Chelsea and Sergio Aguero among those rising above transfer tension

The transfer window is a weird time to play football, when you think about it. Maybe the solution is to stop football for a week or so and let everyone get the transfer stuff out of their system, because otherwise we get a situation like this weekend, where the spectre of transfers hung over everyone.

Some players might be moving, others don't know if they're staying, some play with the fear that they're about to be replaced, others with the indignation that they're about to be sold. Alexis Sanchez was one of the most significant figures of the weekend's games without playing a minute in any of them, while Michy Batshuayi excelled for Chelsea while knowing it might be his last game for them.

Despite all this, we did see a diverting weekend in the Premier League.

Goal of the weekend
Sometimes technical proficiency is boring. Sometimes very talented people doing the thing they're very talented at very well almost seems a little blase. Sometimes you prefer something a little rougher around the edges. But Willian's goal for Chelsea against Brighton was technical perfection, a pair of lightning-quick backheeled flicks in an absurdly tight space, finished off by the crispest strike imaginable by the Brazilian. It was math and poetry all at the same time.

Performance of the weekend
Antonio Conte seems fascinated to the point of obsession with what he calls a 'reference point' centre-forward, which has lead to the increasingly surreal links with big strikers: Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch, Ashley Barnes. You can understand the theory, but when you watch them play the sort of beautiful, delicate, flowing football they did at times against Brighton, you wonder why it's so important to Conte.

From a purely aesthetic point of view, you wish that Chelsea's team was constructed more around the genius of Eden Hazard than some indeterminate lump they've signed just because he's a warm body. The Belgian had moments where he drifted out of play on Saturday, but the times he was in, he was unbelievable, a gliding menace whenever he picked up the ball. You can always tell true attacking brilliance by how scared defenders look when it approaches them: On Saturday, Brighton's defence looked petrified.

Swan song of the weekend?
As Alexis Sanchez completed the formalities of his move to Manchester United, thoughts turned to who would suffer most from his arrival. Possibly Juan Mata, who now very much looks like the odd one out in a side of quick, vibrant attackers; maybe Jesse Lingard, having a fine season but more technically limited than his colleagues; perhaps Marcus Rashford, who doesn't score enough for his level of talent.

But the man most likely to lose his place is United's matchwinner on Saturday, Anthony Martial. It was notable that, even after complimenting his goal and performance, Jose Mourinho felt it necessary to note that he needs to be more consistent. 'Not just consistency in the goals he scores, but also consistency in the way he plays overall,' Mourinho said. United will certainly get more consistency from the relentless Chilean, but one wonders if Martial will produce the same to play alongside him.

Reminder of the weekend
Of course, if Pep Guardiola had his way, Sanchez would be heading to the other side of Manchester. Presumably that would have meant even less time on the pitch for Sergio Aguero, ostensibly an absolute absurdity given his supreme talent. It was, therefore, a decent time to score a perfect hat trick, even though one was scored via the ends of his coiffed hair rather than a bullet header. Aguero might have felt a little miffed that City were even in for another attacker, but if so he's channeling his frustration in a healthy direction.

Hubris of the weekend
On the face of things, sacking a manager when his team is 10th in the league, that team having never finished higher in Premier League history, after a poor but not calamitous run of form, seems harsh. But, first of all, saying Watford are 10th is massaging the figures a bit: Tenth they are, but they're also only three points off the relegation zone, such is the concertinaed nature of the Premier League's bottom half.

And then, of course, the real reason Marco Silva was dismissed: the thought that his head being turned by Everton has precipitated this decline. What's interesting now is how much of a hit Silva, having basically been accused of rank unprofessionalism by his employers, will take to his reputation. Few would dispute that Silva is a fine manager, but with one report in the Times suggesting that so certain was he of leaving Watford after only nine games in charge, that some of his players had asked to come with him.

Therein lies the problem with a club being happy to act as a stepping stone: More often than not, managers don't want to stay on them for very long.

Instant improvement of the weekend
Apart from the slightly ephemeral 'new manager bounce,' it's always interesting to see what the first thing to change is when a manager brings a new boss in. The appointment of Paul Lambert was quite a surprise, after he did so-so jobs at two Championship clubs, but he benefited from Stoke's apparent insistence on bringing in a manager with Premier League experience, preferably a British one. Once Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew, Roy Hodgson and David Moyes were all in jobs, the list got shorter, and in came Lambert, nobody's idea of a glamour appointment.

But his impact seems to have been fairly immediate, on one part of their game at least. Stoke hadn't kept a clean sheet since a 1-0 win over Watford in October, and that was just their second of the season. Being sliced and diced by Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City is one thing, but if even West Ham can stick three goals past you, it's a sign that the backline needs some work.

Keeping Huddersfield at bay might not be the most daunting task for most Premier League sides, but these are baby steps for Stoke. If this defensive tightness turns out to be a theme rather than a blip, Lambert will have been a shrewd appointment.

Pointless landmark of the day
Alexandre Lacazette's goal for Arsenal was the 500th scored for them by a French player. The next highest number is 142. Lacazette's compatriots/predecessors are, in order of most goals scored: Thierry Henry, Olivier Giroud, Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord, Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Laurent Koscielny, Samir Nasri, Abou Diaby, William Gallas, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Petit, Bacary Sagna, Gilles Grimandi, Mikael Silvestre, Pascal Cygan, Gael Clichy, Mathieu Debuchy, Sebastian Squillaci and Jeremie Aliadiere.

Look, we did tell you it was pointless.


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