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Dublin: 14°C Friday 23 April 2021

Liverpool expose naive City and more Premier League thoughts

Plus, Leicester continue a remarkable story and Chelsea struggle to convince.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling gets up from the back of the net after falling over attempting a shot on goal
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling gets up from the back of the net after falling over attempting a shot on goal
Image: Jon Super

1. Arsenal loss highlights importance of Coquelin

FOR ONLY THE second time in 20 visits, Arsenal suffered a surprise 2-1 loss against West Brom at the Hawthorns today.

The performance was what many people will derisively describe as ‘typical Arsenal’.

With the Gunners having put together an encouraging run of form of late, many people began quietly tipping Arsene Wenger’s side as title contenders.

However, just when they are beginning to look impeccable, the Gunners have an uncanny knack of delivering a meek performance and losing unexpectedly as a result, thereby resurrecting all the old familiar doubts about them.

One moment that was key in today’s game was the departure of midfielder Francis Coquelin through injury after just 14 minutes — Arsenal tend to look far more solid with the 24-year-old Frenchman in the side. And Coquelin’s replacement, the ageing and lightweight Mikel Arteta, unwittingly scored West Brom’s winner to instigate an afternoon of woe for Wenger’s men.

2. Liverpool expose naive Man City

Man City missed an opportunity to restore their place at the top of the league following a deserved 4-1 loss to Liverpool in today’s late kick-off.

This game was effectively over after half an hour, as the influential Brazilian duo of Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho tore a persistently vulnerable-looking City defence asunder.

Manuel Pellegrini said after the game that he did not regret his starting XI, but neutral observers will largely agree that the hosts were guilty of underestimating their opponents.

Against the better teams, City are often made to pay when they play a two-man midfield featuring the offensively-inclined Yaya Toure.

Liverpool simply overpowered their rivals in the centre of the park, with Toure in particular badly struggling to cope with the energy and dynamism of James Milner and Emre Can among others.

3. Leicester a remarkable story

Britain Soccer Premier League Jamie Vardy equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy's Premier League record today. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Leicester are top of the Premier League. I think that’s worth writing again — Leicester are top of the Premier League.

Coming towards the end of November, most people pre-season would have predicted that they would be much nearer the bottom end of the table than the top. Indeed, at this point last season (as in the 13-game mark), they were bottom of the table.

Against Newcastle today, the Foxes highlighted their class, winning 3-0, with Jamie Vardy scoring a 10th consecutive Premier League goal and equalling Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record in the process.

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Caution remains essential for the Foxes, however. At this stage last year, that campaign’s overachievers Southampton were second, before their challenge tailed off badly towards the end of the season.

Next week, though, Leicester can make another big statement, as they host the side they leapfrogged at the top today — Man United

4. United show touches of Ferguson-era ruthless streak

It was another ugly win for Louis van Gaal’s side today, as Man United laboured to a 2-1 victory at Watford.

Yet while the performance was far from flawless, the manner in which they won the game had echoes of the Ferguson era.

Clive Tyldesley’s famous commentary ”Can Manchester United score? They always score” summed up their penchant for rescuing seemingly unwinnable games during the legendary Scot’s pomp.

And there were signs of a similar ruthlessness today. After Marcos Rojo’s rash challenge handed Watford the lifeline of a penalty from which they scored, there was a purposefulness about United as they marched up the other end and restored their advantage almost straight away.

The victory temporarily put the Red Devils top of the table, and with those around them struggling to convince, Van Gaal’s habit of consistently picking up wins in spite of their conspicuous flaws means it would be foolish to entirely rule out an unlikely title triumph.

5. Chelsea still lacking confidence

Under-fire manager Jose Mourinho will no doubt be a relieved man this evening, after seeing his side pick up a 1-0 home win over Norwich and move ahead of them in the table as a result.

Diego Costa brought a seven-game goalscoring drought to an end, with an excellent finish, while Chelsea’s other stars were solid but far from their spectacular best.

The home side couldn’t find the all-important second goal goal, and Norwich consequently rallied in the final few minutes, with the nerves palpable around Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea ultimately got over the line, but it will take several more positive results and improved performances to silence the persistent whispers of internal problems and disillusioned players.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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