Arsenal and Manchester United
Sometimes it is possible to impress without being impressive.
Neither side had an overwhelming case to be considered deserved victors - which is why their victories mattered so much. Displaying qualities they are rarely required to summon, ManYoo were obdurate and defiant, while Arsenal matched their opponents blow for blow, foul for foul. For Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, ugly was beautiful. Battling does not come naturally to either team so emerging victorious from their respective local dogfights counted for much more than the three points they collected.
Grand Slam Sunday hasn't transformed the Premiership into a two-way title race but it has - temporarily at least - removed Liverpool from the equation. The Gunners have been the story of the season so far but ManYoo are still the team to beat.
John Terry was required to score nine goals in 2004-05 to become the first defender to win the PFA Player of the Year award since Paul McGrath in 1993. His regular partner at centre-half that season has heeded the lesson, becoming a regular scorer of critical goals this season - the vital injury-time equaliser against Manchester United last month, the late opener against Wigan a few weeks ago, and the winner this weekend against his former employers.
Captaincy has proved the making of Gallas. If his side does prevail in the title race then the Frenchman will be on the shortlist to rival Cesc Fabregas for the end-of-season individual gongs - especially if he continues to create headlines in the only way possible for defenders.
Sir Alex Ferguson
It was early in February 2002 that Sir Alex Ferguson announced he was u-turning on his intention to retire at the end of the season.
Little more than two weeks previously, the Scot had watched his side beaten at Old Trafford by Liverpool. It was the visitors' fifth successive win over their arch rivals and Ferguson looked in danger of spontaneously combusting. The Manchester United manager has never acknowledged as much in public, but retirement in such ignominious circumstances was unthinkable.
Of all the fixtures in the Premiership, an encounter with Liverpool is the one that Ferguson relishes above all others. Arsenal matter. And so do Chelski. But these games, particularly the trips to Anfield, are his personal cup final.
The Scot has never hidden his distaste for the red side of Liverpool, famously remarking in an interview that his priority upon taking over at Old Trafford was "knocking Liverpool off their f**king perch." His next sentence, "And you can quote me on that," wasn't so much an assurance as an urging.
Beaten in five of their last six meetings at Anfield, Liverpool must be sick of the sight of Ferguson. But he isn't finished with them yet.
In a revealing aside during his press conference on Friday, Ferguson commented: "We've won the FA Cup more times than anyone and you get a certain pride in that. But Liverpool have won the title more times than anyone, so the chase is on."
Is this the final goal - along with an elusive second Champions League title - that stirs Ferguson's appetite? The prickly subject of retirement is off limits for journalists who value access to his weekly sermon, but it is reasonable to infer from Ferguson's commentary that he has set himself the goal of overhauling Pool's title successes before walking out of Old Trafford.
Put in that context, Ferguson suddenly becomes an old man in a hurry. Currently trailing 18 to 16 in title triumphs, he will be in his 70th year in 2010 - the earliest point in time when United can overtake Liverpool - and the issue of retirement unavoidable. Hence, perhaps, his description of his final challenge as a "chase".
Anderson and Mathieu Flamini
Lauding Anderson as the best midfielder in the Premiership is premature. But maybe not for long. The 19-year-old rivals Mathieu Flamini as the surprise success story of the season and has the happy knack of saving his best performances for the biggest occasions - against Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal in November and against Steven Gerrard at Liverpool this weekend.
He is a difficult midfielder to describe. Neither a shield nor a goal threat, he is, like Flamini, a workaholic. Having replaced two players, Michael Carrick and Gilberto Silva, who are slumbering sleepwalkers in comparison, their energetic emergence chimes with the impression that the Premiership has rapidly moved up a gear this season to become faster and more frenetic than ever before.
His most convincing performance yet.
Grand Slam Sunday can only ever live up to its hype if both matches generate six goals apiece, two mass brawls, and a naked pitch invasion by Girls Aloud.
What it does generate every time, however, is millions of pounds through its worldwide appeal.
There is no league in the world that can offer up four heavyweights in two fights on a single afternoon. The Premiership's most marketable attraction is unique. Italy can only offer three heavyweights - Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan - and the Primera Liga just two - Barcelona and Real Madrid. Bayern Munich stand alone in Germany.
Grand Slam matches never live up to the occasion, but the league's capacity to put Liverpool, Chelski, Arsenal and Manchester United on the same bill on the same afternoon is an integral factor in its status as the richest in the world and its claim to be the best.
Overall, Grand Slam Sunday was suggestive. For Liverpool, it felt defining. As he headed into his make-or-break meeting with the club's owners, at least Rafa Benitez had a convincing argument to make as he requested new funds. But this wasn't what Tom Hicks and George Gillett would have wanted to hear. And this wasn't the performance that the Liverpool supporters needed to see.
What made it so galling was that the home side saw so much of the ball. Bereft of a spark and imagination, Benitez's claim that, "We had our chances and didn't take them" was equally hopeless. Pool created very little of note and appeared to run out of ideas even before the hour mark.
Liverpool are a good side but good isn't enough to win titles. Too much reliance is placed upon Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and too many of their colleagues are sub-standard in Big Four terms. Dirk Kuyt is in a horrible slump, Harry Kewell is no longer willing to run at his full-back, Yossi Benayoun looked like a West Ham player and the team as a whole suffered for Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia's inability to hoof accurately, let alone pass.
A league table never lies and the one compiled of Big Four results since Rafa's arrival in the summer of 2004 finds Liverpool in fourth place having collected a meagre 15 points from 21 games. Chelski, Arsenal and ManYoo have travelled to Anfield this season and the home side have garnered a paltry two points. Like the team itself, it's just not good enough.
For Benitez, this was a chastening afternoon. He had no answer to the puzzle set by Ferguson and the visitors' goal was clearly effected by the Scot - or, just as likely, Carlos Queiroz - spotting a critical flaw in Benitez's beloved zonal marking. On a day that ended with his demand for investment, it was his reluctance to invest a little independence in his side that proved decisive.
One of the least endearing aspects of Benitez's management is his apparent control freakery. In contrast to his Big Four peers, he prowls the touchline, directing operations, urging synchronised movement as if he does not trust his players to act by instinct. As they lined up in two banks of four to defend United's 45th-minute corner, nobody in red sought to consider the whereabouts of Wayne Rooney. Only Jamie Carragher, a member of the second line of four robotic defenders, was willing to break with orders, and he very nearly cleared the danger. Had one of the four players closer to Rooney reacted then the emergency would have been averted.
A small detail, but precisely the type that Benitez obsesses over.
A difficult task may now be an insurmountable challenge. Already deprived of Didier Drogba, the loss of John Terry is a heavy blow and one that perhaps will prove their undoing. It didn't feel like Chelski's day on Sunday; it has rarely felt like being their season.
Ben Haim was a shoddy stand-in for the skipper at the Emirates, weakly pushed aside as William Gallas capitalised on Petr Cech's misjudgement. It's reasonable to assume that Terry would have cleared the danger or at least denied his counterpart a free header.
Yet it is the absence of Drogba which Chelski will mourn most. Chelski finished the match with all their available forwards on their pitch but not the one who could be relied upon to provide a finishing product. In eight Premiership and Champions League matches without the Ivorian this season, Chelski have scored just six goals.
Set pieces were a regular source of relief during the Mourinho era but under Avram Grant's management a strength has lapsed into a weakness. With both Grand Slam Sunday matches won by goals from corners, the Blues' reduced potency from dead balls was put into sharp focus. What a contrast to the meeting two years ago at Highbury when Chelski threatened from every corner and John Terry secured a point with a thumping near-post header.
In both method and identity, the current Chelski team only faintly resembles the team that secured back-to-back triumphs in 2005 and '06. Of the 11 players who clinched the title at Bolton two Aprils ago, only Cech and Frank Lampard finished this Sunday's fixture.
If there hadn't been enough abuse hurled at Cashley for the previous two hours, Sky inadvertently meted out the most hurtful insult of the day by awarding Gael Clichy the man-of-the-match award. As the player who was once Cole's understudy took the accolades alongside match-winner William Gallas, it was impossible not to conclude that the definitive answer to last August's question of which club had got the better deal when Gallas and Cole swapped employers has been presented.
While Cole has gone backwards, and caused an understandably disgruntled Wayne Bridge to consider his own future at Stamford Bridge, Gallas has been inspired by the captaincy to become one of the season's most valuable performers and Clichy has progressed into a left-back that only Patrice Evra can rival in the Premiership.
Rather than heckle him, Arsenal fans should consider applauding Cole for engineering such a valuable piece of business in the Gunners' favour little over a year ago.
And that really would be the final insult.