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Premier League: Big six are top six as Man United, Man City, Arsenal win

It's taken 10 fixtures but the Premier League has finally coalesced to form the top six we were all expecting back in August. Liverpool managed to keep a clean sheet in their victory over Huddersfield, Arsenal won their 10th home game on the spin to move into fifth, Chelsea edged past Bournemouth, and while Spurs have had better days, Manchesters United and City both won again.

So who's going to be the best of the rest? Probably not Everton, all things considered. Perhaps the real challenger will emerge on Monday night when Newcastle and Burnley lock horns. Perhaps it will be Leicester. They've got form for this sort of thing...

Goal of the weekend

You know everything you need to know about the Darren Fletcher goal when you realise that Paul Scholes scored one just like it at Manchester United and it ranks among his very best strikes. But Fletcher is not exactly known for this sort of thing, is he? He's a hard-working, inspirational defensive midfielder. He was not, until this weekend, the sort of chap you expect to spank home a volley direct from a corner; better yet, it was the only goal as Stoke beat Watford 1-0.

Individual performance of the weekend

These have been testing times for Joe Hart and he deserved better than to end up without a win on Saturday for his efforts. Hart's mission to find his form in Italy was not a successful one and while he hasn't been a disaster in his brief time at West Ham, he hasn't exactly shone -- until this weekend. Hart made a number of fine saves but none as impressive as the one-handed stop that denied James Tomkins in the second half as West Ham drew 2-2 at Swansea. Perhaps this will prove a turning point.

Wally of the weekend

If it had been a teenager, you'd have some sympathy for their naivety. But it was Michail Antonio. He'll be 28 next week, he's been in the game for years and has played at every level from non-league to the Premier League. He's been in the England squad for heaven's sake. He should know that the 97th minute is not the time to be tossing lethargic crosses in from the touchline. It's the time to head to the corner flag, stick your bottom out and hold the ball there for as long as possible.

But a lethargic cross it was, easily claimed, and then Crystal Palace went up the other end and scored the equaliser. Hart called him "unprofessional" in public. It's probably best that we don't know what he called him in private.

Tactical switch of the weekend

Martial was the hero for Man United as Mourinho's bold substitution led to the 1-0 win over Tottenham.

Given that he had been one of the few bright spots in a very dull game, there were few who agreed with Jose Mourinho's decision to withdraw Marcus Rashford on Saturday. Indeed, there were reports of scattered boos and widespread grumbling at Old Trafford. But Anthony Martial had a point to prove and, more pertinently, he had fresh legs with which to prove it.

Martial's movement in behind the Tottenham defence was clever, his pace proved more than enough to leave Eric Dier floundering and we'll gloss over the messy finish because it went in and that's all that counts. Mourinho 1-0 Dissenting Observers.

Spare a thought for...

Poor Jonjoe Kenny. Not only did he manage to mistime a clearance so badly that it went over his head and into his own goal, but he had to watch as the cold-hearted Leicester City entertainment team replayed twice it on the big screen to gales of mocking laughter. This was the stuff of YouTube compilations. In 20 years' time, teenagers will be overlaying European disco beats to footage of that, segueing it into footage of Chris Brass and Jamie Pollock and uploading it to a grateful world.

Rise of the Reep?

He is long dead now, but Manchester United's winning goal would have brought a smile to the face of Wing Commander Charles Reep. Originally an accountant, Reep was the father of football analytics and the man whose key maxim was essentially that as the majority of goals were scored after moves of three passes or fewer, the best way to score goals was to launch moves with three passes or fewer.

The sight of David de Gea launching the ball, Romelu Lukaku nodding into his "position of maximum opportunity" and Martial tucking it away would have delighted him.

Naughty boy

We like Troy Deeney, generally speaking. We like him because you couldn't ask for a more hard-working, selfless striker. We like him because he's interesting and is unafraid to say things that other footballers wouldn't, like that little vignette about Arsenal's undercarriage a couple of weeks ago. We like him because he's actually quite nice in real life. And we're saying all these positive things because we're really scared that he seemed to be trying to pop Joe Allen's head like a balloon on Saturday, and we wanted to soften the blow.

Having just worked his way back into the first team, we have a feeling he'll be sitting the next three games out.

One to watch next week

Are Arsenal back? Stop laughing, we're serious! They've looked pretty good recently. They've only lost once since the Anfield Incident, cruised through their Europa League group and have proved themselves of fighting back from a goal down on three occasions in six days. And they could be just six points off Manchester City next week. Assuming, of course, they can beat Manchester City.

Stop laughing! It might happen. No team goes through a whole season without losing a single game. Well, apart from Arsenal, but that's not going to happen again, is it? Are we on the verge of quite the plot twist?

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.


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