Burnley is now unbeaten in seven Premier League outings and sits 10th on 39 points.
Spurs are two points clear of Burnley, but will finish the weekend at least four points back of the top four.
Tottenham gets its first result in five outings with the draw.
Three things we learned
1. Lo Celso changes the game: Tottenham was absolutely dreadful in the first half, and Burnley’s lead was well-earned. Jose Mourinho took out a pair of center midfielders and introduced Giovani Lo Celso, who was very good from Moment No. 1 and drove the play that led to Spurs’ penalty.
2. Burnley bolsters UEL hopes: The Clarets have a point or better in seven-straight league matches. While they failed in a bid to leapfrog Spurs, Sean Dyche‘s men are three points back of the top seven. Could tiny Burnley really make two European runs in three seasons?
11 – Chris Wood has netted 11 league goals this season, his best-ever top-flight campaign. Wood is the third Burnley player to net more than 10 times in a Premier League campaign after Ashley Barnes last season (12) and Danny Ings in 2014-15 (11). Poacher.
3. Lucky Dele: Jose Mourinho again deployed Dele Alli as a center forward, and the player struggled in the first 45 minutes. Dele’s pass completion rate was barely above 50 percent and he lost all of his nine duels. His penalty finish was cool, though, and may jumpstart his stagnant month ahead of Bayern Munich.
Man of the Match: Burnley’s Dwight McNeil was consistent and thrilling on the wing, producing the match’s lone assist.
Chris Wood rocketed a 17-yard shot over the bar early to send a warning to Hugo Lloris and Co.
A Jay Rodriguez header off from the back post led to an unholy scramble in the box minutes later, but Spurs again cleared the danger.
It was all foreshadowing; Burnley went ahead when Dwight McNeil got two chances to send in a cross that bounded to Rodriguez. His laser was saved by Lloris but Wood pounced on the rebound for 1-0.
Spurs got a chance to level the score as Lo Celso paid immediate dividends. The Spanish midfielder stole the ball and played a wonderful ball to Lamela, who was cut down by Ben Mee inside the edge of the box.
Dele Alli strode to the spot and stroked the ball past Nick Pope for his 50th Premier League goal.
Burnley had a strong chance when Matej Vydra was slid into the box, but Eric Dier intervened to push the ball away from danger.
Lo Celso then led a 60-yard charge upfield that fell apart when Dele couldn’t get the ball through traffic.
Wood then thumped a shot to Lloris, who was wise to the bounce. Vydra then knocked down a ball for Wood that the Kiwi hit to Lloris in the 81st.
Lo Celso came close to bending a shot inside the far corner a minute later.
A funny bounce forced Lloris to make a prime save of Vydra after the latter’s shot took a turn off the bottom of Toby Alderweireld‘s boot.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Davies, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Tanganga, Winks, Ndombele, Gedson, Lamela, Lo Celso, Bergwijn
What they’re saying
Ben Mee on Burnley’s team commitment: “I think you can work together on the pitch even if you’re not that close off it, but I think as a group as a whole we chat a lot and we are a close-knit group. There’s a British and Irish core to it and we all have the same mentality. Even the boys that have come in from other places feel really at home with the warmth of the group and the welcome they get. It’s credit to the coaching staff and the environment they create and the culture.”
Jose Mourinho on the squad’s injury problems: “Imagine my team playing – Lucas, Kane and Son. And Lucas and Son, minute 70 they are tired. Let’s go. Lamela and Bergwijn. We have the squad for that. Midfield players – you are feeling the team is going a little bit down. You feel the players are a little bit in trouble – change one and get another one. We have a squad for that. It’s not like I’m saying our squad is not good. The squad is good. In this moment we are in trouble. It’s so simple as that.”
It seems just as unlikely that Spurs’ struggles would continue as Burnley defy the statistical odds and stretch its unbeaten run, but Tottenham will have an eye on RB Leipzig. Call it 2-1 to Spurs.
Ashley Westwood‘s Olimpico goal gave Burnley the lead with less than two minutes on the clock but Danny Ings atoned for his early error to smash home an equalizer. Saints couldn’t make the most of their superior possession and were caught on the break as Matej Vydra fired home the winner in fine style.
With the win Burnley move on to 34 points, while Saints remain on 31 points.
3 things we learned
1. Saints stumble against defensive side: Once again they played well and took the game to the opposition but Ralph Hasenhuttl will be shaking his head because his time are not getting the points on the board their performances deserve. That will be a worry as they are just seven points above the relegation zone and although Danny Ings keeps scoring they do not have a Plan B against teams who sit deep. Saints are at their best when they play against teams who attack them and leave gaps on the break. They have to play plenty of teams around or below them in the next few weeks and they have to find a way to adapt their high-pressing game.
2. Classic Burnley smash and grab: They took the lead twice and held on rather comfortably in the end for a vital three points. This is not Burnley’s first rodeo. Sean Dyche‘s side have taken 10 points from the last 12 available and they are now well clear of relegation trouble and perhaps dreaming about a European push. What a few weeks it has been for them as they’ve returned to basics and dealt with the injured duo of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes.
3. Best and worst of Ings: He now has 15 goals in the Premier League and 18 in all competitions this season but we have to talk about his early error. What was he thinking? Ings let Westwood’s corner go past him at the near post and it crossed the line. It was a monumental error from Saints’ leading man. The best and worst of Ings was on show on Saturday.
Man of the Match: James Tarkwoski – Marshalled the Burnley defense brilliantly and this was his kind of game. Cleared cross after cross and kept them tight and organize. Great display from the center back.
With the first attack of the game Burnley took the lead as a corner whipped in by Westwood to the near post saw Danny Ings leave it and the ball went straight in. A bizarre Olimpico goal in the windy conditions on the south coast put the Clarets ahead.
Stuart Armstrong‘s shot was blocked by James Tarkwoski as Saints pushed to get back into the game and they did through Ings. The former Burnley striker made up for his early error as he curled home a powerful shot from outside the box to make it 1-1.
Jay Rodriguez almost put Burnley 2-1 up against his former club but he missed a glorious chance and replays showed he might have just been offside.
Sofiane Boufal‘s cross was then flicked onto the bar by Jack Stephens as the hosts cranked through the gears in the first half. Boufal was forced off through injury as he and Chris Wood were both subbed off in the first half as the conditions worsened on England’s south coast.
In the second half the weather impacted the game but Burnley landed a hammer blow as substitute Vydra latched onto a superb ball over the top from Jeff Hendrick, controlled well and slammed home to make it 2-1.
Saints huffed and puffed to try and get back into the game and wanted a penalty kick for a handball on Ben Mee but VAR checked and nothing was given.
Every great team has a great leader driving it on, demanding high levels day in, day out and raising the bar so high than even their incredibly talented teammates get nowhere near reaching it. They may not be the most gifted players technically but there’s something about them, an aura and confidence they exude which makes everyone around them feel unstoppable.
That is what makes them, and their teams, so great.
Virgil van Dijk and this current Liverpool team well and truly slot into that category as he is the driver of one of the greatest teams in sporting history who sit 22 points clear at the top of the table and can win the PL title at the earliest point in history.
The way in which they are calmly but mercifully dismantling every team that comes their way reflects VVD’s relaxed relentlessness. They are on track to go the entire 2019-20 Premier League season unbeaten (24 wins from 25 games so far) while setting records for the most wins and points secured in a single season and are closing in on Arsenal’s record of 49 PL games unbeaten.
Jurgen Klopp‘s entire team deserve praise but Virgil van Dijk deserves the most.
Jordan Henderson is the captain who has taken his game to new levels, Alisson‘s heroics in goal aren’t under-appreciated, two British full backs have developed into world-class talents and the front three speak for themselves. But Van Dijk kicked Klopp’s project onto the next level as soon as he arrived at Anfield.
Don’t be fooled by Van Dijk’s delightful flicks, masterful long-range passes, elegant stride and beautifully cushioned headers. He is not here to chillax. He is at Liverpool to win. If you watch Virgil van Dijk for the first time, it is like watching a U18 player in a U12 league. He is quicker, stronger and smarter than every other player on the pitch.
Perhaps the only other signing in Premier League history to have more of an impact, on the pitch and off it, than Van Dijk is Eric Cantona. There is a relaxation and likeable arrogance about both individuals. Yes, Cantona was out there and still is, but the way his arrival kicked on a very good United team to one which became a dynasty was both subtle and dominant. Van Dijk’s arrival in January 2018 had the same impact at Liverpool.
Liverpool’s previous laughably shaky defense suddenly had a new leader, one who demanded the best each and every time they stepped out on the pitch. Van Dijk does not suffer fools gladly. He has work way too hard from Groningen to Celtic and then to Southampton to get to this point and not make the most of it.
Since he arrived at Liverpool from Saints just over two years ago for a then world-record fee for a defender of $100 million they have lost just four games in the Premier League. They have finished fourth then second, won the Champions League and are on the verge of a record-breaking Premier League title in 2019-20. He was also runner up in the Ballon d’Or voting for 2019 (the last defender to win that title was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006), was the man of the match in the UCL final, has become the captain of the Dutch national team as their incredible resurgence under Ronald Koeman continues and simply put the last two years could not have gone any better for him.
When you speak to Virgil van Dijk you start to understand why he is achieving all of this. He looks into your eyes as if he’s searching for your soul to see if you are worthy of his time. At least, that’s what it feels like. With a laugh and a quick quip in his fluid Dutch accent which is almost as smooth as his play on the pitch, he calms down every situation but doesn’t waste a word with his answers. Ruthless. Efficient. Classy.
“Everyone can have their opinion, have their say on the situation we are in right now but we all know that we as a group, everyone who is involved at Melwood, we are not getting carried away,” Van Dijk told Pro Soccer Talk after his header set Liverpool on their way to a big win against bitter rivals Man United at Anfield last month. “The second part of the season just started and we all know anything is still possible. The good thing is that we have that mentality that we just focus on one game at a time.”
There is that focus and that drive from Van Dijk which you can see during and after games. He isn’t one for over-celebrating and can often be seen throwing his arms in the air in disdain when a loose pass is played or a mistake is made by one of his teammates. But the other side to him is that he is a total team player, one who lavishes praise on his teammates and can easily switch off as he’s often seen smiling and joking and enjoying time with his family and daughters in the tunnel area at Anfield after the full time whistle.
From a statistical point of view, Virgil van Dijk is very, very good but his numbers do not actually place him as being head and shoulders above other Premier League center backs like you might think.
When you look at the numbers on the surface, Virgil Van Dijk doesn’t appear to be exceptionally dominant. Very good, yes. Historically exceptional? That takes a bit more work to uncover.
When you dig into deeper statistics that describe a defender’s activity on the pitch – things like interceptions, tackles won, clearances, and aerial duels won – you see a player who is among the league leaders but not one who is dominant in the way that N’Golo Kante was in his pomp at Leicester City.
Here’s a list of the league leaders in those defensive stats:
The notion that all of these defensive actions are necessarily equal in value isn’t the point of the exercise but rather to point out that, by the raw numbers, Virgil Van Dijk is among the best center backs in the Premier League but not necessarily a dominating force.
The “eye test” tells us otherwise so we have to dig a little deeper and perhaps the way to do that is to layer on the concept of style of play and the resulting opportunity for a center back to take defensive actions.
Simply put, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, and Jack O’Connell have a lot more opportunity to make interceptions, win tackles, clear the ball, and win defensive aerial duels because their opponents have the ball a lot more. Time of possession stats have their own challenges but, in this case, judging this by the number of passes each team completes is ideal because any pass made is an opportunity for a defender to intervene. What the numbers show us is that Liverpool enjoy just under 61% of possession while Sheffield United only have the ball 43.5% of the time and Burnley even less at 40.4% (Manchester United are less ball dominant but closer to Liverpool at 56.5%).
If you want to get a sense of how dominant Virgil Van Dijk is, think about the fact that he is putting up statistics equivalent to the other statistical leaders in the league in defensive statistics with only two thirds the opportunities to make those interventions. If you corrected for possession, Van Dijk’s would be in the range of 16 to 17 defensive contributions per match which would better approximate his dominance as a center back.
So, there you have it. In a team which doesn’t have to defend that often because they are so good going forward, Van Dijk still ranks among the Premier League’s best center backs.
He leads the Premier League with more completed passes (2,051) than any other player this season and the Dutchman had an incredible run of not being dribbled past for 49 Premier League games up until the start of this season.
All of this adds to his aura and there is almost an acceptance of defeat among strikers who now come up against him. They don’t try and dribble past or him or challenge him in the air or try to run behind him because they think and probably know, and for good reason, that he will win that duel.
Virgil van Dijk’s importance to Liverpool cannot actually be measured. The stats show he is an extremely good defender but they can’t measure how big of an impact his mentality, self-confidence and ability to lead others has had on the Liverpool players, staff and even the fans.
When we asked him about Liverpool’s impressive defensive record, the best in the PL which has led to 11 one-goal wins this season, VVD is quick to praise his teammates.
“Everyone is involved in that,” Van Dijk says humbly without hesitation. “We have a fantastic goalkeeper, the full backs doing their jobs, the midfielders and then obviously it starts up front. It is a collective thing but as a defender we are very pleased to keep clean sheets because I think with us, if we keep a clean sheet there is a big chance to win the game. It is a good feeling.”
Simply put: Liverpool have never struggled to score goals but keeping them out was the problem. VVD has fixed that.
A future Ballon d’Or winner, Van Dijk has the potential to go down in history as one of the all-time great center backs and he has already become a Liverpool legend in just two years at the club.
That is so tough to do at such an esteemed, historically successful club. Think about all of the legends which have pass through Anfield and Van Dijk is already among them.
The Song Liverpool fans have for him (to the tune of Dirty Old Town) and chant time and time again sums up his importance and he seems to almost feed off the lyrics as a calming influence in possession and a dominant force at both ends of the pitch.
He’s our center half,
He’s our number four,
Watch him defend,
And we watch him score,
He’ll pass the ball,
Calm as you like,
He’s Virgil van Dijk,
He’s Virgil van Dijk.
United fails to take advantage of Chelsea’s draw with Arsenal, and sits six points back of the Top Four.
Burnley climbs seven points clear of the drop zone, level with five teams on 30 points.
Three things we learned
1. Wood shines up top: It was a 10th goal to go with his first assist of the season for the New Zealand international, who used a half-yard of space from Harry Maguire to put Burnley in front. Burnley’s philosophy is to find their forwards at all cost, and when Wood is delivering that ethos looks genius.
2. United’s absent wings cost it dear (and jeer): Juan Mata and Anthony Martial were lively, but both Daniel James and Andreas Pereira did little to inspire hope of a goal for the home side. The Red Devils were the focus of crowd derision on the day, as they again wasted a chance to improve their Top Four credentials. Most teams will suffer without their top two attackers, but this is Manchester United. Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford missing or not, Wednesday was iugly stuff.
3. Jay Rodriguez’s new nickname is “Bangers Only”: Joking aside, it’s difficult to remember Rodriguez goals that don’t get you out of your seat. His insurance goal absolutely buried United, and gives him seven across all competitions. It also gives Sean Dyche plenty of competition in training, with Ashley Barnes on the periphery.
Man of the Match: Wood
United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka cut a promising 15th minute cross through the 18, but no teammate could get a foot to it.
Fred continued his lively play when he hit a low drive to Nick Pope in the 23rd, good endeavor without the required sharpness.
Daniel James forced Pope into a leaping save in the 32nd, and Martial couldn’t get his feet right when Nemanja Matic rolled him to the doorstep in the 34th.
Burnley took the lead out of absolute nothing, Wood taking advantage of Harry Maguire when Ben Mee flicked a long free kick to the Kiwi.