Premier League hits and misses: Are Man Utd back to square one after Bruno Lage’s Wolves masterclass at Old Trafford?

Are United back to square one?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s defeat to Wolves within the Premier League.

Is it October 2021? Manchester United getting outrun, outfought and out-thought, gamers giving interviews closely suggesting dressing room disquiet and managers defending futile makes an attempt to press their opponents.

It all begs the query – has something modified since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked? That query appears ludicrous if you look back on what was an unbeaten begin for Ralf Rangnick earlier than defeat to Wolves at Old Trafford on Monday night time, with 4 wins from 5 and an opportunity to transfer one level from the highest 4.

It positive factors extra credence when you think about the usual of opposition in that point – coming from behind to beat Arsenal, then fifth within the desk, is actually the spotlight. That apart, Norwich, Newcastle, and Burnley have been three of the 5 league sides United confronted since his arrival. Crystal Palace, too, got here into their Old Trafford defeat on the back of losses to Leeds and Aston Villa.

  • Man Utd 0-1 Wolves – Match report
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

Just as we have been collectively fast to regale Rangnick’s high quality after the snug, if laboured, win over Palace in his first residence sport, so too should a phrase of warning be sounded that it is nonetheless “early days” within the interim supervisor’s period.

But the alarm bells should be sounding. Loudly. That United ought to play so badly, throughout an entire sport, at residence, on the back of an unbeaten run like that could be a big concern. That Luke Shaw would brazenly query his team-mates’ motivation six league video games into a brand new supervisor’s tenure screams of a fractured dressing room.

“I don’t know what they’re doing here. I think they’re all over the place. They don’t have faith, they don’t have belief in each other, they play as a load of individuals,” stated ex-Man Utd midfielder Paul Ince, who is aware of a factor or two about controlling video games – and profitable mentality.

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What has actually improved since Solskjaer’s departure? Results within the short-term, certain, however the fixture listing has been sort. After a efficiency like this – and towards Newcastle, and towards Norwich – it is troublesome to pinpoint a lot.

It is troublesome to choose a supervisor after six video games. No philosophy will be totally drilled in that point, simply look at Pep Guardiola’s first season at Manchester City. From the opposite aspect, you’ll be able to query Rangnick’s ways towards Wolves, however no matter them, lots of his gamers appeared uninterested and disjointed. That begs the query – if United have so many issues to repair, why are they losing six months on appointing an interim supervisor, solely to then do all of it once more subsequent summer season?

What appears clearer than ever is that Solskjaer was removed from the one drawback at Old Trafford. And a stopgap appointment will not be going to clear up that.
Ron Walker

Tuchel’s hand stronger regardless of draw

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s draw towards Liverpool within the Premier League

The hole to Premier League leaders Manchester City is wider than it was earlier than a weekend that was overshadowed, from a Chelsea perspective, by Romelu Lukaku’s explosive interview. But Thomas Tuchel finishes it together with his place at the membership strengthened.

It was a courageous name to omit his finest striker from the squad after Lukaku had scored within the earlier two matches. When two targets down early on towards Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, it was straightforward to think about the criticism which may have awaited the Chelsea coach.

  • Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

But his aspect performed with extraordinary vitality, urgent with a goal as they not solely got here from behind to draw 2-2 with Liverpool however have been the higher aspect in the perfect of video games. This was the kind of high-tempo soccer that supporters – and homeowners – crave.

Maybe there have been moments when a £97m striker would have helped. But Tuchel’s gamers confirmed the spirit that’s required to thrive in the long term. He misplaced out on two factors. But he received the argument. His sturdy management ought to repay as soon as the fuss dies down.
Adam Bate

Salah reminds Liverpool of what they’re going to be lacking

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Mohamed Salah fires in a chic second for Liverpool at Chelsea

The title race could also be slipping out of their sights however at least Liverpool supporters can console themselves with the very fact the perfect participant on the earth proper now wears their crimson shirt.

Mohamed Salah produced one other marvellous objective at Stamford Bridge which, at the time, appeared like it could maintain their Premier League dream alive, earlier than Chelsea’s outstanding comeback.

It wasn’t on the extent of his goal-of-the-season contenders towards Watford and Manchester City but it surely was scored with the convenience of a participant in excellent type and filled with perception. The dummy did for Marcos Alonso and the end was by no means doubtful – whatever the tight angle.

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The upcoming fixtures for Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool – and the gamers they could possibly be lacking for these fixtures throughout Africa Cup of Nations

It was his sixteenth within the Premier League this season and means he is scored twice as many as nearly all of his rivals for the Golden Boot. His departure for the Africa Cup of Nations will give these chasers a few video games benefit however do not anticipate them to catch him any time quickly – if at all.

The match additionally presents a problem for Liverpool. How do you change a participant of his stature? The fixture listing has at least been sort. An FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury and Premier League video games with Brentford and Crystal Palace ought to nonetheless be efficiently negotiated with out their essential man.

Perhaps, with the Premier League title now an unlikely goal, the 2 video games towards Arsenal within the Carabao Cup semi-final would be the largest concern. With no Salah – and no Sadio Mane too – the likes of Divock Origi and Diogo Jota may have to step up.

Liverpool will hope to welcome their Egyptian king back comfortable, wholesome and profitable from AFCON – and prepared for the run-in. And maybe these contract talks, too… After all, his worth goes up by the sport.
Peter Smith

Much extra prefer it from Leeds

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leeds United’s win towards Burnley

The celebrations at Elland Road confirmed simply how huge a win that might show to be for Leeds!

It’s been a troublesome season to this point for Marcelo Bielsa’s aspect and they’re nonetheless contending with harm points with Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper and Patrick Bamford nonetheless lacking by harm.

However, the aspect Bielsa put out within the 3-1 victory towards Burnely was far more just like the Leeds we knew from final season, and it confirmed on the pitch.

  • Leeds United 3-1 Burnley – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

The hosts produced a efficiency filled with vitality and battle as they halted a run of three straight defeats and extra importantly climbed eight factors away from Sean Dyche’s aspect, who stay third from backside.

Leeds additionally ended a run of 4 Premier League matches with no win (drawing one and dropping three), profitable their first sport since a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at the top of November, whereas this was the primary time all season that they had scored three targets in a league sport.

It was far more prefer it from Leeds and with Patrick Bamford’s return imminent, they are going to be hoping to construct on victory towards Burnley and transfer additional away from the relegation locations within the weeks to come.
Oliver Yew

Slow begins proceed to price Everton

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Pressure is mounting on Rafael Benitez at Everton

The Premier League rolls into 2022 and whereas Everton returned to motion for the primary time since December 16, the competitors is leaving them behind. It was within the corresponding fixture final season that, below Carlo Ancelotti, Everton went prime of the Premier League thanks to a man-of-the-match show by James Rodriguez in a 4-2 win.

That was October 2020, and whereas Rafael Benitez has had to juggle with all method of points this time period, this Everton aspect have been in reverse whereas Brighton have motored on.

Benitez has been accountable for guiding his aspect to simply 19 factors from their first 18 Premier League video games of the season. It was the twelfth time this season he witnessed his crew concede the primary objective of a match. The Spaniard should arrest the hunch shortly, however he’s solely the newest supervisor to discover out concerning the ongoing points derailing the membership.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brighton’s win towards Everton

  • Everton 2-3 Brighton – Match report and highlights

“We had a slow start, and after another mistake conceding a corner,” Benitez stated afterwards. “It’s a big mountain to climb and it’s not easy with these mistakes. You miss a penalty and it’s even more difficult.”

Everton have misplaced their first league sport in every of the final 5 calendar years, final having an extended such run of defeats between 1957 and 1963. That undesirable statistic is historic, however Everton final had fewer factors at this stage of the competitors in 2005/06, after they had accrued 17 factors after 18 video games, ultimately ending the season in eleventh place.

It would appear like mid-table mediocrity is the perfect he can hope for at this stage, and with every passing defeat a nervous finish to the marketing campaign turns into an much more galling chance.

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Anthony Gordon's two targets weren't sufficient

Benitez will level to the positives – Calvert-Lewin’s return, Gordon’s higher output, and a spirited second half – however eight defeats in 12 is nowhere close to adequate for a membership of this stature.

In distinction, Brighton, on a much smaller funds, stay greater than the sum of their elements having received two of their final three Premier League video games after failing to win any of the 11 earlier than that.

The Seagulls’ haul of 27 factors after 19 video games is their joint-best-ever return at this stage of a top-flight marketing campaign, equalling the variety of factors in 1981/82. The fear for Everton is that they did not really want to carry out properly right here to finish their 10-game anticipate victory on the blue half of Merseyside.
Ben Grounds

Brentford present their metal as soon as once more

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brentford’s win towards Aston Villa

Brentford proceed to be the shock package deal of the season. They burst onto the Premier League scene with a victory towards Arsenal and holding title-chasing Liverpool to an exciting 3-3 draw.

Since then, they’ve continued to compete with among the Premier League stalwarts. Even a 1-0 defeat to Man City in midweek was a fairly good end result, all issues thought-about.

And Brentford are creating a really helpful behavior of manufacturing a late profitable comeback. Against Watford a number of weeks in the past, two late targets noticed them win 2-1 and it was one other late present that noticed them take all three factors on Sunday.

  • Brentford 2-1 Aston Villa – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

An excellent strike from Yoane Wissa cancelled out Danny Ings’ well-taken opener, however a primary Premier League objective from Mads Roerslev – taken in a similar way to Ings – within the 82nd minute noticed the Bees leapfrog Aston Villa into twelfth place.

“In a way, it shouldn’t be possible that we’re above Villa,” Brentford supervisor Thomas Frank instructed Sky Sports.

“The amount of money they’ve spent on their team in the last three years, I think they have a very good squad. I think they’re a good club in many ways so that we’re above them is quite good.

“But it was a sport that might simply have been a draw, a good sport that we noticed out ultimately. Now we simply want to proceed… I am unable to reward the gamers sufficient for his or her mentality.”

It is fascinating to word too that lots of their finest outcomes are coming at residence. You would have been mistaken to suppose the Brentford Community Stadium was a delayed New Year’s Eve social gathering at full time. Music was blaring because the gamers did a lap of honour, with gamers and followers alike dancing and celebrating.

It was a reminder of the distinctive bond Brentford followers have with their membership and the squad, particularly one that’s actually competing within the Premier League. It was an extended journey to attain England’s prime desk and they deserve to have a good time each victory.

Now, solely West Ham (12) and Everton (11) have received extra factors from dropping positions within the Premier League than Brentford this season (9). It additionally implies that at the midway stage of the season, the Premier League debutants are properly on their method to one other season within the prime flight.
Charlotte Marsh

Tired City discover a method to carry on profitable

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win towards Arsenal

Liverpool have misplaced one and drawn one of their final two Premier League video games. Chelsea have drawn three of their final 4 within the competitors. The calls for of the festive fixture schedule – maybe as robust as they’ve ever been in trendy occasions, given the sicknesses and accidents affecting squads – have taken their toll on Man City’s title rivals. When the requirements are so excessive, these small slip-ups will be expensive.

Against Arsenal on Saturday, it appeared like City could also be going the identical method.

Afterwards, Pep Guardiola described his group of gamers as “incredibly tired, mentally and physically”. He pointed to the 4 academy kids on the bench.

But City, by some means, discovered a method to win.

  • Arsenal 1-2 Man City – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

That was removed from sure at varied factors by the competition, with a formidable Arsenal aspect – described as the higher crew by Guardiola – seeing the ball cleared off the road and Gabriel Martinelli hit a submit after Bukayo Saka had swept of their opener.

There will probably be numerous debate about selections made by the officers within the sport across the two key penalty selections and Gabriel Magalhaes’s crimson card however, whatever the controversy, City battled till the final second, when Rodri – a key determine for them in midfield this season – emerged because the unlikely match winner.

It’s now 11 Premier League wins on the spin for the defending champions, who’re approaching the 15-game profitable streak which propelled them to the title final season. Even higher, they get to sit back on Sunday and watch Chelsea and Liverpool go head to head.

Whatever the end in that one, City’s lead at the highest of the desk will nonetheless be substantial. Dropped factors at the Emirates might have provided some hope to their flagging rivals however, even after they’re exhausted, this City aspect simply cannot be stopped.
Peter Smith

Short spell prices Arsenal – however there’s hope in defeat

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Arsenal react after Stuart Attwell sends off Gabriel

Arsenal had simply been overwhelmed by Manchester City – nothing new there, in fact.

But it was totally different this time.

The residence followers stayed and cheered their crew with nice gusto, in full appreciation that Mikel Arteta’s males have been completely very good towards the champions in ready, regardless of their supervisor being pressured to isolate at residence after a Covid optimistic check. They have been the higher aspect for 85 minutes of the match, in reality.

The issues got here within the different 5 minutes halfway by the second half. Rarely has a sport modified a lot in such a brief area of time. Unfortunately for Arsenal, it was a lot of their very own doing.

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Granit Xhaka’s lazy problem and shirt pull on Bernardo Silva gave the referee a choice to make for the equalising penalty. Gabriel Martinelli – filled with vitality and high quality – snatched at what was an open objective likelihood after Nathan Ake’s miraculous clearance off the road. And then Gabriel Magalhaes’s second of inexperience blotted his copybook when selecting up his second yellow card for a unnecessary foul.

Those three incidents outlined the end result. Elite groups like Man City feast upon such errors and though Arsenal have been very good in each division, the massive moments within the match have been devoured up by the City machine.

“At the end, it’s very frustrating but Mikel was very proud of the performance and at the same time frustrated,” stated Arsenal coach Albert Stuivenberg, who was standing in for the absent Arteta.

Frustration was the proper phrase to sum up the sensation within the floor at full-time. But when the mud settles, these Arsenal followers can look back on a efficiency that provides the membership a lot hope and pleasure for the long run.
Lewis Jones

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