Liverpool, Spurs and why VAR won't fix everything; Mou must earn noise
With the transfer window but a distant memory, the focus this weekend was only on events that took place on the pitch. Nick Miller rounds up the best and worst of the Premier League action.
Goal of the weekend
The variety of fine strikes was the most enjoyable thing: you could take Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's delicate dink for Arsenal; or Mo Salah's tippy-toed effort that looked like it had beaten Tottenham; or the Victor Wanyama thunderbolt into the top corner that preceded it.
But Jose Izqueirdo's brilliant curling effort for Brighton against West Ham gets the nod, mainly because it had such a high degree of difficulty; the sort of strike that would get extra credit if football was judged like ice skating or gymnastics. Only the lucky or the good score goals like that and Izqueirdo was very, very good.
(Non) VAR incident of the weekend
The second penalty awarded to Tottenham in their 2-2 draw with Liverpool displayed that, while VAR might clear up a few things, it will never make everyone happy. Replays showed that Virgil van Dijk kicked Erik Lamela in the back of the leg, meaning it was a penalty and assistant referee Eddie Smart should be commended for correcting referee Jon Moss.
But social media revealed many Liverpool fans who swear it was not a spot kick and, more importantly, so did a look into the home dugout: "I don't understand either of the penalty situations," said Jurgen Klopp. Conversely, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said: "Both were a penalty and it is not controversial."
If we must have VAR then it can only be for objective decisions, not ones that require any subjectivity. But there aren't many of those, so the uncertainty will rage on.
Complaint of the weekend
With the score 0-0 at half-time of Manchester United's win over Huddersfield on Saturday, a home supporter chatted with an employee of the visitors. "We just want to be entertained," said the fan in a shrugging, resigned way. After the game Jose Mourinho, completely unprompted, once again noted that Old Trafford was a "quiet" ground and compared it unfavourably to Portsmouth.
"For such a small stadium the atmosphere there was incredible," he said of Fratton Park. United's manager is correct, but this is a chicken-and-egg situation. He cannot expect fans to conjure enthusiasm for football so functional and for a routine 2-0 victory, in which the only real flair arrived when Paul Pogba came on as a substitute with 25 minutes to go.
Winning is great -- preferable to the alternative -- and, if you do it enough, fans get enthusiastic. But United fans, especially those who were around before 2013, are not only used to winning, they have also been conditioned to expect entertainment. Mourinho can jab away but, until his team provides something more, Old Trafford will continue to be quiet.
Buck passing of the weekend
We know that, when Sam Allardyce teams do well, he turns the focus on himself. But when they don't, that's reversed. As such, "the whole team played crap" was his rather frank assessment of Everton's 5-1 defeat to Arsenal. "I was angry," he continued. "I'm still angry. I think accepting an instruction is part of a player's responsibility."
If you listened to Allardyce it was clear who was to blame for the performance, and it wasn't the manager. But it's getting more difficult for him to shift blame given Saturday's humiliation represented Everton's fourth defeat in the last eight, in which time they've only won once.
The pact in appointing Allardyce is that you don't get pretty football, but you do get results. At the moment, he's breaking that pact and blaming someone else for it.
Excuse of the weekend
"Maybe we scored too early," said Alan Pardew, speaking as if West Brom were a bunch of amateurs playing Bayern Munich, rather than a Southampton side who hadn't won in the league since November. "We had players who hadn't played for a while having to play two games in three days, and we just looked a little bit leggy."
Newcastle fans will be familiar with such comments like this. In his time at St. James' Park, Pardew blamed various incidents on the 2012 Olympics, the Notting Hill Carnival, grass, a lack of education in the Newcastle area, the team's fans not making enough noise and the team's fans making too much noise.
Also: It was two games in four days, not three.
Bright side of the weekend
"I don't like that we're in the bottom three, but to be honest I think it makes it easier now. We are the team who can chase, we don't have to look over our shoulders, we can look forward."
David Wagner might have been desperately reaching for a positive after Huddersfield lost their fifth match on the spin and slipped into the bottom three for the first time this season. But he also might have a point.
Huddersfield won promotion against the odds last season, with Wagner referring to them as the "little dogs" of the Championship throughout. So perhaps they are at their best when scrapping against adversity. Wagner will have to balance that mentality against an upcoming fixture list a little friendlier than last week's games against Liverpool and Man United, but more adversity might be what they need.
Schoolboy error of the weekend
Brighton's first goal in a 3-1 win saw the West Ham defence stand still, expecting a foul to be given against them. But referee Roger East played advantage, which allowed Glenn Murray to wander through and score. "Play to the whistles!" screamed Sunday league coaches across the land, but the most boring, basic instruction in the game was ignored.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.