A quarter-ish way through the season and things are, unfortunately for some, beginning to take shape.

Draws at home did not help the cause of either Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur.

United should have beaten Burnley by three or four goals but their failure in front of goal may yet prove that Zlatan Ibrahimović was not the signing which should have been prioritised during the recent transfer window.

During the Ferguson years proven goalscorers in top leagues were brought in to play for United. Over time he bought Ruud van Nistelrooy, Eric Cantona, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, to name but four. They were not old when he bought them and rarely had lengthy barren spells in front of goal.

Ibrahimović, currently, couldn’t hit a barn door from five yards so bad has his loss of form been. In fairness, he is trying to contribute to other aspects of the team’s game but that is not necessarily why he is being paid the big bucks. United look desperately short of someone who can put the ball in the net and this is what is going to deny them a place in the top four unless it is addressed quite quickly. Drawing 0-0 with Burnley at home also won’t do their challenge any favours.

Tottenham, also at home, failed to beat the current champions who have returned to being a team the better clubs should be beating at home. Leicester certainly seem to have one eye on progression in the Champion’s League and the obvious financial rewards that brings. It is a very realistic approach considering they have had to be very honest about their chances of retaining the Premier League in order to put the majority of their eggs into the basket marked “Europe” Unlike the rest of the country, they appear to want to remain in Europe for as long as is possible.

The fact remains that failure to beat such teams could well see Tottenham Hotspur miss out on a top four place at the end of the season. A 1-1 draw has not helped their cause.

As for the rest, theirs was a profitable weekend. Manchester City returned to winning ways thanks, mainly, to Sir Joe Agüero who proved to Pep that, not only can he score, but that he can run around a lot as well. Ilkay Gündogan also got in on the two goals act as City beat West Brom at The Hawthorns.

Liverpool were involved in another six-goal thriller at Crystal Palace but this time it was too early to cost them the title and, as they won 4-2, it wouldn’t have done anyway. As long as they can outscore teams then Liverpool have a decent chance of silverware this season but they would have an even better chance if they could defend.

Everton, who nobody really considers as serious contenders also won. They beat a temporarily resurgent West Ham United at Goodison with goals from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku and looked good in the process. However, they are a little too inconsistent and have a fairly small squad, both factors which will keep them just outside the top four.

The early game on Saturday saw David Moyes who, a little like Steve McCLaren, has managed to convince owners at some clubs that he is a good manager. He hasn’t unfortunately for him, managed to convince fans at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and now Sunderland that he is any good. In fact, quite the opposite. If he were to be given the time he says he needs to turn things around at these clubs then both United and Sociedad would have been relegated. If he is given much longer at Sunderland then they will be relegated!

Having said all that, Arsenal needed Sunderland to equalise to spur them into action. Once done though there was only one winner and Arsenal look every bit the title challengers they will cease to be once the new year arrives. This will be a pity but the fans are used to it by now and will gleefully usher Arsene Wenger up the stairs at The Emirates with “thanks for a job well done” at the end of the season.

So no real change with the four best teams all winning and the rest with some catching up to do. The proof of genuine title contenders is the ability to win away from home at tricky places. Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all managed to do just that this weekend. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur couldn’t win at home. That is the difference.


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