1. Pogba shows what Manchester United were missing
A couple of weeks ago, Jose Mourinho came to the conclusion that he should moan more. Other managers, he declared, would have been crying all the time if they had been deprived of Paul Pogba.
He illustrated his point by mentioning his absent talisman by name eight times in the space of 66 words. On his comeback, Pogba proved the difference he can make.
United had only scored two goals in their previous four league games. They went a goal down to Newcastle.
READ MORE: Pogba shines as Ibrahimovic makes his return
Pogba fashioned the equaliser with the trickery to fool Isaac Hayden and the centre to set up Anthony Martial. He scored the third goal. They won 4-1. United scored four goals for the seventh time this season, but the first since September.
It is the range of Pogba’s talents – the physique of a defensive midfielder, the skills of a flair player, the passing range of a playmaker, the growing determination to score – that makes him irreplaceable. United look a different team now he is back.
2. Pochettino’s away-day problems continue
Go back a few weeks and Tottenham had made a 100% start on the road in the Premier League. But they had not travelled to any of their immediate rivals then. They have now, and they have lost at both United and Arsenal, failing to score in either game. They could argue that Harry Kane missed the match at Old Trafford and that Mauricio Pochettino felt compelled to remove his top scorer and Dele Alli with 15 minutes to go at the Emirates Stadium to ensure neither was injured again.
They could, and did, mention the decisions of referee Mike Dean, awarding the free-kick that led to Shkodran Mustafi’s opener in a dubious call, and the potential offsides that were not given for either goal. Yet the broader picture is that Spurs have only won one of 17 away league games at the big six under Pochettino. Hugo Lloris, who spared them a heavier defeat against Arsenal, has not kept a clean sheet in 24. Tottenham have taken strides forward in other respects, particularly in the Champions League, but they will not win the title if they cannot beat their peers on the road. As it is, Pochettino’s away record in such matches is starting to bear comparison with David Moyes’.
3. Deeper Coutinho adds another dimension for Liverpool
When Liverpool signed Mohamed Salah, the logic was that they had a player to compensate for Sadio Mane’s more frequent absences. So the prolific Egyptian has proved. Yet he has also given Jurgen Klopp another option, one he has not really been able to use because he did not have his four premier talents available at the same time. Belatedly, more than three months into the season, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Salah and Mane started a league game together.
READ MORE: Record-breaking Salah blows Saints away
Klopp’s way of accommodating the quartet was signposted in pre-season, when they eviscerated Bayern Munich. Southampton may be lesser opponents but they suffered the same fate. Salah’s brace took his tally for the Reds to 14 but it is the use of Coutinho in a deeper role that permits the other three to play in front of him. It was something Klopp first trialled at the end of last season. It should become a more frequent sight.
4. Pulis’ job is becoming untenable
When a manager is not getting results, he has a problem. When he has lost the supporters’ backing, he has little left in his favour. Tony Pulis’ style of football means he needs results to justify his position. He tends to be the guarantee against relegation but West Bromwich Albion, with no wins in 11 games, have slid down the table at an alarming rate. Pulis’ teams have tended to be built on solid foundations but they were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea.
This is not the kind of excitement the supporters wanted. There is a case for arguing that, after signing Grzegorz Krychowiak, Gareth Barry, Kieran Gibbs, Jay Rodriguez and Oliver Burke, that Albion that their most gifted ever Premier League squad. It all adds to the frustration at the Hawthorns. Pulis has got better results with lesser players in the past. The danger for him is that the board assume another manager would get more from talented performers and wield the axe.
5. Moyes cannot make an immediate impact
David Moyes made a difference straight away. His team scored in the first minute and won their first game. Not West Ham in 2017, however, but Everton in 2002. Fast forward 15 years and he did not make such an auspicious start. A 2-0 defeat at Watford was a case of problems being highlighted, not solved. West Ham looked too old and too slow. They concede too many goals and take too few chances.
They have the talent to do better and Moyes is charged with making them the sum of their well-paid parts. But while a manager who made a PR mistake by soon admitting Sunderland were in a relegation battle last season should not repeat that, he may fear West Ham face a similar fight to survive.