The Premier League goes on a two-week hiatus ahead of the international break for Euro 2016 qualifiers, but there were plenty of talking points to sustain top-flight fans during the next fortnight, most notably at Anfield.
Here are five things we learned over the weekend:
Liverpool need midfielders
Based on the first 30 minutes of the Reds’ 2-1 home loss to Manchester United, if the future of Liverpool’s midfield is Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson then the future is frightening, and not in a good way for the Anfield faithful.
Henderson certainly will remain in the engine room, but whether he’s ready to be captain after his side’s rudderless first-half display is surely up for review. Emre Can, take note.
Real Madrid’s Asier Illarramendi has been touted as a possible replacement for Steven Gerrard, and by extension Allen, while rumours that Roma’s Miralem Pjanic is a prime target for Brendan Rodgers won’t go away after this result.
Spurs aren’t quite out of the race for a Champions League place
Burnley (A), Aston Villa (H), Newcastle (A), Southampton (A), Stoke (A), Hull (H) and Everton (A) are all winnable, while flailing champions Manchester City’s visit to White Hart Lane will instil little fear in the Lilywhites.
Meanwhile, Man Utd face three of the current top-five teams before season’s end, as do Arsenal. They’re six and seven points clear of Spurs respectively, but stranger things have happened during this topsy-turvy Premier League campaign.
Man Utd are a couple of players away from a title tilt
At Anfield, the Red Devils were at times unrecognisable from the turgid team Louis van Gaal has tried to get playing slick, passing football.
It finally came off in the first half, and had Hull held out for a draw at home to Chelsea, United would have found themselves in the remarkable position of being just six points behind the leaders with eight games left of the campaign.
If the Dutch stalwart manages to bring in the likes of wing-forward Memphis Depay and centre-half Mats Hummels, or players of that ilk, during the next silly season then United could indeed be back.
Roberto Martinez may not be as secure in his position as first thought
We know Everton owner Bill Kenwright is loathe to sack managers, but the writing was on the wall, so to speak, for the Spanish tactician ahead of the Toffees’ 2-1 win at QPR.
As reported in the Liverpool Echo, fans spray-painted ‘Martinez Out’ and ‘Not Good Enough’ on the back of the Bullens Road Stand at Goodison Park.
Thankfully for Martinez, fan power doesn’t feature quite as strongly in this part of Merseyside as it does in…say…east London, but the former Wigan boss can’t be happy with the development.
The next Sunderland manager could start life as Black Cats boss in the Championship
“The only important thing in the final eight games is winning…The way that we do is not important. So if we win games very ugly I like that.”
A big issue for thought-to-be-temporary Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat, who uttered the above quote, is that the Black Cats have been stinking the place out all season without getting anywhere.
No top-flight team has won fewer this term than the four they ‘enjoyed’ under Gus Poyet, and it wasn’t exactly like watching Brazil under the Uruguayan. They’re a point above the relegation zone and 7/5 to go down.
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