LONDON (REUTERS) – Here are the main talking points from the Premier League weekend which saw joint-leaders Liverpool and Tottenham post impressive wins.
1. Can City get going?
Manchester City’s 2-0 home victory over struggling Fulham was the first time they won two league games in a row this season and the result must have boosted their confidence ahead of Saturday’s (Dec 12) visit to Manchester United.
But City manager Pep Guardiola knows United will in all likelihood be a different prospect and hence he criticised his players for some poor finishing against Fulham after they were already two goals to the good.
Guardiola will also be pleased with the fine performances of Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne, with the back four finding some consistency as City kept a fourth successive clean sheet in all competitions.
2. Kelleher solves Klopp’s keeper conundrum
Having made an impressive debut for Liverpool against Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League last Tuesday, young goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher followed it up with more of the same in a 4-0 Premier League win against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday (Dec 6).
He was fearless under high balls into the box and quick off his line, and he appeared to inspire more confidence than fellow reserve Adrian, who is both older and more experienced but who has not been convincing in recent appearances.
The 22-year-old was called into action early, showing quick feet and superb reflexes to tip an attempted lob by Daniel Podence behind for a corner.
Even at 4-0 up, Kelleher’s concentration never wavered and he was again quick to react in the 80th minute to block a Rayan Ait Nouri shot, and Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for his young keeper.
“Very mature. Very calm. Very good with the ball and without the ball. It was a night to remember for him,” Klopp said.
3. Returning Zaha shows his class as Palace soar
To say Wilfried Zaha is important to Crystal Palace would be a massive understatement and the talismanic forward showed again what a difference he makes by returning from Covid-19 illness to score twice in their 5-1 rout of West Bromwich Albion.
Palace had lost their last two matches with Zaha in self-isolation but looked a different team with him fit again, as they took full advantage of playing against 10-men to bang in five away goals for the first time in the Premier League.
Zaha’s double on Sunday took his tally to seven this season, with Belgian Christian Benteke – who opened his account for the campaign on his first start with two goals against West Brom – next on the list.
4. Blades look doomed after yet another loss
Sheffield United face a mammoth task to avoid relegation after a 2-1 home defeat by Leicester City left them rooted to the bottom of the table with one point from 11 games, stretching their winless league run to 14 games dating back to last season.
A porous defence coupled with a blunt-looking attack – they have scored a mere five goals and conceded 18 – does not give their fans much room for optimism that the Blades can turn their season around.
Manager Chris Wilder stressed his side had no choice but to keep going “after shooting themselves in the foot yet again,” with Jamie Vardy sinking them in the 90th minute, but that may turn out to be easier said than done with a thin squad.
5. Mourinho reluctant to use Bale
Gareth Bale spent much of Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday warming up on the touchline. But, just as against Chelsea the week before, he did not get on the pitch.
The Welsh winger, whose return to Spurs on loan from Real Madrid caused such excitement, was also an unused substitute in the 2-0 win over Manchester City a fortnight ago.
Manager Jose Mourinho has said Bale is undergoing a “physical evolution” and says the player lacks confidence to play consecutive games.
The 31-year-old has started Tottenham’s last two Europa League games but has not featured in the league since facing West Bromwich Albion a month ago.
Either Mourinho does not fully trust Bale’s ability to fit into his system or he is holding him back for later in the season against less menacing opposition.