The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Matchweek 11

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Matchweek 11

Waffle

The Good

Lampard learning from past lessons

Frank Lampard out-managed Marcelo Bielsa this past weekend, there’s no two ways about it. Yes, he has a very better squad of players at his disposal but so did Pep Guardiola and he couldn’t do to Bielsa and Leeds what Lampard and Chelsea accomplished.

This was the fifth meeting between the two managers, the first with Lampard as Chelsea manager, and up to now Bielsa had very much had the upper hand. In Lampard’s second match as a manager, during his year at Derby, he found his team on the wrong end of a 4-1 walloping by Bielsa’s Leeds. He was embarrassed on the day, outcoached and outthought at every turn. The second match between the two ended in a 2-0 Leeds win, and again Lampard was made to look very much like a rookie manager. The two matches are something of an afterthought during the season though when you take a retrospective look back at that season, given the play-off battle and, of course, Spygate.

When the sides met in the playoffs that season, Leeds won the first game at Pride Park and in the return leg Bielsa’s men seemed in control until goals just before and just after half-time turned things around for Derby. They ran out 4-2 winners on the night and progressed 4-3 on aggregate to give Lampard his first win over Bielsa. It was vindication for Lampard. The early season humiliation, the ruckus over Spygate, the press conference where Bielsa ruthlessly exposed the flaws in Lampard’s tactical set-up and the lesson the Argentine gave him in the mid-season contest, Leeds fans singing “Stop Crying Frank Lampard” and all the rest was washed away as Frank stood victorious that night.

Frank has clearly learned a lot from that season, and since, and on Saturday he exposed the flaws in Bielsa’s team as Chelsea took advantage of Leeds’ over-aggressive style of attack and countered attacked them endlessly. The 18/19 Lampard was too naive to do so, the 20/21 Lampard did it with glee. While many questions remain about whether he has the tactical knowhow to be a success at the club he helped bring so much success to as a player, this was a very good day at the office.

A Jose Mourinho masterclass

If you needed further evidence that just because someone played the game at the highest level it doesn’t mean they should be paid to talk about it on television, just listen to what Jamie Redknapp had to say about the North London Derby in which Spurs completely controlled the game, allowing Arsenal to only have the ball in areas that weren’t dangerous to Tottenham. Redknapp claimed Arsenal dominated the game because they had most of the ball. He missed the point.

Jose wanted them to have the ball. Arsenal are horrible going forward. They’re scoring less than a goal a game in the league and rank among the worst teams in the league in terms of chance creation. Mourinho knew this, so he played to their weaknesses. He let them have the ball. Simple. Look at Arsenal’s best results under Mikel Arteta, they’ve parked the bus and looked to strike on the counter attack. Jose wasn’t allowing that. Park the bus against the man who pioneered the modern art of it? Not likely. You have the ball, we’ll wait for you to give it to us when you’re exposed at the back.

And it worked. Spurs rope-a-doped the Gunners, letting them open up and then springing two ruthless counter attacks that led to goals. The first due to the brilliance of Son Heung-Min, the second a fantastic team effort. Two goals clear, Spurs settled in and let Arsenal huff and puff. The game was over. If Arsenal did manage to score, Jose knew his men could carve them apart at anytime. But there was no point in over-exerting themselves. There would be much tougher games to come. Might as well save their legs.

It was a masterclass from Mourinho, and Jamie Redknapp should remember the words of Abraham Lincoln. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to speak and remove all doubt.

The Champions turn Wolves into puppies

Wolves have been exceptionally boring this season, rarely making anything of all the attacking talent at their disposal. That boring style, and their propensity to get better as games move into the second half, has led to people looking at the them as a very tough team to beat. They came into this game with one of the best defensive records in the league. They’ve been tagged as “fighters” who get stronger in the later rounds.

Liverpool put them to the sword without ever really getting out of second gear. The Champions were ruthlessly efficient, focusing on the weak point of the Wolves defense – Conor Coady, and exposing him time and again. It wasn’t a vintage Liverpool performance, but it didn’t need to be. It was simply a top team playing whack-a-mole with an upstart who dared come to their manor and think they might take something from the game. The Premier League Champions reminding a pretender to the throne that they are just that, pretenders.

With Matip and Fabinho forming an excellent partnership at the back, Liverpool’s midfielders were given a platform to play from and all three enjoyed good outings. Wijnaldum scored a goal, Henderson got an assist for that goal, and it was Jones who turned two and a half minutes of sustained possession into attacking thrust as his inch perfect pass played in Trent Alexander-Arnold who crossed for Semedo to turn into his own net. Liverpool will be very happy with their win and their performance, and rightly so.

For Wolves, they might want to consider adding another goalscorer in January in Raul Jimenez is to miss the remainder of the season. Podence, Neto and Adama are all fine footballers who can create chances, but they’re not going to score the volume of goals that Jimenez brings to this team.

The Bad

1 point from 33

It’s starting to get a bit embarrassing at this point. It’s the worst start in Premier League history. It’s ineptitude at a previously unseen level. Chris Wilder has shown no signs of changing the playing style, or even the formation, in a desperate bid to win a game. It’s admirable in a way but it’s too dogmatic. United’s situation is one of desperation and Wilder needs to start throwing the kitchen sink at games.

He’s spent 55million on strikers in the past 18 months, strikers with zero pedigree of scoring Premier League goals. Mousset had been very disappointing at Bournemouth, McBurnie had one good season in the Championship with Swansea and Brewster had a good half season with the same team. Mousset’s three goals in 58 appearances for Bournemouth represented the only top flight goals scored between them. Brewster had never played in a Premier League game and McBurnie failed to score in his 16 Premier League outings for Swansea. There’s no doubting each has talent, there’s definitely a good pairing to be had between the three of them but the Blades don’t have time to develop that. The answer may well be to throw the three of them upfront together, move away from the back 3 and go to a 4-3-3 system.

Sheffield United need to start scoring goals so that they can win games of football, and it needs to happen soon. They have Southampton, Manchester United, Brighton, Everton and Burnley remaining before the turn of the year. Failure to win at least three of them may well mean they go in to 2021 dead and buried. Especially if Burnley, Fulham, West Brom and Brighton all pick up wins, and more so if Burnley and Brighton get those wins against the Blades.

David Coote! Again! – VAR!! AGAIN!!

Seriously. How is this man still being entrusted to oversee games at the highest level? Every single time this man is involved as either the referee or the VAR there’s controversy. On Monday night he awarded a free kick to Southampton after a foul on the edge of the box, the VAR reviewed it over and over and over again to see if it should have been a penalty. There was clearly no angle that gave a definitive view on whether it was inside the box or not. Rather than go to the screen and have a look for himself, Coote conspired to give a penalty despite it not being clear and obvious that he’d made an error with his original call.

How many more mistakes will he be allowed?

The Ugly

West Bromwich Albion, A Castle Built on Sand

It was clear all summer long that West Brom needed to upgrade their defense if they were going to have a shot at avoiding a return trip to the Championship. Surely as a former top class defender himself, Slaven Bilic must have been aware of this? He can’t really have thought that the mummified corpse of Branislav Ivanovic was the answer?

When Matheus Pereira was sent off for a petulant kick out at Patrick Van Aanholt the game was finely balanced at 1-1 and West Brom were arguably in the ascendency having just equalised through Conor Gallagher’s well taken goal. Crystal Palace aren’t exactly a team known for having a big scoring output. They’d managed 12 goals in their previous 10 games, and four of those game against Leeds. Roy Hodgson isn’t a big fan of goals, seeing them rather as a necessary evil required to attain his 43 points each season. Last season they scored only 31 goals, a feat Roy was delighted about.

There was no reason to think that West Brom couldn’t get at least a draw from the game, even with 10 men. Except that there was, that defense. West Brom have a good attack in Pereira, Diangana and Karlan Grant plus the likes of Matt Phillips, Hal Robson-Kanu and Callum Robinson, and good midfield options in Gallagher, Sawyers, Livermore, Sam Field and Filip Krovinovic. In each department, they have the quality to remain in the Premier League. Not so at the back.

The Baggies capitulated in spectacular fashion, shipping four goals to find themselves on the wrong end of a 5-1 hammering. Worse than the number of goals scored was the manner in which they were scored. And who scored them. Christian Benteke got two. TWO. Christian Benteke. He’d scored six across the previous three seasons. IN ALL COMPETITIONS!!! Six goals in his previous 81 appearances, West Brom let him score two in one half of football.

Bilic may find himself on the hot seat, but unless West Brom address the slapstick nature of the defense it won’t matter who’s in charge. Without sorting out the foundations of the team, opponents won’t even need to huff and puff. The house will just fall down all by itself.

Harry Kane’s dangerous play

It’s not “smart”. It’s not “clever”. He’s not “earning the free-kick”. He’s committing fouls, and dangerous fouls at that. There’s a reason that Basketball, Rugby, American Football, Gaelic Football, Australian Rules and other sports have all outlawed the move of undercutting players jumping for a high ball. It could lead to a serious injury, potentially a life-threatening injury. It’s an automatic sin bin, or even a dismissal, from the game in those sports.

Harry Kane makes no effort to play the ball, he purposely takes the legs away from the player in the air. Watch him. Each and every time his opponent has eyes only for the ball, while Kane only has eyes for the opponent. It’s disgusting and dangerous and until it’s stamped out he’s going to keep getting away with it and there are only two ways that it ends. Either a player sustains a serious injury and Kane is finally punished, or a player retaliates and inflicts a serious injury to Harry Kane.

Aaron Cresswell, Adam Lallana and Gabriel have all been victims of his dangerous act this season, each were lucky to escape injury. Spurs fans claiming he’s “standing his ground” are talking utter rubbish as well. He doesn’t stand his ground, he purposely throws his hip into the legs of the player in the air.

It’s not something that he’s just starting doing this season either, he’s been at it for years, and the same nonsensical excuses are always made for him. They wouldn’t be made for other players. Perish the thought someone did it to him. It would be a national outrage. Kane should be thankful he plays in this, softer, era. If he tried that in the 90’s or early 2000s the likes of Paul Ince, David Batty, Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira would have had no problem taking the law into their own hands as a means of retaliation.