What did we learn during matchweek 13 of the 2021-22 Premier League?
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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. A proper spectacle (Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United): The chess match between Thomas Tuchel and Michael Carrick/Ralf Rangnick was befitting the day and the occasion. With all due respect to Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before them, the bosses were here to stage a proper mental and physical battle. Cristiano Ronaldo, Christian Pulisic, Romelu Lukaku, and Mason Mount all came off the bench. Tactics were altered. Chances exchanged. It may have taken a Jorginho gaffe to open up the match, but it was totally worth it. (NM)
2. Red-hot Liverpool too sharp (Liverpool 4-0 Southampton): This Liverpool side are truly back to their best. They have scored 10 goals without conceding in three wins in the last week and Jurgen Klopp’s side showed off their sharp passing and incisive running in the final third. Aside from a few dodgy moments at the back as Alisson and others had some loose passes and Southampton pressed high, this was an extremely comfortable win. Liverpool have now scored 39 goals in their opening 13 games of the PL season, their highest tally in PL history at this stage of a season. That tells us how sharp they are up top right now. Also, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah didn’t score on Saturday… (JPW)
3. Should Manchester City be Premier League title favorites? (Manchester City 2-1 West Ham): Man City did not have Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, and Ferran Torres. Forget the millions and millions and millions spent for a second and those are still some absences to overcome on a snow-covered pitch coming off a European week with two more matches ahead next week (West Ham also played in Europe last week, we should mention). But City’s defense was imperious and its midfield barely missed a step. Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan combined attempted 133 passes and failed to complete… five. Again, in the snow. The first half was significantly more snowy and City passed at 91 percent as a team. Over a full season, it’s difficult to say anyone will out-perform City. Still, it’ll come down to the games between City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. (NM)
4. A step forward for Sancho, Man United (Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United): Ralf Rangnick won’t love a lot of what he saw in the opening stages of this one, which required David De Gea heroics to thwart Chelsea’s bid to blow the visitors out of the water, but United grew into the game and showed willingness to adapt to the requested tactics and responsibilities. Sancho is a brilliant player who just didn’t get enough chances or show well under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but his electric skill set and hunger for the ball in space was written all over his goal. If he’s going along with Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes — let alone however Cristiano Ronaldo fits into this — look out. (NM)
5. Young Gunners taking steps forward (Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle): They were humbled at Liverpool in the second half last week but this young Newcastle side is taking care of business against the teams they should be beating. The next step is to take that confidence into the games against the big boys. There were a few naive giveaways, a few times Newcastle got in too easily over the top and a few times that Ramsdale needed to make good stops, but overall Arsenal were in control for the entire 90 minutes. (JPW)
6. Two games, nearly two clean sheets under Gerrard (Crystal Palace 1-2 Aston Villa): Not only have Aston Villa conceded just one goal (incredibly late on) in two games under Gerrard, but they’ve allowed just 14 shots (it was nine until the final 10 minutes) combined to Brighton and Crystal Palace — two sides quite accomplished in possession and going forward. It’s only two games, but Aston Villa look like a defensive juggernaut, and it happened — quite literally — over one international break. (AE)
7. Vardy, Maddison back in form (Leicester 4-2 Watford): The way they linked up was just like the last few seasons and that is great news for Leicester. Maddison has been struggling for fitness and form in recent months but he now looks back to his best and Vardy is making more runs knowing he has his chief creator back. (JPW)
8. Brentford gets an ugly win (Brentford 1-0 Everton): The Bees have been a high-performing fun team over so much of this season, but Brentford’s victory wasn’t just much-needed it was proof that Thomas Frank’s men can deliver on defending and the steely things required to stay up in the Premier League and thrive in it. Even without Kristoffer Ajer and David Raya, Brentford flexed its versatility and that bodes well for a team that’s bringing proof of credentials on a near-weekly basis. (NM)
9. Brighton still need a finisher (Brighton 0-0 Leeds): If Graham Potter’s mind won the managerial tete-a-tete with Marcelo Bielsa, his recruitment team failed the personnel duel in providing a finisher. Neal Maupay is perfectly fine as a Premier League contributor and absolutely demolishes Champions League defenses, but the midfield masterclass given by Yves Bissouma as a part of Brighton’s 3-5-2 deserved so much better than the game being in the balance late, let alone a 0-0 draw. The fact that Maupay was pulled for Jurgen Locadia, who couldn’t do much at FC Cincinnati of all places, shows that Brighton’s leadership may waste the Potter era by not splashing money on a center forward, and soon. Because of all this, goalkeeper Robert Sanchez’s brilliant late saves meant one point, not three, was preserved by the Seagulls. (NM)
10. Beware the ornery Canaries (Norwich 0-0 Wolves): If Daniel Farke’s Norwich was going to try to out-football you come hell or high water, Dean Smith’s birds are going to give you the choice of eternal fire or a difficult swim. Norwich attacked with vigor when it could but mostly was ready to make sure Wolves knew this was going to be a physical test for 90 minutes. Billy Gilmour had a yellow card for persistent fouling by the 26th minute and Wolves decided to just flat-out fight rather than focus on the football. It was a winning proposition for the hosts. (NM)