What did we learn in the Premier League over the weekend?
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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nick Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent 10 Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. Klopp just as brilliant as his players: With six first-choice starters unavailable due to injuries and positive COVID-19 test results, Klopp’s hands were effectively tied behind his back as he picking his 18-man squad for Sunday’s game. While he elected to stick with his usual 4-3-3 formation, it functioned far more defensively than it usually would and that ultimately gave Leicester far greater problems than they would have had under the usual high press from the Reds. As a result, that meant far fewer scoring chances at the other end, therefore the ones they did create had to be of the highest quality, and taken well. Check, check and check. On the weekend that saw Jose Mourinho and Tottenham execute a tactical masterclass to beat Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, Klopp was quick to remind everyone he belongs in the “genius” class as well. AE
2. No killer instinct from Man United: A team such as Manchester United should be brushing a side such as West Brom aside with very little trouble on 99 occasions out of 100. Alas, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side continues to underperform and underdeliver against hugely inferior sides, allowing them to hang around much too deep into games they should be winning comfortably. In short, the current Man United team lacks an semblance of a killer instinct. Ironically enough, Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer’s predecessor, appears to have instilled that very characteristic in Tottenham Hotspur as they march toward a PL title challenge. AE
3. Mourinho’s defensive masterclass stumps Man City: You have to give credit where it is due, and Tottenham nullified the threat of Manchester City to go top of the Premier League table with a 2-0 win on Saturday. Harry Kane summed up Spurs’ high-energy, defensively sound display as he held the ball up, one free kicks and took the pressure off the 10 players behind him who scrapped for every single ball. Man City still had chances, plenty of them, and felt aggrieved Laporte’s equalizer was ruled out due to a handball by Gabriel Jesus via VAR. Guardiola’s side were undone by two counters as Spurs were clinical and City kept slowing down the play and were forced inside where the brilliant Dier and Hojbjerg (if Mourinho was a player, he’d be Hojbjerg) were waiting to snap away at them. This display showed how far Spurs have come, as Mourinho has been in charge for 12 months and they carried out one of his defensive masterclasses superbly. They couldn’t win the title, could they…!? JPW
4. Man City needs health (especially given record v Spurs): There are precious few who will want to hear Pep Guardiola’s lament, as Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez (or Ferran Torres) are second choices that would be most club’s first. City has assembled its midfield and center backs to much acclaim but boy, oh boy, were they missing Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling. And it’s not just a Mourinho thing in this match-up. Spurs have a numbers-befuddling record against City dating back to the start of 2019-20. Saturday: City outshoots Spurs 20-4, loses 2-0. Back on Feb. 2: City outshoots Spurs 19-3, loses 2-0. And even on Aug. 17 under Pochettino: City outshoots Spurs 30-3, draws 2-2. That’s a grand total of City outshooting Spurs 69-10 to earn one point on the table. Cue your cheekiest, smirkiest Jose Mourinho gifs. NM
5. Arteta’s attack is out of whack: There was nothing coming from Arsenal aside from pre-red Pepe as they drew 0-0 at Leeds and their long wait for a goal from open play in the Premier League continues. Even ever-bright attackers like Willian were partly cloudy, and Aubameyang remains in a massive slump. It’s bad out there, though there was a lot to like late from Bukayo Saka moving forward. And, of course, Saka was injured late to add injury to insult. NM
6. Haller sparked? The Irons didn’t sign Sebastian Haller simply to step-in when Michail Antonio was injured, so could the big striker refind his star status? Haller’s unstoppable lone goal joined his marker on debut for the Ivory Coast last week to give him his first goals since bagging five in a 13-day September span. Haller scored four of his seven PL goals last season by October and has yet to show the form that got him a 15-goal, 9-assist Bundesliga campaign for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018-19. Maybe? NM
7. Parker pushes the buttons too late: Fulham boss Scott Parker isn’t much to blame for these early season woes, but we’re sure that keeping three difference makers on the bench at home was a big error on Sunday as they lost 3-2 to Everton. Credit for amending the error, but Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s entry in the game led to a penalty won within 10 minutes. Cavaleiro missed that, but Loftus-Cheek got his goal because Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa entered the fray, promptly won the ball in his own end, and made a field-switching decision that led to Lookman cuing up the scorer. There’s was plenty of time to play, but you wonder what might’ve been over 90 minutes. NM
8. Average Werner still better than most: Timo Werner could’ve had a hat trick of goals and a hat trick of assists in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Newcastle, but just didn’t have his A-game. He also had a goal pulled back for offside and was still a dark horse for Man of the Match. His first half wasn’t unlike the Liverpool match, which he couldn’t build on thanks in large part to Antonio Rudiger’s red card before halftime. He’s a very, very good player, even when he’s not having a day anywhere near his best. NM
9. Veterans drive Seagulls: Snakebit Brighton got its goals through the old guys. Brighton opened the scoring against the run of play when new teammates linked up. Adam Lallana snuck a terrific through-ball past a sleeping Tyrone Mings to give Danny Welbeck a half-field of grass between him and Emiliano Martinez. Welbeck carried close to the keeper before dinking over the sliding Martinez for 1-0. It was Welbeck’s 45th Premier League goal, those spread across five clubs. The Seagulls took their second lead when Gross’ hopeful ball through the 18 came all the way through to March for a rocket of a winner. Throw in some solid goalkeeper from Mathew Ryan, and there were a lot of years between the difference makers. NM
10. Leeds unlucky or just not quite good enough? There’s no doubt Leeds United are one of the best teams to watch in the Premier League. Marcelo Bielsa’s side entertain most weeks and should have won by three or four against Arsenal but they drew 0-0. The question around Leeds is this: are they unlucky, or just not good enough when it comes to finishing off chances? They hit the woodwork on multiple occasions, made a hash of other chances and Bernd Leno made some fine stops. Leeds have suffered from not scoring when on top ever since Bielsa arrived and it cost them in the Championship many, many times and Bukayo Saka almost struck a late winner for 10-man Arsenal on the break, but Illan Meslier saved superbly. Leeds are fun to watch and are brilliant between both boxes with their mesmeric movement and passing. But can the current squad find their clinical edge? Or do Leeds need to spend big to take that next step? Probably the latter. JPW