Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Football


1) Cornet has wings clipped in wide position

Jürgen Klopp has described this as the strongest Liverpool squad he has had at his disposal. That Joe Gomez, Curtis Jones, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi could not even make the bench supported the theory. Sean Dyche has lesser resources but by his own standards, he had a luxury of riches. Dwight McNeil was dropped for the first time this season. Tuesday’s scorer Jay Rodriguez and new signing Wout Weghorst started in attack. But both missed chances and the reality is that Burnley have scored three goals in nine games. Meanwhile, Maxwel Cornet took McNeil’s spot on the left. The Ivorian can seem a one-man goal-of-the-season contest, but a berth on the wing gave him less chance to let fly. Cornet rarely formed much of a strike partnership with the sold Chris Wood, but at least he offered explosive shooting. For Dyche, the decision is whether to restore him to the forward line. Richard Jolly

2) Wolves a few goals short of a top-four challenge

At what point do we start taking Wolves seriously as challengers for the top four? They don’t have the resources of Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham or even West Ham, but what they do have is a defence. Under pressure in the second half against Spurs, they were admirably unruffled. The bigger issue is goals; only Burnley and Norwich have scored fewer this season than Wolves’ 21 – which puts them on track for a paltry 36. To put that in context, no side has finished in the top four of the Premier League with fewer than the 45 Everton managed in 2004-05. Perhaps Daniel Podence, if he gets off the mark, will go on a spree or perhaps the return of Hwang Hee-chan will bring goals. Either way, if they are to qualify for the Champions League they probably need some from somewhere, no matter how good the rearguard. Jonathan Wilson

3) City show faint hints of weakness

In an entertaining first half-hour of Manchester City’s visit to Norwich, there were a few elements that might have aroused Jürgen Klopp’s curiosity. City were sometimes sloppy under pressure inside their own half, giving away possession cheaply, while it was clear enough that Oleksandr Zinchenko and Nathan Aké are downgrades on Aymeric Laporte and João Cancelo. Those concerns proved short-lived, Grant Hanley missing Norwich’s big chance when he headed against the post and City ultimately winning with characteristic ease. They show no sign of letting up and, once they go ahead, invariably control games masterfully. The crumb of comfort for Liverpool is that they are not flawless and, just as Arsenal did last month before shooting themselves in the foot, better opponents might punish those laxer moments. It needs to happen soon if we are to see a title race: Klopp will hope Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are primed to pounce on any early errors at the Etihad next weekend. Nick Ames

Nathan Aké showed City have some weaknesses.
Nathan Aké showed City have some weaknesses. Photograph: Tim Keeton/EPA

4) Race for fourth is starting to look crowded

West Ham showed their spirit again with a late equaliser at Leicester but it left them only just clinging to fourth place. Now that there’s a clear bottom three, the race for fourth ought to be the most interesting thing about the Premier League. There’s just one problem: the contenders don’t seem very bothered. Spurs have lost three games on the trot, Manchester United have become draw specialists and West Ham’s only win in four is a meagre 1-0 against Watford. Chelsea, who led the table on 1 December, have slumped so badly that they may yet join the dogfight. And so could Wolves, who suddenly have four wins in five. They are now above Spurs. The same goes for Arsenal, whose winner at Molineux on Thursday was their first goal since New Year’s Day. If any of these clubs can go on a decent run, they’ll find themselves in the Champions League. Tim de Lisle

Ralf Rangnick says Manchester United players still 'care' after draw with Southampton – video
Ralf Rangnick says Manchester United players still ‘care’ after draw with Southampton – video

5) Question marks over United’s fitness

Ralf Rangnick admits he is worried about Manchester United’s prospects of a top-four finish. “It has always been a concern since Ole [Gunnar Solskjær] left the club. That was one of the reasons why he probably had to leave,” the 63-year-old said. This was a third time in the last five league matches Rangnick’s team have let a second-half lead slip, Aston Villa and Burnley also coming from behind to share a draw. After 24 matches United are fifth on 40 points. One theory proposed to the German is that his footballers tire late on in games due a lack of fitness that stops them maintaining his high-pressing style. “To be honest I don’t know if we are fit enough to play that way because I came in the middle of the season, we had no pre-season [together] – in essence we had in total two weeks in total where we could train in a normal way,” Rangnick said. “I wouldn’t allow myself to say we are not fit enough to play like that.” Jamie Jackson

Match report: Manchester United 1-1 Southampton

6) Irrepressible Lamptey buoys Brighton

Beyond the three points and an impressive team performance for Brighton, a first 90 minutes of the year and a second assist of the season made Saturday’s a landmark game for Tariq Lamptey, who continued his return from serious hamstring injury. “It’s hard for any player to expect to be fantastic every week,” Graham Potter said. “Today I thought he had everything.” It was telling that both Watford’s left-back, Hassane Kamara, and Emmanuel Dennis, who played on the left wing in the second half, were booked for fouling Lamptey as the home side struggled to control his surges; he has only had more touches in three other Premier League games than he did on Saturday, and never pressed players in possession on more occasions. It was also a key game for another player recovering from injury, Ismaïla Sarr playing for the first time since damaging a knee ligament in his club’s last victory, three months ago next week; he had Watford’s one shot on target, in the 88th minute. If his seems to have been a swift and impressive recovery, his club is running out of time to stage one of their own. Simon Burnton

Tariq Lamptey impressed once more against Watford.
Tariq Lamptey impressed once more against Watford. Photograph: Simon Traylen/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

7) Gordon shining under Lampard’s mentorship

Frank Lampard joined the standing ovation for Anthony Gordon when the 20-year-old was substituted towards the end of a precious win over Leeds. A host of Everton players deserved such acclaim – any of Alex Iwobi, Jonjoe Kenny, Donny van de Beek and Richarlison could also have laid claim to the man of the match award – but the blossoming talent, involved in all three goals and in Leeds’ faces from the first whistle, enthralled his supporters and manager. “He can go a really long way in the game and his job now is to keep his head down and keep working,” said Lampard. “But I’ve no worries about that. I can see he wants it.” The feeling is mutual. As Gordon said of his new manager: “I feel the trust he has got in me. He tells me daily. He has surprised me, really, with how good he is tactically. We need to start giving recognition to young English managers such as the gaffer. He is a tactical genius and I am thriving off that. I’m learning from him every day, stuff I hadn’t heard before.” Andy Hunter

8) Vieira calls on Zaha for goals

Crystal Palace’s draw with Brentford meant it is now just one win in eight Premier League matches since beating Everton on 12 December – a statistic that does not please Patrick Vieira. Having passed up the opportunity to seal what could have been a crucial three points against Norwich in midweek after slipping while taking a penalty, Wilfried Zaha was singled out by his manger as someone who can provide a regular goal threat for a team that has scored only three in the last four games. “There was a cross delivered by Joel Ward at the end when I wanted Wilfried to be there. To compete for that cross,” said Vieira. “We have to work on that, as well as the desire for other players to get into the box.” Ed Aarons

Match report: Brentford 0-0 Crystal Palace

9) Burn makes glorious hometown return

At the final whistle Dan Burn looked almost shellshocked. Twenty years after being released by Newcastle’s academy as a nine-year-old he had just made his debut after a £13m move from Brighton and shone in central defence. Small wonder that, as Burn joined his new teammates in applauding all corners of St James’ Park, he sometimes stopped and simply stared. Born and brought up in Northumberland, Burn used to cheer Newcastle on from the stands he now gazed at and, as he began his career with Blyth Spartans and then Darlington, he can rarely have imagined one day returning as man of the match. Eddie Howe may have failed with January bids for Lille’s Sven Botman and Sevilla’s Diego Carlos but on this evidence Newcastle’s manager could not have bought a defender with more assured positional sense. Louise Taylor

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

10) Wasteful Saints have not replaced Ings

Manchester United’s misfiring marksmen hogged the headlines as usual, but at Old Trafford it was actually Southampton who were more culpable. Only four of their 13 attempts were on target (United managed seven out of 12). Ralf Rangnick rightly argued that United should have scored three by half-time, but failed to add that the same was true of their opponents. On the right, Stuart Armstrong kept bustling into good positions without finding the finishing touch. In the middle, Armando Broja bothered the United centre-backs with his strength and ingenuity but only troubled David de Gea once. The other centre-forward, Che Adams, took the equaliser beautifully but only after wasting a couple of early chances, one of them when he slipped in front of a near-open goal and ended up heading the ball sideways. For all their energy and cohesion, Southampton are missing Danny Ings. Struggling to break into Steven Gerrard’s Villa side, he would surely be starting if he’d stayed at St Mary’s. Tim de Lisle

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.