It was only 12 years ago that, just minutes after ending the season with a defeat at Everton, Carlo Ancelotti was told in a corridor amid the bowels of Goodison Park that he was being sacked by Chelsea.
Ancelotti had just secured a second-placed finish, having won the double 12 months earlier. But it wasn’t enough to save the Italian.
A familiar fate is unlikely to befall Mauricio Pochettino, with Chelsea said to be committed to him for the long term, but questions are beginning to be asked of the manager.
Chelsea have now lost three of their last four games, and followed up a dismal showing at Old Trafford on Wednesday with another insipid effort at Everton.
The progress that was pointed to after taking points off Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal is hard to discern now.
Chelsea find themselves in 12th – the same place they ended their dreadful 2022/23 campaign – and no ever-present Premier League side has earned fewer than their 39 points this calendar year.
That is a stark reality for Pochettino and his side to face.
There was a moment at Kenilworth Road where Ross Barkley, who was in sparkling form for Luton, looked to have two yards of space in the Manchester City midfield. But then a giant appeared, in every sense.
Rodri strode in from almost nowhere to rob Barkley of possession and send City on their way up the field. Pep Guardiola welcomed his midfield maestro back to the fold at Luton and his influence shone brightly yet again.
City record a lower win rate, points per game rate, score fewer goals and concede more per game when Rodri is missing from this side. He is their driving force. The key cog. He was yet again in monstrous mood.
No player had more touches, won more duels, made as many dribbles or had more shots than Rodri in a City shirt over the course of a rough and ready afternoon for Guardiola’s men. Rodri’s physicality is the bedrock of this extraordinary Man City side. There isn’t anyone better in world football.
Richarlison’s inclusion in the starting line-up against Newcastle will have raised a few eyebrows among Spurs fans after his miss against West Ham on Thursday. The Brazilian, it seemed, had lost the patience of many supporters.
But with his two goals in Sunday’s thrashing, Richarlison has changed the narrative. He received one of the biggest roars of the day when his name was announced for his substitution in the second half.
The fact they were his first Spurs goals with his feet on his 48th appearance tell the story of how difficult he has found life in north London. It is, of course, no coincidence that his return to goalscoring form after a barren run of seven games coincided with a change of position.
Ange Postecoglou restored Brazil’s No 9 to a central attacking role. “I think that’s his best position, through the middle,” the Spurs boss said after the game. “It wasn’t just his goals, his general work-rate, his energy and physicality were very good for us.”
Injury had limited Richarlison up to now, which explains why it’s taken Postecoglou so long to trust him up front, perhaps the most vital position on the pitch to establish the team’s press.
“Richy was important to us at the start of the year too, but he wasn’t fully fit. He was restricted in his movements,” added Postecoglou. “At times, we had to play him out wide to get him through games.”
Given the opportunity to play closer to goal, Richarlison grabbed it with both hands. For a player that has spoken about his mental health struggles, this felt like an important moment in his Spurs career. Nothing restores confidence like goals. Now he has the platform to push on.
Eddie Howe described Kieran Trippier’s impending suspension for Newcastle’s meeting with Fulham as a “huge blow” in his post-match press conference but it might turn out to be a blessing.
The full-back looks like a player in need of a break.
Having been partly at fault for all three of Everton’s goals in Newcastle’s defeat at Goodison Park on Thursday night, Trippier endured another torrid evening at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Heung-Min Son was his main tormentor, beating him one-on-one to provide the crosses for the first and second goals, but he was not the only Spurs player to cause him problems.
It was notable, in the first half in particular, how Spurs targeted that flank, with Destiny Udogie charging forward from left-back and Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison also drifting towards that side.
Trippier looked exhausted and it is hardly surprising that he is making uncharacteristic errors. He is not the only Newcastle player who has been overworked amid their injury crisis but, unlike many of the others, he was already shouldering a heavy workload.
The 33-year-old has started all of Newcastle’s games this season bar two Carabao Cup ties. Last season, he started 43 of a possible 46 club games – and all that with a World Cup in the middle.
His exertions have taken a toll. Newcastle will of course miss him against Fulham. On this evidence, though, he might be better for sitting the game out.
Everton are now four points above the relegation zone. They’d be four above Chelsea if they hadn’t had their points deduction, sitting in 10th rather than 17th. But although that punishment has left them down among the sides fearing relegation, Everton are quite clearly on the up under boss Sean Dyche.
It’s three Premier League wins in a row now, with the victories over Nottingham Forest, Newcastle and Chelsea lifting them out of the mire. They are wins which have come since the points deduction and there is certainly an element of that punishment galvanising the group. But going back further Everton have won seven out of their last 11.
Poor finishing, especially at Goodison, had masked some of the progress the manager and his players have made this season but with Dwight McNeil and Abdoulaye Doucoure – two Dyche favourites – finding form, they are getting their rewards now.
The past two seasons have seen Everton pull off late survival shows. The indications are they will be looking down on the relegation scrap this time around, regardless of how successful their appeal against the points deduction is.
The last seven days have made for a wild ride for Fulham fans.
One week earlier, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s 88th-minute winner saw Liverpool edge a seven-goal thriller at Anfield. On Wednesday, they pulled a shock 5-0 win against Nottingham Forest out of the bag – and on Sunday, they inflicted the same scoreline on West Ham.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Marco Silva pointed towards Raul Jimenez’s return to form as an individual example of the fact confidence has played a significant part in the team’s overall upturn, and it’s hard to argue – he has four goals in his last five games, which has massively aided the cause.
Fulham had scored only 10 in their first 12 before the November international break but, since they, they seem to have become world beaters with 16 in their last four, which equates to 61.5 per cent of their total in the league so far this term. They have far exceeded their Expected Goals figure of 8.97 across those matches.
Silva’s men have been languishing in the bottom half for much of the season so far, but if they carry on in this vein, they will not be dropping back any time soon.
Conceding stoppage time goals against Liverpool and Arsenal cost them three points – the Hatters doubled that tally by conceding two quickfire goals while on top.
So for the third time this season, Rob Edwards’ side were clapped off as unlucky losers after taking a ‘Big Six’ club the distance.
Nobody expected Luton to get any points from the three games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City – let alone the one point they have. But they need to start producing results, rather than performances.
With Everton and Bournemouth winning over the weekend, there are fewer teams for Luton to drag into this relegation fight. Now they face Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Burnley in their next four games. These are crucial times for Luton.