Jesse Marsch earned a landmark victory over Liverpool at Anfield. Brighton exerted the perfect revenge over Chelsea. Newcastle are dreaming.
“I’m confused with the appointment. I think that you appoint someone called Jesse Marsch, who knows pretty much nothing about the Premier League – not worked in it, not plied his trade in it – and you ask him to come into the most difficult league in world football and say, ‘Rescue this team’. They’re there at the moment, confidence-wise, belief-wise, everything, and you ask a guy, untried at this kind of level, to do that.”
While Andy Gray scoffed, Richard Keys offered a far more suitable alternative for Leeds United than the “American citizen” they had plumped for:
“Were you to ask me what I would do at this point, I would be on the phone to Sam Allardyce as we speak, and I would say, ‘We only have one objective this year, Sam, and you’ve done it many times – alright, not with West Brom – but just get us safe’.”
Kindred spirits though they most certainly are not, Allardyce and Marsch now at least have something in common. Not since the former rocked up with Crystal Palace in April 2017 had Liverpool lost in front of fans at Anfield. The latter took great pleasure in changing that at the weekend.
Leeds’ previous victory was a distant blueprint of how Marsch’s approach can work. Chelsea had been dispatched with glorious purpose but that was at the end of August, eight winless games and 69 not nice days ago. The wait for a repeat was excruciating but eventually entirely worth it.
The aggressive, high-pressing approach was brave; the team selection and subsequent substitutions were bold; the celebration was questionable but an impulsive reaction to a plan carried out to perfection.
Marsch still needs to earn the full support of the fans but Leeds covered 121km at Anfield – 11km more than Liverpool and their most in any Premier League game since promotion; the players are very much on board and earned a phenomenal win.
How satisfying it must be to get one (then, two, three and four) over on the club which extracted not only the manager but the four coaches and head of recruitment who carefully constructed such a glorious team.
Graham Potter was the architect of his first Chelsea downfall. He, working alongside Paul Winstanley and Kyle Macauley at Brighton, signed seven of those starting players, honing them and the rest into something special. The Blues admired the Seagulls’ work to such an extent that they have tried to transpose the blueprint but while Marc Cucurella was perhaps their worst player, the man signed to replace him, Pervis Estupinan, was electric.
Roberto de Zerbi’s first win as manager felt like a continuation of his predecessor’s work with some necessary tweaks. From the unpredictability of the full-backs, with Pascal Gross shutting down Raheem Sterling on the right, to the aggressive press and the trust placed in relative unknown Kauro Mitoma from the start, it was a breathtaking victory in the old and new coach’s image. And Brighton completed their set of Premier League victories over the Big Six in the most gratifying way imaginable.
The focus has been on praising the underestimated coaching acumen of Eddie Howe, admiring the reinvention of Joelinton and Miguel Almiron, applauding the sensible additions of Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Nick Pope and Sven Botman and marvelling at Bruno Guimaraes.
But don’t let the consistency of Callum Wilson fly too far below the radar, nor the prospect of adding the extra attacking dimensions of Allan Saint-Maximin to this team.
But first and foremost, consider how surreal this must be for those supporters who watched Newcastle score four goals just twice in 84 Premier League games under Steve Bruce, but have witnessed Howe’s side do it three times in October alone. Contemplate the overwhelming sense of giddiness which comes with seeing your team register their highest number of top-flight league wins in two decades, while promising even more investment in the immediate and distant future. Twee and glib as it is, ponder what it must feel like to believe again.
The tired cliche often wheeled out by pundits in the past was that Newcastle fans were too demanding and unrealistic in their targets, that they wanted to qualify for the Champions League, win trophies and sign the best players and would need to lower such expectations. The truth was that in the darkest days of Bruce and long before then, they simply wanted a club to be proud of, who didn’t ruin their weeks with unambitious, miserable performances and results. It has taken the cheat code of a takeover but even being able to think about having their cake and eating it will seem as preposterous as it is genuinely possible.
Mikel Arteta suggested that Reiss Nelson “was that good when he was young, everything was too easy for him” in January 2020. Two months later he described the winger as a “special” player but since those latter comments, Nelson has started just two Premier League games, both coming that July.
It is testament to both player and manager that when Bukayo Saka needed to be replaced against Nottingham Forest, Arteta looked at a bench carrying expensive summer signing Fabio Vieira, exciting young prospect Marquinhos and Eddie Nketiah, introduced as a substitute in every single Premier League game this season, before placing his trust in Nelson.
That was repaid with two goals and an assist from a player who has shown the mental fortitude to rebound from a disappointing loan spell and slot back into an Arsenal team which was out of sorts when he last featured and is in title contention now.
Also, Benjamin White is mint.
It might be the current equivalent to managerial achievements with Olympiakos for a foreign, prospective Premier League coach – “I could keep a clean sheet for Manchester City” – but Ederson is far from a spare part under Pep Guardiola. His save from Youri Tielemans, and to a less eye-catching extent Harvey Barnes, preserved three precious points for the champions and underlined his worth as more than a mere deep-lying playmaker.
There are obvious contributing factors but nobody keeps 97 clean sheets in 194 Premier League games just by being good with the ball at their feet. That record means that since Ederson joined in summer 2017, Manchester City have only had to score a single goal to win half of the matches he has played. It’s at least as much of an ludicrous advantage as having Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland at the other end.
The 13th player to reach 100 goals for Manchester United, and at a time of great upheaval under a combination of four different permanent managers. He has scored at least 28 more times than any other player for the club since netting his first in February 2016 and it is a joy to not only watch but hear him free of those mental shackles which previously encumbered him.
Also, Diogo Dalot is mint.
A masterful way of proving the need for far more squad depth while underlining the excellence of the players who generally start. Eric Dier, Rodrigo Bentancur and Ivan Perisic were considerable upgrades on Davinson Sanchez, Yves Bissouma and Emerson Royal, each of whom looked absolutely lost from the beginning.
As we enter November, it remains uncertain whether Spurs are actually good or sh*t. They were both against Bournemouth but at least the balance was eventually – and only just – right. Accidentally third is still third, folks.
Bloody well earned the 39th clean sheet of his Premier League career to pull clear of Adrian as the Spaniard with the fourth cleanest sheets in English top-flight history, behind only Pepe Reina (136), David de Gea (135) and Manuel Almunia (43).
Decent finish and that but it is wonderful that James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have long since split up yet they are first and second for blocked shots in the Premier League with 30 and 15 respectively, and third and second for headers won with 39 and 46 respectively (behind only Aleksandar Mitrovic). Dyche, that.
A pass accuracy of 92.9% is also almost definitely Mee’s highest ever in the Premier League. Get. Him. On. The. Plane.
Doing a quietly brilliant job. Fulham need nine more points to match their last top-flight points total and seven more to clear the bar they set in 2018/19. They are unbeaten in four games with a technically positive goal difference. And that was only the third goalless home draw Marco Silva has presided over in his entire Premier League career. He might have properly cracked it with his fourth bite at the cherry.
In the form of his life and notably no longer instinctively berates his defence for forcing him to do work immediately after making a save. Bit boring really. Preferred him before.
The line is that Liverpool have an identical record to that with which Roy Hodgson started his doomed Anfield reign in the 2010/11 season: four wins, four draws and four defeats from 12 games. That in itself neatly sums up the inconsistencies that have riddled this team. But the words of another Jurgen Klopp predecessor feel more pertinent.
“It is a tough gig, being a manager at this level. I liken it to building an aircraft when it’s flying,” said Brendan Rodgers in his final month as Swansea manager, shortly before taking up the reins on Merseyside. And while the default is to deride the Northern Irishman’s turn of phrase, it actually encapsulates the role perfectly.
Klopp had mastered the art, piloting Liverpool to glory while meticulously maintaining both the exceptional inner workings and extraordinary cosmetic brilliance of the machine. They were untouchable in the transfer market, in terms of both identifying the perfect incomings to suit their style and squad, as well as being ruthless enough to let those who are not good enough go. But parts are disintegrating mid-flight, engine failure has become a regular issue and take-off is rarely smooth.
Liverpool have signed one central midfielder in the last eight transfer windows; they can no longer exert control over games. James Milner has featured in every Premier League game bar one; their squad options are dire. Teams do not fear them; they have opened the scoring less often than every other Premier League team so far this season.
Wins over Manchester City and Ajax remain within their reach but the idea that they represent a turned corner or bright new dawn has to be abandoned. Liverpool are on a downward trajectory and there will be no shortcuts to reverse it.
It was assumed that he would be the biggest winner of Potter’s appointment at Chelsea but Marc Cucurella’s record under the manager at Chelsea thus far reads: didn’t play v Crystal Palace due to illness; benched v Milan; 90 minutes v Wolves; last-minute substitute v Milan; taken off at half-time v Aston Villa; taken off after 61 minutes v Brentford; taken off after 36 minutes v Manchester United; 90 minutes v Salzburg; taken off after 64 minutes v Brighton.
Cucurella could certainly do with more protection from the player ahead of him – Raheem Sterling offered none against the Seagulls – while he does not look a natural fit as the left-sided centre-half in a three. And the after-effects of tonsillitis still seem to be taking their toll. But he doesn’t look particularly better than Ben White right now.
To concede 20 of the last 34 shots on target you have faced is sub-optimal. Mark Travers has played 11 of a possible 26 halves of Premier League football this season but only three keepers (Dean Henderson, Danny Ward and David Raya) have let in more goals. His save percentage of 47.2% is far worse than the next lowest (Ward at 60.7%) and he is conceding 3.64 goals per 90 minutes – substantially more than the next player in that regard (Henderson at 2.15).
None of those Spurs goals were explicitly the fault of Travers but considering his Bournemouth rival Neto has the highest save percentage (83.9%) and is only conceding goals at a rate of 1.07 per 90 minutes, it doesn’t make for a kind reflection.
Fulham have accrued more Premier League points since March began (19) than Southampton (17), who have only won as many top-flight games in that time as Burnley (4). Ralph Hasenhuttl lives on.
The good news is that Aston Villa have a squad capable of winning 4-0. The bad news is that Aston Villa have a squad capable of losing 4-0 six days later. Best of luck.
<non-goalkeeping co-commentator>Should be saving those. Got to be doing better there, for me</non-goalkeeping co-commentator>
That’ll teach him for fouling folk.
First red card of his Premier League career. There goes that Good Guy reputation.
That brings up the big 70 for Premier League trips to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United without winning. Marsch managed it at his second attempt, man.
Graeme Souness and everyone else who still pretends Lisandro Martinez cannot cut it in the Premier League because he’s slightly smaller than other centre-halves
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