Are Leeds Sustainable?
Having waited 16 years to play their fiercest rivals once again the Premier League, Leeds fans would have hoped for a far better performance. 2 goals down in the first 3 minutes at Old Trafford, in a game which ended a humiliating 6-2 in favour of Manchester United. Every time the Red Devils went forward, they looked dangerous, but Marcelo Bielsa did not twitch. He stuck to his principles and continued to play the football that got him out of the Championship. His expansive brand of football which relies heavily on the fitness of his players is a joy to watch. However, as some recent results have suggested, it may not be the most effective way of getting results in the Premier League. Better
teams, as Manchester United showed on Sunday evening, can bypass the press and find acres of space in behind Leeds. On the flip-side, although the score was damaging to Leeds, their style allowed them to create plenty of chances themselves. Some better Bamford finishing earlier in the game and they might have had the opportunity to get a result. With that being said, however glorious it is to watch, some Leeds fans must be worried about whether it will keep them up. Going to United and playing so openly was suicide. Bielsa’s confidence in his tactics means it would be surprising if Leeds change the way they play. If they don’t, they may find their long-awaited return to the Premier League cut short.
Liverpool The Favourites?
Given how crazy this season (and the world in general) has been this year, one could be forgiven in assuming that Liverpool would fail in their attempts of retaining the Premier League. Injuries to key players, dubious VAR decisions going against them and the other sides looking stronger have all played a part in keeping the league so close at this stage in the season. Chelsea, Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City are all gunning for the title. Even Everton, Southampton, Aston Villa, and West Ham will quietly be thinking that the lack of games they have in comparison to those sides mentioned above can put them in a title race. However, Liverpool showed this week why they are still the favourites for the league title with two massive wins. Going into the 90th minute against Spurs on Wednesday evening, the two sides were level on points with Spurs having a better goal difference. Fast forward to today, Liverpool is 6 points clear and have the greater goal difference. The mentality shown by these players to raise to any challenge in the face of adversity makes them the favourites, and rightly so. Add into the equation the January transfer window, where they will surely strengthen at centre-back, and a returning Thiago to the side, its hard to look past Liverpool making it number 20 in 6 months’ time.
Spurs Being Spurs
The other side of the coin to Liverpool’s big week is Tottenham Hotspurs poor week. They had numerous chances to take the lead at Anfield, Steven Bergwijn most notably, and squandered them all. The last-minute winner would have been a deflating blow to Jose Mourinho, despite his claims that ‘the best side lost.’ More alarming perhaps was the lack of response in their next game against Leicester. Spurs lost again, and feel 6 points behind leaders Liverpool, are side they were ahead of this time last week.
Talks of a title challenge maybe premature at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mourinho has stated on numerous occasions that he cannot do what Klopp has done without the time and resources Klopp has been given. There have been significant improvements this year, and Tottenham look more like a Mourinho side. However, manager still has a lot of work to do to turn them into serious title contenders.
What has happened at Manchester City?
Manchester City were winners against a very good Southampton side this weekend. Whilst their performance was more of what we expect, they still only managed to score 1 goal. It has been a trend which we have seen this season, as City don’t look as ruthless in front of goal. They’ve only managed to score 19 goals this season, the lowest in the top half and level with Crystal Palace. On the flip side, they have only conceded 12, and boast the toughest defence in the league. All that points to a change in style from Guardiola, focused on defensive stability. It’s the first time in his career we’ve seen such a dramatic change in emphasis. Whilst they still have the ability to go up the gears and win games by big margins, we have seen it less frequently. Whether this approach brings long term success is up for debate. A free-flowing City would have swept West Brom aside and gained 3 points, but also would’ve been far more exposed against a Southampton side that love to counter attack. If Pep wants to bring the title back to the blue half of Manchester, he needs to find the balance quickly, or risk falling behind further.