Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Indiscipline adds to Ange headache
Ange Postecoglou could do without the indiscipline his squad are showing this season. Spurs are already without several key figures due to injury, but the options keep reducing for the Australian as his Spurs squad pick up suspensions.
Yves Bissouma will miss the club’s next four games after a straight red card at Nottingham Forest, the Mali midfielder’s second dismissal of the Premier League campaign. It is already his third ban of the season, after picking up suspensions for a red card at Luton and for accumulating five yellow cards.
No player has seen more red cards than Yves Bissouma this season 🟥🟥 pic.twitter.com/tCTFlSLbgv
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) December 15, 2023
Destiny Udogie will also be missing for next week’s clash with in-form Everton, after a fifth yellow card of the season at the City Ground. The left-back was sent off against Chelsea last month and will now serve a second suspension in quick succession, while Cristian Romero is walking his own yellow card tightrope. The Argentine has already served a three-game ban this season for his red card against Chelsea.
Spurs are short, and do not need avoidable absences. Postecoglou, so often a voice of reason this season, needs to instil some calm into his squad.
Newcastle injuries mounting ahead of crucial period
Newcastle bounced back from their Champions League exit with a much needed win over Fulham, cruising to a 3-0 success against the 10-man Cottagers at St James’ Park. The win ended a run of three consecutive defeats in all competitions, but it was far from all good news for Eddie Howe who saw his side’s injury crisis worsen.
Fabian Schar and Joelinton were each substituted in the first half against Fulham, with both appearing to sustain hamstring problems to add to the Magpies’ mounting issues. The duo join an extensive list of absentees that already includes Harvey Barnes, Alexander Isak, Kieran Trippier, Nick Pope and the suspended Sandro Tonali, with the club’s bench at the weekend containing three teenagers and two goalkeepers.
*Adds Fabian Schar*
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) December 16, 2023
Howe badly needs reinforcements, either returning options or new additions, ahead of a crucial run of fixtures in the club’s season. Newcastle take on Chelsea in an EFL Cup quarter-final in midweek, before rounding out the year with games against Luton and Nottingham Forest.
However, January will see the Magpies face top four rivals Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa in the Premier League, alongside a first Tyne-Wear Derby since 2016 against Sunderland in the FA Cup.
Man City collapse confirms Guardiola’s worst PL start
It would be foolish to suggest Manchester City were anything other than leading contenders to be crowned champions again this season, but the chinks in the armour of Pep Guardiola’s side were exposed again this weekend.
The Citizens surrendered a two-goal lead to draw with Crystal Palace at the Etihad, extending their recent record to just one win in six Premier League games. City have looked out of sorts in recent games and failed to kill off the contest in the absence of Erling Haaland.
The draw means City have now suffered their worst-ever start to a Premier League campaign under Guardiola. Incredibly, City were 15 points better off at this stage of the season during the club’s record-breaking 2017/18 Centurions title win.
Guardiola’s first season in English football saw City end the campaign third in the table, but even in that season his side were one place and two points better off than their current position.
Toffees turnaround remarkable
Everton’s improvement under Sean Dyche continues, with a fourth consecutive Premier League win maintaining the club’s fantastic form. The Toffees have been transformed in recent weeks, producing a four-game winning run – with four clean sheets – since the announcement of their 10-point deduction for breaching FFP rules.
Dyche inherited problems not of his own making, with Everton’s haphazard spending under Farhad Moshiri – and the construction of a new stadium – having led to their current sanctions and a tightening of the purse strings. Everton made a £20.6m profit on players during the summer, while their net spend across the last five seasons stands at just £38.3m after the errors of previous regimes.
Four straight victories without conceding for the first time since November 2002. ✅
Winning together, fighting for each other. 💙
A real squad effort. 👏 pic.twitter.com/Z21P1oDW4Z
— Everton (@Everton) December 17, 2023
Dyche has proven that improvement begins on the training ground, galvanising the group and turning Everton into a side that no team will enjoy facing. Dwight McNeil’s set-pieces unnerved Burnley at the weekend, while James Tarkowski is producing arguably the best football of his career at centre-back. With Jordan Pickford and Amadou Onana offering real quality in key positions, Everton are a team on the up – a scenario few saw only a few weeks ago.
Everton, who have submitted an appeal against their Premier League punishment, would be ninth in the table without those sanctions, just three points from the European positions.
Quality lacking in forgettable Anfield encounter
Liverpool and Manchester United might traditionally be the biggest game in English football, but the latest instalment of their North-West rivalry proved a forgettable contest. The country’s two most successful sides were short of quality, as an injury-hit Manchester United side ended Liverpool’s perfect record at Anfield so far this season.
Liverpool’s 34 shots on goal was the highest recorded in a Premier League game this season, but an expected goals figure of 2.35 demonstrated that a large number of those efforts were from ambitious range.
34 – Liverpool had 34 shots against Man Utd, their most on record (from 2003-04) in a Premier League game without scoring, and the most by any side without a goal in the competition since Man Utd’s 38 v Burnley in October 2016. Wasteful. pic.twitter.com/v5wHYKfK03
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 17, 2023
The final third for Liverpool was littered with bad decisions and heavy touches, with Mohamed Salah and Dominik Szoboszlai lacking their usual sharpness. Darwin Nunez, meanwhile, extended his run without a goal to 10 games in all competitions. Trent Alexander-Arnold tried to make something happen in an otherwise drab showing from the Merseysiders, but improvements are required if the Reds are to remain in the title race. It’s Arsenal up next.Manchester United defended well in stages, though lacked real threat at the other end. Rasmus Hojlund’s wait for a first Premier League goal continues, after the Dane hit a clear sight of goal straight at Alisson. The 20-year-old remains a work in progress.