Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Week 9 Review: A Master Class from Jose; Liverpool Makes A Statement; Toffees Win

 Top of the Table

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs defeated Man City 2-0 and moved to the top of the Premier League table as Jose Mourinho got the better of rival Pep Guardiola.  The Spurs Son Heung-min notched his ninth goal of the season five minutes into the match and the Spurs proceeded to lock down the game with trademark Mourinho defense.  The opportunistic Spurs scored on both of their two shots on target.  Harry Kane’ assist on a second half Geovani Lo Celso goal was his ninth of the season, one more than Kane accumulated over the prior three seasons combined.  Spurs have now won four in a row in their ascent to the top.

Liverpool Liverpool once again asserted the quality and depth of their roster with a decisive 3-0 victory over Leicester which extended their home unbeaten streak to sixty-four games.  The Reds are level with Spurs on points, trailing only on goal differential.  Diego Jota became the first Red to score a goal in each of his first four home appearances.  Nineteen-year-old Midfielder Curtis Jones and Right Back James Milner provided solid performances in place of the injured Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, respectively.

Chelsea – Chelsea defeated Newcastle 2-0 as goalkeeper Edouard Mendy posted his fourth clean sheet in five appearances for the Blues.  Following an early Newcastle own goal, Tammy Abraham delivered the insurance for only Chelsea’s second win in their last eight visits to St. James Park.  Kurt Zouma and N’Golo Kante were dynamic in snuffing out what few attacks were attempted by the Magpies.  Chelsea won its third consecutive match and is unbeaten in seven.

Leicester – Brendan Rogers was clearly outfoxed in Leicester’s 3-0 loss to Liverpool.  Rather than attack an opponent missing six first team players due to injury, Rogers had his Foxes lie deep and allow Liverpool to dominate play.  Passive play by the Foxes led to a third loss to Liverpool in as many games played between the two teams during Rodgers’ Leicester tenure. Leicester fall to fourth in the table, only a point ahead of Southampton.

Southampton – Saints prayers have been answered with other front-line players stepping up to help cover the absence of the injured Danny Ings.  Theo Walcott followed up last game’s assist with a goal in a 1-1 draw with Wolves.  Che Adams assisted Walcott’s goal, returning the favor from the match before.  Walcott teased with yet additional opportunities which could have meant the win. Adams has been involved in six goals in the last seven matches for the Saints.

Everton - Everton rode two first half goals by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and a third from Abdoulaye Doucoure to defeat Fulham 3-2. The win, which saw the return of Richarlison following a three-game suspension, breaks a three-game losing streak for the Toffees and boosts them, at least temporarily, back into the European places in the table. Richarlison and James Rodriguez provided some much-needed energy and flair for the Toffees before both visibly tired in the second half. Calvert-Lewin now leads the Premier League with ten goals.

Mid Table

Aston Villa – Aston Villa will be greatly disappointed with their 2-1 home loss to Brighton, a third loss in Villa’s last four matches.  Unable to convert their own early chances, the Villans allowed Danny Welbeck to get behind their defense for a forty-yard sprint to the match’s opening goal.   A controversial penalty “non-call” deprived Villa of a potential point in the final moments of injury time.  Worse yet, Ross Barkley came up injured in first half action for Villa.

West Ham – A confident strike from the top of the box by much maligned striker Sebastian Haller was the difference in West Ham’s 1-0 win at Sheffield United.  Haller, playing in place of the injured Michail Antonio, missed a later opportunity which would have made things more comfortable for the Hammers.  West Ham recorded its second consecutive win and has lost only once in its last seven matches as it moves to eighth in the table.  A fourth clean sheet by Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski ties for most by any Premier League goalkeeper this season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Wolves’ 1-1 draw with Southampton marked the seventh time in their nine matches that the club have scored no more than a goal.  Pedro Neto salvaged the point with a seventy-fifth-minute goal in a typically taut, low scoring Wolverhampton match.  Wolves have failed to score in the first half more times than any other Premier League team since the start of last season. 

Manchester United – The Red Devils grabbed three points in a 1-0 ugly win over West Brom.  The victory was the first home win this year for Manchester United.  Bruno Fernandes was allowed to retake a missed penalty kick when West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone came off his line in saving the first attempt.  Fernandes, who has scored half of his Premier League goals on penalties, was surer with his second attempt to deliver the win.  A second consecutive win moves the Red Devils to tenth position in the table.

Crystal Palace – Palace surrendered a goal after only seven minutes, allowing Burnley to lock down the game from there, as the Eagles fell 1-0 at Turf Moor.  Wilfried Zaha was a late scratch for the Eagles due to COVID, depriving Palace of its best offensive threat.  Forward Michy Batshuayi rejected a gifted goal opportunity in the second half and remains without a goal this season.  The Eagles have lost twenty of the twenty-eight matches Zaha has missed since his 2014 return to the club following his brief stint with Manchester United.

Arsenal – Arsenal failed to score for the fourth time in its last five games as the Gunners drew 0-0 with Leeds.  Line-up changes which included dropping Alexandre Lacazette and moving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang more centrally did not pay off for Arsenal.  After launching no shots on target in the first half, the Gunners went down to ten men early in the second half on a red card offense committed by Nicolas Pepe.  Arsenal has received more red cards than any other Premier League team since Mikel Arteta became Arsenal Manager.

Manchester City – Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola took the cautionary step of keeping Forwards Aguero and Sterling, who recently returned to training, on the Citizens bench during a 2-0 loss to Spurs.  Their absence, and a disciplined Spurs defense, contributed to a scoreless effort for the Citizens who have now scored no more than one goal in six consecutive games.  City have failed to score in their last two games against Spurs though a goal was disallowed on Saturday due to a handball.  Pep’s boys sit thirteenth in the table. 

Leeds – Leeds will feel frustrated with a 0-0 draw with Arsenal.  Enjoying a man advantage for much of the second half, the Whites rattled the woodwork on several occasions but failed to score.  The draw does break a two-game losing streak for Leeds and restores some confidence to a defense which had been disastrous in allowing eight goals over those two losses.

Newcastle – Steve Bruce’s defensive approach resulted in only 29% possession in a 2-0 loss to Chelsea, a second consecutive scoreless effort by Newcastle.  While facing much criticism from supporters, Bruce had few options to employ, particularly with Striker Callum Wilson being a late injury scratch for the Magpies. Wilson has six of the nine goals scored by Newcastle this season.  Newcastle has now lost five of the last seven league games played at St James Park.

Bottom of the Table

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton secured its first ever win at Villa Park with its 2-1 victory Saturday.  Danny Welbeck outpaced the Villa defense for the match’s first goal while Solly March delivered the second half winner on a strike from the top of the penalty area.  Brighton’s second win of the campaign provides some much-desired distance (five points) from the relegation places.  Welbeck adds an additional dimension up front for the Seagulls and his fitness may be key to any continued success.

Burnley – A strike by Chris Wood was Burnley’s first home goal of the season and the Clarets made it stand up for a 1-0 victory over Crystal Place.  With their first win of the 2020/21 campaign, the Clarets move out of the relegation zone and provide a major boost to supporters’ spirits.  The defense has gotten progressively better following the return of key players from injury and if they can squeeze out even a minimal amount of goals, the outlook is much brighter for Sean Dyche’s determined group.

Fulham – Fulham missed a penalty for the second consecutive week and third time this season in a 3-2 loss to Everton.  Ivan Cavaleiro lost his footing in sending his penalty kick sailing over the bar.  Second half substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek drew the penalty and then scored a 70th minute goal for the Cottagers to make the match close.  One might wonder why both Loftus-Cheek and Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic were not introduced until the second half as Fulham will regret yet another lost opportunity.  Fulham now falls back into the relegation places.

West Bromwich Albion – The Baggies kept it close in a 1-0 loss to Manchester United due to a strong performance by goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, a former Red Devil property.  Baggies Manager Slaven Bilic was unhappy to see a West Brom penalty kick opportunity overturned by VAR, only to see Manchester United win on an allowed retake of the Devils’ own penalty kick.  The loss was a third straight for West Brom which has failed to score in those three matches.

Sheffield United – Sheffield United lost a fourth consecutive match, falling 1-0 to West Ham. Desperate for goals, the Blades left expensively acquired Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster on the bench until his second half substitution as a third striker, evidence that the newest Blade is just not cutting it.  Manager Chris Wilder’s club are now winless in twelve matches dating to last season.  The Blades remain the only Premier League team without a clean sheet this season.  

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