Five things we learned from midweek PL

1 Comment

Before we start with the specifics, we learned that the midweek games were crazy in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

For the first matchday since 2010 all 20 teams scored, as there were upsets, goals galore, huge mistakes and plenty of talking points.

Lets dig in on five specific things we learned from what occurred over the past 48 hours.


1. Gutsy Liverpool prove the strength of their squad
Trailing at Burnley in the second half, this was a huge test of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool. They passed with flying colors. Klopp left Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino out of his starting lineup and it looked like they could pay the price. But Salah and Firmino came on in the second half after James Milner pulled Liverpool level and the rest is history. Alisson made a fine save late on to keep the score at 2-1 and Xherdan Shaqiri finished plucky Burnley off. Klopp hit out at Burnley’s rough tactics after the game as Joe Gomez suffered a lower leg fracture in the first half, and it was a gruelling test to win at Burnley even if the Clarets are nowhere near the team they were last season. Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno, Naby Keita and others stepped up to help Liverpool get the job done as they sit two points behind leaders Manchester City heading into the busy festive period. Liverpool’s squad this season is so much stronger than last year and they have considerable, and game-changing, options on the bench each game.


2. Man United’s defensive issues likely to cost them top four spot
Jose Mourinho wanted two new center backs in the summer and he didn’t get them. At every opportunity Manchester United’s manager is reminding Ed Woodward what a monumental mistake he made for not releasing the funds for United to buy new defenders. Then again, Mourinho did want Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof to join United… Before the game against Arsenal he said he had no center backs fit. He played three of them in Bailly, Smalling and Rojo on Wednesday. Individuals aside, the 2-2 draw with Arsenal underlined the good and the bad about United. The good: they have a wealth of attacking options who are actually scoring goals and creating opponents problems. The bad: they can’t defend for toffee. That is very unlike a Mourinho team. David De Gea‘s blunder and an own goal from Marcos Rojo gifted Arsenal two goals at Old Trafford and Mourinho lambasted the defensive play of his side. If they’re going to reach the top four this season at all (not just by Mourinho’s previous prediction of early January) they will have to shore things up defensively. As bad as United have been this season, and leaving the Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku situation to one side, they are only eight points off the top four. But they do have the sixth-worst defensive record and also have a negative goal difference. That says it all.


3. Chelsea’s title charge may already be over
The way Chelsea folded at newly-promoted Wolves on Wednesday suggests they are nowhere near ready for a title push. Maurizio Sarri said he is “very worried” after watching his side surrender a 1-0 lead as they were pushed over and roughed up by a hungry, out-of-form, Wolves to lose 2-1. Chelsea’s tremendous early-season form relied heavily on Eden Hazard and the Belgian has been off the boil in recent weeks. He hasn’t scored since early October and unlike Liverpool, those who Sarri brought into the team at Wolves struggled. Alvaro Morata had another off day, Cesc Fabregas was overpowered and Andreas Christensen was hardly rock solid. 10 points behind Man City who they face on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, it is fair to say Chelsea’s title bid is pretty much over before it ever began.


4. Hasenhuettl has plenty of defensive work to do too
Southampton’s new manager Ralph Hasenhuettl met the media on Thursday and he has quite the way with words. He also knows the one area where he needs to improve the team immediately: defense. It is often cliche to say a manager ‘needs to sort the defense out’ when he first comes in midseason, but this is so very true in this case. Saints lost 3-1 at Tottenham and trailed 3-0 early in the second half before Spurs stopped playing. Hasenhuettl has a bloated squad at Saints and the likes of Yoshida, Stephens, Vestergaard, Bednarek and Hoedt have all been used this season without finding a successful combination. Sorting out their backline is the main issue for Hasenhuettl early on as Saints have let in seven goals in their last three games in the PL, although they have scored five in that period. Going forward they have weapons to hurt their opponents but building a solid foundation is key. Then, and only then, will Hasenhuettl be able to promote his 4-2-2-2 formation which relies on high-pressing and relentless running. Southampton will be hoping Hasenhuettl has the same impact as the last manager they brought in midseason, Mauricio Pochettino back in January 2013.


5. Fulham improving slowly under Claudio Ranieri
Even though they coughed up a late goal at home against Leicester, the signs are good for Fulham under Claudio Ranieri. Fulham led the Foxes 1-0 and although they will be disappointed to not open up with two wins from Ranieri’s first three games in charge, there are encouraging signs that the players are grasping his ideas. Fulham’s defense has conceded just three times over the past two games and after the 2-0 defeat at Chelsea at the weekend, Ranieri revealed he was more pleased with how his team played there than he was in the 3-2 home win against Southampton on his debut. They look solid in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Chambers and Seri shoring things up in front of the back four. Ranieri is getting this Fulham side back to basics and the pace of Kamara and Sessegnon on the break works well with Mitrovic’s hold-up play. Working Andre Schurrle back into the team will also help, but shoring up Fulham’s defense is key to Ranieri’s philosophy.

Pep updates Aguero situation, backs celebrating Klopp

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
3 Comments

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are taking precautions with star striker Sergio Aguero.

The (currently) silver-haired Argentine is at soccer age relative to his hair color. At 30, there are times where the club risks wearing him down across four competitions.

[ MORE: Adams off to RB Leipzig ]

That’s why Aguero was rested Saturday against Bournemouth, and why he may not hit the pitch Tuesday at Watford.

“In that situation this month, with a lot of games, he was not safe. It’s going to happen in the future.”

Aguero has 12 goals in 17 matches this season, missing only the Bournemouth win, two League Cup matches, and a pair of UEFA Champions League fixtures against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Guardiola was on the mic Monday, a day after Jurgen Klopp was either criticized or lauded for running onto the pitch to celebrate Divock Origi‘s goofy match-winner that saved Liverpool’s pace-keeping effort against Everton.

Liverpool remains two points behind City. From the BBC:

“There are a lot of emotions in that moment. I did it against Southampton (last season). I was not happy to do it but sometimes it is what it is. Things happen in your mind and your heart. When you win, people say it is your personality. When you lose, people say it is disrespectful.”

Pickford apologizes to Everton fans for costly error vs. Liverpool

AP Photo/Jon Super
Leave a comment

Apologies were plentiful following Sunday’s Merseyside derby, which saw Liverpool top Everton at Anfield on a bizarre, last-second goal scored by Divock Origi, with the most massive of assists from Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

[ NORTH LONDON: Merciless Arsenal pounds Spurs ]

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp apologized to Everton for the way he wildly celebrated the goal, but it wasn’t just those on the winning side who felt they owed an apology to the visitors’ fans. Pickford also offered up an apology for his mistake which ultimately undid a valiant performance and sent the Toffees home without anything to show for their efforts — quotes from the Guardian:

“I think it is the Everton luck when we come to Anfield. It was a freak one, really. It had hit the bar twice and I tried to flick it over. The ball spun and as I tried to flick it over, my hand hit the bar. It’s unfortunate, but I am strong mentally.

“I just want to say sorry to the Everton fans. I think you could see our progression as a group, the chances we created and the football we played. That’s a positive, but what can I do? There is always a case as a goalkeeper if you make an error it will lead to a goal. Unfortunately, it has been me today, but I will be ready for Newcastle on Wednesday. We know we held our own against a good Liverpool side for 96 minutes. I will say sorry to the Everton fans again, because I know how much it means to them. As players, we know how much it means to us. You make mistakes every now and again. It’s not something you can learn and train and get better from. It’s just a freak incident.”

Liverpool, Everton react to goal from Origi

Leave a comment

It was over, really.

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk badly flubbed a bid at the spectacular, his wayward shot floating toward the Everton end line.

[ MORE: Match recap | Klopp apologizes ]

Everton backstop Jordan Pickford tracked it, just in case, and had a last-minute change of heart and pushed the ball off the top of the crossbar.

It bounced a second time on the crossbar, and fell to Divock Origi. Making his first appearance of the Premier League season, the Belgian was on the spot to prod the ball over the line and provide a Merseyside Derby win for his club.

“I tried to be ready,” Origi said. “There was a lot of scuffles so I knew I had to be ready. I had a tap-in so it was good! I tried to use every good and bad moments.

“I was happy I could rectify my error from the beginning. It’s difficult as a player whenever you make a mistake. Jordan Pickford seems like a very good keeper and, mentality-wise, he seems like a good lad so he’ll learn from this.”

Hear more from Origi, and some from Van Dijk, at bottom.

Then there’s the other side of the stadium, where Pickford was said to be struggling after his mental mistake.

Liverpool defender Michael Keane is among the players trying to cheer up Pickford.

“Everyone is devastated and silent. We are consoling Jordan [Pickford]. He got unlucky. He has been brilliant for us. Everyone is devastated because of the work we put in. We had our chances and came close. We are devastated for ourselves and the fans.”

Insane late goal gifts Liverpool derby win

Leave a comment
  • Reds score off Van Dijk flub
  • Origi scores in 1st PL app of season
  • WATCH: The wild match-deciding goal
  • LFC three points ahead of 3rd place Chelsea

The Merseyside Derby had been goal-free for 186 minutes when Divock Origi followed a ball that bounced off the cross bar twice to give Liverpool a 1-0 win over Everton in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield on Sunday.

[ MORE: Klopp reacts, apologizes for celebration ]

The Reds stay two points back of Man City, while Everton is sixth with 22 points (eight back of fifth place Spurs).

Scroll down to see the insane winner, which Toffees keeper Jordan Pickford kept in play and hit the cross bar twice before landing for Origi on the goal line.

Yerry Mina just missed heading a Lucas Digne free kick across goal in the fourth minute.

At the other end, Sadio Mane blazed over the bar in the 12th minute after a Mohamed Salah flick.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Yet Everton had an even better chance, with Andre Gomes’ point-blank header stopped by Alisson Becker before the Portuguese midfielder saw the rebound hit him and creep to the goal line where Joe Gomez cleared it. Gomez on Gomes crime.

Roberto Firmino stung the gloves of Jordan Pickford in the 30th minute, and Theo Walcott set up Richarlison for a chance at the other end moments later. The Brazilian looked to have been fouled by Virgil Van Dijk, but no call arrived in favor of Everton.

Salah then cued up Shaqiri for a good chance on Pickford, but the Everton man blocked the shot.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Liverpool’s Egyptian wizard picked up where he left off to start the second half, spinning a shot just wide of the left post from atop the arc.

Mane missed another chance when a through ball left him a harsh angle on Pickford.

Bernard screwed a 66th minute chance wide of the far post as Everton bid for an opener.

Divock Origi hit the bar in the 87th minute, moments before an unheeded handball shout in the box. But he followed up Van Dijk’s flubbed bid to win it by picking the second bounce off the cross bar.