The good news for Arsenal fans is that yesterday's trip to Old Trafford did not result in an 8-2 scoreline.
The bad news is that they arguably looked better a year ago. It's not the result, which at 2-1 looks respectable. But Santi Cazorla's equalizer came at the very end. Wayne Rooney missed a penalty. Antonio Valencia and Robin Van Persie fluffed sitters. It could have been 5-0 going into the last few seconds.
What's worrying is how disjointed Arsenal look, how devoid of backbone. Steve Bould was supposedly some kind of defensive guru. And, sure, they haven't conceded many goals – just eight overall – but they still look frail when pushed. What's more, it seems that any defensive improvements have come at the expense of attacking fluidity.
Going into yesterday's clash, they had scored as many goals as Southampton and Swansea. Lukas Podolski is hailed for his defensive workrate which, traditionally, hasn't exactly been a dealbreaker for a winger getting into the Arsenal side. Aaron Ramsey stiffens up the midfield, but adds zero width on the right and, since Bacary Sagna isn't Cafu, the result is a team that bunches centrally and waits for Santi Cazorla to do something. When the little man is "en fuego" it's a viable strategy. When he's not, it's a problem.
Arsene Wenger needs to rethink the balance of this team. It's not just a question of singling out individuals who may be under-achieving – Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Olivier Giroud are three favorite targets – it's about hitting the "reboot" button. With Jack Wilshere now fit again – as long as he's not getting sent off, like yesterday – he has an extra ingredient to finally give him options.
Brendan Rodgers may have raised some eyebrows for some of his transfer moves and some of his David Brentesque mannerisms on the documentary "Being Liverpool". But you do get the sense that, heading into today's home clash with Newcastle, most supporters remain on message. It's a long process – Rodgers represents the future and there is a need for patience.
It's curious, though, after 10 points from nine league games, to compare him to his predecessors. At this stage a year ago, Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool were on 15 points. That's 50 percent more. The more apt parallel seems to be with Roy Hodgson, two years ago, who had nine points from nine games and was in the relegation zone.
Is Rodgers going the way of Hodgson? Probably not. He seems to have a much better understanding of Liverpool supporters, he has done a better job of pushing youth (which, necessarily, requires patience) and he has much better and more credible owners behind him, compared to Hodgson, who, of course, was still stuck with Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
That said, November will be a key month for Rodgers and Liverpool. Newcastle today are a tough nut to crack and, next week – after an away Europa League trip to face Anzhi Makhachkala – they're off to Stamford Bridge. A brief home respite against Wigan – and Roberto Martinez, the man who might have taken Rodgers' place at Anfield – and then it's two tricky ties on the road at Swansea and at Spurs. The margin of error, at this point, simply won't be that big.
I'm not sure if Richard Scudamore does Al Pacino impressions, but there was something of the "just-when-I-thought-I-was-out-they-pull-me-back-in" to the Premier League chief executive's week. No major racial incidents for nearly two decades and then you get three in the space of 12 months. And not just any three. One involved the two best-supported sides in England. Another, the England captain. But it's the third which is patently the most serious, because a referee stands accused of using racist language during a match.
There will be an inquiry and we'll get some kind of resolution one way or another. The problem is that, barring some sudden admission or about-face, it will necessarily be one of those "balance of probabilities" jobs that often leaves a messy ending and little satisfaction that justice has been done. Why? Because, inevitably, one side will be believed over the other. And, by implication, it's likely that one side will be seen as being less than truthful.
That's fine, that's the way the system works. What's less fine is the way the "Chelsea are lying" message is being put out via the media. Last week, you had unnamed referees piping up in various newspapers suggesting that since Mark Clattenburg was a fine, upstanding man, surely the London club were lying. Others described the accusation as "wild" and went so far as to say they hoped Chelsea weren't "misrepresenting the truth".
Erm, yes, we all hope nobody is lying here. But it can't be lost on anyone that statements designed to plant not just a seed of doubt, but a whole forest of scepticism, are just a sneaky, creepy way of saying something without actually spelling it out. A bit more restraint from those who should know better would not go amiss here.