Premier League hits and misses: Manchester United finish the year on a high as Manchester City motor away from Liverpool and Chelsea in title race

Man Utd’s template for the New Year?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win in opposition to Burnley in the Premier League.

No one is getting carried away with a house win over a Burnley facet who hadn’t performed for 18 days however Manchester United’s victory on Thursday night time might supply a template for his or her subsequent steps in their restoration underneath Ralf Rangnick.

There was an overhaul of personnel from the disappointing draw at Newcastle on Monday, with six modifications to the line-up handing Luke Shaw, Jadon Sancho and Edinson Cavani the likelihood to impress from the begin at Old Trafford.

Those three gamers actually took their alternative, whereas Scott McTominay was tenacious and forward-thinking in the center of the park in a man-of-the-match efficiency.

But for Rangnick it’s all the time about the group as a complete – and this was by far the finest staff efficiency underneath his watch.

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

The ‘whinging’ of current performances was gone, changed by an brisk enthusiasm from the United gamers in entrance of their very own followers. It was a frantic opening, with Burnley at instances exposing United’s nonetheless weak defence, however there was a renewed dedication on present from the house staff, who seemed intent on making a assertion.

The 4-2-2-2 was modified, too. Critics had questioned whether or not the system suited this group of gamers however a shift to 4-4-2, with Sancho and Mason Greenwood pulling extensive and Cavani dropping into area behind Ronaldo, was far simpler. The 18 pictures United fired off have been the most they’d had in a Premier League recreation since mid-October.

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It was an encouraging technique to log out 2021 and with United now simply 4 factors off fourth place, with a recreation in hand on Arsenal, they are often optimistic of pushing for a Champions League qualification spot in the new year.

Of course, that’s some downgrade on the expectations they’d at the begin of the season. But after the frustration and poor performances of the previous few months, United at the very least go into 2022 with a refreshed template and angle to make the second half of the marketing campaign a success.
Peter Smith

City now over the hill in title race?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win in opposition to Brentford in the Premier League.

The hole now could be eight.

The Manchester City followers who danced their method in the direction of the exits at the Brentford Community Stadium and into the night time may properly have made the brief strip onto the King’s Road to boost a glass to Brighton.

Their level at Stamford Bridge means a as soon as three-horse race is trying like ensuing in an all-too-familiar ending with gentle blue ribbons on the Premier League trophy.

This felt a important week, with Liverpool slipping at Leicester and Chelsea’s refusal to return to their bristling finest even with Romelu Lukaku again amongst the objectives.

The title contenders are positive groups however are made to appear like they’ve too many flaws, when up in opposition to this runaway City prepare. Here, they have been at their ruthlessly environment friendly finest, scoring via Phil Foden 56 seconds after Joao Cancelo had cleared the ball off his personal objective line.

  • Brentford 0-1 Man City – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

Guardiola is aware of his facet had come via one more stiff away take a look at.

“I’m very proud of my players, as all the managers are making arguments about the schedule which we made one or two weeks ago, but we’re in a good run. We’re only at the end of December so there are many more games,” he mentioned.

“We are eight points in front but there are 54 points still to play for. We needed this type of rhythm in order to win today.

“They’re an distinctive staff and we have seen what they’ve accomplished to others. If we attacked faster, they might’ve brought about us issues so it was the rhythm we would have liked right now.”

‘Boring, boring City’ sang the Brentford followers as their opponents stroked the ball round in the closing phases. Boring, perhaps. But given the Liverpool and Chelsea outcomes over the previous 24 hours or so, a win right here was extraordinarily useful to City in the larger scheme of issues.

They roll on, maybe over the hill now in the title race.
Ben Grounds

Chelsea’s creativity downside appears to be like set to price them the title

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A annoyed Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea can be ‘silly’ to consider they’ll compete for the Premier League title resulting from Covid-enforced absences and accidents after a 1-1 draw in opposition to Brighton.

Chelsea have been three factors away from Liverpool and 4 factors forward of Manchester City after 12 Premier League video games at the finish of November.

They now path leaders City by eight factors and are only one forward of Liverpool having performed a recreation extra.

The west Londoners have gone from 15/8 pictures with Sky Bet for the title all the method out to 16/1. And there will not be many takers at that worth contemplating City’s kind, and Chelsea’s for that matter. Despite solely shedding their lead in stoppage time in opposition to Brighton, they have been second finest for big components to a staff who pressed effectively, handed intelligently and seemed extra assured than their supposed title-challenging rivals.

Such is the relentless tempo at the prime of the Premier League, you merely cannot afford to undergo a spell of successful simply 4 out of 10 video games as Chelsea have. In the blink of an eye fixed, the title has slipped out of their grasp.

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

Sustaining assaults and creating high quality possibilities is changing into a actual downside for Thomas Tuchel, who minimize a annoyed determine in his media duties after dropping but extra factors. Their lack of sustained, high quality assaults may be showcased via an anticipated objectives determine of simply 0.67 in the 1-1 draw.

Romelu Lukaku’s objective got here from a set-piece, as did most of Chelsea’s possibilities. Remember that is a staff that in opposition to Arsenal on the second week of the season created 18 possibilities from open play in one fixture. Such is their present malaise, they’ve created a complete of 18 possibilities from open play in their final three fixtures mixed in opposition to Brighton, Aston Villa and Wolves.

It was the identical story in the 3-2 win over Leeds the place two Jorginho penalties received them out of jail and papered over the cracks of their lack of leading edge in the ultimate third. This is now extra than simply a blip for Tuchel and Chelsea. They have inquiries to reply.
Lewis Jones

Brighton flourishing in opposition to the elite

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s draw with Brighton in the Premier League.

“I have not seen one team play a nice match against Brighton, so it was clear we would struggle,” Thomas Tuchel mentioned, praising Brighton’s type after the 1-1 draw. Much like Jurgen Klopp did earlier this season and very like Pep Guardiola has accomplished in the previous.

When folks like which can be speaking you up, it is no marvel Graham Potter is not going to alter his philosophy regardless of his staff’s tendency to not get the outcomes their performances merited.

That occurred once more in this match. Brighton deserved to win however Danny Welbeck’s equaliser was celebrated like a winner and you could not maintain the smile off Potter’s face at full-time.

As Tuchel, Klopp and Guardiola have famous, he deserves big respect and reward for the job he’s doing at Brighton and nights like the one at Stamford Bridge show it.

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

Potter fills his gamers with such confidence in the most daunting of environments. Many gamers disguise when confronted with the problem of taking part in at Anfield or Stamford Bridge. But Brighton’s passing is optimistic and their teamwork and unity with and with out the ball is amongst the better of any staff in the Premier League.

They are the solely staff, bar Chelsea and Manchester City, to come back away with a outcome at Liverpool this season and their efficiency in opposition to Tuchel’s facet was equally, if no more, spectacular. They dominated all the key efficiency metrics, posting extra possession, extra pictures (18), pictures on goal (6) and Potter’s facet received the anticipated objectives battle (0.67 vs 0.88).

It appears the larger the event, the larger the Brighton efficiency.
Lewis Jones

Salah has uncommon off-day as Liverpool shocked

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leicester’s win in opposition to Liverpool

Leicester had conceded 26 objectives in their final 9 video games whereas Liverpool had scored at the very least as soon as in their final 34.

So when Mohamed Salah stepped as much as take an early penalty he himself had received, it appeared the script for a recreation which pitted the Premier League’s most prolific assault in opposition to certainly one of its extra porous – and injury-hit – defences was already written.

But Salah, the Premier League’s prime scorer and a man who had transformed his final 15 consecutive spot-kicks in the competitors, as an alternative noticed his uncharacteristically tame effort repelled by Kasper Schmeichel earlier than heading the rebound in opposition to the crossbar.

  • Leicester 1-0 Liverpool – Match report and highlights
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Leicester harnessed the energy of that second, holding agency in opposition to sustained Liverpool strain earlier than substitute Ademola Lookman’s second-half winner, whereas on the different facet Salah wilted.

The Egyptian has been irrepressible all season however his penalty miss knocked him off his stride at the King Power Stadium. In the first half, sloppy touches crept into his recreation. In the second, there have been over-hit passes and misdirected efforts on objective.

Salah, who will quickly be a part of up along with his nation for the African Cup of Nations, was not the just one to spurn alternatives. Sadio Mane missed a gilt-edged one-on-one likelihood. Diogo Jota headed extensive when he ought to have hit the goal. But it was Salah’s struggles that finest summed up Liverpool’s night time.

The defeat opens a important hole between Jurgen Klopp’s facet and Premier League leaders Manchester City, who had put six objectives previous the identical opponent solely 48 hours earlier at the Etihad Stadium.

It appeared Liverpool may rack up a comparable complete in opposition to Leicester’s makeshift defence when Salah began his run-up. At that second, nevertheless, the script was torn up and a new one was written.
Nick Wright

Vlasic reveals he can assist West Ham

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win at Watford

West Ham have been already properly on their technique to victory when Nikola Vlasic added their fourth objective in opposition to Watford at Vicarage Road however the Hammers will hope it’s a important second for him.

The Croatian worldwide has made solely a modest affect since his arrival at West Ham from CSKA Moscow in a deal value £33.5m final summer time however maybe his first objective for the membership is a sign of larger issues to come back in the second half of the marketing campaign.

  • Watford 1-4 West Ham – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

Vlasic has needed to be affected person. The ahead, who had a spell at Everton in 2017/18, has solely made two Premier League begins for the Hammers to this point however followers have been inspired by what they’ve seen not too long ago and he actually made his mark at Vicarage Road, turning house Jarrod Bowen’s cut-back in stoppage time following his Eighty fifth-minute introduction.

Bowen’s glowing kind is certainly one of the the explanation why Vlasic has struggled to carry down a place in David Moyes’s beginning line-up. But West Ham face a gruelling schedule as they juggle home and European commitments in the months forward. Their squad depth can be examined.

Vlasic seems able to step up. With a bedding-in interval behind him and lastly off the mark along with his first objective, the 24-year-old might show a difference-maker as West Ham goal to finish the season as strongly as they’ve began it.
Nick Wright

Spurs’ European exit might be blessing in disguise

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Southampton’s draw with Tottenham

The common consensus was that Antonio Conte had wasted little time in reworking Tottenham, and at St Mary’s he prolonged his unbeaten begin to his newest position to seven league video games, changing into the first Spurs supervisor ever to realize that feat.

But it was additionally puzzled how Spurs would look in the Premier League away from house underneath the Italian on condition that a quirk of their current spate of three postponed matches resulting from Covid instances had worn out their final three street journeys.

A complete of 51 days separated this go to to the south coast with their final home jaunt on November 7 at Everton, and there was a sluggishness to their play as they deservedly fell behind to James Ward-Prowse’s third objective in as many video games.

  • Southampton 1-1 Tottenham – Match report and highlights
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Tottenham solely sparked into life after Southampton have been diminished to 10 males. Harry Kane scored his eleventh objective in as many video games in opposition to Saints and he thought he had accomplished the turnaround solely to be fractionally denied by VAR.

In all, Spurs had 22 makes an attempt with three objectives appropriately chalked off however they lacked conviction as two factors slipped away.

The vocal celebrations for Southampton followers at the ultimate whistle informed the story as they might replicate on 4 factors from two video games in opposition to Champions League contenders in the area of 48 hours.

When requested about his facet’s failure to make the most of their numerical benefit for the finest a part of an hour, Conte mentioned: “For sure, it’s a missed opportunity and you have to try to exploit this situation to try to get three points.

“We knew very properly to play Southampton at this stadium shouldn’t be simple. At one level in the recreation, a draw would’ve been a optimistic for us however we felt the fatigue and our thoughts wasn’t very clear to do the better of the conditions.”

Spurs might be beginning to really feel the pinch, and their elimination from the Europa Conference League after Uefa dominated they forfeited their ultimate match in opposition to Rennes might but show a blessing in disguise.

Steven Bergwijn sustained a calf damage in the recreation in opposition to Crystal Palace, to go along with Giovani Lo Celso lacking out having accomplished the identical warming down having not featured on Boxing Day. It is an illustration of the high depth Conte desires from his gamers at a time when video games are unrelenting and muscular accidents are rife.

Conte knew he needed to handle his gamers’ minutes, however with six extra video games developing in January – three in opposition to Chelsea – he’ll want his whole squad accessible and firing to maintain the momentum behind his transformative affect.
Ben Grounds

Crystal Palace turning Selhurst Park into a fortress

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace’s win over Norwich

There would have been a few nervous appears to be like between Crystal Palace followers when Tuesday’s staff information got here out. They have been already with out talisman Wilfried Zaha to suspension, whereas supervisor Patrick Vieira was isolating resulting from Covid.

Then, Conor Gallagher was additionally not noted of the matchday squad, though the purpose stays unknown. Three of the keys to their success this season wouldn’t be in attendance with a 3-0 defeat at Tottenham contemporary in the reminiscence.

But maybe their greatest instrument this season has been Selhurst Park itself. It has all the time been a floor famend for its environment, with the Holmesdale End the epicentre.

  • Crystal Palace 3-0 Norwich – Match report and highlights
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats

And underneath Vieira, Crystal Palace have misplaced simply as soon as and scored 18 objectives in their 10 Premier League house video games this season (17 factors), after shedding 5 and scoring simply 9 instances in the 10 earlier than that (11 factors).

But maybe certainly one of the most pleasing issues about the victory in opposition to Norwich would have been finishing it with out their star gamers, significantly Zaha. Crystal Palace had received simply thrice in their earlier 24 video games with out the ahead. Now, they’ll notch that as much as 4.

Admittedly, Crystal Palace didn’t play their finest recreation of the season, however did punish a sloppy Norwich with their three first-half pictures on goal. It was a recreation they might have anticipated to win and they noticed out the recreation with self-discipline in the second half.

It sees Crystal Palace in the prime half of the desk going into 2022. They are simply 5 factors off Manchester United in seventh and, say it quietly, might they push for a Europa Conference League spot subsequent season?

It can be some achievement in the event that they did, however for now, there are many positives to take heading into 2022.
Charlotte Marsh

Norwich’s squad decimated at the worst potential time

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Dean Smith says Norwich City’s 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace ‘hurts’ however harassed his squad has been ‘decimated’ throughout current weeks, via damage and Covid

When he arrived at Norwich, Dean Smith mentioned he was happy with the form of his squad as they confronted an uphill battle to keep away from Premier League relegation.

However, in the previous couple of weeks, he has seen his facet taken right down to the naked bones with accidents and sickness. On Monday alone, Todd Cantwell, Teemu Pukki and Max Aarons grew to become unavailable. Dimitris Giannoulis got here off at half-time with a knock, whereas captain Grant Hanley and No 1 goalkeeper Tim Krul additionally sidelined.

The record retains on going and Smith was pressured into six modifications for the journey to Selhurst Park. No one in his matchday 18 had scored a Premier League objective this season and in December, they’ve misplaced 5 successive video games with out scoring a objective.

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And but, Norwich did take a look at their opponents, significantly in the second half. But a string of errors in the first half sealed their destiny and fairly merely, they didn’t have the high quality to search out a method again into the recreation.

“What we had when I first came in, I was quietly optimistic, but it’s been decimated at the moment and that’s where we were today… We’re lacking a lot of leaders in our group who unfortunately at the moment are injured or ill,” Smith mentioned after the recreation.

“I said to the players at half-time, you need to go out and show some character and pride in the second half. I didn’t think the first half was a 3-0 first half, it was just the manner of goals that were disappointing and unfortunately, the result is the only thing people will talk about.”

Their in depth record of absentees couldn’t come at a worse time. Christmas is all the time the busiest time of the season – together with two video games in 48 hours, a schedule about which Smith has been a public critic of – and they discover themselves three factors adrift of security at the backside of the desk, having performed the most video games of the groups round them.

With every passing recreation, it’s trying a larger and larger job for Norwich to remain in the Premier League.
Charlotte Marsh

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