Premier League, City closing the gap 5/5 (7)

Premier League offered double match-day last week. Only Tottenham managed to take all 6 points at stake. Everybody else experienced hiccups of various kind.

Liverpool even managed to let Manchester City closer despite the latter lost in Newcastle in midwek.

Premier League title race

When City lost in Newcastle and Liverpool managed to extend the lead even without winning, some might think that the race is decided.

However, Klopp and his team couldn’t do better than taking another draw in London on Monday evening. And even that wasn’t too bad for the way the team performed.

In fact, it’s performing for some time now!

Despite the solitary defeat suffered against title rivals, Liverpool’s game looks like stuck in 2nd gear.

The defence isn’t a watertight as it used to be. And that was foreseeable!

Premier League

The midfield can’t sustain both game phases. Not a surprise either.

Attack can’t hit the target. Or better, the back of the net!

Since trashing Arsenal end of 2018, the Reds scored 9 goals in following 6 games. Including 4-3 thriller against Crystal Palace, won in added time.

Otherwise, it’s 5 goals in 5 games. Which meant losing away to City and being eliminated in the FA Cup at the hands of Watford.

Liverpool’s struggles

Every team goes through a rough patch during the course of a season. Premier League leaders aren’t an exception.

Premier League

City had a rocky December, Manchester United a troublesome Mourinho period, Tottenham and Arsenal have already 6 defeats.

Nothing to worry if the Reds are losing ground?

Well, in their case perhaps it could be more into it.

I already expressed my mind on Liverpool’s title aspirations when they were at the peak, undefeated and impenetrable.

The squad simply doesn’t have top quality available in the starting eleven, much less strength in depth.

Another concerning detail is the timing!

Liverpool is catching a breath at the worst possible moment; Premier League is nearing its business end and the Champions League is about to start!

13 more rounds of domestic competition and elite continental tournament resumes with knock-out phase.

February will give us some feedback on the actual condition of the team with clashes against Bayern in the Champions League and the Premier League classic at Old Trafford.

Premier League

The German giants might be living the worst institutional crisis in the last decade and need an overhaul, however, still posses enough talent to trouble anybody on their day.

Manchester United, besides the miss-step last week, are flying high since Solskjaer’s appointment. The opposition encountered in the process, besides Tottenham, isn’t on Liverpool’s level but confidence is sky-high.

And with the abundance of quality available, especially in the final third, self-believe alone can cause a lot of headaches to Klopp and his lately shaky rear-guard. Or defensive aspect, as you prefer.

City closing the gap

Without the complacency shown midweek in Newcastle, Manchester City would lead the Premier League standings at the moment. Due to better goal difference, but at the top.

Premier League

Guardiola’s team is more competitive and balanced and eventually will leap in front of Liverpool. The difficult period is over and they won’t drop too many points in the remaining games.

The setback endured last week will result in fewer lapses of concentration in the crucial part of the season.

First to succumb to the Blues’ regained determination is ever-underachieving Arsenal in the weekend. Next are Everton and Chelsea at the weekend.

If City maintains the standard this week, who’d bet against them retaining the title?

Chasing pack

Tottenham is firmly in third with eyes on the leading duo. With only 2 points short of City pretty much re-entered the title race.

Premier League

Wouldn’t be surprised if they’d be above Liverpool in the final standings.

However, I’d be absolutely astonished if they’d finish above the Citizens!

With Kane at disposal the whole time, perhaps.
Without him leading the line, I’d be even more shocked if Tottenham would end up in front of Manchester City then Liverpool winning the league!

Chelsea needs to watch out for Manchester United as Solskjear has his eyes set on CL qualification. And like a deadly striker as he used to be, once he sees the goal, he’ll go for it ruthlessly!

After the embarrassment suffered against Bournemouth, Sarri’s team rallied up and dismantled helpless Huddersfield Town in home court. Even Higuain presented himself with a brace!

Such a win was desperately needed anyhow real test awaits them in the blue side of Manchester at the weekend.

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Arsenal’s drop to sixth can’t stun anyone anymore! Wenger’s gone but his legacy lives on. Considering squad at hand, that’s, objectively, their place.

Lacazette and Aubameyang are great attackers but the rest of the material at disposal can’t support the duo adequately. Ozil included, momentarily!

Relegation battle

Burnley accumulated 12 points in the last 6 games. Half on season total up to now!

Premier League

No matter the mauling at the Ettihad Stadium in the FA Cup, January is a month they’ll have as a reference point in their quest to retain Premier League status!

Out of the relegation zone for the moment and looking to keep the fight alive till the very end.

With Liverpools’ degrade, Manchester United resilience and Burnley’s new-found hope, the best in the Premier League is yet to come.

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Manchester United winning run continues 5/5 (7)

Manchester United’s unbeaten run continues also in London. Rashford and De Gea effectively ended Tottenham’s hopes to push Liverpool and Manchester City for the title.

The leading duo continues to prove that Premier League will be decided between them. However, there is no shortage of fights down the table.

Manchester Utd’s new old face

After 5 successes on the trot, Solskjaer had his first maturity exam this weekend in London against Tottenham. For this occasion, the Norwegian care-taker relied on less adventurous tactics.

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Some might argue that if United would present the same attitude under Mourinho he’d be crucified for negative approach. And rightfully so!

Even if performance at Wembley resembled what the team showed under the Portuguese manager, this time has a different story behind it.

Despite dominant and free-scoring displays in the last few weeks, Manchester United doesn’t have a clear identity and rehearsed mechanisms that Spurs have. Wins against mid-table oppositions were achieved due to superiority in class and quality.

But Pochettino’s team can match United’s quality, therefore, Solskjear had to revert to tactics best known to the squad; keep it tight at the back and hit on the counter.

De Gea miracles

With De Gea at his scintillating best everything is possible. A little “help” from the opponents is always welcome and with a bit of luck, you have all the ingredients for a joyful afternoon.

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Because, truth to be told, Tottenham perhaps had more to do with visitor’s win then United itself.

Pogba’s pass and Rashford’s finish were as good as you can hope for. The French midfielder later confessed that similar moves were trained during the week. If that’s true then hats off!

Anyway, without the unintentional Trippier’s assistance, it would never happen.

De Gea made 11 saves, big and small miracles, but can thank Dele Alli for one of them. Midway thru the second half, ironically after a counterattack, Alli came face to face with the Spanish goalie.

United’s keeper has to be given credit for not rushing his reaction however Alli had to take that chance. A player of his caliber has to score that kind of opportunity in every match. Even more so in such important fixtures.

Apart the goal, the Northern giants had a few good situations most notably with their prime star left to shoot from the edge of the box. It could cost Manchester the win if Tottenham managed to take advantage of one of the opportunities created.

It didn’t, Manchester United won and its winning run continues.

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Winning helps winning and with another month or so facing mid-to-low table opposition, the Red Devils have a great chance to catch Chelsea in the Champions League zone.

Liverpool’s struggles

Liverpool lost top-of-the-table clash against Manchester City which allowed Guardiola’s team to reduce the gap and ply pressure on Klopp’s men.

City deserved the victory abundantly and despite numerous absences to partially justify a submissive performance, Liverpool doesn’t have the squad to keep the pace.

Defeat at the Ettihad Stadium was followed by FA Cup exit at the hands of Wolverhampton. Two false steps in a row after 20 games in domestic competition without a loss.

The Reds redeemed themselves with a narrow but ultimately extremely important triumph at the weekend. As much for the points as for the morale!

Whereas Klopp can’t be satisfied with the teams’ performance. That’s 3rd consecutive under-par showing.

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Be it for congested fixtures, injuries or form loss, every team has its off period during a season. And Liverpool is currently in such cycle.

Accumulating points in times when your game isn’t at the very top is crucial to maintain title hopes.

Manchester City’s rise

Manchester City had its own dark period last month with a couple of somewhat undeserved defeats against Chelsea and Leicester City.

However, they picked themselves up and now produce the kind of football everybody’s expecting from them.

Unbeaten Solskjaer has every right to celebrate however needs to give his side an identity if he’s to challenge the big boys.

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