SPURS AND CITY SHINE, BORE DRAW AT ANFIELD: 6 TALKING POINTS FROM SUNDAY'S PL ACTION
Understandably the biggest draw of Sunday’s Premier League action was the highly anticipated visit of leaders Manchester United to reigning Premier League champions Liverpool.
But, unfortunately that that game was about as entertaining as Antiques Roadshow. Luckily, Brammall Lane and the Etihad were venues for plenty of goals with both providing four as both City and Spurs picked up important table-altering wins
Here are the biggest talking points from those three games:
Spurs 1-3 Sheffield United
Same story but a different outcome
On the hour mark many Spurs fans would’ve been feeling a little bit of Déjà vu as David McGoldrick glanced a header past Hugo Lloris, but it didn’t quite go to their expected script.
From winning positions, Spurs have thrown away 10 points and for a team that’s pushing for a top four challenge, that simply is not good enough, so when Sheffield United pulled a goal back many were expecting that tally to rise.
However, thanks to a ludicrous lob from Tanguy Ndombele just three minutes later, Jose Mourinho’s men restored that two-goal lead and saw out the remaining minutes in a highly professional manner.
Mourinho has faced some heavy criticism for instructing his team to sit back when holding a lead and as shown against Wolves & Fulham, it hasn’t been working.
And while the usual sitting back period did arrive accompanied with a goal for the Blades, Spurs fired back imminently through Ndombele and after that third goal they remained on the front foot with Son Heung-min & Kane going close.
It just goes to show that Spurs continuing with an attacking impotence actually benefits them holding a lead.
The Blades hole gets deeper and deeper
After their first victory of the season against Newcastle in the week, facing a Spurs side who aren’t quite firing at the moment was positioned to be a huge test to see if the revival is well and truly on, and after watching this performance, I can assure you it certainly isn’t.
The opening goal, that came after just five minutes, was far too easy, with Serge Aurier heading past the lost Aaron Ramsdale after shrugging off Jordan Bogle with ease.
Oliver Norwood then lost possession twice in crucial areas, with both mistakes leading to goals courtesy of Harry Kane & Ndombele.
Every single time Spurs went forward, Sheffield United looked scared at the back, their wing-backs, who were instrumental to their success last season, were suffocated by Sergio Reguilon and Aurier who had been instructed to match their opponents by Mourinho and the individual errors cost them heavily.
Chris Wilder’s side now face both Manchester clubs in their next two games, and following victories for West Brom and Brighton, they are 11 points from safety, a margin that I believe is too large to come back from.
Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool
Too big a game to lose?
The way this game had been built up made it seem like it was the most important game of football ever to be played. Excellent footballers, the leaders up against the champions, the biggest rivalry in English football and of course it was a drab goalless draw.
In all seriousness though I can’t say I’m surprised, neither Jurgen Klopp nor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would’ve wanted to lose this game and that was evident in the way the game panned out.
Yes, both teams attacked and had their chances but there was a serious lack of impetus and neither team really grabbed the game by the scruff of their neck.
Despite the home side having the majority of the ball and United sitting deep for large portions of the game, they were the team who had the more clear-cut chances.
Bruno Fernandes side-footed effort was well saved by Allison and had Paul Pogba’s effort been either side of Allison the current league leaders would’ve been leaving Merseyside with all three points.
Nonetheless, the magnitude of this game was enormous and the stakes were arguably even bigger and those taglines may have played a part in why both teams ensured they had couldn’t lose.
Four games - 62 Liverpool shots – One goal
Since their 7-0 destruction of Crystal Palace just before Christmas, Liverpool have scored just once and are winless in four Premier League games and that included their poor attacking endeavours against Manchester United.
While the champions expect teams to sit deep and defend against them, in recent years they have always been able to find a way through, but recently they’ve looked missed that spark in front of goal.
Three scoring blanks for the Reds since Sadio Mane’s goal against West Brom has meant for the first time since March 2005, Liverpool have gone three Premier League games without finding the back of the net.
Liverpool have been in control of those matches, with an average of 68% possession, but they have just struggled to convert their domination into goals, and with arguably the best chances of the game falling the way of United, on another day they could’ve left Anfield with all the points.
Sean Dyche’s team will be the next to face Liverpool in the League and from watching many Burnley games I can’t see them going and matching Liverpool, which means the Reds will have to overcome their recent inability to break down defensively deep teams.
Manchester City 4-0 Crystal Palace
City’s subtle rise up the table
Just under two months ago, Manchester City were 13th in the Premier League table and had only three wins from eight games. But now a win in their game in hand at Everton would put them top.
It’s a pretty ridiculous turnaround when you think about it as amazingly the change came at the back, with City keeping seven clean sheets thanks to a rejuvenated John Stones partnering the highly talented Ruben Dias.
City forced their way into the top four with impressive wins over Fulham & Burnley and while they did stutter against West Brom, they bounced back superbly with more victories which included the dismantling of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Instead of some of their slender victories against more defensive teams, City looked threatening all game and didn’t step off the gas when the points were in the bag, with Stones turning his defensive dominance into two well-taken goals, which were his first goals for City in the PL.
After a pretty unexpected drop in form, City finally look back at their best and I did say that if the goals start flowing in again, like they did against Palace and Chelsea, it is their title to lose.
No Zaha, No Benteke, no party
While their previous trips to the Etihad say otherwise, it was always going to be a tough ask for Crystal Palace to leave Manchester with anything and the absence of star man Wilfred Zaha made that task even more unfeasible.
In an attempt to stifle City in midfield, Roy Hodgson chose to bring James McCarthy and form a five in midfield with Jordan Ayew leading the line in place of Christian Benteke.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go very well for Palace as an early City goal broke the Eagles resistance and without Zaha and Benteke up front, Ederson was rarely troubled.
In their recent outings the presence of Zaha and Benteke has been vital in relieving some of the pressure on the defence, with Zaha’s quick feet and Benteke’s hold up play winning plenty of free-kicks.
With Hodgson’s side not in action again for over a week, expect to see Palace’s two forwards return to the squad and hopefully give their team more than the attacking players managed at the Etihad.