We learnt from the Premier League

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

Ad­van­tage Chelsea and Liver­pool as Cham­pi­ons League takes its toll ONLY two teams in the top 10 claimed vic­to­ries this week, and both of them had the week off. Chelsea and Liver­pool fail­ing to qual­ify for Euro­pean foot­ball last sea­son could prove a bless­ing in dis­guise for their Premier League am­bi­tions, as Liver­pool demon­strated in that fa­mous 2013/14 sea­son.

Ar­se­nal, Tot­ten­ham and Manch­ester City all looked lethar­gic in their draws with Mid­dles­brough, Bournemouth and Southamp­ton re­spec­tively, while Manch­ester United were noth­ing short of abysmal in the 4-0 thrash­ing by Chelsea on Sun­day. All three man­agers men­tioned the im­pact play­ing in mid­week may have had on their sides.

But for Chelsea and Liver­pool, they are only just be­gin­ning to reap the re­wards. Ar­se­nal, Spurs and City – along with Le­ices­ter – have only played three Cham­pi­ons League matches and still have three to go in the group stages, and should they ne­go­ti­ate that they will restart their Euro­pean cam­paigns in Fe­bru­ary with at least an­other two matches in mid­week.

If they want to main­tain their ti­tle chal­lenge through­out the sea­son, then squad ro­ta­tion or Jan­uary re­in­force­ments are a ne­ces­sity.

Are United re­ally that bad? NOT so long ago, ev­ery foot­ball writer and his dog was tip­ping Manch­ester United to not only chal­lenge for the Premier League ti­tle, but to win it. United had bought big in the sum­mer, landed ‘The Spe­cial One’ in Jose Mour­inho and had young emerg­ing tal­ent like Mar­cus Rash­ford and Jesse Lin­gard that would help carry the side to the top of the ta­ble.

Now, they’re the whip­ping boys of the ‘big six’, and af­ter suf­fer­ing a hu­mil­i­at­ing loss at Chelsea, they no longer have a squad good enough to chal­lenge for top hon­ours. The same was said of Chelsea last sea­son, when just about ev­ery­one pre­dicted an­other ti­tle suc­cess at Stam­ford Bridge. Yet Chelsea fell well short of ex­pec­ta­tions and af­ter sack­ing Mour­inho to bring in Guus Hid­dink, they ended the sea­son down in 10th.

What’s the one con­stant be­tween the two teams? Mour­inho.

Wenger takes crit­i­cism over trans­fers, but de­serves credit for sign­ing Cech YAYA SANOGO, An­dre San­tos, Kim Kall­strom. It’s fair to say that Arsene Wenger has made some fairly re­gret­table trans­fers over the years, but he de­serves much more praise than he re­ceives for land­ing Petr Cech (car­i­ca­ture) from Lon­don ri­vals Chelsea last year.

Cech has been noth­ing short of bril­liant since ar­riv­ing at the Emi­rates, and his tal­ent has helped the ma­jor­ity of Ar­se­nal fans quickly for­get his Blue roots. The 34-year-old sin­gle-hand­edly saved the Gun­ners a point on Satur­day in the 1-1 draw with Mid­dles­brough, and af­ter cost­ing just £7m, Chelsea’s de­ci­sion to sell him to one of their main ri­vals still de­fies be­lief.

Liver­pool are hor­ri­bly ex­posed at set-pieces JUR­GEN KLOPP has hit out at crit­ics of Liver­pool’s de­fence, but the prob­lem is that they are draw­ing light to his side’s one main weak­ness. For all their tal­ents in mov­ing the ball for­ward and at­tack­ing when they don’t have pos­ses­sion, Liver­pool are noth­ing short of dread­ful when the ball en­ters their area via the aerial route.

New goal­keeper Loris Kar­ius (top) looks well out of his depth in the Premier League as he re­peat­edly flaps at any­thing that comes near him and shows in­de­ci­sion when given the choice of com­ing for the ball or not. The young Ger­man could yet de­velop into a fine goal­keeper – we’ve seen some­thing sim­i­lar with David De Gea at United – but with him cur­rently ex­posed to the high ball, he needs de­fend­ers that can com­mand the space around him and pro­tect their goal.

Klopp knows that the high ball is Liver­pool’s main weak­ness – he said so af­ter the 2-1 win over West Brom af­ter see­ing a fourth goal con­ceded this sea­son from a set-piece – but he doesn’t want to make it so ob­vi­ous that teams start to pep­per his side’s area in a bid to cause chaos.

Luck­ily for Klopp, not many of their ri­vals beyond United look to im­pose via the aerial route, and Mour­inho’s side still man­aged to make a meal of

that last Mon­day.

How can City play­ers show con­fi­dence when they re­ceive none from Guardi­ola THE END of Manch­ester City’s 100% start to the sea­son has co­in­cided with their play­ers be­ing drained of con­fi­dence, but it’s no won­der why when Pep Guardi­ola leaves them on edge that their ca­reers at the Eti­had Sta­dium could end at any mo­ment. Joe Hart has al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced this, de­spite be­ing one of the form goal­keep­ers in the Premier League for the best part of eight years.

Vincent Kompany and Ser­gio Aguero now look the most at risk of get­ting the axe, while the less said about Yaya Toure the bet­ter.

If Guardi­ola is happy to chop and change as he sees fit, he must un­der­stand that it is go­ing to have a neg­a­tive im­pact on this sea­son’s out­come. That may be the sac­ri­fice Guardi­ola has to make in or­der to fi­nally ful­fil City’s Euro­pean de­sire, but it won’t look pretty while he does it.

Last-gasp de­feat leaves Sun­der­land and Moyes adrift WE ALL know how cruel foot­ball can be, but you have to feel for David Moyes right now. This Sun­der­land squad is well short of the cal­i­bre re­quired to stay in the Premier League, and with the loom­ing avail­abil­ity of his pre­de­ces­sor, Sam Al­lardyce, fol­low­ing his ac­ri­mo­nious Eng­land exit, the pic­ture looks pretty bleak at the Sta­dium of Light.

Satur­day’s in­jury-time de­feat by West Ham was es­pe­cially hard to take given that Sun­der­land only have two points this sea­son – their worst start to a Premier League cam­paign af­ter nine matches – and they were just min­utes away from claim­ing what could prove a valu­able point.

Win­ston Reid had other ideas though, and Moyes’s de­meanour in his very short press con­fer­ence af­ter­wards dis­played his pain. Un­for­tu­nately, there’s go­ing to be plenty more of that this sea­son for Sun­der­land.

New man­ager, but same old Ever­ton IN Ron­ald Koe­man, Ever­ton be­lieve that they had landed the man­ager that could fi­nally get the best out of their cur­rent crop of play­ers. The Dutch­man’s cre­den­tials come with jus­ti­fi­ca­tion fol­low­ing his im­pres­sive work with Ajax, PSV Eind­hoven and Southamp­ton, so why have the wheels fallen off Ever­ton’s strong start to the sea­son?

They dom­i­nated Burn­ley, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half when search­ing for a win­ning goal, and yet some­how came out of the short trip to Turf Moor with a 2-1 de­feat.

Much has been made of the abil­i­ties of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley among oth­ers, but right now Koe­man is not able to bring the best out of them.

Is that be­cause the rest of the squad are not up to scratch? Maybe. Does it have any­thing to do with an ex­pec­tant Ever­ton sup­port? Un­likely – they have a bet­ter record at home than away this sea­son. The an­swer at mo­ment re­mains un­known, and un­til Koe­man can solve the Ever­ton co­nun­drum, then an­other sea­son of al­so­rans will be on the cards. – The In­de­pen­dent

Vincent Kompany and Ser­gio Aguero now look the most at risk of get­ting the axe at Manch­ester City

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