EPL GW10 Review: Are Liverpool being Muscled Out?

Injuries, injuries, injuries… and yet… no-one else seems to be suffering as severely. Perhaps the Gegenpress is not conducive to lockdown football.

“The biggest risk to Jurgen Klopp winning the league again this season is another big injury or two. So, he wants to try and gain that advantage to put some psychological thing into people’s minds. Sir Alex Ferguson did it for 15 or 16 years.” Gary Neville, MNF 01.12.20

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher again put on a show during Monday Night Football on Sky Sports, fiercely debating Jurgen Klopp, VAR and other points. The particular highlight was the disagreement between them regarding the number of injuries being racked up by Liverpool and Klopp’s persistent arguments that it’s everyone else’s fault but his. Surprisingly, Neville was willing to make the statement that Liverpool will win this league with a canter, if they were not to pick up these injuries. It’s how I feel too. Liverpool look like the strongest team in the league by some distance, have experience of winning, and critically have improved their squad from last season with an on-fire Jota. The biggest challenge to their season is the increasing injury list, and Klopp is making a fanfare of it. Neville senses the similarities between Klopp and Ferguson, who also maintained a squad who should walk the league, knowing only injuries were to impact on their success. The answer, find as many ways to prevent those injuries without taking your foot off the gas. Fergie’s United squad was much more impressive on the whole, and allowed more rotation. Klopp on the other hand is struggling to rotate key individuals, such as Robertson and Alexander-Arnold. For anyone that missed MNF, or generally do not take the time to watch Carra and G. Nev battle it out, start trying to find the time for it. Even if it is a little Liverpool / United biased…

In other news, Feudball’s Preview promoted Match of the Weekend Everton vs Leeds set a new season record for shots in a game. You’re welcome. I mean, I had predicted GOALS GOALS GOALS – and they gave it their all. It’s astonishing that match finished with just the one goal considering the 38 shots on goal – 14 on target.

Equally, the Stalemate of the Bridge played out entirely as expected. Neither team needed to risk defeat in victory and it was hugely apparent as even the ardent fan must have struggled to see the match out. Chelsea edged the game, but it will be Mourinho that left Stamford Bridge the happier – even if he claimed his dressing room was unhappy with just the point.

Finally, we had predicted Nick Pope as Man of the Weekend and what a standout prediction. It turns out… without him Burnley got battered at The Etihad 5-0 for the 4th consecutive season. It was an ambitious shout out to the Burnley #1, especially as he didn’t take to the pitch – but imagine what it could have been if he had played! So… let’s look at what did happen elsewhere.

Match of the Weekend: Southampton 2 Manchester United 3

If like the rest of society you are obsessed with nostalgia, this was the place to find it. Southampton, the bogie team of 90s United, startled the inconsistent Red Devils taking a two goal first half lead. James Ward Prowse, scoring another sublime free-kick, had Beckham comparisons being made all over the internet. Changing goalkeepers at half-time… a thing of the past, but ironically a thing for the future – Dean Henderson’s Man Utd Premier League debut. A lucky United comeback… a centre-forward in the mould of Mark Hughes throwing himself without thought for his own welfare to score the winner… in FERGIE TIME. The best thing about this nostalgic visit, no VAR headlines. All blood and glory left on the pitch. Southampton players, staff and fans could feel rightly hard done by and gutted by the result, but I have a lot of time for Manager Ralph Hussenthal’s comments after the game.

“We hear them celebrating in their dressing room… You know what you have done and how tough you have been because they were celebrating like they had won the Premier League here”. Southampton are not Manchester United, but they should take huge pride in their achievements this season, and all celebrate how far they have come since that 9-0 home Leicester defeat. Also remember they are still without their best player Danny Ings.

Result of the Weekend: Leicester 1 Fulham 2

They can do it! They’re here to stay! We hope…

Fulham set out to out-Leicester Leicester on Monday Night Football and boy did they do it well. It took about 5 minutes for me to consider backing Leicester to win as a mistake. Fulham’s ‘front-three’ looked sharper, harder, faster than the Leicester defence on each counter-attack and it was only a matter of time until the breakthrough occurred. The difficulty from there was in keeping them out at the other end and Fulham held their structure and their nerve through to the 95th minute to take their first away win of the season.

They even scored a penalty! Amazing. Now Scott Parker must make sure this isn’t a one-off, and they can use this to carry momentum into their upcoming fixtures – with Man City away next, it’s important not to lose faith and morale in defeat. But… if they could do it to Leicester, why shouldn’t they back themselves to steal another 3 points?

In Form: Chelsea Defence

Chelsea and Spurs are theoretically the best defences in the Premier League this season, it was no real surprise to see them see out a goalless draw. Lampard has really turned round the fortunes of the Chelsea backline since… well let’s be fair it’s since Mendy arrived to play in goal. But it’s not entirely down to his signing (anyone replacing Kepa was going to bring a confidence boost) as Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell are also successful new purchases this season and Reece James has made the right back position his own. They held Kane and Son at arm’s length, restricting Spurs to barely leaving the bus station.

Chelsea will have greater challenges ahead, but there is belief that this stubborn defence will create the base for winning trophies.

Out of Form: Sheffield United

Last season, Chris Wilder and Sheffield United were winning games, fans, friends, plaudits… they were the Hen laying the golden egg. Everyone wanted to be them, understand how they made it work with overlapping centre-backs etc.

This season, it just isn’t happening. They can argue they have been unlucky in games, they have had close games regularly, but they’re just not clicking and they’re falling too far from safety. One point from 10 league games is relegation form. Wilder remains well spoken, calm and logical about things. They don’t need to set the world alight, they just need to make sure there’s 3 teams below them when the season ends. Can they achieve that? Of course – but it will require them getting wins on the board soon, and regularly.

EPL GW9 Review; Contenders and Pretenders

As Spurs perform perfect parallel parking of the bus, inconsistency around them continues and a leading pack begins to develop.

You heard it here first… SkyBet are offering 25/1 on the Premier League season ending with Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea the Top 3 in any order. With current form, strength in depth, attacking flair and now a dependable solid backbone running through each side… how can you possibly conceive anyone breaking their grip on the title race?

Spurs are doing everything correctly in proving doubters wrong, proving themselves wrong, and possibly proving their fans wrong. Mourinho has always been recognised as a serial winner by ‘any means necessary’, something that many were sceptical he could achieve with this ‘Spursy’ group. However their performance in working harder, faster and more effective than Man City shows they’re a serious threat to Liverpool’s title defence. They can go one step further when they visit Stamford Bridge next weekend which is guaranteed to be the one to watch on Sunday at 430pm.

Chelsea are on fire. No side has kept as many clean sheets, no side has scored more. Chelsea are by no means the finished product, but the distance they have come so quickly, and with the electric potential all around their youthful squad, means if they can keep it together defensively long enough – per game – over the season… they will certainly be there or thereabouts. I reserve the same questions over Lampard for a successful season, however no-one below them looks like putting a run of games together sufficiently to settle in the Top 3. Selecting both Abraham and Werner, they added another assist and goal combo to see off a stubbornly boring Newcastle side this weekend.

It’s not too early to get excited about a mouth watering, table topping, fiery London derby…

Finally Liverpool, who despite injuries racking up across their line-up, looked like a machine once more. The personnel almost becomes irrelevant when the system is in working order. Take Milner for example, not only comfortably slotting in at right back in the place of Alexander-Arnold, but he also added two assists to make up for the missing wingback. No Salah, no problem – then consider how good this 3 week rest must be for the elite striker – to return to the Liverpool side with the likelihood of them being top of the tree at the start of December. Matip and Fabinho at the back is reassuringly secure, they didn’t have too much to do against a seriously disappointing Leicester side, but they did it well and consistently.

Who out of the rest of the pack could ultimately break this threesome up? City again looked poor, this is their worst start for over a decade, and they’ve scored only 10 goals from 8 games. Take the ‘Man City’ label aside, and they’re on the kind of form that made us initially question whether Pep could do it in England. City will improve, but they have a long way to go to be consistent enough for a title challenge in my opinion and suddenly look good at 4/1 to miss out on the Top 4.

Leicester, Aston Villa, Everton, Southampton, Wolves, Man Utd, Arsenal… do me a favour. Leicester were the most disappointing outfit of the weekend. They have suffered a few defensive injuries this term, but it was their inability to find forward players, move the ball, and one dimensional football that concerns me about them competing at the top. Villa – do not trust them – that is all. Everton improved, will continue to improve, but are too reliant on key individuals that when they do not perform, the team does not perform, and they concede too many goals currently not seeing games out. The rest are all capable of beating anyone on their day, but when push comes to shove, probably do not have enough killer instinct.

So I re-iterate… 25/1 for Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea to finish Top 3 in any order.

Wow. Now all that’s been said… let’s get to the real meat of the weekend.

Tipped Treble:

A quick shout out to my Tipped Treble portion of the Feudball Preview Show. Another successful showing means that if you have followed my Trebles this season for £10 stakes, you would be up… £8.40!!

Taking Aston Villa Trebles out of the equation (I have backed their games 4 times and lost every time) you would be up… £48.40!!

More importantly here at Feudball in the last 3 weeks we have predicted 3 out of 4 winning tips, so well worth keeping an eye on in the lead up to Christmas.

Match of the Weekend: Fulham vs Everton

If for no other reason… Fulham’s Penalty nightmare is reason enough to be invested in their live matches! It’s now 3 misses from 3 games by 3 different players, and what could be more comical than missing a last minute penalty for a draw? It’s obviously falling over whilst taking said penalty and kicking it twice resulting in a free-kick. It’s no laughing matter at the Cottage, theoretically that goal would have earned another point.

What they did bring was open spaces, as predicted in the Over Goals market, and it’s expected that will continue for both sides. Fulham do not look full of goals and yet… they’ve now equalled Arsenal and Wolves – doubling Sheff Utd and Burnley. Could this momentum infront of goal salvage enough points? Nah…

Everton returned to winning ways, but their drop off in the 2nd half will have raised major concerns. Ancelotti will get consistency in this team, built from organisation and structure, but this weekend with a change of shape they allowed Fulham to get back in the game. The real treat about all of this was it being shown live on the BBC meaning more people than ever were tuned in and it didn’t disappoint the neutrals.

Man of the Weekend: Jose Mourinho

Jose deserves all the attention and plaudits for the result against City this weekend, but he was equally right to point that credit to his full squad of players who put the graft in to achieve the performance. Everyone knows how Jose works in specialist games like this, that the whole event is broken down into opportunities for success and failure and he knows that comes down to the individuals to win individual battles. What is more impressive is how he has built this collection of players into more than just a team, but a military unit, that fights for one another, fights for the badge, fights for the win. He now has another – arguably more difficult – proposition next weekend, not that he would be drawn on it until the Thursday night fixture has been completed in their pursuit of all 4 trophies available?!

Result of the Weekend: Sheff Utd 0 West Ham 1

Here’s why Sheff Utd are in the shit. They no longer have any confidence to string passes together, to get shots on goal, nor to prevent the opposition the space to create their own chances. Then there’s not enough time between games to shake that lack of confidence. As predicted before, this is not a situation Chris Wilder has ever been in with Sheff Utd and will lead to further pain.

Losing at home to West Ham is another disappointment and another loss to a bottom half side that will re-enforce their imposter syndrome that they actually do not belong in the Premier League. The worst possible thing to happen to Sheff Utd has been lockdown, as they’re by far the worst team on record playing without fans.

One thing they definitely should not do, is remove Chris Wilder from his job. They should look to get away on a clean break, to reset. If that fails, just accept the inevitable and make the necessary actions to return to the Premier League at the earliest opportunity.

In Form: Che Adams

Fair play to Adams, who endured a torrid time settling into Premier League life with Southampton. It took him 20+ Premier League appearances before he was able to find the back of the net, and had been so out of form that occasionally Shane Long was picked ahead of him. Fortunately, that one goal – a lob over Ederson in a Southampton win over City last season – has been a catalyst (within 90 second video below).

He started this season very brightly working alongside Danny Ings, still in the England forward’s shadow, but finding ways to contribute. Now it appears his redemption is complete. Saints fans would have been devastated by the loss of Ings to injury but in the games without him, Adams has 2 assists and one goal in Southampton’s 2 wins and a draw. If he continues this run of form when Ings returns, Southampton will have a goal scoring front 2, which can cause problems against any defence. In the meantime he can continue to work with Theo Walcott who scored his first Saints goal since joining on loan.

Out of Form: Arsenal – again.

It’s over 6 hours since Arsenal scored a League goal in open play. To word this differently… Arsenal have failed to score from open play in all but 4 of their League games, breaching only the Fulham, West Ham and Sheff Utd goal line with match points return. Those victories seemed to be evidence of the positive changes Arteta was making at The Emirates. Fast forward past underwhelming football boredom against Liverpool, Man City, Leicester, Man Utd, Aston Villa and Leeds and you have a side struggling.

Whilst those sides are arguably the better of the Premier League, Arsenal head into the North London Derby in a fortnight with only a tough Wolves match to prepare – in which they will almost certainly draw a blank again. They say form is temporary, class is permanent. Is there any class there? Remember this is a side that has been full of class in utilising furlough, letting staff go, keeping Ozil on but refusing to play him, in-house arguing about their football mascot… Arsenal fans could find out too late that the class has gone too. The hope in their favour is in having met most of the big sides and turning round wins against the bottom half of the table.