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Klopp is smiling, Pep is satisfied, but Solskjaer & Lampard have plenty of worries …as bosses take stock after Int’l break

botchway September 12, 2019

 

We may only be four matches into the Premier League season but the first international break still offers managers the chance to take stock of what has transpired so far and plan ahead.

The managers of the established top six will have reached the international break in differing moods about what they’ve seen so far.

LIVERPOOL

Position: 1st (four wins from four); Next fixture: Newcastle United (H) on Saturday

Having come within a whisker of ending their long wait for a league title in May, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have clearly set out with the intention of going one better this time around.

Four wins from four.

There has been a pleasing fluency about Liverpool in their performances so far and in extending their winning league run to 13 matches, the European champions have clearly picked up where they left off last season.

The victories meant Klopp was even able to turn Sadio Mane’s angry reaction after being substituted in the 3-0 win at Burnley into a positive.

The only real concerns came in the 2-1 win at Southampton when stand-in goalkeeper Adrian made a mistake to allow the Saints back into the match.

The good news for Liverpool is that their regular keeper Alisson, who was such a calming influence last season, is stepping up his recovery following a calf injury suffered in the opening-night win over Norwich.

MANCHESTER CITY

Position: 2nd (three wins from four); Next fixture: Norwich City (A) on Saturday

You do wonder how Manchester City can improve on the near-perfection of last season’s title win but Pep Guardiola will give it a good go.

The main theme in the opening four matches of the season has been goals – they’ve scored 14 times already, two more than Liverpool.

If they continue this average of 3.5 per game until May, they’ll rack up 133 goals in the league alone.

But that would be to get carried away. While City have been rampant against West Ham, Bournemouth and Brighton, they came unstuck in their 2-2 draw with Tottenham, their only dropped points so far.

Ironically, it was City’s lack of a clinical edge that cost them that day as they created 17 chances and penned Spurs back for long periods.

City have been pretty much flawless and Guardiola will be satisfied they’ll challenge for honours on all fronts once again this season, with Liverpool their principal rivals.

ARSENAL

Position: 5th (two wins from four); Next fixture: Watford (A) on Sunday

Arsenal find themselves in the increasingly familiar position of fifth following what might be described as a predictable opening to the season.

Unai Emery’s side started with hard-fought wins over Newcastle United and Burnley only to promptly come unstuck when confronted with top-class opposition in Liverpool.

However, their comeback from two goals down in a frenetic north London derby with Tottenham suggested there is a useful fighting spirit in the ranks.

The way the Gunners dominated their rivals for most of the second half, eventually earning themselves a deserved point, will have drastically improved the mood over the international fortnight.

The good news is that their main strikers are on song – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored three already this season, while Alexandre Lacazette has two.

And there have also been positive starts by summer arrivals Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos in what does look a genuinely exciting and threatening forward line.

But Arsenal fans will feel a distinct sense of deja-vu in the defensive shortcomings that have quickly reared their head again this season.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Position: 8th (one win from four); Next fixture: Leicester City (H) on Saturday

There’s certainly plenty for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to ponder after United started his first full season in charge with just one win from four.

Any hopes of keeping pace with City and Liverpool already appear to be over and there are plenty who believe there are no assurances United will end up in the top six.

Solskjaer is a natural optimist but the stats make for uncomfortable reading – they haven’t won away from home since Solskjaer got the job full-time, their defence has just one clean sheet in 19 and it’s their lowest points return after four games since 1992-93.

The 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening weekend proved a false dawn, with subsequent draws against Wolves and Southampton, and the home defeat by Crystal Palace a more accurate reflection of where United are at the moment.

Having allowed their striking central point Romelu Lukaku to leave for Inter Milan, United have lacked a clinical edge in front of goal and now have only two senior forwards in Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

And while Harry Maguire’s arrival has added command and leadership to the back line, Victor Lindelof has looked vulnerable in the air to undo a lot of the good work.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Position: 9th (one win from four); Next fixture: Crystal Palace (H) on Saturday

It’s been a curious start to the season at Tottenham off the back of their remarkable run to the Champions League final.

A sense that things can’t really get much better than that seems to be behind the rumours swirling around manager Mauricio Pochettino’s future.

And perhaps that is proving distracting on the field, with a mixed bag of results so far. Their pressure finally paid off in a 3-1 win over Aston Villa on the opening day before much credit was derived from a 2-2 draw at title favourites Manchester City.

Then came a strangely flat home performance against Newcastle when questions were asked as to why creative spark Christian Eriksen wasn’t involved from the start.

And against Arsenal, Spurs felt simultaneously pleased and disappointed to have taken a point.

The season will only step up in pace from here and Pochettino needs to rediscover some of the old spark after an indifferent start.

CHELSEA

Position: 11th (one win from four); Next fixture: Wolves (A) on Saturday

There was understandably much excitement at Stamford Bridge when club legend Frank Lampard was appointed and he’ll be granted more patience than some managers who have gone before him.

However, it can’t be denied that the opening four games of the season have confirmed it will be a steep learning curve for this top-flight rookie.

Lampard is, of course, hamstrung by Chelsea’s transfer ban and his accent on youth – the line-up against Sheffield United had an average age of 24 years and 158 days – is admirable.

But he will be in no doubt over how unforgiving the Premier League is after that thrashing at Old Trafford and the surrender of winning positions against Leicester and Sheffield United.

At the moment, Chelsea do look vulnerable but they should improve as the season progresses and Lampard gets to know his team better.

We’ll learn quite a bit more about Chelsea in the next couple of weeks – their next three fixtures against Wolves, Valencia and Liverpool are challenging.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

 

 

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