March 6, 2021, 18:34

Premier League hits and misses

Premier League hits and misses

Emery on thin ice

The Arsenal fans deserve better communication than they are getting from their under-pressure manager Unai Emery right now.

In his post-match press conference he spoke of “finding solutions” in terms of the balance between attack and defence, but surely a manager with 18 months of experience in the hotseat shouldn’t be pulling that excuse out of the bag?

  • Arsenal 2-2 Southampton: Match report and highlights
  • Unai Emery understands Arsenal fans’ frustration

If Emery does have the answers, he’s doing a good job at keeping them a secret. Quite how he still doesn’t know his best eleven is staggering.

This was another disjointed performance, especially defensively, against a team struggling for confidence themselves.

Arsenal should have exploited that nervousness in the Southampton ranks but instead the opposite occurred as the visitors looked a team with a plan and how to execute it. Credit to Ralph Hasenhuttl for that – a manager that was nearly in tears at full-time.

Arsenal, on the other hand, lacked imagination and pattern to their play and were thankful to Alexandre Lacazette’s imperious finishing ability that they left with an undeserved point. The lack of celebrations from both the players and fans when the late equaliser went in told its own story.

Emery is now second favourite in the sack race with Sky Bet. The ice beneath him is becoming thinner.
Lewis Jones

Mourinho lifts malaise – now for winning mentality

Mourinho began his charm offensive from the moment he entered the London Stadium. Bouncing off the Tottenham team coach to fist bump the visiting mascot on his way to the away dressing room, the lights were back on both for him and for his revitalised set of players.

  • Mourinho enjoys winning Spurs start – report and highlights
  • Jose wins on Spurs debut – all the reaction

The Portuguese has a track record few can question, and while his new supporters did not sing his name during Spurs’ 3-2 triumph over West Ham, this was the first step towards acceptance. Results have a way of doing that in this business.

The touchline is his stage, and from the moment he rubbed the back of his captain Harry Kane in the tunnel to that long stationary stare from the touchline towards his travelling fans at the end, his impact is already being felt.

The 56-year-old admitted afterwards that he had lost his passion for management during his Manchester United tenure, but back in his natural habitat Tottenham secured a first away win in the Premier League since January 20.

“Eleven months without music in the away dressing room,” he said afterwards. “Without a smile, without happiness, and they did it. I am very happy with them, I am very happy for them.”

This was indeed a fixture sent from above, so abject were a West Ham side in free-fall under Manuel Pellegrini. There were flickers of the old swash-buckling Spurs, however, as three goals were ruthlessly plunged either side of half-time.

With more major trophies to his name than the club he now manages, Mourinho must now teach his players how to win when it truly counts.
Ben Grounds

United comeback papers over cracks

Playing well for 10 minutes out of 90 won’t earn Manchester United many points this season and they really got away with one at Bramall Lane. They did deserve credit for the manner of their comeback at Sheffield United, but not much.

  • ‘Sheffield United were like Barcelona’
  • Ole: I thought we’d given up like at Everton

You can have a tough afternoon and not be on your game, but for a lot of the game Manchester United, their front three especially, looked like they’d rather not be there. Their fans probably felt the same as they watched Sheffield United, playing League One football just over two years ago, running them ragged.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was already probably hearing Pochettino’s name in his sleep and needed a performance to get people talking about something other than whether the newly-available manager might be about to take his position, but he didn’t get it.

Instead, the can is kicked down the road for another week because United showed, for 10 minutes, what they can be at their best.

“The difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is huge,” said Solskjaer after the game. It was the ultimate brave face, but with an element of truth. That should be even more worrying, that coming back from 2-0 down at Sheffield United, without any disrespect to Chris Wilder’s wonderful team who were excellent, is where their bar has fallen. You have to wonder what Fergie would think to that.
Ron Walker

Defiant Liverpool just won’t be beaten

While there will be debate and discussion over Crystal Palace’s first-half goal, which was ruled out after a lengthy VAR check, Liverpool were in a far more damaging position when Wilfried Zaha fired in the home side’s equaliser in the 82nd minute. Selhurst Park was rocking and the door had ever so slightly opened for Liverpool’s title rivals.

The response of Jurgen Klopp’s men was stunning. They could have shut up shop and taken a point; ensured they left south London with something after a below-par performance which, particularly in the first-half, was seriously out of sorts. But this is a team that doesn’t settle for a draw when there is still time on the clock.

  • Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool: Match report and highlights
  • Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool were up for the fight

“We conceded a goal and you see the face of the boys: ‘come on, we know a set piece, a corner, a free-kick gives us a chance’,” Klopp said afterwards. Liverpool were immediately on the front foot. Within three minutes Roberto Firmino had hit the net from close range following a goalmouth scramble and the away fans were going wild.

Come May we may look back on this result as vital. Liverpool’s win over Manchester City was the result of a superb performance but they had to back it up. They did that at Palace two weeks later – despite the difficulties of an international break and a disjointed performance – with a victory based on heart and determination. Those elements – ability and attitude – are what set champions apart…
Peter Smith

Chelsea show their progression

Really, getting anything at Manchester City would’ve been a bonus for Frank Lampard. But the glum figure he cut in his Sky Sports interview after they lost 2-1 showed how close his side has come to mixing it with the best.

  • Man City 2-1 Chelsea – report and highlights
  • Keane: City responded like champions

If you’d looked at this fixture in August and said Chelsea would come into the match ahead of their hosts, you’d have got some funny looks. Lampard’s done a fair amount to change that perception in the intervening four months.

They were so good for the opening 25 minutes and you wondered how many they would win by once they took the lead, but Manchester City are too good, too proud to get shown up in their own back yard for long.

Chelsea’s only disappointment will be the way they never regained their early intensity once Manchester City had turned the game on its head. After half-time they barely had a sniff. But they’re learning, they will improve and there was plenty of encouragement to take from a lot of their performance, and the fact they had more possession than any team has had in a league game against a Pep Guardiola side… Ever.

And really, Lampard’s face in that interview showed why they are on the up. He’s not settling for being the plucky underdogs, and they might not have to be for long.
Ron Walker

Leicester ride their luck to win

There is no stopping Leicester at the moment, although their 2-0 victory against Brighton did come with help from our old friend, VAR. Heading into the game, Graham Potter’s side were unbeaten at the Amex since August but this was halted when Stockley Park intervened in the 80th minute.

Leicester’s penalty – given after Adam Webster trod on the foot of Demarai Gray – was quite soft, but was still given by VAR in the first slice of luck. Jamie Vardy was then given a second chance from the spot after he missed the first with James Maddison’s header from the rebound ruled out due to encroachment.

Maddison himself was guilty of the offence and he too was lucky that a few Brighton players went with him, otherwise it would have been disallowed altogether and who knows how things may have ended?

  • How to watch Premier League highlights
  • Premier League Table | Fixtures | Top scorers

We have seen Leicester play better and they were not at their overall best on Saturday, giving the ball away too easily at times and spurning a number of glorious chances, but this should not take away from the superb run that they are on.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are still second in the table, having won five Premier League games in a row with a whopping 17 goals scored in those games.

The centre-back pairing of Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu continue to impress too as Leicester contained a Brighton side who have been hard to beat at home, earning their fourth successive Premier League clean sheet in the process.

Winners and champions ride their luck and dig out results when they need to. That’s exactly what Leicester did this weekend.
Charlotte Marsh

More of the same and Norwich can survive

You leak goals all season and can’t get a look in away from home, before scoring twice at Goodison Park with a clean sheet to boot.

The Canaries have an invaluable three points that lift them off bottom, and they have a fine defensive display to thank for it. They kept shape, looked desperate to throw themselves in the way of anything and everything, and cleared corners all afternoon.

  • Everton 0-2 Norwich: Match report and highlights
  • Marco Silva coy on Everton future

In attack, Teemu Pukki leaves without a goal but he worked tirelessly to drag the defenders this way and that, giving others the freedom to wander forward in space. A valuable goalscorer but an even more important team player.

As for Everton, boss Marco Silva faces yet another setback. Fans can barely keep track of their form which can be described as sporadic at best. The midfield is creating so little and that has to change, with good forwards making good runs ahead of them.
Fredrick Clayton

Wolves’ rapid rise continues

Earlier in the season there were a few concerns for Wolves, who were without a win from their opening six Premier League games.

Having to cope with the demands of an early start to the season due to the Europa League, Wolves were 19th in the table following four draws and two defeats.

Fast forward and what a difference a few weeks can make, though.

  • Bournemouth 1-2 Wolves: Match report and highlights
  • Joao Moutinho extends Wolves deal until 2022

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, who are also in an excellent position to qualify for the Europa League knockout stages, are now fifth in the Premier League following their 2-1 victory at Bournemouth.

They are unbeaten in eight league matches – their longest run in the top-flight since February 1974. Only Liverpool (22) have scored in more consecutive Premier League games than Wolves (12), who are a side playing with real confidence.

Wolves’, and Nuno’s, stock continues to rise.
Oliver Yew

Home is not where Watford’s heart is

Watford returned to the bottom of the Premier League after losing 3-0 to Burnley at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon, extending the hosts’ dreadful recent form at home in the Premier League.

The Hornets’ latest home defeat means Quique Sanchez Flores’ side have gone 11 consecutive home league games without a win (D4 L7) for the first time in the club’s history.


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