London derby – Football review 5/5 (2)

The London derby

London derby seems to be a constant fixture in Premier League. With 7 clubs from English capital in the league, it’s easy to understand why.

However, this weekend took place North London derby, Arsenal versus Tottenham, over 100 years of fierce rivalry between neighboring boroughs.

With Chelsea’s rise in the last 2 decades other hot derbies are taking place in London but given the short history, it still can’t get the same pedigree.

London derby of managers

In total Arsenal has an upper hand in head-to-head count with almost 20 victories more than Tottenham, 82 to 63 with 51 draws. 20 vs 12 in Premier League.

Gunners have advantage also in trophy collection with 3 Premier League titles and 13 FA Cup, among other, while the Hotspurs tasting success 8 times in FA Cup with no Premier League winners medal to show.

But fortunes have changed recently with Tottenham placing above the arch-rivals last few years and participating regularly in the Champions League. Building an international reputation in the process.

Meanwhile, Arsenal took too long to part ways with a manager who brought a lot of honors to the club but ultimately couldn’t keep up with game’s evolution. Once regarded as a trend-setter, in later years couldn’t quite make it work.

And once Wenger couldn’t catch the famed Champions League spot it was time for fresh ideas. Please enter Mr. Unai Emery.

New manager same old story?

Taking over from a manager after 20 years is an arduous task itself. Taking it in a club in constant spotlight where results must be achieved is another thing. Check further North, in Manchester, for additional explanation.

London derby strikers

Anyhow Emery had a few details working in his favor. Firstly, he can hardly do worse than his predecessor. At least lately.
Secondly, inherited squad has a lot of talent.

Thirdly, after his adventure in Paris, he’s used to demanding crowd and dressing room full of stars. He’s used to volatile characters and big egos which need to be addressed adequately.

Oh, and he also won things. Taking French championship for granted, he’s had some success with Sevilla. International. Three in a row to be precise! It was in Europa League, second European competition but still, nobody else did it.

So, an undoubtedly talented bunch of players with international pedigree and a manager in the same mould. Match made in heaven!

Well, not at first. First points came only in match-day 3 in another London derby, against West Ham.
That opening two games were against defending champions and one of the contenders wasn’t helping the Spaniard settling in.

Big against small

But Emery survived heavy criticism and continued with his ideas. The team was playing better and better but more importantly getting results.

London derby
Schedule didn’t offer first class opposition until beginning of November and Unai had time to asses material at disposal and find some kind of balance. A run of wins followed before Liverpool came to town.

Arsenal was coming from a draw in another London derby, against Crystal Palace. Who, by the way, has a better defensive record.
Winner-less big match against the Reds carried two messages; Arsenal can compete against the best. But can’t win in direct confrontations.

Reds challenge was the first maturity test. After suffering loses against other two title contenders a draw was a step up. A baby step, but still up.

Third draw in a row came in Wolverhampton. Discontent between fans and pundits was loud again.
Defensive phase still leaves a lot to be desired but at least they don’t have problems with scoring.

Second attack in the league behind well oiled Manchester City has to mean something.

Tottenham test

Another month of fine tuning before next maturity test – London derby against high flying Tottenham. But this time Arsenal passed it, cum laude!

London derby fight

The Spurs were in red-hot form! After completely outplaying Chelsea the weekend before and doing the same to Inter in midweek no doubt Tottenham was the favorite. Especially considering Arsenal’s struggles when facing top opposition.

But Emery and his team learned their lesson by now! Relentless pressing, high line, and speedy attacks surprised Pochettinho’s men. Arsenal took control from the kick-off and never let it go.

Early lead was just reward for a strong start. It came from a penalty converted by Aubameyang after Vertonghen’s handball.

The mantra “who doesn’t score, concedes” once again proved correct. Totally against the run of play Tottenham equalized thanks to Eric Dier. And also Bernd Leno who let a seemingly innocuous header somehow squeeze in on the near post.

Gunners didn’t absorb equalizing shock when they were surpassed! Son was released on goal and brought down in the box. Penalty which Kane transformed without any issues!

Déjà vu! Arsenal playing and creating chances but unable to complete the job and paying the price. Just on the stroke of halftime.

New manager new story

This is not the same Arsenal anymore! This Arsenal has grown and knows how to react when punched in the face.

More importantly, has a manager who admits his mistakes and corrects them immediately.

London derby subs

Wasteful Iwobi and timid Mkhitaryan remained in the locker room. Decisive Ramsey and Lacazette joined the fight.

Within 10 minutes after the break result was there. Bellerin found Ramsey in space. The pass wasn’t perfect but the Welshman somehow managed to deflect it just enough to serve Aubameyang.

Aurier allowed Gabon striker just a few centimeters and it proved costly. Auba smashed the ball in the corner and reinstalled parity. Only in terms of result because Tottenham was dominated throughout the whole match.

Perhaps last two nearly perfect games took a huge physical and emotional toll on the Spurs. Could be that Emery surprised his counterpart with a propositive setting and 3 man defense.

Whatever it was it’s hard to believe that the same team dismantled one of the contenders just a week ago. Tottenham looked disinterested and lacking concentration in key moments.

Arsenal took advantage of another black-out in Hotspurs’ defense and with a bit of luck took the lead again.

Ramsey caught Foyth in possession on the halfway line and served fellow substitute Lacazette. The Frenchman adjusted the ball and with a slight deflection found the bottom corner.

To put the game beyond doubt this time the Gunners needed just additional few minutes. Torreira found himself facing Lloris and finished expertly to give the home side a 2 goal cushion.

London derby goal

With Tottenham not threatening too much little Uruguayan’s first goal in Premier League seal the deal.

London derby justified the expectations and served us a real spectacle. It’s a shame that only one team played to its potential. And let’s not forget the small matter of Ozil’s absence.

The other derby

Right after the London derby, another one was played in the Beatles’ city. Reds hosted Toffees.

With Everton pushing for high places after a few seasons in the wilderness, it was a balanced affair.
And when it looked that there will be no winner Everton’s best player decided otherwise. Unfortunately for Everton’s fans not to their likening.

Liverpool derby Pickford

Last Liverpool’s assault ended with Van Dijk slicing the shot on the edge of the box and the ball flew towards the goal in a looping trajectory.

Even the Dutch defender turned around to re-take his position before the ball was anywhere near Pickford. Everton’s keeper followed the flight closely and decided to catch the ball instead of punching it over the bar.

Intervention wasn’t successful as the ball was bouncing on the crossbar and refused to go out. Origi was as surprised as everyone seeing the ball falling on his head with no defenders around him and Pickford picking himself out of the net.

Such a gift won’t go to waste! The Belgian striker thanked and accepted.

This goal is even harder to explain then Tottenham’s performance.

Sorry United

Manchester United did it again! Disappointed his fans! Southampton is languishing in relegation zone and didn’t manage a single victory in its own back-yard this season.

United nearly allowed the hosts their first internal joy but for two Rashford moments of craft and served golden chances to Lukaku and Herrera.

Mourinho

True, Mourinho has great problems composing the defensive line however if Southampton can’t be beaten with a personnel crisis, who can?

As the world is upside down Mark Hughes was sacked after the game. Internal draw against one of the biggest clubs in the world!

Of course, we all know that the sacking was due to all other results, not his one. However, it makes an impression; relegation strugglers fire the managers after home draw against Manchester United!

United’s problems are much deeper than just lack of central defenders. In fact, Matić and McTominay didn’t do to bad in the back three with Jones. Problems are further up the field and particularly in midfield.

Pogba looks to be playing in a game of his own, Fellaini can jump and win headers. Herrera can run the extra mile but who’ll bring the ball in dangerous areas?

Why was Fred bought? If he can’t play against relegation candidates in full emergency when can?

And next opponent is in-form Arsenal. What will The Special One prepare for this game? We’ll find out very soon but I’m not sure United’s fans will be pleased.

Elsewhere

Manchester City continues with routine wins and Fulham with routine defeats. Albeit against redemption-seeking Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Ranieri

New manager Claudio Ranieri already proved that he can dig a team out of the abyss and lead it to glory. Fulham won’t repeat Leicester City’s fairy-tale but staying up is possible.

Newcastle and Huddersfield Town lost important matches at home against West Ham and Brighton respectively in salvation battle. Same did Burnley away to Crystal Palace.

No London derbies in Premier League’s midweek fixture, therefore, all eyes will be at Old Trafford for Arsenal’s visit.

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Chelsea losing grip, United everything 5/5 (3)

Chelsea’s first season defeat comes against fellow Champions League hopefuls and city rivals Tottenham at Wembley. While actual title contenders distance themselves from the chasing pack.

Big game of the round pitted London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham at Wembley. The Blues came into this still undefeated but with 4 draws while the Spurs already suffered the bitter result 3 times in the Premier League this season.

Pochettino and Sarri

Chelsea’s defence, again

Chelsea played the worst match since Sarri took over in the summer. Tottenham’s high pressing game didn’t leave any chance to somewhat uninspired Blues.

Spurs started strongly and took the lead already in the 8th minute and doubled it 8 minutes later. Chelsea was never renewed for rock solid defence and if additional prove was needed it was served in this match.

First goal displayed all the liabilities in Sarri’s team defensive phase. Kane gets the ball in behind Alonso. There’s not much he can do there beside getting a foul. And when David Luiz is close, so is a free kick.

Absolutely unnecessary offense in a completely innocuous area. Accompany the Spurs striker and don’t let him turn. That’s all Luiz had to do. Instead he brings him down without any apparent reason.

Dele vs Chelsea

The following free kick showed next defiance in Chelsea’s defence. Alli had nobody contesting the ball. Nobody jumped to get the ball or at least disturb him! Kepa could perhaps done better in goal but that’s not the issue here.

Marking and stopping the opponent…what?

Second goal wasn’t any better. Home side most dangerous player was allowed way too much space to shoot. Again there was nobody to challenge him! No defender, no midfielder at 20 meters from goal to at least try to stop the shot.

If at the first goal Kepa could done a bit better, here he really should done much better! It wasn’t neither incredibly powerful nor anywhere near the post. The second goal is also on goalkeepers soul.

Kane vs Chelsea

Third goal conceded isn’t really worth commenting, right? Son scored but it was as Sarri himself assisted him.

Stop Jorginho, stop Chelsea?

Dele Alli shadowed Chelsea playmaker Jorginho all game long and didn’t allow the Ital-Brazilian to display his abilities. And that was basically enough to stop Chelsea.

Having the metronome cut out of play Chelsea had a lot of difficulties getting the ball in the attacking third. Any timid attempt organizing attacks from the back were quickly closed down by Pochettino’s men.

Jorginho

So Chelsea had to play it in behind Tottenham’s defence. However with Morata failing to time his runs no real danger came out of it either. Only meaningful shot the Spanish striker managed came when he was nearly 2 meters in offside.

Only in second half Chelsea managed to get a little more time on the ball but even that was due to Tottenham consciously retrieving and leaving initiative to the opposition. Just to hit it on the counter.

However the hosts couldn’t make use of the space in wide area as it isn’t what they’re used to do.

Response? Pedro!

Playing against a team that leaves open the flanks and substituting your striker with Pedro is not the way to go. Even if Hazard is up top. Neither him nor the Spanish fellow attacker can win in a duel for a cross!

Giroud is the only player capable of winning headers in opposition box. Waiting until the end to release him was just as bad decision as it was to play Kovačić who’s only contribution was a “rabiona” that started a counter-attack.

The match was always going to be tough and chances would be coming rarely. However failing to adopt to the situation on the pitch with adequate changes isn’t permissible at this level.

Giroud

Sarri will surely take important conclusions from this game and acknowledge own mistakes. But must be very fast in finding the solution to this kind of approach.  

Fabregas, anyone?

Limiting Chelsea’s attack so easily must be worrying Sarri. What if everybody does that? Risking a player to stop opposition fluency is something all managers will adopt without thinking twice.

Sarri’s game is based on prolonged possession and setting the rhythm. Perhaps playing a second playmaker could add some diversity. Something Real Madrid was doing so successfully last few years with Kroos and Modrić.

Since Kovačić isn’t living up to expectations and Barkley just recently picking up form, playing Fabregas next to Jorginho and Kante woudn’t be a bad idea. The Spaniard is capable of dictating the tempo and distributing the ball around the pitch.

In this way play-making burden would be divided between 2 players and hardly anybody would risk two players to man-mark deep midfielders. Thus your play wouldn’t depend on the passing ability of your center-backs.

Leaders routine wins

Man City Sane

Manchester City continue with running at full speed. West Ham practise was basically wrapped-up by 20th minute mark when Sterling extended the lead. Sane’s double just rounded the result but West Ham rarely threatened.

The fact that City scored 3 goals from open just by tapping it home from few meters demonstrates their superiority.

Similarly Liverpool archived Watford practise. Just that reds left it a bit late but nevertheless without particular scares.

United continues with…disasters

Manchester United continues to disappoint. Or is a home draw a disappointment any more? Frustrating situation for fans of one of the biggest club in the world.

It’s there for anyone to see that things aren’t working out. Fortunate win against Juventus in Champions League can’t mask all the shortcomings demonstrated in all other matches.

14 points behind league leaders, 7 points away from Champions League spot and negative goal-difference.

Mourinho vs CP

Why aren’t there any actions taken? How long will the club tolerate this kind of performances? How long will the fans?

A lot of questions remain unanswered and United continues with disasters. Unless the club decided that this season no trophies are to be won or even contested. Then everything is clear.

Elsewhere

Arsenal gained 3 points the hard and lucky way in Bournemouth, Everton won against Cardiff City at Goodison part and Leicester City managed to grab a point after being a man down for over an hour.

Important wins for Fulham, first game for new manager Ranieri and Huddesfield Town.

Fulham Mitrović

Chelsea losing grip but more importantly having exposed all weaknesses in a game that mustn’t be forgotten. It must serve as a reminder that you need a plan B.

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Manchester derby No ratings yet.

Manchester derby confirmed what was clear to everyone; City is miles ahead of United. Not even Pogba could turn this one around.

Manchester derby

Manchester derby

Across Europe a lot of mouth-watering clashes were played and the Manchester derby was the big match in Premier League this weekend. And everybody who expected a tight affair was left disappointed.

City produced a dominant display that didn’t allow the Reds any chance. True, United missed their best player in Pogba who fort-fitted just before the kick off. However city missed their best midfielder also in De Bruyne. So we could call important absences even!

Interestingly Mourinho and Guardiola didn’t fire poisonous dart at each other in the build up. As things stand right now that’s the only duel the Portuguese manager has a chance of winning.

City’s dominance

The scenario was clear from the beginning; the blues to keep the ball and attack in numbers and the reds to wait for mistakes and hit on the counter. It’s a familiar sight in the Manchester derby the last few years.

It was also clear that United’s midfield with Matić, Herrera and Fellaini can’t provide sufficient support to the attackers thru patient build-up play and defence-splitting balls. For that Mata would have to be involved. This midfield was composed to close the spaces and run the extra mile.

It looked as if Mourinho ordered man-marking of City’s central trio. Fellaini stepped up to mirror Fernandinho, Herrera tried to shadow David Silva and Matić was supposed to follow Bernardo Silva.

And it worked for United at the start. Well, at least for the first 10 minutes! Citizen’s play is way too dynamic and flexible to be limited with this kind of approach.

Early lead secured by David Silva who pounced on a loose ball in the heart of the penalty area was a just reward for shown till then. United barely had a kick and was already trailing.

Even before the goal the hosts, City in this case, had a few situations that could lead to their advantage.

United’s misery

Midway thru the first half Smalling had a header fly over the crossbar of a bored Ederson. And that “chance” was everything Mourinho’s troops managed in the first half.

United’s tactic to exploit opponents mistakes back-fired immediately after the break.

De Gea’s, Reds’s best player by far the last few seasons, miss-kick was picked up in the center of the park by City. Quick transition and a scholastic one-two on the edge of the area freed Aguero in a shooting chance inside the box.

The Argentine usually takes these kind of chances and he did it this time also. Thunderous shot above the keeper’s head; 2:0 and game virtually closed.

Manchester United’s 2nd half come-back, kind off…

Soon after Aguero’s goal Lukaku came on for an uninspired Lingard and immediately made an impact.

The Belgian striker went for a rare vertical pass in City’s penalty area. The situation wasn’t of any danger to the Brazilian shot-stopper in City’s goal as Lukaku’s movement was away from the goal.

Anyway, Ederson decided to go for it and duly came late, brought down the robust attacker and a penalty was given. Martial routinely converted from the spot, 2:1 and contest re-opened. It happened in the 58th minute and everything still to play for.

In theory, at least.

Mourinho’s game-plan worked in this occasion! They bored the opposition’s goalkeeper until he decided to go for an innocuous ball just to get some action. And made the mistake the Reds carved for!

Man Utd had a few minutes on the front foot after reducing the gap however never really threatened to get the second. Last season’s script wasn’t to be repeated.

Sane came in for Mahrez and demonstrated why he’s regarded the present and the future of the club. His quick feet and explosiveness were too much to handle for a tired United defense. He did spurn some good situations but he came in them with ease.

After a few missed opportunities, Guendogan’s goal in 86th minute cleared any doubts. The goal itself is the best demonstration of the gulf in class between the sides.

The German finished a team move that included 44 passes (!!!) and almost the whole team participating in the maneuver!

Conclusions from the derby

Manchester derby 2

City are the team to beat in England’s top flight, no argument there. Clear game-plan, several options for every position across the pitch and a ever-demanding manager.

The future looks bright and the final triumph is theirs to loose.

Manchester United’s been riding their luck and relying on for too long now. No clear game-plan, no rehearsed routines in attacking moves, little-to-none creativity in the maneuver, slow and predictable ball circulation. And a porous defense that already costed them important points.

League leaders are way ahead of them in every aspect.

If there was any talk or idea in the red side of Manchester about title challenge before the season started, they should revise their goals and set the bar lower. Much, much lower.

Chasing pack

Only Liverpool manages to keep up with Pep’s formidable team. Klopp’s boys managed to get over the midweek shock in Belgrade and obtain a win against slumping Fulham. As usually Salah broke the dead-lock. It wasn’t easy as the score-line might suggest as teh London outfit had some good opportunities to get in front but eventually succumbed to another defeat. Perhaps unjust but ultimately no points for them. Again.

Salah

Similarly, Tottenham forced a win away at Crystal Palace. First goal for young center-back Foyth proved enough to get all 3 points and maintain title hopes.

Chelsea somehow managed not to win against fairly modest Everton. The chances were there however eventually none of them were taken and the Liverpool side went home with a big smile on their face.

Another contender to drop important points at home was Arsenal. Contrary to Chelsea, Arsenal perhaps got what they deserved as for all the possession, Wolves had more attempts on goal and on target.

Relegation battle

Newcastle and Cardiff City snitched important wins against Bournemouth and Brighton respectively to escape from the relegation zone.

Especially important for Newcastle to build on last weekend’s win against Watford thus making it two-in-a-row.

Manchester derby was the most imbalanced match of the weekend with City displaying alarming supremacy. And since majority of other fixtures pitted top club’s against bottom one’s, it raises a lot of questions about United’s near future.

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