The Premier League table is now set for Christmas after a frantic weekend of football. Shock results and huge wins were the order of things as 18/19 continues to deliver as one of the tightest and most gripping seasons in recent memory. Here’s a look at five things we learned from the latest action.
Questions for City ahead of a crucial period
Any talk of a crisis at Manchester City is daft to say the least, but two defeats in three games has seen the stylish Champions falter at one of the most important junctions of the season. A shock 2-3 defeat at home to Crystal Palace saw City yield a four point gap to Liverpool and for the first time in a long time, some serious questions have been asked of Guardiola’s men.
John Stones is clearly no deputy for Fernandinho at number six, while right back has emerged as a bit of an Achilles’ heel, with Kyle Walker leaking chances down his flank. They have more than enough quality to get over this bump, but their blip certainly has made things very interesting all of a sudden, at the top of the Premier League table.
Spurs roar back into contention after statement win
Speaking of things getting interesting; Tottenham Hotspur showed absolutely no sign of managerial distraction in their thumping win over Everton at Goodison Park. A 2-6 away win is always impressive, but not many sides go to the blue half of Merseyside and dominate so freely. This was a performance full of confidence, attacking verve and top class quality, as Pochettino’s men moved to within two points of Manchester City.
Son, Kane, Ali and Eriksen would walk into most sides on their day, and they once again showed their mesmerising abilities as they chipped in with some spectacular goals on Merseyside. They have now won an impressive fourteen out of eighteen games in the league this season and sit just six points behind Liverpool at Christmas.
Back in it the race? Absolutely. Everton on the other hand, have real cause for concern at the back and looked way off a top-six challenge on today’s evidence. They have some quality players, but Marko Silva will learn quickly, that the passionate fan base at his new club, will not tolerate results like this.
Liverpool earn their breathing room, but the hard work remains ahead of them
Molineax is up there with the Goodison Parks of the world, as a hostile and difficult place for any side to go. City and Chelsea have dropped points there, while Spurs rode their luck big time in their recent away victory over Wolves. Add in freezing, torrential rain and some ferocious tackling and you have one hell of a game on your hands.
Liverpool did so well to control the proceeding in these circumstances and conditions in the Black Country. Their victory had all the hallmarks of a side that is calm and focused, despite a few wobbly moments in the first half. Fabinho and Kieta will have been disappointed with their sloppiness, which may have been punished on another day, but Liverpool grew into the game, earning their victory to give them a four point cushion and top spot at Christmas.
They are now the front runners and will need to live with the pressure that comes with being top of the table. Klopp will know all too well that there is plenty of hard work ahead for his men, as they navigate through the remaining 20 games of the season.
Ole takes the handbrake off
After weeks of speculation, poor results and turgid football, Manchester United’s fourth manager in five years delivered a result that finally brought some positivity to the Red Devil’s beleaguered fan base. Their 1-5 away win at Cardiff was a wonderful welcome gift for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The hope will be that, the hugely popular Norwegian will breathe some life back into a Manchester United squad and clear the air which had become so toxic over the past year. The display witnessed in the Welsh capital was snappy and adventurous, with United playing some lovely stuff.
Players will enjoy this style a lot more, and they now have a run of favourable fixtures to really gather some momentum. The quality is there and the first impression of OGS, should be encouraging for United, at least in the short term.
Puel proves his worth…again
Rumours linking Claude Puel with a Leicester City exit, reared their ugly heads again last week. The Frenchman has been on the wrong end of some ropey form and recently crashed out of the League Cup to Manchester City, albeit on penalties. To top it all off, Jamie Vardy went public with an admission of his own personal struggle with Puel’s style of football. Oh to be a Premier League manager!
With all that in mind, a massive win for his side over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was just what the doctor ordered for the French manager and his team. Leicester went for Chelsea, who looked uncharacteristically lifeless on Saturday.
Maddison and Ndidi were really influential for the Foxes at they got a grip on the midfield battle. Vardy’s winner was one from his scrapbook, as he got on the end of an excellent through ball from midfield, before slotting home in the far corner. This was a huge win for Leicester and yet more proof, if they needed any, that they are already in possession of an excellent manager and need not look elsewhere for the time-being.