Sarri fails to adapt, Arsenal frustratingly impressive
Has there been a more ‘Arsenal’ Premier League season so far that this campaign? The Gunners are back in their frustratingly bizarre form under Unai Emery. A draw last month with Brighton and embarrassing performances in losses to Liverpool and Southampton were balanced with victories over rivals Spurs and Burnley. This month, Arsenal have thrashed Fulham and lost to West Ham.
[contextly_sidebar id=”RlyGbABJLc4ha0YaEIrR9ja5du8irvhf”]Fans headed into the this weekend’s game against Chelsea a bit worried but they needn’t have been. Arsenal bossed the game without the ball and were hardly troubled by Chelsea as they picked up a valuable result in the hunt for fourth place. Now the question is, why don’t Arsenal play this way in all their games? They seem to either blow hot or cold; they are either very good or really bad. It might be time for the Gunners to try push for more consistent performances.
However impressive Arsenal were, their win wasn’t entirely down to them. Chelsea were as bad as the Gunners were good. Sarri complained after the game about his players’ mentality but it might be time for him to look in the mirror. Blues fans may have their gripes about the gametime for WIllian, Alonso, Jorginho and Callum Hudson Odoi (what does he have to do to get a start?) but they have a bigger problem. Star player Eden Hazard has been one of the Premier League’s best players this season but his form has dipped a bit since Sarri pushed him into the ‘False 9’ position.
WIth Hazard up front, Chelsea are very limited going forward; crosses and high balls are a no-no. Hazard’s touches on the ball are also fewer than when he starts on the left of the front three and you really want your best player on the ball as much as possible. When he does drop into midfield to receive the ball, a huge gap is left up front. Hazard’s also beginning to get more visibly frustrated in games and that can’t bode well for the club when the player has been expressing his interest in another.
Sarri’s selections and substitutions are a template now, you can pick his next move with your eyes closed, and he refuses to waver in his beliefs. A lot of noise was made about Sarri-ball when he first came in but Stubborn-ball? Not sure Chelsea fans anticipated that.
Liverpool win again but cracks start to appear
Salah was in top form on Saturday against Crystal Palace and so was the rest of Liverpool’s usually prolific frontline. The Egyptian’s two goals put him out in front in the race for top scorer with sixteen continuing a brilliant recent run. The Reds remain four points clear and sit somewhat comfortably at the top of the pile. However, the Reds may now have to worry about something they haven’t thought about since last season; their defence. Liverpool have conceded seven goals in four games in all competitions in January, not too bad you might think. But bear in mind that they only let in three goals in 7 Premier League games in December and there might be some cause for worry.
Liverpool’s defence has been one of the best this season, a major reason they are leading the pack and not chasing it. Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander Arnold and have been superb but recent injuries to the latter two have put the Reds into a bit of a pickle. They started the Palace game with James Milner at right-back but considering he was sent off, he won’t be considered a full-time replacement. Cycling between Matip and Lovren as VVD’s centre back partner has also proved to be touch and go. News that Gomez is, however, nearing a comeback, might be the best news Reds fans will get this season as they eye that elusive Premier League title.
Can Spurs name another XI ?
Tottenham have had a tough go of it in terms of injuries this season, even more than Liverpool. At the moment Kane, Alli, Sissoko, Moura, Wanyama and Aurier are out hurt. Son is at the Asian Cup and Dembele has been sold. To say Spurs are thin in terms of the number of senior players would be understating their problem.
They scraped past Fulham at the weekend but their fight won’t last much longer if they don’t have as many players as their opposition. Tottenham didn’t spend a pound in the summer transfer window and while their start to the season justified their decision, the fact that they’ve been unable to maintain a title challenge might be down to the lack of quality options in their squad. Levy might be a shrewd character but those Scrooge purses need to loosen as soon as possible to prevent Spurs’ season from imploding.
Newcastle feast on Bluebirds to stay alive
It might not have been the most glamorous game of the weekend but in terms of stakes, Newcastle’s game with Cardiff was right up there with the battle up in North London. This early relegation six-pointer was between two teams that were fighting tooth and nail to retain their Premier League status; well given the result on Saturday, at least Newcastle are.
In keeping with the theme of the game, Fabian Schar might not have been the most eye-catching name on the pitch but his two goals might have pushed Toons fans to confer ‘legend’ status on him, at least for this weekend. Rafa Benitez knows how to get the best out of his team when it matters most. He did it last season and he seems to be doing it again this season. If he keeps this Newcastle side up again this season they might as well name a stand after him.
For Cardiff, it was another game without a goal (they’ve had 11) as they sank into the drop zone. They weren’t exactly high-flying but two losses in five games isn’t the end of the world for Cardiff. They face a daunting game against Arsenal next in the league and they’ll hope to bounce back against a Gunners side that can switch off in an instant.
Ole’s United show they don’t always need to win pretty
Six Premier League wins in a row would have been unthinkable for Manchester United heading into December. But here we are now with the Red Devils sizing up Arsenal and Chelsea just above them and eying that fourth spot.
In their games so far, aside the goalkeeping masterclass from De Gea in the Spurs game, United have been relatively comfortable. And, after taking a 2-0 lead against Brighton through goals from Pogba and the impressive Rashford, it looked like a question of “how many?” However as Brighton showed against Liverpool, they aren’t afraid to face up to the big boys. When they pulled one back, it became a question of “will we hang on” for Man United fans. In the end they did.
Man Utd found a way to win where, earlier in the season they’d probably have found a way to drop all three points. Man United are in Championship-winning form at the moment but one that’s come a bit too late to make a dent in Man City or Liverpool’s title charge.
However, that fourth place spot is starting to look more than a little achievable now.
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