat deep and tried to hit the champions on the break.
It was not what Bournemouth do best. And it’s not as if Chelsea were even strolling into this match on a particularly formidable run of form, either.
Bournemouth have been so enjoyable because they have not been afraid to have a go at teams and play their own way, irrespective of the opposition. It would be a shame if they were to lose that.
Who’s showing the most cards?How is the table looking?Off the Ball, by Alistair Tweedale
54% – Everton just as hopeless before
18% – Blankly staring into the distance
13% – Hoping Wayne Rooney might still be good
10% – 4-4-2
5% – Spirited late push that he can cling onto
0 – Christmas cards Michail Antonio should expect from Slaven Bilic after his mistake led to Wilfried Zaha’s late equaliser
“Listen, unless somebody decides otherwise, you’ve got me, boring old big nose f***ing fart with s***e football until May. Unless somebody decides different.”
Mick McCarthy to the disgruntled Ipswich fans following his side’s late 2-1 win at Burton.
Race for the Golden Boot What’s coming up next?What’s on TV this week?
Burnley v Newcastle United, Premier League, 8pm on Sky Sports
Manchester United v Benfica; Roma v Chelsea, both 7.45pm on BT Sport
Wednesday: Liverpool v Maribor; Napoli v Manchester City; Tottenham Hotspur v Real Madrid, all 7.45pm on BT Sport
Thursday: Arsenal v Red Star Belgrade, Europa League, 8.05pm on BT Sport
Stoke City v Leicester City, Premier League 12.30pm on Sky Sports; West Ham United v Liverpool, Premier League, 5.30pm on BT Sport
Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace, Premier League, 12pm on BT Sport; Manchester City v Arsenal, Premier League, 2.15pm on Sky Sports; Chelsea v Manchester United, Premier League, 4.30pm on Sky Sports