Fixture Congestion Causes Struggles
Apart from Leicester, who ran out comfortable winners over Brighton, all those who played in Europe midweek dropped points. Not only did they all drop points, but the performances were also lethargic and lacked any real intensity. Chelsea and Liverpool never got going, Manchester United and Manchester City played out a boring 0-0, Tottenham conceded late on after sustained pressure from Crystal Palace, which is very much unlike Jose Mourinho and his Spurs side so far this season. The managers of those top sides have been vocal about the fixture congestion (Jurgen Klopp mainly), and this weekend’s results were the first sign of the fixture pile-up perhaps catching up on the weary legs of those clubs. With the games coming thick and fast, with 2 more Premier League fixtures for sides this week, the performances of the top sides will be one to watch out.
Southampton for Europe?
Sunday’s first fixture saw Southampton take on Sheffield United at St Mary’s stadium. The two sides could not be in more contrasting form. Sheffield United are still seeking their second point of the season, whilst Southampton sit pretty in 4th. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl asked for time when he first arrived at Southampton two years ago, and the faith the board has given him has been repaid. Southampton play an all-action style of football, with James Ward-Prowse at the heart of it all. The Southampton captain looks like an old school number 8, playing box-to-box, making crunching tackles, and delivering excellent set-pieces. They are also blessed up top, with Danny Ings and Che Adams striking up a deadly duo. Given the way the season has panned out so far, and with plenty more twists and turns surely to come, Southampton have to be in with a shout of a top 6 finish.
Liverpool Poor On The Road
Arguably the biggest surprise of this weekend’s fixtures was at Craven Cottage. Fulham held current champions Liverpool to a 1-1 draw, and they would probably feel very unlucky to not have grabbed all three points following a dominant first-half display. Worryingly for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp was that it was another away fixture in the league without a win. They have only registered 1 away win in 6 games all season, against 10-man Chelsea. Losing Virgil van Dijk, the man who allows them to operate such a high and commanding line obviously plays a factor. Liverpool subsequently drop a couple of yards, giving more space for opposing sides to play out. The 7-2 drubbing by Aston Villa would also be on Klopp’s mind. Not wanting a repeat of the same result might seem him tweak his tactics slights, although without Allison it could have easily been on the cards again at Fulham. It is a worrying stat for the reds and one they will hope to set right soon if they want to retain their Premier League title.
Arsenal in a relegation battle
Arsenal lost again in this weekend’s round of fixtures. That leaves them languishing in 15th place, 5 points above the relegation. The same problems continue, as the Gunners look lost in attack, unable to create clear cut chances in front of goal. Seemingly, Mikael Arteta is running out of time to turn this around at Arsenal, and the board will have to make a decision soon should he fail. Do they give him time to continue his project, or replace him before its too late and Arsenal are in serious trouble? With a tough run of fixtures which include Southampton, Everton, and Chelsea in the league, as well as a quarter-final Carabao Cup tie against Manchester City, it looks like a make or period for Arteta and his time as Arsenal manager.
Written by Jai Singh (@Jai_Singh1997)