Premier League Talking Points: Race for third, Lampard's defence, and Liverpool's depth
Four talking points from yet another weekend of exciting Premier League football that saw Liverpool, Chelsea and Leciester City drop points.
Jose Mourinho might have 99 problems but beating Arsenal at home is certainly not one. The Spurs manager continued his good form against the Londoners with a 2-1 victory over the weekend that also big guns Chelsea and Leicester City capitulate to hand Manchester United a glorious opportunity to finish third.
The weekend also saw the end of Norwich’s stay at the top division after they got relegated following a 4-0 loss against West Ham United. Arsenal’s loss means Europe is almost a guarantee for the exciting Wolves team who beat Everton 3-0 in the weekend to remain in contention for a Champions League spot. Everton’s Merseyside rivals didn’t have a great weekend either with the newly-elect champions being held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley.
Here are four talking points from yet another weekend of exciting Premier League football
With Chelsea and Leicester City bottling their chances, Premier League’s in-form side Manchester United will be fully expected to clinch the coveted third place on the table. The Red Devils are in a fine run of form (first side to win four matches consecutively with a 3+ margin) and also have a run of fixtures which they are favourites to dominate.
The mood is perfect inside the dressing room too with all the players, including the much-maligned Paul Pogba, looking like they are happy. The French World Cup winner has certainly looked his best in the recent days, forming an attacking duo with new-signing Bruno Fernandes.
3. Chelsea (60)— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 12, 2020
4. Leicester (59)
5. Man Utd (58)
6. Wolves (55)
Manchester United can go third tomorrow with a win against Southampton. ???? pic.twitter.com/eMcTeie4re
'You can call it a proper team. Sometimes before, we were maybe too defensive or too offensive and we didn't have this balance or this control; now you can see we have that balance and there is more structure and we've been working hard on that,” said Pogba to Manchester United’s website.
There is something special brewing at the red side of Manchester.
In Pope we trust?
For most parts of the Liverpool game, it was Burnley keeper Nick Pope vs Liverpool. And the score would suggest, Pope did come out of it pretty unscathed and arguably as English number one considering Jordan Pickford’s erratic performance at Wolves.
Nick Pope made eight saves against Liverpool, only Paulo Gazzaniga (12) has made more in a single Premier League game at Anfield this season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 11, 2020
Without him, Liverpool's winning streak would have continued. ⛔️ pic.twitter.com/jOrIvcbkZx
Pope kept Liverpool at bay as Burnley became the first side to escape Anfield with a point in the Premier League since January 2019. The English number one position is not something goalkeepers would fancy though. It is jinxed and more often than not the keepers fail to deliver what they were touted to do. That said, Pope isn’t exactly a young goalkeeper at 28, and might feel lucky to have gone under the radar while he developed fully. A summer move on the cards?
Will the real Chelsea please stand up?
If Frank Lampard wasn’t English, white and a Chelsea legend, he’d have probably been called out for his negligent tactics. A leaky defence continues to be kept open by Lampard who certainly comes from the Unai Emery school of thought – you score four, we score five.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, it was you score three, we score nothing as Sheffield United once again exposed the Blues’ weakness. It is easy to blame the confused defence and a poor goalkeeper, but this is also partly down to the system that Lampard plays. A 4-3-3 formation with two attacking midfielders certainly looks nice going forward but without Ngolo Kante sitting back and thwarting the opposition attackers, it is glaringly open.
Only 7 teams have conceded more Premier League goals than Chelsea (49) this season:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 11, 2020
Newcastle United (52)
West Ham (59)
Aston Villa (65)
Not the company they want to keep. ???? pic.twitter.com/Xb2NA2azos
Chelsea have already invested in reinforcing their attack with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech, but it is at the back they have big problems. A commanding centre-back and a competent left-back would certainly improve things while a goalkeeper upgrade might also be a good choice. Chelsea’s chances to qualify for Champions League still hangs in doubt with City getting cleared of the ban and difficult matches against Liverpool and Wolves coming up. Kai Havertz is apparently reconsidering the Chelsea move and wants Champions League guarantee before switching Germany for England.
Liverpool's thin squad
Liverpool have a fantastic starting XI. Perhaps the finest Premier League has seen in recent years. But that’s also a problem with Jurgen Klopp and his coaching staff. What do you do when one of these players get injured? Liverpool’s squad death continues to be a thing with summer transfer activity looking minimal after Chelsea gazumped them for the Werner deal.
James Milner’s versatility and the full-backs reinventing themselves as a creative force have in some ways saved Liverpool this season but a long-term injury to a top player can severely damage Liverpool’s chances of retaining the title. Their recent signings – Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino – haven’t really stepped up to the expected levels and Klopp will be hoping his management backs him with some versatile summer signings including that of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich.