A cold November weekend provided some fantastic football as well as even better talking points. Saturday saw Norwich earn a draw against Wolves, while Leeds were held to a frustrating goalless draw against Brighton. There was also Newcastle’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, who bounced back well from their hammering at Anfield the previous weekend. Liverpool marked an impressive 4-0 for the second week in a row against Southampton to close in on leaders Chelsea. All whilst Gerrard’s Aston Villa put in an impressive performance against Crystal Palace, winning 2-1.
Sunday’s action saw Brentford beat out-of-form Everton 1-0 whilst Leicester and Watford created the goal-fest ending 4-2 thanks to a Jamie Vardy double. Although the weather stopped the action at Turf Moor between Burnley and Spurs, it didn’t stop Man City’s 2-1 win over West Ham. With the final game of the weekend, Carrick’s United visited Stamford Bridge in hope of a result – one they managed to pull off frustrating the league leaders Chelsea to a 1-1 draw. Let’s now jump into the most important talking points from game week 13 of the Premier League.
Everton fans have long feared the Merseyside derby, and that is without a doubt the case ahead of their visit to Liverpool on Wednesday. After falling to Brentford in a loss, Jürgen Klopp’s side are on fire, while their rivals are firmly entrenched in a rut having gone seven matches without triumph. The situation is critical for Rafael Benitez, and while he maintains his commitment to the club’s majority owner Farhad Moshiri, things could rapidly deteriorate against him should his old side inflict significant damage on his current one.
The time may have come for this most conservative of bosses to take a chance. Given that Everton could just go toe-to-toe with Liverpool, a shift from 4-4-1-1 to 4-3-3 makes sense, as does giving highly-rated young striker Ellis Simms his debut. The 20-year-old has no chance of doing any worse than Salomon Rondón, and it’s possible that what the team really needs is a dose of youthful enthusiasm.
The good news for Ralf Rangnick is that no manager, whether it be a current or former United player, will ever get more from Manchester United’s team than has been the case in recent months. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was rightfully held responsible for this, though it’s worth noting that had Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw given him performances as bad as they did, he would still be in charge.
The hard run for United comes to an end on Thursday with a clash with Arsenal. But under Rangnick’s leadership, the club has a stronger squad and an easier schedule ahead, which should result in supporters betting on a top-four finish. Rangnick will need to decide whether or not to make just minimal changes and improve what already exists, the lower-risk, lower-reward alternative. Or he can introduce greater complexity into an already hectic winter schedule by introducing the manner in which he wants United to play as soon as possible, aware that it may make matters worse before they get better.
Frank Lampard was relieved of his duties after a string of 3 clean sheets in 12 games, which Thomas Tuchel promptly addressed. In his first 10 league games, Tuchel’s Chelsea conceded just twice, and they have let in only 5 goals thus far this season. While their best isn’t as good as Manchester City’s best, the Premier League now offers more attacking quality than ever before, so it’s no surprise that the league’s most solid clubs are sitting at the top.
Even so, Chelsea occasionally lacks attacking imagination, which is why Timo Werner started against Manchester United. His movement and pressing are both beneficial, but they can’t outweigh the centre-forward’s primary responsibilities. Romelu Lukaku will return to his starting position as soon as possible, though the overall balance isn’t quite yet correct. It’s still unclear whether Tuchel will be able to extract an attacking combination that will make his squad a more formidable opponent, as long as Lukaku stays fit he’ll find a solution fairly quickly.
Marcelo Bielsa had never previously spent more than two seasons at any club before he arrived at Leeds. We’re in new territory now, following his fourth season with Leeds. Bielsa’s project was threatened by relegation and fan dissatisfaction, necessitating his need to breathe fresh life into it. The new signings have yet to make an impact. His squad has taken a hit because of injuries and COVID. The return of Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling should help, as will Bielsa’s return, but does the legendary creator still have any surprises up his sleeves?