The week that was (Premier League Matchweek 26)

News

Munich Air Disaster 60 year anniversary

Manchester United held a service to mark the 60th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster. More than 4,500 United supporters sat in the falling snow to attend the memorial at Old Trafford.

United manager Jose Mourinho and captain Michael Carrick laid wreaths to remember the 23 casualties of the crash, including eight of United’s ‘Busby Babes’.

Survivors Sir Bobby Charlton and Harry Gregg were present at the 40-minute service, along with former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and director Michael Edelson who all gave readings.

Sooky Pep strikes again 

Pep is like that little whinny brat who has all the toys in the world, yet still finds something to whine about.

In their draw with Burnley, Manchester City had six substitutes on the bench instead of the standard seven. According to Guardiola, the reason City had one less substitute was because of an injury crisis at the club and a lack of depth in the squad.

Did it not occur to Guardiola that he could promote a player from the academy?

Under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour, City built the A$355 million City Football Academy that is considered one of the best academies in the world. Yet Guardiola insists he does not have the players to fill a seven man bench.

Former Manchester United captain and television pundit Gary Neville labelled the decision a “joke”.

“If you’re a youth team manager at Manchester City, ring him up and ask which kid deserves that boost. Who has been playing well this season and who has worked hard?”

“Forget the second team. Even if they played yesterday, bring one and put them on the bench. Bring a kid to travel with the team, help the kit man and put him on the bench to have the experience of being in a Premier League game. Give someone a boost at the club.

“If you’re the Academy or reserve team manager at Manchester City you must think ‘I’m wasting my time’. Forget the fact they’ve spent however much money, six players on the bench… to me it’s like a protest.”

Spot on Gary.

Eight is great for Swansea

Swansea’s revival under Carlos Carvalhal continued with an impressive display against Notts County in the FA Cup.

The Swans put eight past a helpless County in a display reminiscent of a FIFA game played on amateur difficulty.

Tammy Abraham and Nathan Dyer both scored braces, while Kyle Naughton, Wayne Routledge, Tom Carroll and Daniel James all found the back of the net.

The Swans will hope to continue their scoring spree against Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday.

Results

Burnley 1-1 Manchester City

West Brom 2-3 Southampton

Manchester United 2-0 Huddersfield

Leicester 1-1 Swansea

Brighton 3-1 West Ham

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke

Arsenal 5-1 Everton

Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle

Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham

Watford 4-1 Chelsea

Sir Alex Ferguson Award

The Sir Alex Ferguson of the week is awarded to the best-performed team of the week.

Arsenal

It seems like the dust has settled on the Wenger Out movement and all is well at Arsenal again.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his debut for the club and scored a lovely chip over the keeper (even though he was incorrectly called onside), while fellow new-boy Henrikh Mkhitaryan compiled a hat rick of assists.

But the star of the game was a man who epitomises Arsenal. Aaron Ramsey is a talented player who has shown glimpses of what he is capable of over his career. Ramsey’s inconsistency is a metaphor for the entire Arsenal team, but against Everton he was on fire.

The Welshman netted a hat-rick, which can only mean one thing. Three celebrities will die this week.

If you are not aware of what I am talking about here is a list of celebrities who have died after Ramsey has scored a goal.

Bebe of the week

Bebe is widely considered Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst ever signing. The Bebe award is given to the most disappointing team from the week.

Chelsea

Things are not looking good at Stamford Bridge. The champions are a shadow of themselves and the end looks near for Antonio Conte.

The Blues conceded four goals against a Watford side that had won two of their previous 10 matches in the Premier League.

Chelsea have now conceded seven goals in their past two fixtures – four against the Hornets and three against Bournemouth.

The Blues have been the butt of all jokes this week and even their on-loan star Michy Batshuayi has gotten into the act, posting the tear emoji on Twitter after the defeat.

But there is one man who would be happy with the current situation and that’s Judas himself; Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea fans started calling Mourinho Judas last year when Manchester United travelled to Stamford Bridge. But as Mourinho said at the time “Judas is still number 1” until someone betters his record of three Premier League titles at the London club.

Player of the week

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

How can you go past the Armenians performance against Everton. Mkhitaryan contributed three assist, which moves him up to eight for the season and also had 42 total passes at a success of 79%. To top it off, the playmaker got a 9.91 match rating on WhoScored.com.

If he can continue this type of performance, Arsenal fans will long forget Alexis Sanchez.

Sportdot goal of the week

There were so many incredible goals this weekend that it is difficult for me to choose one.

That is why I am letting you, the loyal reader decide on the goal of the week.

Here are the nominees:

  1. Danilo – Manchester City 

2. Lemina – Southampton

3. Izquierdo – Brighton 

4. Wanyama – Tottenham 

5. Salah – Liverpool 

6. Hazard – Chelsea  

Retro clip

Munich Air Disaster News Report

This is the BBC News report on the evening of the Munich Air Disaster on the 6th of February 1958.

 

 

 

The week that was – FA Cup

News

VAR controversy

Image courtesy: Goal.com

It seems no matter what country it is being used in, VAR is causing a lot of havoc. The technology was used twice in the match between Liverpool and West Brom. First it was used to rule out an early West Brom goal from Craig Dwason for offside.

It was then used on the pitch-side monitor by referee Craig Pawson – the first time the on-field review has occurred in English football – to change his decision and award a penalty to Liverpool, after Jake Livermore fouled Mohamed Salah. Fortunately for West Brom, Roberto Firmino missed his spot kick.

After the game Baggies manager Alan Pardew said the first goal would not have been disallowed without VAR’s intervention.

Pardew also complained that nobody watching in the stadium knew what was happening.

“In the stadium it was bizarre,” Pardew told the BBC. “There’s no screen for us. It’s not like tennis, we were completely in the dark.”

Sooky Pep cries foul

For a man on top of the league, Pep Guardiola sure does complain a lot. The Manchester City manager has urged the referees to protect the players more after it was reported Leroy Sane will be out for two to four weeks with an ankle injury, following a physical tackle from Cardiff full-back Joe Bennett.

“It’s his ankle. I have said many times – the only thing they [the officials] have to do is protect the players,” Guardiola told the BBC.

“But please protect the players. Not the Manchester City players, [all] the players. The only thing they can do is that: protect the players. Or it will happen again. The players are the artists and you have to take care of them. That’s why you are here and why I’m here. For them, the players.”

It’s not the only topic Guardiola has complained about this week. The Spaniard said he has been restrained from making big money purchases by Manchester City’s budget.

“Their salaries we cannot pay. There are budgets for the transfers and we cannot pay. In the future, it may change but we haven’t paid more than £80m-£100m for one player. We cannot pay that right now, it is the truth.”

In Guardiola’s two seasons at the club, Manchester City have spent A$639 million on player acquisitions, more than Manchester United have spent in that time. Three of the five biggest transfer fees paid for defenders have been by Guardiola at City. The Sky Blues are also about to spend close to A$100 million on Athletic Bilbao centre-back Aymeric Laporte.

I think I will end the argument with the words of Cardiff manager Neil Warnock.

“City dished out a bit, as well. He [Guardiola] is in England. What do you expect? I suppose when you’re like that you want everything to be nice and pretty but you don’t get that in England. You get different challenges, don’t you?”

Gunners edge closer to Aubameyang

Arsenal are close to finalising a deal for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The deal is believed to be in the region of A$105 million and will allow Oliver Giroud to move to Chelsea.

Aubameyang has netted 13 goals in the Bundesliga this season and will be expected to link up with former Dortmund colleage Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Results

Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 Reading

Yeovil Town 0-4 Manchester United

Peterborough 1-5 Leicester

Southampton 1-0 Watford

MK Dons 0-1 Coventry

Hull City 2-1 Nottingham Forest

Millwall 2-2 Rochdale

Sheffield United 1-0 Preston North End

Middlesbrough 0-1 Brighton

Huddersfield 1-1 Birmingham

Notts County 1-1 Swansea

Wigan 2-0 West Ham

Newport County 1-1 Tottenham

Liverpool 2-3 West Brom

Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle

Cardiff 0-2 Manchester City

Sir Alex Ferguson award

The Sir Alex Ferguson of the week is awarded to the best-performed team of the week.

West Brom

West Brom have had a difficult time in the Premier League this season, but their form in the FA Cup has been a highlight. Liverpool went into the tie with a 19-game unbeaten home record. The Baggies on the other hand entered the match sitting last in the Premier League and had lost 12 of their 20 away matches. In a match filled with controversy – courtesy of VAR, West Brom held on for a 3-2 victory. Former Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez was the hero netting two goals.

Bebe of the week

Bebe is widely considered Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst ever signing. The Bebe award is given to the most disappointing team from the week.

Liverpool

How can you not go past Loserpool (sorry I mean Liverpool). The Reds are the gift that keeps on giving. With the thrilling three up front and a A$122 million defender in the team, the Reds were expected to easily account for a side sitting bottom of the Premier League. But as is the case, the Reds failed to land the knock out punch and have now been knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round for the fourth consecutive year under Jurgen Klopp. Ironically the man who tormented the Reds was former Southampton player Jay Rodriguez. Liverpool have purchased six players from the Saints since 2014, yet the one player they didn’t purchase was the one who single handily beat them. Maybe Rodriguez will be in Liverpool’s summer transfer plans.

Player of the week

Will Grigg

West Ham’s defence was terrified because Will Grigg was on fire. The man with the best chant in world football has been a revelation in the FA Cup, scoring six goals in four games. Grigg scored both of Wigan’s goals to send the Hammers packing from the cup. Hopefully Grigg continues to perform so us fans can keep singing his song.

Sportdot goal of the week

Jesse Lingard

Could Lingard be a bolter for the Ballon d’Or? The Manchester United star has been a revelation this season, becoming a first team starter and scoring 12 goals in all competitions. Lingard has always had the knack of scoring stunning goals and his run and shot against Yeovil Town is Messi-esque. Watch him be a star at the World Cup.

Retro clip

1973 FA Cup Final

Mighty Leeds United were the reigning FA Cup holders when they came up against Second Division Sunderland in the 1973 FA Cup Final. Ian Porterfield first half strike gave the Black Cats the lead and Leeds responded but throwing everything at goalkeeper Jim Montgomery.

Montgomery stood tall and produced one of the best goalkeeping displays ever seen, with the highlight being an amazing double save.

When the full time whistle sounded, Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe ran on to the pitch to celebrate, a celebration that has been captured in a stature at the Stadium of Light.

One of the true football fairy tales.

Press for success – How Liverpool beat Manchester City

Liverpool did it.

Manchester City’s unbeaten run is over. The Reds 4-3 victory over the top of the table City makes them the one in 22 and 1.

Liverpool fans can rejoice, while the rest of the Premier League can take note; Manchester City are not unbeatable as once thought.

But how did Liverpool achieve the feat that 18 other Premier League teams failed accomplish?

When Manchester United took on City in early December, Jose Mourinho set his side up to defend first and counter City on the attack. The tactics were rightfully criticised and the result all but confirmed City as the title winners.

Liverpool also went out to defend, but instead of sitting back and waiting for City to attack them, the Reds intended to defend on the attack.

“The plan was to defend as well as we could all over the pitch and then attack them when we could,” Liverpool’s Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlin said after the game.

City and Liverpool are the top two scorers in the league. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are known for their attacking play and the match was always built up to be an exhibition of attacking football.

Klopp’s philosophy is all about pressing. Klopp has previously said his teams pressing is ‘out of this world’ and the stats prove the press has been a success.

Since taking charge of Liverpool in 2015, the Reds have scored 187 goals at a rate of 2.1 per game.

This year with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino up front, the Reds have scored 54 goals.

Outscoring City was the only way Liverpool were going to win and to do that they had to be ruthless in front of goal.

City have been unstoppable, but there was always a question mark over their defence.

In their 0-0 draw to Crystal Palace at the start of 2018, City were pressed high up the pitch, which isolated their defenders in one on one battles with the Palace forwards. Whilst defending individually City’s defence made uncharacteristic errors and conceded a clumsy penalty. Fortunately for for the Sky Blues, Palace failed to capitalise on the mistakes.

Against better opposition City would not be as fortunate, as was the case against Liverpool.

The Sky Blues set up in a 4.3.3 formation and tried to play out from the back as much as they could. They went down a goal, courtesy of an Oxlaide-Chamberlin screamer, but levelled the scores just before half time through Leroy Sane.

The second goal City conceded was all to do with Liverpool’s press. Georginio Wijnaldum and Oxlaide-Chamberlin double teamed Kevin De Bruyne, who lost possession of the ball, before Oxlaide-Chamberlin put through an inch perfect pass for Firmino to finish off with a goal.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlin double teaming De Bruyne. Image courtesy of BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’.

The third goal was again created by pressure. Four Liverpool players swarmed Fernandinho, who coughed the ball up in the middle of the ground, which then led to a Mane stunner.

Four Reds swarm Fernandinho. Image courtesy of BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’.

The final goal was all to do with perceived pressure. Ederson has a pass completion rate of 85.3 per cent, but with the speedy trio of Mane, Firmino and Salah hot on his heel, the goalkeeper ran out of his box to win the ball and then erratically gave the ball away to Salah, who scored a long range chip.

Despite three of the four goals coming off the back of pressure, the best example of the Reds press came in the 74th minute, when left-back Andrew Robertson performed a continuous press that saw him end up in the right wing position.

Some people believe pressing is a simple task that can be performed by any fit side. But if that was the case, every team would have been able to achieve what Liverpool accomplished and Manchester City would not have been undefeated in 22 games this season.

According to Alan Shearer on the BBC’s Match of the Day, teams need “energy, pace, legs, courage and belief” to play the way Liverpool did.

Shearer also said only Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham have the capability to deploy the same tactics.

But that won’t stop other teams from trying. The rest of the league will try to deploy the same tactics and force City’s defence into one of one defending.

The first challenger will be Newcastle this weekend and it will be interesting to see how they set up against the wounded ladder leaders.