As the winter has finally bitten, the Premier League is in the middle of one its most crucial periods. Points are getting huge at either end of the table as teams start to take stock of where they are.
We’re almost at the halfway point in the season and it’s been one hell of a campaign so far! Here’s five things we learned from this weekend’s drama.
City can respond, but Pep will demand so much more
After suffering their first defeat of the season last weekend, Manchester City had one of the more tricky home games to endure this weekend as Everton came to town looking for points. Ominously though, Silva’s men sat very deep form the outset and invited on City’s attacking play, with an almost archaic, 5-4-1 formation. A more attacking style may well have got them more from this game though.
City were sluggish out the traps and had it not been for Richarlison skying a volley from a very decent position, with time and space, they’d have been a goal down.
As it was, the hosts grew in to the match, with Sane and Jesus linking up brilliantly. The Brazilian has blown hot and cold this season, but punished Everton on Saturday with direct runs and a chiseled number nine’s performance.
Despite a 3-1 win, Pep will still have some questions after this one. The Merseyside club had their chances and City allowed their forwards to get into some pretty good positions at times. A cautionary note to end though, City’s bench boasted, Aguero, Sterling and De Bruyne on Saturday, the title race is on for now, but those three could easily finish it, just as quickly as it started.
Watford bring the style
Scanning through the fixture list on Saturday morning, Watford v Cardiff City didn’t exactly look like the game to warm the cockles on a miserable mid-winter afternoon. However, for those brave souls who endure the elements, they were treated to one hell of a game of football at Vicarage Road.
Watford have been up and down this season, just as you’d expect from a mid-table side. However, they were very much on it on Saturday playing some wonderful stuff against the Bluebirds.
The 3-2 score-line flattered Cardiff to say the least. Pereyra and Deulefeu were ceaseless in their intelligent, attacking runs, leaving the visitor’s backline all over the place. Had it not been for Etheridge in goal, it could have been four or five easily.
This is a Watford side playing some really neat stuff, with very gifted players; it will be interesting to see if the scouts start to circle.
Tottenham do just enough to avoid a painful hangover
Spurs were still rightly on cloud nine after their Camp Nou heroics last week in the Champions League. However, they had the not too straightforward task of getting past Burnley this weekend as they looked to solidify their hold on a top four spot.
Some of their supporting cast was called on for their clash against the Clarets, with the likes of Oliver Skipp and Fernando Lllorente getting some game time in the Premier League.
It was far from a classic at Wembley, but Spurs just had enough in the tank to force this one over the line and secure three points to cap a wonderful week. You need to win ugly and you need your squad to deliver, Spurs had tick both boxed after this weekend.
Southampton show spirit and prove Arsenal can be stopped
Many of us were heading to Google when Southampton appointed Ralph Hasenhuttl as their new manager and man to deliver them to Premier League survival. He may be an obscure one, but he delivered one hell of a home debut to bring down Arsenal’s 22-match unbeaten run.
Going in to the game, the man nicknamed “The Klopp of the Alps” handed out free beer coupons to the home supporters, in an obvious but much needed effort to raise spirits at St Mary’s this weekend. His side then duly subjected Arsenal to an intense 90 minutes that left Emery’s side shell shocked.
Deploying Ings as target man paid dividends as Arsenal’s patchy back four yielded two goals to the on the loan Liverpool man. In fairness, The Gunners showed spirit to battle back and twice drew level before Charlie Austin raised the roof with a late winner.
Southampton can reflect on a sudden new wave of optimism, Arsenal on the other hand have been left facing some all too familiar questions after this one.
Klopp finally proves he can hurdle United
Much has been made of Jurgen Klopp’s record against his top six rivals in recent seasons. The only blemish on his copy book so far, has been Manchester United, particularly with Mourinho at the helm. For all of their flare, intensity and big wins under the German, they just couldn’t get one over on their old foes. This made their victory over United on Sunday even sweeter for their supporters.
In a game with added spice, given City’s return to the top of the league, the pressure was on Liverpool to win. They exploded out at United, but only had the one goal to show for the efforts after half an hour. United had done very well to stay in the contest and they showed their recent fighting spirit, to take their chance after a howler from Alisson let them draw level. A sense of muffled frustration rippled around Anfield at half time, and some would even have backed Untied to nick it.
However, Klopp’s men rediscovered their fire and came at United with a second wave, inspired by Shaqiri and Fabinho’s wonderful work at number six. Their late brace was enough to see off United, giving Klopp a huge win and a show of real spirit from his players as they face off with City at the top of the league.