Matchweek 13 fell on Thanksgiving weekend. Or, as the British call it, “the weekend.” English football carried on as usual, which, oddly, makes it a welcome diversion over a long holiday weekend. Week 13 saw the title race get tighter and narrower, Mourinho have yet another meltdown, and an awareness campaign that illustrated the ties that bind. If you missed anything while sleeping off the tryptophan, we’ll get you caught up.
1. Acid Tests
This was a must-win for both of these sides; Chelsea needed an unequivocal statement that they were title contenders, Spurs needed to stay in the hunt and finally break their Stamford Bridge curse. Tottenham hadn’t won at the Bridge since February 1990, and winning there this weekend would’ve sent a clear message that they were serious this season. But they’ll have to wait a while longer— Chelsea rallied from 1-0 down to equalize right before halftime and then secure a win thanks to Victor Moses. The Blues now sit alone atop the Premier League table while Spurs will have to fight hard just to get back into the Top 4. It’s not even December and the title race is already getting fierce.
2. What Might Have Been
It’s been 20 months since Burnley famously beat Manchester City at home, thanks to an absolute belter from George Boyd. It wasn’t just a major setback for City’s title ambitions— it was an utter embarrassment at the hands of a side that hadn’t beaten them since the 70s. When Dean Marney struck home from 25 yards in the first quarter hour of their latest meeting with City on Saturday, it looked like Burnley might keep the good times going. But Sergio Agüero stepped up and put two past the hosts for a comeback win that they absolutely needed to keep pace in the title fight. Burnley fans could maybe be satisfied with a moral victory, but the What Might Have Beens no doubt sting.
3. And If A Double-Decker Bus/Crashes Into Us…
In the run-up to their clash with Liverpool, Sunderland boss David Moyes said he planned to have his team park “a double-decker bus” to slow their hosts’ roll. For much of the game they did exactly that, throwing eight or nine men in front of goal to set up an impregnable wall for Liverpool to throw themselves against. When Philippe Coutinho left the game in the first half with an ankle injury, it seemed like Sunderland’s plan would work and they’d get out of Merseyside with a point. But the Reds found a crack in the wall and pounded on it until it gave way, and Sunderland’s clever plan for a 0-0 draw ended in a 2-0 loss. Moyes’ attempt to flip the script ended up preserving the status quo— Liverpool throwing elbows at the top of the table, Sunderland clawing about at the bottom.
4. The Petulant One
It'd be easy to focus solely on José Mourinho's latest tantrum during United's 1-1 draw at home against West Ham. His argument with officials and kung-fu fight with a water bottle got him sent off for the second time in a month. (This incident, like the one against Burnley, will almost certainly mean another fine and touchline ban.) And yes, this does further cement the notion that Mou's Third Season Syndrome has struck early. But it also distracts from a much bigger problem in the side. Manchester United are now on their worst start since 1990-91— and yes, it's worse than David Moyes' season in charge. They're now 11 points out of first place and 8 points out of the Top 4. United spent a lot of money to bring in top-shelf talent and a manager who could whip them up into title contenders, and they're nowhere near meeting that benchmark. At this point, the only real plausible explanations are that either Mourinho doesn't realize he's in trouble or he just doesn't care. Either way, the clock is ticking.
5. The Turning Point?
It's still early yet but don't be surprised if Swansea vs Crystal Palace ends up being the best game of the season. It wasn't a masterpiece of technical skill but it was pretty dang entertaining. Swansea went down a goal early, clawed their way back to establish a 3-1 lead, blew the lead and found themselves down 4-3 with less than five minutes in regulation, only to score two goals in stoppage time to secure a 5-4 win and probably the most thrilling contest of the season. Swansea players are happy. The fans are happy. Bob Bradley is definitely happy. There's a long way to go for Swansea if they want to stay up, but if they needed some confidence to mount a fightback, they got it this weekend.
BONUS: Laced Together
Players wore rainbow laces (and captains wore rainbow armbands) as part of a weekend campaign by the Premier League in partnership with Stonewall UK, in order to show solidarity with the LGBT community and to heighten awareness of the need for diversity and tolerance. While these kind of campaigns don’t solve the problem of bigotry by themselves, and it’s all too easy for organizations and institutions to think these awareness campaigns are enough, it’s still a step toward progress. These kind of gestures matter, and as the responses to the league’s tweet show, they’re still necessary.