Premier League hits and misses: Liverpool leave door ajar for their rivals, Bukayo Saka leading youthful Arsenal

Liverpool give rivals hope – together with Man City


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Newcastle’s draw in opposition to Liverpool

If the seven objectives that Liverpool conceded in opposition to Aston Villa in October revealed a shocking vulnerability in final season’s runaway Premier League champions, the seven objectives that Jurgen Klopp’s aspect scored in thrashing Crystal Palace regarded to attract a line below it.

Virgil van Dijk or no Virgil van Dijk, that victory at Selhurst Park put Liverpool 5 factors clear on the prime of the desk with an inviting festive fixture listing that served up video games in opposition to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle. Remarkably, they’ve contrived to win neither.

Had they carried out so, the lead would now stand at seven factors. As it’s, Manchester United can transfer stage on factors in the event that they win their recreation in hand in opposition to Aston Villa on New Year’s Day. The title race is alive and Liverpool have given sudden hope to their nice rivals.

How has it occurred? With some dangerous fortune, for positive. Karl Darlow was the person of the match at St James’ Park, pulling off two spectacular first-half saves from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino earlier than using his luck amid the ricochets after the interval.

But Klopp may have anticipated the taking pictures of Salah, specifically, to have been extra decisive. Twice he ran by on objective in his favoured place in that proper channel and twice he was unable to ship the trademark end. It was uncharacteristically sloppy.

  • Newcastle 0-0 Liverpool – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

How involved ought to Klopp be? There doesn’t seem like something basically fallacious with Liverpool’s performances. The expected-goals knowledge suggests the possibilities created in opposition to Newcastle would yield a median of 1.4 objectives per recreation.

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But it nonetheless looks like a foul second to have did not ram dwelling the benefit. United are the staff closest to Liverpool and that would be the story for now given the nice rivalry between them. But Manchester City, lurking down in eighth, can transfer inside a degree in the event that they win their two video games in hand. That underlines how open this title race now’s – and how a lot work is left for Liverpool to do.
Adam Bate

Bruce’s early birthday reward: What Newcastle need

Karl Darlow's heroics within the opening interval saved Liverpool at bay

The query of what Newcastle supporters need has already made its annual look on the agenda after the membership’s dispiriting Carabao Cup exit by the hands of Brentford on the quarter-final stage. It can be one other yr, a 52nd, with out a trophy for the Magpies.

The anger of some followers intensified when Steve Bruce admitted following the 2-0 defeat at Manchester City that proprietor Mike Ashley instructed him his remit was to make sure survival somewhat than the highest 10 end he spoke about in pre-season.

But the staff’s efficiency in their hard-fought 0-0 draw with Liverpool was the right demonstration of exactly what supporters wish to see. Had St James’ Park been packed out for the ultimate Premier League recreation of 2020, the locals may have arrived by the gates absolutely anticipating their staff to have across the 27 per cent of possession they achieved in opposition to the champions.

But the guts and struggle proven by these in black and white to disclaim Jurgen Klopp’s staff victory will present the Toon Army with loads of encouragement heading into the brand new yr. When requested if he’ll look to strengthen his squad in January, Bruce stated: “We’ll scour the market. We’re already doing that. We’ve got one or two things that we might progress hopefully and if it improves us, we’ll try and be in a position to act.”

With Callum Wilson again leading the road following an ankle harm, Bruce already has his point of interest and talisman, whereas Karl Darlow confirmed as soon as extra that he’s a secure pair of fingers as Newcastle saved their first Premier League clear sheet in 14 video games in opposition to a aspect beginning the day prime of the desk. A day wanting his sixtieth birthday, Bruce offered followers with what they really need.
Ben Grounds

How excessive can Leeds go?


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leeds’ win at West Brom within the Premier League

After their emphatic 5-0 win at West Brom, Leeds United have now gained seven of their 16 video games within the Premier League this season. Only six newly-promoted groups within the competitors’s historical past have picked up extra victories at this stage of a season.

The three factors at The Hawthorns continues Marcelo Bielsa’s aspect’s stand up the Premier League desk. They now sit eleventh with 23 factors, however after one other all-action efficiency, the query is how excessive can Leeds go?

Bielsa has urged warning. “We have only been in this league for 16 games and there are still many challenges and many tests we have to pass before we can legitimately say we belong. Every game in this league is a challenge, all the teams have secrets and capacities. There are few games you can think of where there are very few difficulties to resolve.

  • West Brom 0-5 Leeds – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

“We need to hold doing the identical and hold doing it over an extended time period. We have had a variety of highs and lows. Only two video games in the past we had an vital defeat and our thought is to play in a constant method.”

Opta stats – Leeds march on…

  • Leeds United have now gained seven of their 16 video games within the Premier League this season – solely six newly-promoted groups within the competitors’s historical past have picked up extra victories at this stage of a season.
  • Leeds equalled their largest margin of victory in a Premier League recreation, successful by 5 objectives for the sixth time within the competitors. This was additionally their joint-biggest margin of victory away from dwelling in their league historical past.
  • They have now scored 30 objectives within the Premier League this season – the one newly-promoted staff within the competitors’s historical past to have netted extra after their first 16 video games of a season was Newcastle in 1993-94 (31).
  • Bielsa’s aspect led by 4 objectives at half-time in a Premier League recreation for the primary time since May 2001 vs Bradford City (5-1 at HT and 6-1 at FT).
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Of course, Bielsa’s aspect will face a lot sterner exams from now till the tip of the season than they did at West Brom and he’s proper to induce warning, but when they proceed to supply the form of attacking shows that put Sam Allardyce’s aspect to the sword, they’re sure so as to add to their seven wins to this point this season.

With the desk very congested on the prime, Leeds now discover themselves simply three factors behind fifth-placed Aston Villa and a constant run of outcomes might see them proceed their stand up the standings. How excessive will come right down to consistency and whether or not Bielsa’s aspect can final the tempo.

But no matter occurs, there is not going to be a uninteresting second alongside the way in which watching this Leeds aspect.
Oliver Yew

Saka, Smith Rowe present the way in which for Arsenal


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win over Brighton within the Premier League

It was no shock to see Mikel Arteta hold religion with the younger gamers who shone so brightly within the 3-1 win over Chelsea for Tuesday’s journey to Brighton. Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli went straight again into the fray on the Amex Stadium.

None of the trio shone within the first half, admittedly, with Arsenal lucky to enter the break stage having solely had one try on objective. But Saka’s second-half show earned him the man-of-the-match award and Smith Rowe was equally spectacular.

The spotlight of Saka’s efficiency, after all, was the excellent run and cut-back to arrange Alexandre Lacazette’s winner. But there have been loads extra eye-catching moments.

  • Brighton 0-1 Arsenal – Match report and highlights
  • Mikel Arteta calls for calm on Bukayo Saka

The 19-year-old’s pace and motion induced issues for Brighton all night time, with no participant creating extra probabilities. His type over the past two video games is all of the extra spectacular when you think about he has been taking part in in an unfamiliar position on the proper flank somewhat than the left.

Saka seems able to shining wherever he performs, a testomony to his tactical intelligence in addition to his undoubted high quality, however Smith Rowe is busy establishing himself at No 10.

Arsenal’s creativity points should not over – their first-half efficiency was proof of that – however Smith Rowe has actually proved he may also help.

His willingness to run at defenders and take dangers with the ball at his toes is one thing this Arsenal aspect has badly lacked this season. And, like his younger team-mates, he gives loads of power and trade off the ball too. At the Amex, he coated extra floor (11.4km) than another Arsenal participant.

The Gunners are nonetheless a good distance from the place they wish to be. It has been a tumultuous yr for them. But the long run all of the sudden seems to be somewhat brighter.
Nick Wright

Rashford caps his 2020 with the winner


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win over Wolves within the Premier League

Manchester United toiled away at Old Trafford however it didn’t seem like the successful objective was going to return in opposition to Wolves. It did within the 93rd minute courtesy of Marcus Rashford.

The United ahead has scored higher objectives on this grand stage and the participant his left-footed strike deflected in off, Romain Saiss, was in all probability the person of the match. But there might have been no extra becoming scorer than Rashford. In this most depressing of years, he has stood out for standing up off the pitch – and he has additionally grown as a footballer on it.

This was his 14th Manchester United objective of the season – joint-top scorer with the person who offered the cross for it, Bruno Fernandes – and his twentieth for the membership within the calendar yr.

That mixture of Rashford and Fernandes provides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hope for the brand new yr. Thanks to their late intervention on Tuesday night, United are simply two factors behind leaders, rivals and defending champions Liverpool on the 15-game mark.

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

Improbably, they’re in a title race. Despite falling behind in their first six away video games of the season – and successful the lot of them. Despite failing to search out their fluency right here and leading for solely a matter of seconds. They are discovering a means and Rashford helps them discover it.

He has had many extra outstanding moments than this one in 2020. But make no mistake, there would have been loads among the many stick-to-sport crew ready to ungraciously and unfairly counsel he had uncared for the day job had his type wavered for an prompt.

Instead, he completed 2020 simply how he completed 2019 – with a last-minute objective. So much has occurred within the 12 months in between, not a variety of it good. But Marcus Rashford MBE indicators off with one other reminder that he has so usually been Manchester United’s MVP too.
Adam Bate

Allardyce’s issues deepen

Sam Allardyce watches on as his West Brom aspect are thrashed by Leeds

“I was shocked to see such a poor performance and we have to work hard to put it right,” Sam Allardyce stated after his West Brom aspect’s large defeat to Leeds. “Consistency is everything for us. We can’t seem to get a consistency of attacking and defending right. Life will get difficult if we can’t get results quickly.”

If Allardyce had any doubts as to how large a job he has on at West Brom, they’ve actually gone now.

The 5-0 defeat to Leeds at The Hawthorns is the largest Premier League dwelling defeat of Allardyce’s managerial profession within the competitors. He has now misplaced consecutive dwelling video games by three or extra objectives within the Premier League for the primary time since November 2007, whereas answerable for Newcastle United (1-4 vs Portsmouth and 0-3 vs Liverpool).

West Brom have gained simply eight factors within the Premier League to this point this season – solely in 1985-86 have they amassed fewer factors after 16 video games of a top-flight marketing campaign.

Life is beginning to get tough for Allardyce and West Brom and time is actually of the essence if they’re to show round their fortunes.
Oliver Yew

Forward thrust key for West Ham


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Southampton’s draw with West Ham within the Premier League

David Moyes clearly was not impressed together with his aspect’s diabolical first-half exhibiting in opposition to Brighton and shuffled his pack with 5 modifications to his beginning XI at Southampton – albeit additionally resting gamers for their second recreation in 48 hours.

Notably, out went Jarrod Bowen and Mark Noble – the 2 who have been hooked on the London Stadium two days in the past at half-time when Moyes’ aspect was lucky to emerge with a degree.

While their replacements, Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko, failed to claim the identical affect this day out, the Hammers actually discovered their groove after an uncomfortable opening 20 minutes.

  • Southampton 0-0 West Ham – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

West Ham remained inferior on the ball and usually slipped into their all-too-familiar behavior of retreating and inviting opposition with out countering – however that modified because the second half progressed.

An injection of forward-thinking endeavour, fuelled by optimistic substitutions, drove the Hammers into opposition territory as they started to take the sport to their hosts.

By the full-time whistle, the Hammers deserved three factors, carving the lion’s share of probabilities, whereas the return of Michail Antonio on 77 minutes from a hamstring harm additionally offered a noticeable elevate.

West Ham ought to be happy with the progress of mid-table standing at this stage and the glimpse of ahead thrust suggests a optimistic trajectory – which just about paid dividends as the sport petered out right into a stalemate at St Mary’s.
Adam Smith

Burnley doing Burnley issues


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Burnley’s win over Sheffield United within the Premier League

It has develop into a little bit of a convention for Burnley to select up across the new yr and a run of 1 defeat in six for Sean Dyche’s aspect has carried that on into 2020/21.

That form of upturn is turning into as routine because the picture he has constructed his aspect in, which was on full show as they floor out a 1-0 win over hard-working Sheffield United.

  • How the groups lined up | Match stats
  • Burnley 1-0 Sheff Utd – Match report and highlights

It was not notably fairly or free-flowing; it isn’t meant to be. Josh Brownhill and Ashley Westwood protected their again 4 manfully, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes chased all the pieces and Ben Mee popped up when it mattered. Three factors saved at Turf Moor.

“We offered a different kind of performance, I don’t think we were as good as we were against Leeds, but we got the result with our shape and our work,” stated Dyche.

The Clarets at the moment are 5 factors away from the underside three, and wanting firmly up the desk.

That in itself is a optimistic, however the truth Dyche and his aspect are again to doing what they do greatest – regardless of a threadbare squad being examined to its limits – gives much more encouragement, particularly with the membership’s takeover seemingly on the verge of completion.
Ron Walker

Luck will not wait for Sheff Utd

Chris Wilder once more shook off any solace of ‘advantageous margins’ contributing to Sheffield United’s newest defeat at Burnley.

There was a case that his aspect had been unfortunate, falling behind to a Ben Mee header from a nook in a recreation of few probabilities the place they might have been simply worthy of a degree.

“The reaction’s always okay, when you lose 11 out of 14 by a single goal that doesn’t show an attitude problem,” was Wilder’s one optimistic to take – however objective distinction would be the least of his worries if the Blades’ type doesn’t choose up drastically.

Fine margins have been usually getting in Sheff Utd’s favour this time a yr in the past; seven of their 14 wins in 2019/20 have been by a objective to nil.

Now the tide has turned and, whereas luck has not been on his staff’s aspect throughout their horrible run of two factors from 16 video games, there isn’t a assure it is going to even out. Luck has no reminiscence.

Even if it does, it is going to want much more than advantageous margins to bridge an 11-point hole in 22 video games. The Blades have scored fewer objectives than another staff this season.

Wilder was left pissed off with their final-third play at Turf Moor, with Nick Pope solely compelled into one critical save all night time. It goes to take a serious turnaround in January. The supervisor’s targets are already “with the board”. They would possibly show the ultimate throw of the cube.
Ron Walker

Lampard modifications tack


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s draw with Aston Villa within the Premier League

Just 48 hours after laying into his gamers following the 3-1 defeat at Arsenal, Frank Lampard went for a change of method, publicly not less than.

He used the post-match press convention from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa to insist he “couldn’t ask for more” than what the gamers gave, however the six modifications he made solely introduced a response in spurts.

“The changes were to try and keep a bit of balance in the team, and to try to freshen up. I was pleased, I’m not disappointed with anything tonight other than the fact we conceded that goal, and didn’t score another.”

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

But Lampard was being type to his gamers in his evaluation. Villa have been first to all the pieces at Stamford Bridge – the truth is, Chelsea’s duel success price of 38 per cent was not solely their lowest below Lampard, however their lowest since January 2017. With simply 37 per cent possession, Chelsea made 16 fouls. Villa made simply three.

Villa have been excellent worth for their level, and although Chelsea did enhance from Boxing Day, it was a low bar. Lampard’s aspect might have carried out extra to win the sport, and the midfield battle was the important thing once more.

They allowed man-of-the-match John McGinn to run the sport – Jorginho was largely nameless – and although Chelsea have a humiliation of riches up entrance, their midfield three is vulnerable to drifting too far aside to perform.
Gerard Brand

Villa’s power shines by once more

Anwar El Ghazi celebrates together with his team-mates after equalising for Aston Villa in opposition to Chelsea

Despite two video games in three days, Dean Smith made only one change to his beginning XI for the draw at Chelsea, and that was enforced because the suspended Tyrone Mings was changed by Ezri Konsa.

Villa have the youngest common beginning XI within the Premier League at 25 years and 165 days, they’ve made the fewest beginning XI modifications at 13, and have used fewer gamers than any Premier League aspect at 19.

In a season the place extra groups are affected by a packed schedule and brief pre-season, Villa have remained comparatively injury-free – Ross Barkley apart – however Smith’s aspect picks itself on the minute.

In Ollie Watkins they’ve a ahead prepared to run channels from minute one to 90, and regardless of not scoring since early November, the objectives from him specifically are virtually secondary on this well-drilled unit.

McGinn confirmed each his battery and crafty at Stamford Bridge, successful fouls at excellent instances when Villa wanted to settle, whereas Douglas Luiz is an aesthetic operator simply in entrance of the defence.

The fittest sides will prosper within the Premier League this season of all seasons, and Villa are clearly in advantageous fettle.
Gerard Brand

Barnes shines however Iheanacho fails to take his likelihood


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace’s draw with Leicester within the Premier League

It was one other optimistic show from Harvey Barnes, who’s rising in his position in Leicester’s assault. He was one in every of solely 4 gamers to maintain their locations from the match in opposition to United, through which he additionally scored.

Barnes had a whopping six pictures – double that of the following highest Leicester contribution. One of them made it dwelling too, and it was an outstanding run throughout the highest of the world with a low, onerous end. He has now scored eight objectives in 21 video games in all competitions this season – another than he netted in 42 appearances for the Foxes final time period.

  • Crystal Palace 1-1 Leicester – Match report and highlights

He additionally offered for his team-mates, making excellent, direct runs and sending in 4 crosses. Barnes racked up the identical quantity for interceptions too as he took benefit of some slack Palace passing at instances. In the absence of Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy from the beginning, it was Barnes who offered Leicester’s attacking risk, together with Ayoze Perez.

However, the identical can’t be stated for Kelechi Iheanacho on solely his second Premier League begin of the season. His penalty was poor with an excessive amount of hesitation permitting Vicente Guaita to save lots of somewhat comfortably. Later within the half, he had a gilt-edged likelihood from shut vary however skewed his header.

He was changed by Demarai Gray within the second half and regardless of having golden alternatives in opposition to a aspect who shipped 10 objectives in their final two video games, he didn’t take his likelihood.

Manager Brendan Rodgers instructed his post-match press convention: “He’s a boy that gives everything in training. He doesn’t get too many opportunities, he’s shown that in the Europa League where he’s performed really well for us.

“It was a fantastic alternative for him [the penalty], however he simply appeared somewhat bit hesitant with it. He had one other good likelihood on the close to put up, however it simply did not fairly fall for him at the moment.”
Charlotte Marsh

Signs of enchancment for Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha celebrates scoring in opposition to Leicester

It had been a confidence-sapping week for Crystal Palace. Losing two video games by an mixture rating of 10-0 is sufficient for even one of the best heads to drop. But Roy Hodgson made 5 modifications – three of which got here in defence – and Crystal Palace lastly returned to some defensive solidity, on the cusp of a second clear sheet of the season.

  • Crystal Palace 1-1 Leicester – Match report and highlights

Leicester dominated when it comes to pictures – having 17 to Crystal Palace’s 4 – however just one made it by the Eagles’ defence. James Tomkins made eight clearances, Nathaniel Clyne made 4 tackles – each the best within the squad – whereas younger Tyrick Mitchell did nicely on his return at left-back. Let’s additionally not neglect Vicente Guaita’s good save from Kelechi Iheanacho’s poor penalty.

Attack has not at all times been Crystal Palace’s most fruitful space, however it was a second of magic from talisman Wilfried Zaha that noticed them rating for the primary time in two video games. He began and completed a counter-attack in opposition to one of many Premier League’s greatest counter-attacking groups, scoring with Crystal Palace’s solely shot on the right track.

There have been vivid moments in assault, the second-half efficiency was good and Hodgson’s modifications did what was wanted. The indicators of enchancment are there.

But Crystal Palace have finally did not comply with up on their emphatic 5-1 win in opposition to West Brom, now drawing three video games 1-1 and after all, these well-publicised defeats. Hodgson can be hoping one other three factors awaits them in 2021.
Charlotte Marsh

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