Leicester lost for the first time since sacking Claudio Ranieri in February.
Tottenham maintained their valiant bid to ensure the Premier League title race does not turn into a procession for Chelsea and Leicester’s trip to Everton was a step too far for boss Craig Shakespeare, while Swansea missed a trick at fellow strugglers West Ham.
Chelsea for champions but Spurs have staying power.
Chelsea followed up their decisive win over Manchester City with three more points and a 3-1 win at Bournemouth, taking one more stride towards the Premier League trophy. Their seven-point lead should be too much at this stage of the season but in Tottenham, the division at least has worthy competitors. Mauricio Pochettino’s men flopped from a similar stage while pursuing Leicester last year but look to be made of sterner stuff this time around. After 31 games they now boast 68 points, compared to 61 at the same stage last term. It may not be enough to land the silverware but the progress at White Hart Lane is tangible.
Shakespeare forgets his lines
Leicester lost for the first time since sacking Claudio Ranieri in February, beaten 4-2 at Everton as boss Craig Shakespeare fell one win short of equalling a Premier League record. Shakespeare became the first British boss to win his first five games in the top flight and was hoping to join Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola as the only managers to win their first six. The Foxes’ transformation under Ranieri’s former assistant has been startling, but it remains to be seen how Shakespeare and his players respond to their setback at Goodison Park, starting with the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon Stadium on Wednesday.
Swansea suffer hammer blow
The bounce that came with Paul Clement’s arrival in Wales has dissipated in disappointing fashion in recent weeks, with defeat by a West Ham side on their own horror run providing a new low. They looked to have a sympathetic fixture list but a solitary point from games against Hull, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Tottenham and the Hammers is a paltry return. They remain two points adrift of survival and cannot rely on goal difference to help them, thanks to damage done during Bob Bradley’s reign. The players’ reaction as they were turned over at the London Stadium showed they knew it was a huge opportunity missed.
Boro blundered badly in January
Since the winter transfer window shut Middlesbrough have played eight Premier League games and failed to score in six of them, the latest coming against the division’s most compliant travellers, Burnley, on Saturday. Their lack of fire power was an open secret well before the market opened but, despite the financial importance of staying up, the club were far too timid in their dealings. Where a big statement was required, the Wearsiders could only muster a minor reshuffle – Rudy Gestede and Patrick Bamford coming in while a player with a superior scoring record, Jordan Rhodes, departed. Losing their top-flight status could now be the price.
Reds reliant on main men
Most teams would expect a drop in performance if you removed four of their best players, but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp now knows just how heavily his team leans on the quartet of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. With the first two injured and the Brazilian pair only deemed fit enough for bench duty, a youthful XI were all over the place in the first half against Stoke and looked little better than mid-table jobbers. At 1-0 down, Klopp gambled by sending for Coutinho and Firmino and saw an immediate uptick that led to victory. To achieve their goals, Liverpool need more top-tier performers or an industrial shipment of cotton wool for their elite quartet.