Matchday 16: The Premier League round-up
It’s amazing how much can change in just one weekend of Premier League action.
Despite appearing in cruise control on route to defending their crown, Liverpool’s 4-0 win at Bournemouth, coupled with Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge means that Pep Guardiola’s side are suddenly the hunter, rather than the hunted.
While the Sky Blues may have tasted their first top-flight defeat of the season, it was a very different story in the Red half of Manchester.
Putting four past Fulham and putting in an uncharacteristically impressive showing, Jose Mourinho might just have his sights set on a surprise top-four finish after all?
A week that also saw the calls for VAR intensify and West Ham make it three wins on the bounce, what were the major talking points after another busy weekend of Premier League action:
Felipe Anderson steals the show
While many fans around the London Stadium would have been concerned by the news that Marko Arnautovic faces up to a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, West Ham will be incredibly excited by the ongoing form of Felipe Anderson.
With the Hammers picking up a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have now won their last three league outings on the bounce and their new talisman now has five times in his last seven games.
Scoring arguably the goal of the weekend with his beautifully whipped effort in the second half, Anderson is showing just why West Ham were willing to splash £35million on him over the summer.
Operating off the right-hand side of the Hammers’ attack, no attacking player had more touches of the ball in east London on Saturday and the Brazilian international showed once again why he is an integral part of Pellegrini’s plan.
Mohamed Salah proves he is no one hit wonder
Netting a hat-trick in Saturday’s 4-0 win at the Vitality Stadium, and becoming the quickest Liverpool player to reach 40 Premier League goals in the club’s history, it almost seems foolish that some believed Mohamed Salah could be a one season wonder.
With Jurgen Klopp announcing that he had no concerns over Salah’s ability to keep his momentum from last season, it appears the German’s trust was well placed.
With Liverpool leapfrogging City to the head of the table, Salah’s three goals on the south coast also find him sat level pegging with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the top of the goalscoring charts.
Already picking up 10 league goals this season, Anfield will be starting to believe that last year’s PFA Player of the Year could spearhead their charge to dethrone City.
Salah was simply too good for Bournemouth. He looked like the imperious Salah of last season as his pace, movement and quality finishing gave Liverpool the cutting edge their overall dominance deserved.
Ahead of their mouthwatering showdown with Manchester United next weekend, there is no doubt that the Egyptian international will be a huge part of Jose Mourinho’s pre-match preparations.
Man City miss Sergio Aguero
While Liverpool had one prolific goalscorer dominating his opposition over the weekend, the same could not be said for the defending champions.
With N’Golo Kante and David Luiz inflecting a first domestic defeat on Pep Guardiola’s side this season, it was their surprising lack of killer instinct that left the biggest impression.
Electing to play Raheem Sterling as a false nine and deeming Gabriel Jesus only good enough for a place among the substitutes, City didn’t possess the same threat that has seen them already bag 45 goals this campaign.
It is no surprise that their most sluggish attacking performance came at a time where Sergio Aguero is missing due to a groin injury.
City’s leading goalscorer has eight goals in 13 league appearances this season but, crucially, with him in the side Guardiola’s side have a conversion rate of 15.69%, second only behind Arsenal in the Premier League.
However, without the 30-year-old, City are at just 11.11% which puts them below Brighton, West Ham United and Bournemouth along with the other five teams in the ‘Big Six’.
Ahead of a hectic Christmas schedule and now playing chase to Liverpool, there is no doubt that Aguero is irreplaceable to the Sky Blues.
Man United impress without Paul Pogba
As many have noticed, United’s biggest Premier League win of the season, and arguably their best performance in recent memory came with Paul Pogba watching on from the bench.
Although Fulham’s defensive issues were still clearly on display once again at Old Trafford, United’s intensity and goals from Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford insured a very impressive 4-1 win.
Without Pogba in their side, United played with a newfound freedom, instead of constantly having to go through one man, the shackles were off and the likes of Mata and Jesse Lingard offered plenty of running and cunning, both effectively playing as No 10s with a license to roam.
No player at Manchester United has been dispossessed more times than Pogba this season and without his complacency at the heart of their midfield, Mourinho finally had something to smile about.
Although Mourinho has confirmed that Pogba will start for Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Valencia, would the Portuguese tactician be smart to leave the Frenchman among the subs for Sunday’s trip to Merseyside?
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