Manchester United might not need Erling Haaland, Mikel Arteta must demand more from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette and even the Premier League’s best can’t get close to Liverpool… 10 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE BOXING DAY FOOTBALL
- Liverpool tightened their grip on the Premier League title by thrashing Leicester
- Arsenal need their all-star attack to start firing them up the league table
- Jose Mourinho has a midfield conundrum to solve even as Spurs beat Brighton
- Southampton are loving life on the road while Chelsea toil at Stamford Bridge
It was the Boxing Day that saw Liverpool show no signs of jet lag as they put in an assured display to keep their winning roll going at the King Power Stadium.
Meanwhile, Chelsea failed to pick up from where they left off with a poor display at home to Southampton, while Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti kickstarted their new eras at Arsenal and Everton respectively.
We take a look at the things we learned from another busy Boxing Day of action in the Premier League.
Liverpool can’t be challenged on their day – even by the top teams
For all his complaints about a congested fixture schedule, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool showed no signs of fatigue at the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day.
The world champions arrived at the King Power Stadium eager to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 13 points, against a Leicester side enjoying a fantastic season themselves.
Liverpool tightened their grip on their first Premier League title with a 4-0 win at Leicester
And Liverpool didn’t just beat Brendan Rodgers’ side, they steamrolled them. Roberto Firmino’s second goal, in particular, had all the swagger of a side strolling to their first ever Premier League title.
Leicester simply could not match Liverpool, with Trent Alexander-Arnold the master in chief of the visitors’ success in the East Midlands.
Next is a visit of Wolves, and with a whole 23 hours 45 minutes extra time to prepare than Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, perhaps Liverpool fans will be slightly pleased with the way the fixtures have been arranged this Christmas.
Jurgen Klopp will not admit it but his side’s 13-point lead looks too big going into 2020
Wasteful Arsenal need Lacazette, Aubameyang and Ozil firing
Mikel Arteta wrung the changes for his first game in the dugout as Arsenal manager, bringing in Mesut Ozil from the cold while playing both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up top.
Of the three, it was the German who looked the brightest outlet, despite Aubameyang netting the all-important equaliser in the second half. Ozil ran riot during a first half in which Arsenal really should have been ahead, but for a defensive mishap to gift Bournemouth the lead.
The German provided the link between midfield and attack and often found pockets of space in the opposition half as well as driving at Bournemouth’s back three on a number of occasions.
Despite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal, Arsenal were wasteful at Bournemouth
Mikel Arteta will need to get his star forwards firing if they are to climb up the league table
However, Ozil was let down in part by his forward options. Aubameyang was wasted on the left-hand side while Lacazette offered very little through the middle. Reiss Nelson saw a number of crosses misplaced and on Bukayo Saka’s deliveries weren’t much better on the other flank.
In total, Arsenal had 17 attempts, with only two troubling keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Arteta knows that his side’s defensive problems may take a little longer to solve, but in the meantime he will need to get his star forwards firing if Arsenal are to climb the league table.
Chelsea have no creativity at home without Hazard
Frank Lampard would have seen Chelsea’s dominant performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last Sunday as a chance to kick on and further extend his side’s five-point advantage in fourth place.
On the face of it, a home tie against lowly Southampton had all the markings of a comfortable three points for the Europa League winners.
But Chelsea floundered once again at home. It’s a peculiar sight for most, for much of the last decade very few sides have looked forward to a trip to Stamford Bridge, with it spelling an afternoon of misery keeping out Eden Hazard.
Chelsea’s arresting home form was highlighted again as they fell to defeat to Southampton
Frank Lampard has conceded that his side’s form at Stamford Bridge needs addressing
Since the Belgian’s departure, though, the Blues haven’t been so assured on home turf. Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat by the Saints on Boxing Day was their fourth home loss of the season from 10 games.
Lampard’s kids will have to learn to deal with that pressure to deliver in front of an expectant Stamford Bridge crowd if they want to maintain their challenge for Champions League football.
‘I think it’s been the story for us for a while, not just in recent times. We need to get better because we need a better home record,’ Lampard said.
Saints loving life on the road
Meanwhile, Southampton are having a wonderful time away from home. Ralph Hasenhuttl backed up a vital three points at Villa Park with another great performance at Chelsea.
It is said that teams stuck in a relegation battle prefer to play away from the pressure that a home crowd brings, and the numbers suggest that Southampton are another to follow that trend.
The Saints win 1.22 points per away game, but when at home, they win under a point per game, at 0.78.
Southampton maintained their fine away form as they beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
And despite their relegation battle, their Austrian manager is not afraid to make brave decisions. Danny Ings was left on the bench despite netting 11 goals this season in favour of Che Adams while Michael Obafemi was given a chance after going a year without a goal.
Those calls hugely paid off, and now Saints are looking good value for the second half of the season.
‘In the first two or three months we played like a relegation team and now we are playing like a Premier League team,’ said Hassenhuttl afterwards.
Ralph Hasenhuttl made brave decisions and they paid off as Saints clinched all three points
Ayew magic but growing injury list is of concern to Roy
We were treated to a serious contender for the goal of the season on Boxing Day as Jordan Ayew dazzled his way through a sloppy West Ham defence to win Crystal Palace a big three points at Selhurst Park.
But Palace boss Roy Hodgson will be wary of what is proving to be a substantial injury list for his side.
Crystal Palace’s growing injury list will of be great concern to Eagles boss Roy Hodgson
The Eagles’ injury list was further extended earlier this week as a Christian Benteke muscle injury saw him sidelined alongside Andros Townsend, Jeffrey Schlupp, Gary Cahill, Joel Ward and Scott Dann.
Those absentees have meant that Hodgson has had to rope in youngsters from the development squads to take to the bench.
Despite having a winnable game against Southampton before the New Year, the wily manager will just hope his side can return from St Mary’s unscathed and reinforce in January.
Martial is showing United they might not need Haaland
It seems all-but an inevitability that United will approach Red Bull Salzburg to secure the services of Erling Haaland in January.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been vocal in his need to bring in more options for his attack going into the second half of the season and in Haaland, a youngster Solskjaer worked with at Molde, United have identified their No 1 target when the window opens in a few short days.
Anthony Martial is making his case to be the man to lead the Manchester United forward line
But Anthony Martial is making a strong case to suggest that the answer to Manchester United’s striker conundrum is right underneath Solskjaer’s nose.
The Frenchman netted twice as United swept aside Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, and was the standout performer at Vicarage Road when they were humiliated by Watford.
Martial’s career in Manchester has yet to get up and running, but fresh from any injury qualms the 24-year-old will be hoping that a consistent run of games may see him become the club’s man to lead the line.
United have been linked with a big-money move for Red Bull Salzburg star Erling Haaland
Aston Villa and Norwich desperately need a striker
Villa picked up a huge win over Norwich City at Villa Park on Thursday but Dean Smith will be under no illusions that his side face a crucial January if they want to survive the drop.
The away side were much the better team for large spells but it was Conor Hourihane who made the breakthrough to secure all three points for Villa.
Smith’s side have been over-reliant on star man Jack Grealish to provide the goals from midfield, with £22million Brazilian signing Wesley proving an bit of a failure for the Villains so far.
Despite a huge win over Norwich, Aston Villa need to find a striker to fire them up the table
Norwich have struggled for goals too, with Teemu Pukki and Co firing blanks of late
Meanwhile, the goals just aren’t falling the way of Norwich City either. Teemu Pukki started the season on fire and has scored three goals in his last six games. But those three goals have only garnered two points for the Canaries.
Norwich should have been a handful of goals ahead against Wolves but lost, and mustered 16 attempts against Villa on Thursday but failed to beat Tom Heaton.
Of the two managers, Daniel Farke will be more optimistic that the goals will soon rain in for his side, but he will need them to come soon if they want to stay up.
Pearson can inspire another great escape at Watford
Bramall Lane is no easy place to visit for any Premier League side. Manchester United were dragged into a back-and-forth thriller while Arsenal were sent home with their tails firmly between their legs.
If you’re a team stuck in a relegation dog fight, one of the last things you want to see on the fixture list is a trip to Sheffield.
Nigel Pearson has injected much-needed energy into his Watford side since arriving
If Gerard Deulofeu can maintain his performances Watford have every chance of survival
Not if you’re Nigel Pearson. Since he was appointed earlier this month the former Leicester manager has injected much-needed energy into a side severely lacking in it.
Gerard Deulofeu looks a man reborn, while the centre back pairing of Christian Kabasele and Craig Cathcart do not look so prone to shipping goals.
It’s been said countless times that this is a squad should not be rooted to the foot of the Premier League table.
After the Boxing Day draw at Bramall Lane, they are no longer in 20th place. If Pearson can keep these performances up, he will fancy their chances of survival.
Mourinho’s midfield conundrum
Jose Mourinho has a midfield conundrum at Tottenham. His side’s come-from-behind win over Brighton did not paper over the increasingly apparent issue of Spurs’ lack of quality in the middle of the park.
In his six Premier League games in charge of the north London club, Mourinho has gone with four different pairings in the middle of the park: Dier-Winks, Dier-Ndombele, Sissoko-Winks and Dier-Sissoko.
Despite their win against Brighton, Jose Mourinho has a midfield conundrum to solve at Spurs
The latter pairing seemed to have settled but Sunday’s emphatic loss to Chelsea forced the Portuguese to shuffle his pack, but Sissoko and Winks were unable to provide what Mourinho was looking for.
It gets worse in that those two are now suspended for their next game against Norwich after picking up too many yellow cards.
Spurs’ talent in Harry Kane, Heung-min Son, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli up top is clear for all to see, but their deficiencies in midfield have left Mourinho a headache heading into the January transfer window.
The answer may be in £65million man Tanguy Ndombele, but Mourinho opted to leave the 22-year-old at home on Boxing Day after concerns were raised about his injury issues of late.
Tactical tweak gives Ancelotti lift off at Goodison Park
It would have been easy for Carlo Ancelotti to have played it safe in his first outing as Everton manager on Boxing Day.
Caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson did a marvellous job during his three league games in charge of the Toffees, maintaining an unbeaten run in the Premier League.
And with a difficult home clash with Burnley up first, Ancelotti wouldn’t have been blamed for fielding an unchanged side to the one that drew 0-0 with Arsenal last weekend.
Carlo Ancelotti made a perfect start to life at Everton, with a tactical tweak paying off
But the decorated Italian was keen to put his own touch on his new team. Ancelotti broke up the tried-and-tested defensive partnership of Yerry Mina and Michael Keane, replacing the England international with Mason Holgate.
Seamus Coleman and Djibril Sidibe have been battling it out for the right back position all season, but Ancelotti saw fit to play them both at Goodison Park, with Sidibe operating further forward in right midfield.
It was Sidibe’s cross that landed on the head of Dominic Calvert Lewin to win all three points for Everton on a great first day for Ancelotti.
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