English Premier League talking points
Licking his wounds from the latest embarrassing away defeat, 3-0 at Wolves, Jurgen Klopp has a daunting run of games to try to turn around Liverpool’s collapsing season.
Liverpool’s next game, Everton at home in the Premier League on Feb 13, would have looked a potentially kind fixture before the weekend. But their Merseyside rivals’ stunning victory over league leaders Arsenal in new manager Sean Dyche’s first game has put the upcoming derby in a different light.
Then Liverpool go to high-flying Newcastle United before hosting Real Madrid in the Champions League – Klopp’s only real chance of rescuing an otherwise miserable season.
Looking deeply upset and speaking almost in a whisper after defeat to Wolves, Klopp had little explanation for his team’s slump this season that has seen them go from Premier League runners-up by a whisker to currently 10th and 21 points behind the leaders. “I don’t lose confidence in the boys, but I see where we have to improve,” he said.
POTTER MUST GIVE BITE TO TOOTHLESS CHELSEA
Chelsea coach Graham Potter’s big decision before Saturday’s trip to West Ham United is whether to stick with Kai Havertz as the spearhead of the Blues’ toothless attack, or bring in new faces from his enlarged squad to try to find goals.
Chelsea spent around £300 million (US$479.2 million) in the January transfer window on a cast of new players including World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez who showed off his all-round prowess in midfield in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham.
Havertz hit the post against the Cottagers but was otherwise limited in his impact while new signing David Datro Fofana had a chance cleared off the line shortly after he came on while Noni Madueke, another fresh face at Stamford Bridge, also looked sharp when he came off the bench.
With only 22 goals scored in 21 Premier League games so far this season, Potter knows he needs to rethink his frontline as a matter of urgency. “We didn’t do enough in terms of our attacking play to create more, which is something we need to do,” he said after the draw with Fulham.
STEELY TEN HAG STEERING MAN UNITED TO THE TOP
Dutch coach Erik ten Hag has worked wonders since taking over at Old Trafford, and Saturday’s victory over Crystal Palace featured a perfect illustration of his willingness to do whatever it takes to win.
Down to 10 men after Casemiro got himself sent off for a stupid altercation with Will Hughes, Ten Hag tinkered and toyed with his formation, eventually withdrawing Alejandro Garnacho, who had only been on the field for 28 minutes, and replacing him with the grit of Victor Lindelof.
Many managers would have balked at the possibility of denting the confidence of a young player who had added an extra dimension to United’s play after coming on, but not the Dutchman – he saw what needed to be done, and he did it.
He was right. Lindelof and Harry Maguire proved a perfect complement to Lisandro Martinez as Palace were shut out.
EVERTON CLAIM SHOCK WIN TO BEGIN DYCHE ERA
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta confused Everton with Burnley after his side’s shock defeat at Goodison Park and it was perhaps easy to see why as the hosts finally showed some grit.
Sean Dyche performed wonders in establishing Burnley in the top flight and Everton have turned to him to try and salvage their top-flight status.
It is early days, but Everton looked a different proposition against Arsenal and could have won by more.
Relentless pressing and commitment also engaged the Goodison Park crowd as the pall of gloom was lifted, although Dyche knows the real hard work is still to come. - REUTERS