Three things we learned from Liverpool vs. Manchester United

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LIVERPOOL — Liverpool and Manchester United battled to a 0-0 draw at Anfield on Monday.

[ MORE: Mourinho calls out Liverpool ]

A battle hyped up for days delivered few goalmouth chances with Jose Mourinho the happier of the two managers as his side set out their stall and Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool put in a lackluster display.

Here’s what we learned from a chilly night on Merseyside.


CLASSIC MOURINHO

If there’s a man on this planet who knows how to set up his teams to get a result away from home, it’s Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United’s manager can set up his teams to defend resolutely in his sleep and that’s exactly what he did.

With Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini clogging up midfield, his game plan worked a treat. Herrera was snapping away at the heels of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane whenever he got the chance and Fellaini was his partner in crime.

In truth, United were more adventurous in the opening exchanges. Mourinho’s men managed the match well. Early on they looked for Marcus Rashford out wide and Mourinho was urging Paul Pogba to surge forward in support of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but then midway through the first half they retreated. It was almost like he split the game up into four quarters.

The 0-0 scoreline at half time suited Mourinho and United perfectly and his side had a glorious chance to snatch a 1-0 win as Pogba’s cross found Zlatan at the back post but his tame header back across was horribly off target. United were in the game to create one clear-cut chance and take it. That turned out to be the one chance. Still, Mourinho will be happy to take a point back to Old Trafford as he set up his stall expertly and Liverpool played into his hands.


STURRIDGE REMAINS ODD MAN OUT

One of the reasons Liverpool did that was their lack of fluidity in the final third.

You could forgive Daniel Sturridge for cutting a frustrated figure up front in the first half. Nobody in a red shirt was near him in the first half and that was indicative of both his lackluster display and the frustration the attacking trio behind him suffered from.

If Adam Lallana had been fit, Sturridge wouldn’t have started. Even if Sturridge’s scoring record speaks for itself (he’s scored 43 goals in 75 PL appearances for Liverpool) you just get the sense that as long as Jurgen Klopp is the manager at Anfield, it won’t work out for Sturridge. His trademark runs off the last shoulder of a defender aren’t suited to this team and he is too static up top. He’s an old fashioned No.9 in a team which doesn’t need one.

You couldn’t fault his work rate but with a fluid four frontmen of Firmino, Adam Lallana, Mane and Coutinho, Klopp’s formula works better with them in the team. That was evident after Lallana replaced Sturridge in the 60th minute as Liverpool’s attacking fluidity and rhythm returned. Coutinho tested David De Gea from distance and United’s stopper produced a magnificent save and then Antonio Valencia produced a superb last-ditch tackle to stop Firmino who was clean through following Coutinho’s flick. The last 30 minutes proved there’s simply no room for Sturridge’s strengths in this Liverpool attack.


TOO CLOSE TO CALL

It is still early days but both Liverpool and United showed that a top four finish, their main aim for this season, is very achievable. So early in the season, this game between two bitter rivals saw both teams fail to go for broke. United will be the happier of the two with this result and Liverpool badly missed Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield as they failed to break through the first line of United’s midfield and get attacks going.

On another day and with Wijnaldum and a fully-fit Lallana, you might think Liverpool could’ve taken the game to United more.

United look solid if yet unspectacular but we mustn’t forget that Mourinho has had a few months in charge at United to gel this team and get his ideas across. Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool was a year ago today at Tottenham and yes, there has been huge progress in those 12 months, but the German coach will be left with a nagging feeling that his side could’ve got more if they’d taken more chances.

When this season is over both United and Liverpool will be right in the mix to fight for the top four but on this showing a title push may be just out of reach when you look at the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. It’s early days and it’s too close to call which of these teams will fare better this season.

Transfer news: Arsenal’s latest Aouar bid; mystery Fati bid for $175 million

Ansu Fati transfer
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Today’s Premier League transfer news includes Arsenal’s latest bid for Houssem Aouar, Barcelona rejected an astronomical bid for 17-year-old Ansu Fati, and Antonio Rudiger moving across London to West Ham for the season…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Arsenal increase bid for Aouar, but is it enough?

Arsenal are reportedly prepared to increase their bid for Aouar, but only to $57 million, which remains $12 million short of Lyon’s valuation for the 22-year-old midfielder. The Gunners’ latest offer is said to include more than $11 million in add-ons, but Lyon are likely to reject that bid as well as they seek the full amount paid in full.

Barcelona reject mystery $175-million Ansu Fati transfer bid

First things first, let’s start the plainly obvious: $175 million is a lot of money for any player, let alone a 17-year-old who still has so much development left to come. Even Fati, who has been nothing short of a revelation thus far, can still fall short of expectations. With Lionel Messi seemingly headed for the exit door (for free) next summer, how exactly do Barca plan to rebuild their first-team squad? Sure, they’d enjoy themselves a great deal if a La Masia product like Fati is the focal point of their rebirth, but they still desperately need to put a competent team around him. Automatically rejecting a (reported) bid of $175 million seems a bit crazy, but so is everything else at Barcelona these days. According to some reports, Man United are said to be the club which made the mega-bid for Fati.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Rudiger to West Ham on loan

Antonio Rudiger might be a first-choice option at center back for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, and he might not be as well. West Ham are taking the approach that the 27-year-old German won’t be getting the first-team action he requires, thus they wish to work out a loan deal for the 2020-21 season.

Torreira in limbo at Arsenal

Lucas Torreira’s time at Arsenal is (logically speaking) finished, but the Gunners are reportedly having a hard time finding a landing spot for the 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder. Torino were interested for a time, but they no longer see Torreira as a viable option. Atletico Madrid are interested in a loan deal, but Arsenal don’t want to do that. Perhaps Torreria, plus cash, might tempt the La Liga side to finally part ways with Thomas Partey.

Guardiola vows to ‘find solutions’ after Man City dismantled, embarrassed

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Pep Guardiola has vowed to “find solutions” following Man City’s 5-2 defeat to Leicester City on Sunday, a result which undoubtedly cast a layer of doubt over his injury-riddled side’s title aspirations.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

What can Guardiola do to hugely affect the current situation, though, as he has just 13 first-team players available due to injuries and COVID-19? First things first, he must rescue his players’ morale after such a devastating defeat when they are anything but accustomed to losing in such a fashion. Apart from that, Guardiola will be forced to take a wait-and-see approach — quotes from the BBC:

“We played a really good first half and scored early on. They defend so deep it is not easy. The problem was was we put extra pressure on ourselves to score the second and third. We need to be more calm, we don’t have the players to attack the box that we need.

“We got nervous and gave three penalties and when you give three penalties you cannot win. I don’t know how many chances they created. We needed to be more patient. It is hard, but it is the second game of the season and we have to try to see what we need to do to avoid it again.

“I feel bad for the guys and for the club.”

“They did not want to play, they just wanted to counter-attack. We know that Vardy runs from far, far away and Barnes you have to control him. But the moment we started to get nervous, we thought we were not doing well.

“We are not going to create 10 chances. We have to know it is difficult. Even at 5-2, Leicester were in the 18-yard box. I am not going to give up, I am going to try to find solutions.”

Up next for Man City is a trip to Leeds United next weekend, where Guardiola will match wits with cult-of-personality legend Marcelo Bielsa.

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West Ham counter, cross their way to 4-0 win over Wolves

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West Ham – Wolves saw the Hammers explode for four goals, spearheaded by Jarrod Bowen’s brace, and a clean sheet as they secured a thoroughly surprising result at the London Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

The Hammers picked up their first points of the season and climbed outside the relegation zone after suffering defeats in their first two games of the 2020-21 Premier League season.


2 things we learned: West Ham – Wolves

1. It pays to attack: Look, at the age of 57, David Moyes simply is who he is, and who he is is who he’s always been. He’s a pragmatic manager who prefers to defend with numbers behind the ball and counter-attack with the fewest number of players necessary to create half-chances in the hopes of fortuitously putting one or two away. It’s pretty bleak stuff for fans of Moyes’ various employers, let alone the neutrals among us. But, every now and then — typically when his back is up against the wall and he’s feeling desperate — he’ll tell a midfielder — perhaps even two — they’re allowed to move higher and join the attack. The fingerprints of Pablo Fornals and Tomas Soucek were all over Sunday’s shocking destruction of Wolves, when they wouldn’t otherwise have been. Enjoy it today, West Ham fans, because you know what it’ll look like again next weekend.

2. Wolves defense exposed in open space: As the modern game trends more and more toward teams favoring prolonged periods of possession as a means not only for attacking, but also defending, clubs are opting more and more for technically gifted defenders and less and less for the old-school, straightforward ball-winners of yesteryear center backs. Wolves have a squad full of the former, and they were badly exposed when asked to defend quicker wide players in acres of space on Sunday. Fortunately for Nuno Espirito Santo, he won’t face many more sides like West Ham this season.


West Ham started brightest and on the front foot for a change, and the Hammers were duly rewarded for their attacking endeavors in the 17th minute.

Fornals took a quick restart from inside the center circle and played Bowen in behind the Wolves defense with a brilliant through ball as two defenders paused ever so briefly. Bowen went one-on-one with Romain Saiss before cutting inside and placing a perfect left-footed strike past Rui Patricio and just inside the far post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Perhaps turning over a new leaf under manager David Moyes, West Ham refused to relent an ounce of pressure as they steadily threatened Wolves with counter-attack after counter-attack. That strategy paid off in the 58th minute, when Bowen bagged his second goal of the game.

Michail Antonio did yeoman’s work to Conor Coady down the left wing and pick out Fornals atop the penalty area. His shot smashed off the front side of the far post and spilled out to the six-yard box, where Bowen was to smash it home.

Just as Wolves were finding their footing and applying a bit more pressure, West Ham made it 3-0 in the 66th minute. The goal was initially given on Soucek’s header of Aaron Cresswell’s corner kick, but Raul Jimenez was eventually saddled as the scorer of an own goal at the near post.

Sebastien Haller completed the scoring with a header back across the face of goal from Arthur Masuaku’s cross in the 93rd minute.

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Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video)

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Luis Suarez enjoyed a hugely productive, if rather brief, debut for Atletico Madrid on Sunday as the Uruguayan superstar came on as a second-half substitute and scored two goals and assisted another in his new club’s 6-1 victory over Granada.

[ MORE: Guardiola vows to ‘find solutions’ after Man City embarrassed ]

Atleti had the game well in hand, 4-0 ahead, when Suarez replaced fellow lightning rod and new teammate Diego Costa, and yet he managed to take four shots, score two goals and tally one assist in only 20 minutes of action.

Suarez’s first goal for Atleti came in the 85th minute. It was a brilliantly placed header back across the face of goal after Marcos Llorente dropped a lofted cross onto his forehead on one post.

[ MORE: Benfica boss: Man City’s Otamendi “could be involved in Dias transfer” ]

The second was far more a product of world-class reflex and the instinctual improvisation which has made Luis Suarez one of the world’s best goal-scorers for the last decade. He had precious little time to think as the ball was deflected back to him on atop the penalty area, but got the initial shot away anyway. It hit the post and bounced back out toward the penalty spot, where he followed up and slotted it home.

Suarez’s departure from Barcelona feels like it’s headed for the classic “what were you thinking?” ending, as a player who still has lots of goals left to score strengthens one of two La Liga title rivals from the capital.

[ MORE: La Liga: Real Madrid steal late win against 10-man Betis ]

Barca are in complete disarray as Lionel Messi continues to publicly denounce the club which still employs him against his wishes, and Real Madrid are forever stuck halfway between rebuilding and making another run with the same group of players. All of that points to a massive opportunity for Atleti to slide into this season’s title race and make it a true three-horse race.

And Suarez, with all of his experience as a four-time La Liga champion, looks set to play an important part in that quest for Diego Simeone’s side.

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