1 Plus ca change

The more it changes, the more it stays the same. For weeks now, as one “outsider” after another has nudged their way into the top four, the conversation has been dominated by how this is a season unlike any other, a topsy-turvy campaign in which anything could happen: another Leicester-style title winning year, Jurgen Klopp admitting he’s wrong or Oli McBurnie scoring a goal.

When even Christian Benteke manages to score twice in a game, it is perhaps not unfair to think that some mysterious alchemist has concocted an omnipotent serum that is available on tap at Premier League football clubs. (Actually, let’s not go there.)

But, take one look at the Premier League table this morning and you will be swiftly disabused of the notion that something strange is afoot.

The top six contains five of the teams that pay the biggest wages in the division. After weeks of speculating about who might mount an unlikely title charge it appears that the usual suspects – Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United – will be those battling out for the Champions League places and, the biggest prize, after all.

2 What’s the matter?

There was a bit of did-they-or-didn’t-they prior to West Ham’s match against Manchester United on Saturday night. Those who claimed home supporters didn’t boo players for taking the knee ahead of kick-off, suggested Hammers fans were singing “Come on you, Irons”. Those who said they were booing were indignant that, for the second time that day, supporters had opted to point score over a matter relating to racial inequality.

The most vocal opposition came at Millwall, where the majority of supporters joined in a chorus of boos, where Colin Kazim-Richards, the Derby County striker, held up a clenched fist in defiance.

Afterwards, false equivalences were drawn everywhere as some tried to justify the Millwall fans’ actions: Black Lives Matter is a political group that wants to de-fund the police, they argued. Except that’s not what Black Lives Matter is: it is a decentralised ideological movement that advocates non-violence and serves as a rallying point for the idea that black people’s lives have not mattered for too long. “It’s been six months,” wrote one critic on social media. For context, Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech was made on August 28, 1963.

3 Blind spot

There was a reminder at the London Stadium that not every officiating howler is the fault of VAR. It was quite refreshing because it gave us a glimpse of what the game was like before the intervention of technology in the decision-making process.

Remember it? It was a time when humans got things wrong all of the time: Graham Poll – then perceived to be the top referee in England – booking Croatia’s Josip Simunovic three times in a World Cup match before sending him off and Andre Marriner dismissing Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs when it should have been Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Chelsea.

This time it was the assistant referee failing to spot that Dean Henderson’s punt forward had traversed the touchline by quite some distance because he was frantically attempting to get back into position to check for an off-side. Instead, Bruno Fernandes latched on to it before setting up Paul Pogba for a glorious, swerving strike for perhaps the best goal of the weekend.

It was a bittersweet moment: beautiful finish aside, had the assistant left the off-side to VAR, he would have been in the perfect position to see the ball had gone out. He was, after all, standing right beside David Moyes, the incredulous West Ham manager, who could be seen gesticulating furiously at the non-decision.

4 An Arsenal-like Tottenham

George Graham admitted on these pages at the weekend that he felt Tottenham could win the Premier League title this season. “Of course, they can,” he said, forcefully.

There will be plenty that Graham identified with in Spurs’ 2-0 win over his beloved Arsenal yesterday. This was a performance geared around a defensive block that was so low it was almost subterranean and it was a throwback to a different era.

Tottenham strangled Arsenal, who lacked the guile to unlock their opponents and who now sit 11 points behind them, then stuck a knife in them with two counter-attacking goals by Heung-min Son and Harry Kane.

For a long time, Arsenal supporters have goaded their counterparts with barbs about dusty trophy cabinets but their criticism has been to miss the point. At one time, Tottenham were light years behind their North London rivals, but not now. Spurs might not win the title but they continue to be the team most likely to do so, no matter how many Arsenal fans think a cup is a consolation for their lack of relevance in the league.

5 Blades blunted once more

As noted above, Sheffield United’s McBurnie ended his personal goal drought with the equaliser in yesterday’s 2-1 defeat against Leicester City.

It brought a halt to a 20-game run for club and country during which the 24-year-old has had most observers scratching their heads over what he brings to the party.

It was apparent at Bramall Lane yesterday when he out-muscled Youri Tielemans – leaning on the Belgian’s arm to stifle his jump – at a corner to guide the ball past Kasper Schmeichel. He did more of the lone-furrow running that Steve Clarke would like to see from him, was a threat in the opposition’s box, provided defensive ballast at set-pieces and gave a passable impersonation of someone who deserves to be playing at the international level.

United’s form this season will be of interest to Clarke with three fringe members of his squad – McBurnie, John Fleck and Oliver Burke – all plying their trade with Chris Wilder’s side. Whether they struggle or enjoy an uptick in fortunes in this campaign – it was Fleck’s error that gifted Leicester their winner – may inform whether they will be contenders for Scotland’s European Championship squad in the summer.