Premier League Breakdown: Robbie Earle previews Newcastle v. Liverpool

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Ever find yourself thinking, I need more Robbie Earle in my life?

Me too. So I sat down with the NBC Sports Premier League pundit to discuss one of the marque matches of this weekend, Newcastle v. Liverpool.

Let’s get stuck in.

EXPLAIN LIVERPOOL’S 3-5-2 AND HOW NEWCASTLE CAN BREAK IT DOWN

The 3-5-2 seems to be the preferred choice of many of the Italian teams now. It generally means that a manager wants his two wide defenders to get into midfield positions and cause overload situations. For Liverpool, this has been the role of Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson over the last few weeks (since Glen Johnson has been injured).

To break down Liverpool’s 3-5-2 Newcastle will want to make them vulnerable by pushing three forwards high up the pitch, forcing the Reds into a man-marking situation. With Loic Remy, Yoan Gouffran, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle have four good options for these three positions. By keeping a high line and pressuring the back three of Liverpool, Newcastle will look to get the ball into those trouble areas high on the flanks.

If they’re clever, the front three of Newcastle will be interchanging as well, forcing Liverpool to fall into a hybrid defense whereby they man-mark for portions of the match and pass-on players at other times. If played correctly it can be quite difficult to deal with.

It’s an adventurous approach that a team like Manchester City is more equipped to handle but I think Newcastle have the elements in place to give it a go. I just hope that if Pardew does choose to press three high, he does it to start the match rather than a means to level the score late. Of course, it’s easy for me to say, ‘yeah, go on and be brave!’ My job’s not on the line.

DOES NEWCASTLE HAVE THE MIDFIELDERS WHO CAN MAKE THE THREE HIGH APPROACH WORK?

I think so. Cheick Tiote is a rock defensively and if he’s closely flanked by more technical, box-to-box type players like Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko, Newcastle could certainly get it done. The challenge will obviously be stopping the Liverpool attack and quickly transitioning into offense. So players Cabaye and Sissoko will need to be up for it and they’ll need to play some aggressive balls, sometimes hitting 40 yard diagonals that guys like Ben Arfa and Gouffran can take outside of the Liverpool back three.

Newcastle will have to remember that Liverpool primarily want to control the ball out of the back. They want to outnumber you and get it into those wide players. So if Newcastle’s front three can press high and eliminate them from doing so, it will make it a lot easier on the midfield three to perform defensively.

 

 

source: Getty Images
Papiss Cisse hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since Newcastle’s 1-0 victory over Fulham on April 7, 2013.

13 PREMIER LEAGUE MATCHES WITHOUT A GOAL FOR PAPISS CISSE, WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE STRIKER?

When Cisse came into the league he was a player who would try things. He scored a couple of outrageous goals like the one he had at Chelsea. He’s an instinctive player and I get the feeling that there’s too many thoughts going on in his head. Everything with Cisse has become a bit mechanical – his movements, his finishing, even his running style. When he came into the league I thought he looked very lively and athletic. Now, he looks a bit labored.

Confidence remains a difficult component of the game. When you’re on top of your game things happen naturally. But when you’re not, things slow down. The thought processes aren’t that good and I feel that Cisse has been effected by some of the uncertainty at the football club.

Remember that every dressing room has 25 different characters. Some guys are hard, some guys are more sensitive to the teammates, the team, the rhythm. And Cisse looks to be one of those kind of players.

He’s what I call a ‘streaky striker’. If he scores one he’s likely to go and score a goal a game for the next ten matches. Sometimes with a player like that you just need to put your arm around him, make him feel good about himself and then he’ll start to produce.

WILL WE SEE LIVERPOOL IN A 3-5-2 WHEN GLEN JOHNSON RETURNS?

Yes. The 3-5-2 is actually perfectly situated for Glen Johnson because it’s designed for a full-back who’s suited to get into the attack. When he returns from injury you’ll see Jordan Henderson be slotted elsewhere, possibly next to Steven Gerrard.

Thinking about Johnson and a 3-5-2 brings up an interesting point about Brendan Rodgers. To me, he’s one of those coaches who looks at his squad and then decides what’s the best system to get the most out of the individuals. I sometimes find coaches go the other way – they have a squad and try and shoehorn players into the system. This speaks volumes of Rodgers such that he’s always looking for what’s best for his players.

 

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Playing in a more restrictive holding role, Steven Gerrard has looked a bit off the pace this season.

DOES STEVEN GERRARD SEEM A BIT OFF THE PACE THIS SEASON?

It’s interesting you say that because I know Steven well – I played against him towards the end of my career and he’s one of my favorite players – but he looked slightly unhappy in that Crystal Palace match. Something in Steven’s body language just didn’t look or feel quite right.

Rodgers has him playing in more of a sitting role now. This means Gerrard has to be a lot more disciplined than he’s ever been and it also restricts his freedom to get up the pitch, which he loves to do.

In this sense, Rodgers has shackled him in a bit and I wonder if that’s caused Gerrard to lose a little bit of his enthusiasm almost to say: ‘I don’t want to sit in, I want to be Steven Gerrard and win tackles, drive forward and score goals.’ In his own mind, I don’t think it suits Gerrard and on the field, he’s not having the same impact.

But I do think it’s better for the club as a whole because Rodgers is making him last. He wants to get the best out of Gerrard for as long as he can. And given the way Gerrard has played the game for so long, he is being reined in. It’s almost like a recognition that you’re not the player you were 10 years ago. I’ve been down that road myself and it’s not easy. So I think Gerrard might be in the mold where he now realizes he’s the elder statesman and needs change his game but isn’t necessarily happy about it.

SO, IF YOU’RE BRENDAN RODGERS WHAT ARE YOU TELLING YOUR TEAM IN PREPARATION FOR NEWCASTLE?

Stay competitive. Stay consistent. Between now and the New Year, that has to be Liverpool’s focus. They also want to stay healthy and keep evolving. Looking back at Liverpool over the last 18 months we’ve seen Rodgers bring in a few players who can help change the system and progression of how they play. He has what is arguably the best striking partnership in the league and a few established, tricky formations he can throw at teams. But for me, this match is about keeping a sharp mentality.

The mental application of the game is something I think Liverpool have been short of over the last few seasons. They haven’t been in the title race since 2009 so the have to stay on an even keel and strive for consistency in their results.

Their biggest advantage this year is that they are out of the League Cup and aren’t in the Europa League. This will allow Rodgers more time than any of his contemporaries to break down each and every Premier League opponent, including Newcastle this weekend.

AND WHAT’S ALAN PARDEW TELLING HIS TEAM?

They’ve done well on the road but they’ve been poor at home. It’s time that they give St. James’ Park something to cheer about. It’s a 50,000 seat stadium that loves their team. You don’t see any red or blue shirts walking around Newcastle, it’s only black and white. The players get that. They’re very close to the community. So that could very well be the message Pardew delivers to his squad: ‘Ok, we’ve addressed our form on the road but now it’s time to give the home crowd something to cheer about.’

And they’ve got the quality to do it. Newcastle are better when they’re controlling the ball, and with offensive weapons like Cabaye, Tiote, Sissoko, Gouffran, Remy, Cisse and Ben Arfa, they can by all means do this. If they play right, they can hurt teams. So I’d look around the locker room and think, we’ve got something here. Yes, this is a team that needs a bit of a confidence boost so they need to look themselves in the mirror and believe they can make it happen.

They need to take it to Liverpool. Newcastle are much better when they’re on the front foot, when they’re aggressive. They have one of the best set of athletic players in the league. People who can increase the speed and tempo of the game that will affect the game. They’ve gone away from that a little bit of late so if Pardew can get it back into the squad, I think they can win games.

Historically, Liverpool v. Newcastle has been one of the blue chip fixtures in the Premier League, two clubs playing attacking football. For Newcastle, it’s the kind of game where, if they can beat the second place team in the league, it could kick-start their season and ramp up their self-belief.

Premier League top scorers: Who is leading 2022 Golden Boot race?

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For those tempted to write off Erling Haaland’s historically-hot start to life as a Premier League striker, we get it: There’s something rather dull about not wondering the identity of the 2022 Golden Boot winner, but just the number of his final tally.

Haaland’s Premier League-leading 14 goals from eight games has him seven goals clear of the next closest challenger: Tottenham’s Harry Kane.

His third hat trick of the season, joined by three Phil Foden goals in Man City’s 6-3 derby win over United, keeps him on pace for more than 60 goals this season, a mark that would

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ] 

And even though Haaland is currently overperforming his expected goals total, it’s already becoming clear that projecting him for the Premier League record is not farfetched at all.

Take a look at these digits. Haaland isn’t just punching in goals; He’s made an almost seamless transition to Pep Guardiola’s system, producing chances for others in addition to his powerful self-positioning.

Erling Haaland
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Haaland is unlikely to hit even 50 goals given the schedule congestion to come for Man City, but the Premier League record is very well under assault

Mohamed Salah holds the 38-game season record with his 32 goals scored for Liverpool during the 2017-18 season, while Newcastle’s Andy Cole and Blackburn’s Alan Shearer bagged 34 during 42-game seasons in the 20th century’s final decade.

Haaland also could topple the record for goal involvements (goals plus assists) in a single season, including beating the 42-game record. Alan Shearer put up 47 over 42, while Thierry Henry holds the 38-game record with 44.

Other records that Haaland could legitimately tie or topple:

  • 30 goals in a first Premier League season (Kevin Phillips, Sunderland, 1999-2000)
  • Goals in 24 different Premier League matches (Salah, Liverpool, 2017-18)
  • Most goals in a Premier League match (Five tied with five)
  • 11-straight Premier League games with a goal (Jamie Vardy, Leicester, 2014-15)

Read on to see the latest Premier League goal totals for the 2022-23 season, as Haaland looks to claim a Golden Boot in his first PL season.

Premier League 2022-23 Golden Boot race

  1. Erling Haaland, Man City — 14
  2. Harry Kane, Tottenham — 7
  3. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham — 6
  4. Phil Foden, Man City — 5
  5. Ivan Toney, Brentford — 5
  6. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool — 5
  7. Gabriel Jesus, Arsenal — 5
  8. Leandro Trossard — Brighton — 5
  9. Three tied with 3. (Alexis Mac Allister, Rodrigo, Wilfried Zaha)

Aston Villa rues waste in scoreless draw at 10-man Leeds

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Leeds vs Aston Villa was a cagey affair that felt destined for its scoreless outcome even after Luis Sinisterra was sent off early in the second half at Elland Road.

Suspended manager Jesse Marsch watched from the stands as Sinisterra, on a yellow card, stuck his leg out to block a restart and was shown a second yellow.

WATCH LEEDS vs ASTON VILLA FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM

Leeds defended well down a man and Aston Villa continued to struggle on the heels of a first half that contained several missed chances.

Leeds gets its ninth point through seven matches, while Villa’s a point behind with one more match played in its season.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


What we learned from Leeds vs Aston Villa

Villa a mess in the final third: Wow. To watch Aston Villa is to see a team in control of the midfield — Douglas Luiz was sublime on Sunday — but there are too many individuals in the final third. Philippe Coutinho was lively but if has to score if the attack is going to be all about him. The same came be said about Emiliano Buendia, while Ollie Watkins and (then) Danny Ings aren’t getting much service. Villa’s xG going into the game was the second-worst in the Premier League and they are still underperforming it.

Leeds will take something from this: Tyler Adams, Robin Koch, and the exceptional Illan Meslier held down the fort for nearly a full half with 10 men. By the 70th minute it was clear this was going to be all about an away point unless the counterattack could help Leeds to a goal. And there was a chance for that, but there’s no reason to be frustrated by the point (although Brenden Aaronson should’ve had a penalty when his ankle was kicked while taking a shot. The strength of what he did manage likely led to the VAR inaction, incorrectly).


Tactical focus

The red card, as it tends to do, changed the game completely and Leeds was hanging on for the final whistle. Marsch, from his seat in the stands, sanctioned the removal of Rodrigo, Jack Harrison, and eventually Brenden Aaronson to join the ejected Sinisterra. Villa controlled the midfield through a superb Douglas Luiz but could not find a way past a stellar Illan Meslier as Junior Firpo, Luke Ayling, and Mateusz Klich reinforced the defense at the back end.

[ MORE: Man City clobbers Man UtdPlayer ratings out of 10 ]

Douglas Luiz
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Stars of the show

Illan Meslier

Douglas Luiz

Ashley Young

Robin Koch

Philippe Coutinho


What’s next

Leeds heads to Crystal Palace for a 9am ET Sunday kickoff, while Villa will take a trip to the City Ground for a Monday, Oct. 10 visit to Nottingham Forest.


How to watch Leeds vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 11:30 am ET, Sunday
TV channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

As expected under Marsch, Leeds have taken a high-volume approach to their tactics — lots of pressing and challenges, lots of counter-attacking and lots of scoring chances created. Their 1.57 expected goals (per 90 minutes) ranks 7th in the Premier League. Leeds haven’t played a game (in any competition) since Sept. 3, one day shy of a month come Sunday, due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ensuing fixture postponements. Leading goal-scorer Rodrigo remains out with a shoulder injury, but the Spaniard could be back in the next week or two.

Goal-scoring has been a major issue thus far for Aston Villa, who have scored multiple goals in a game just once this season. Six different players have scored a goal, but no one has scored two. Unsurprisingly, Steven Gerrard’s side sits 19th in the PL for xG (0.76 per 90).


Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT:  Stuart Dallas (thigh), Adam Forshaw (ankle)

Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Diego Carlos (achilles), Lucas Digne (ankle), Boubacar Kamara (knee), Matty Cash (hamstring)

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Erik ten Hag says Manchester United lacked belief to play with Man City

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Erik ten Hag says Manchester United’s mistakes allowed them to get “hammered” by rivals Manchester City in a 6-3 loss at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Ten Hag’s visitors weren’t even as good as the score line, as Phil Foden and Erling Haaland scored hat tricks to give City a 6-1 lead and Pep Guardiola subbed liberally with the game well in hand.

[ MORE: Man City clobbers Man Utd | Player ratings out of 10 ]

Antony scored United’s first goal to make it 4-1 for a few moments, and Anthony Martial came off the bench to bag a brace in the final few minutes of the match.

Ten Hag appeared distressed at times, and the manager has been criticized for trying to import his system on the game against a stylish and sound Man City powerhouse.

Erik ten Hag reaction after Manchester derby blowout loss.

Ten Hag says he told the players that what he saw at the game was a matter of disbelief.

Some early post-match video seems to have reinforced his thoughts.

“Lack of belief,” Ten Hag said. “I have seen some highlights. It was obvious we are defending not on the front foot, we let them play. In possession, we were not brave enough, made tactical mistakes, decision mistakes, and then you get hammered.

“They showed against Liverpool and Arsenal: When they perform as a team, when they bring the belief on the pitch, starting individual, we will show them and you cannot deny. In the last five games, we bring that attitude on the pitch, a strong belief, convincement, we bring opponents problems. Today, it was the other way around.”

“It’s normal in our process that pattern has to go up and I think I see clearly it goes up and we have setbacks during that process and we have to learn from it but point it clearly out. We can walk away from it but if we do it we won’t get the solution. So we will do it, we will be very clear and we have to move on and carry on to the next game.”

City beats a lot of teams by a lot of goals. United’s resolve to keep fighting while being, essentially, clobbered by their derby rivals should say something to the boss. But Ten Hag wants better and he says he sees what’s wrong.

In a separate interview, Ten Hag claimed that Sunday’s 4-0 start was different to the same score line posted by Brentford against Manchester United over 45 minutes.

“This is definitely different. We didn’t run there. We wanted to today but didn’t follow the priniciples. It was a lack of belief. I will show the team that we could have been front-footed. We win the ball then give it away for the first goal. We take wrong decisions in the transition afterwards. We don’t follow the rules so we are undisciplined. It cannot happen. It is unacceptable.

“It is a process. It is one game. Maybe against other teams the problems would not come but against Manchester City they will. I want to change the head and attitude from the team. There was a reaction in the second half. We were more brave and scored three goals. Only from mistakes you learn.”

Ten Hag was criticized for his team selection in some parts — this writer included — but convincing the players there were spaces to go toe-to-toe with City will require a real Masterclass. Maybe he should tape the tape!

He’s a heck of a manager and a good bet to fix what ails United, but Ten Hag surely knows that his Manchester United was not set up to succeed on Sunday. That makes twice early this season, as the growing pains continue at Old Trafford but the silver linings are present as well.

Bruno Lage fired by Wolves

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Wolves have cut ties with head coach Bruno Lage after a little more than a year on the job.

The 46-year-old Lage took over for Nuno Espirito Santo last season and finishes his tenure with a record of 19W-9D-23L across all competitions.

[ MORE: Man City clobbers Man Utd | Player ratings out of 10 ]

Wolves improved their point total from 2020-21 to 2021-22, but the Portuguese boss has overseen a poor start to the 2022-23 Premier League season despite purchases of Goncalo Guedes, Nathan Collins, and Matheus Nunes.

Wolves also bought Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic, who has since torn his ACL, and the club has failed to manufacture offense at almost every turn.

The club fell 2-0 to West Ham on Saturday and has scored just three goals this season. Wolves sit 18th on the Premier League table, and visit Chelsea on Saturday.

Bruno Lage sacked: What does it mean for Wolves?

Lage firmed up Wolves’ defending last season but his attack has struggled as Raul Jimenez hasn’t reached pre-injury heights and Adama Traore’s been often kept on the bench in favor of a more defensive stance.

Traore is one of the possible beneficiaries of a change, as both Espirito Santo and Lage stripped him of regular starter status but did not sanction a sale for the solid speedster.

Lage played five at the back for much of last season but went to four this season and also tooled around with a three-man back line.

There are some very good pieces for a new manager, who still has Ruben Neves, Pedro Neto, Max Kilman, Collins, and Rayan Ait-Nouri amongst the admired players on the squad.

Wolves statement on firing Bruno Lage

Wolves chairman Jeff Shi said: “Bruno is an excellent coach, a hardworking and dedicated manager, and a warm, wise and honest man.

“He and his staff have been a pleasure to work with throughout their time at Wolves, so it is with much sadness that we have had to make what has been a difficult decision.

“I honestly have no doubts about Bruno’s ability, and I’m sure he will succeed elsewhere, however the team’s form and performances over the last few months mean that we have no choice but to act.

“On behalf of everyone at Wolves, I would like to place on record our gratitude to Bruno and his coaching team for all their efforts during their time with the club, and wish them the very best for the future.”