Premier League hits and misses: 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 once you look back on what was an unbeaten begin for Ralf Rangnick earlier than defeat to Wolves at Old Trafford on Monday evening, with 4 wins from 5 and an opportunity to transfer one level from the highest 4.

It positive aspects 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 comfy, if laboured, win over Palace in his first dwelling 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 have to be sounding. Loudly. That United ought to play so badly, throughout an entire sport, at dwelling, on the back of an unbeaten run like that may be a large 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, positive, however the fixture listing has been variety. After a efficiency like this – and in opposition to Newcastle, and in opposition to Norwich – it is troublesome to pinpoint a lot.

It is troublesome to choose a supervisor after six video games. No philosophy may be totally drilled in that point, simply look at Pep Guardiola’s first season at Manchester City. From the opposite aspect, you may query Rangnick’s techniques in opposition to Wolves, however no matter them, lots of his gamers seemed 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 time?

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

Wolves have been worthy winners as Lage impresses

This was a Wolves story too, nevertheless. They dominated United, having extra photographs at purpose within the first half than any away crew has managed at Old Trafford since Opta began logging them nearly twenty years in the past. They have been sometimes managed however they confirmed greater than that.

That leading edge was missing for 81 minutes – although Pedro Neto’s return subsequent month will certainly assist – however Wolves don’t want to rating many when their defence is as rock-solid as this. They have conceded solely two targets in eight video games having performed the highest three in that point.

Goalkeeper Jose Sa has been an necessary addition however this enchancment has not been achieved within the switch market however on the coaching subject and the common video conferences which have develop into a characteristic of life beneath Bruno Lage. It has been a training triumph.

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Bruno Lage praises the best way his Wolves crew performed of their 1-0 win in opposition to Manchester United

Joao Moutinho is rolling back the years, Ruben Neves is enjoying the most effective soccer of his profession, and Nelson Semedo is far improved. At the back, extra is being coaxed from Romain Saiss and Conor Coady, whereas Max Kilman has been a revelation.

In the post-match interview with Sky Sports’ Pat Davison, Lage’s detailed clarification of how Wolves have been ready to outmanoeuvre United was damning for Ralf Rangnick. But it was additionally reassuring for Wolves followers. They have a top-class coach. And an excellent crew.
Adam Bate

Tuchel’s hand stronger regardless of draw

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s draw in opposition to 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 in opposition to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, it was simple to think about the criticism that 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 power, urgent with a function as they not solely got here from behind to draw 2-2 with Liverpool however have been the higher aspect in the most effective of video games. This was the type 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 will be lacking

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Mohamed Salah fires in a elegant 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 actual fact the most effective participant on the planet proper now wears their pink shirt.

Mohamed Salah produced one other marvellous purpose at Stamford Bridge which, at the time, seemed like it might 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 in opposition to Watford and Manchester City nevertheless it was scored with the convenience of a participant in excellent kind and filled with perception. The dummy did for Marcos Alonso and the end was by no means unsure – whatever the tight angle.

The upcoming fixtures for Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool – and the gamers they might 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 the vast majority 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 event additionally presents a problem for Liverpool. How do you change a participant of his stature? The fixture listing has at least been variety. 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 important man.

Perhaps, with the Premier League title now an unlikely goal, the 2 video games in opposition to Arsenal within the Carabao Cup semi-final would be the greatest 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 pleased, 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 in opposition to Burnley

The celebrations at Elland Road confirmed simply how huge a win that would 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 way of harm.

However, the aspect Bielsa put out within the 3-1 victory in opposition to 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 power and struggle 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 they’d 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 in opposition to Burnley and transfer additional away from the relegation locations within the weeks to come.
Oliver Yew

Slow begins proceed to price Everton

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, beneath Carlo Ancelotti, Everton went high 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 liable 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 purpose of a match. The Spaniard should arrest the stoop shortly, however he’s solely the most recent supervisor to discover out concerning the ongoing points derailing the membership.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brighton’s win in opposition to 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, once they had accrued 17 factors after 18 video games, finally ending the season in eleventh place.

It would appear like mid-table mediocrity is the most effective 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.

Anthony Gordon's two targets weren't sufficient

Benitez will level to the positives – Calvert-Lewin’s return, Gordon’s better 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 price range, stay greater than the sum of their components 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 actually need to carry out nicely right here to finish their 10-game watch for 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 in opposition to Aston Villa

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

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

And Brentford are growing 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 purpose from Mads Roerslev – taken similarly 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 would 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 observe too that lots of their finest outcomes are coming at dwelling. You would have been mistaken to assume the Brentford Community Stadium was a delayed New Year’s Eve celebration 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 a protracted journey to attain England’s high desk and they deserve to rejoice 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 nicely on their means to one other season within the high flight.
Charlotte Marsh

Tired City discover a means to carry on profitable

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win in opposition to 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 powerful as they’ve ever been in fashionable instances, 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 may be pricey.

Against Arsenal on Saturday, it seemed like City could also be going the identical means.

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

But City, one way or the other, discovered a means to win.

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

That was removed from sure at numerous factors by way of the competition, with a powerful 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 can be numerous debate about selections made by the officers within the sport across the two key penalty selections and Gabriel Magalhaes’s pink 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 once they’re exhausted, this City aspect simply cannot be stopped.
Peter Smith

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

Arsenal react after Stuart Attwell sends off Gabriel

Arsenal had simply been crushed by Manchester City – nothing new there, after all.

But it was totally different this time.

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

The issues got here within the different 5 minutes halfway by way of the second half. Rarely has a sport modified a lot in such a brief house 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 call to make for the equalising penalty. Gabriel Martinelli – filled with power and high quality – snatched at what was an open purpose probability 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 large 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 right 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 longer term.
Lewis Jones

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