Friday, December 29, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 19: Liverpool Leads At The League’s Halfway Mark; Reds Prevail Over Burnley as Arsenal Hammered; Young Guns Key Manchester United Come Back Versus Aston Villa; Seagulls Knock Spurs Down Pecking Order; Newcastle Felled By Trees; Wolves Feast On Bees

Liverpool is the Premier League leader at the season’s halfway mark. The Reds had little problem cruising 2-0 by Burnley on Tuesday, making it six wins in as many Premier League Boxing Day contests for Manager Jurgen Klopp. The Reds then sat back to enjoy Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham on Thursday. The new table leaders will be encouraged by the club scoring multiple goals without Mohamed Salah making the scoresheet. The club has been overly reliant on the Egyptian forward at times this season. On Tuesday, the scorers were Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota, assisted by linemates Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz, respectively. If Salah’s attack brethren can continue to click, the possibilities are endless when matched with the proficiency of a Liverpool defense which has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League.

The Arsenal attack sputtered in its home loss to West Ham. Thirty shots failed to seriously trouble West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola as Arsenal became the first Premier League club in six years to take that many shots and fail to score. Futility in finding the net is becoming a trend which endangers the Gunners’ title chances. Arsenal has taken 81 shots in its last four matches to produce just three goals. Unsurprisingly, Arsenal has won just one of those matches. West Ham Manager David Moyes earned his first ever away win at Arsenal as his charges delivered a master class in his preferred style of play. The Hammers scored on two of their three shots on target while conceding 74% of the possession to Arsenal.

Aston Villa also lost ground in the title chase as Manchester United came back from two goals down to defeat Villa 3-2 at Old Trafford. Performances by its young attackers will have lifted the spirits of Red Devil supporters. Nineteen-year-old Alejandro Garnacho scored a second half brace to bring Manchester United level after Aston Villa had led 2-0 at halftime. Twenty-year-old Rasmus Hojlund then scored his long awaited first Premier League goal to complete the comeback win.

That other Manchester side, defending Premier League champion Manchester City, also came from behind in a 3-1 win at Everton. The Citizens spotted the Toffees a first half goal before scoring three of their own in the second half to hand Everton a second consecutive league loss. The Manchester City victory, combined with Tottenham Hotspur’s loss at Brighton, moved the Citizens back into the Premier League’s top four. Everton has now lost to Spurs and Manchester City in consecutive matches to again raise the specter of relegation for the Toffees.

Luton Town has won back-to-back matches to move within a point of 17th place Everton. The Hatters won their relegation six pointer at Sheffield United on Tuesday, 3-2, when the Blades committed two late own goals to hand the match to Luton Town.

There was little drama in Brighton’s 4-2 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur. The Seagulls soared to a four-goal lead as of the 80-minute mark before two late goals by Spurs made the scoreline more respectable. Two of the Brighton goals came by way of penalty kicks converted by the Seagulls’ Joao Pedro. Sloppy defensive play, evidenced in the fouls leading to both penalty kicks, was all too characteristic for a Spurs side which has conceded the most goals in the Premier League since the start of November. The Brighton victory was just its second in the last six league matches for the Seagulls while the loss ended Tottenham Hotspur’s three match winning run.

Newcastle lost for a fourth time in their last five Premier League matches in a sobering 3-1 loss to Nottingham Forest at St. James Park. Manager Eddie Howe deserves some scrutiny as he has stubbornly played a consistent outfield lineup, refusing to rotate his players selections despite a congested fixture list in recent weeks. Howe will point to a thin roster impacted by injuries. Other clubs, however, are dealing with the same issues and the fatigue factor brought about by Howe’s decisions has factored in the club’s horrendous form. Nottingham Forest Manager Nuno Espirito Santo, meanwhile, was left to savor his first victory in charge of the Trees. Former Newcastle player Chris Wood was subdued in celebrating each of his three goals for Forest out of respect for his former club. The win was essential for Forest as a loss would likely have meant the relegation zone. Nottingham Forest is currently safe by two points with a single net goal advantage on 18th place Luton Town.

Bournemouth, once part of the relegation battle this season, continued its remarkable turn of fortune with a 3-0 defeat of Fulham. The Cherries won their fourth consecutive match and sixth in a seven-match unbeaten run. Dominic Solanke had a penalty kick versus the Cottagers for his fifth goal in the Cherries’ last three matches. The former Chelsea and Liverpool forward now has 12 goals for the season which ties him with Mohamed Salah for the joint second most in the Premier League behind Erling Haaland’s 14 goals.

Chelsea fielded the youngest starting side in the club’s Premier League history as the Blues defeated Crystal Palace 2-1 in a London derby. Injuries and suspensions forced Chelsea Manager Mauricio Pochettino to reach deep into his bench with little used substitute Noni Madueke scoring the winning penalty kick in the 89th minute.

Brentford could be headed for trouble after the Bees were ravaged by Wolves 4-1 on Wednesday. Manager Thomas Frank’s side has now lost four in a row and six of its last seven to fall from a comfortable ninth place in the table to within four points of the relegation line following the loss to Wolves. Hwang Hee-Chan had a brace for Wolves, the ninth and tenth goals of the season for the Korean international.  

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