Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

Premier League: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend’s Action

Premier League: 10 Talking Points From the Weekend’s Action

Thursday, 26 December, 2019 - 07:15
John McGinn of Aston Villa; Adama Traore of Wolves; Danny Ings of Southampton. Composite: Action Images via Reuters/PA/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

1) Ings makes case for England recall


At this rate there is every chance two of the Premier League’s deadliest English strikers will not be part of Gareth Southgate’s squad at Euro 2020. Jamie Vardy is unlikely to be tempted out of international retirement and then there is Danny Ings, the Southampton striker who took his tally to 13 goals for the season with a double. Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham and Callum Wilson may be ahead of Ings in the pecking order but seven goals from his past seven games means it is impossible to ignore the 27-year-old’s credentials for a recall. Ings’s only cap came against Lithuania four years ago under Roy Hodgson, when the striker was at Liverpool. “He is a typical No 9 in the box,” said the Saints manager, Ralph Hasenhüttl. “With his technique, there are not a lot of strikers who are better than him.” Ben Fisher


2) McGinn injury adds to Smith’s headaches


Aston Villa’s misery over perhaps their most dispiriting defeat of the season was compounded on Sunday by the news that John McGinn suffered an ankle fracture during Saturday’s loss at home to Southampton and could be out for some time. The Scotland midfielder was forced off after only eight minutes after appearing to get his studs caught in the turf, and Villa suffered in his absence as Saints romped to a 3-1 win. Along with Jack Grealish, McGinn is Villa’s most reliable creative talent and it means the likes of Wesley, Trézéguet and Conor Hourihane need to step up for their upcoming festive fixtures against Norwich and Watford, both of which Dean Smith’s side need to win and require dynamic attacking performances, not least because Villa’s defence continues to look flaky. Tom Davies


3) Bournemouth short of attacking ideas


It was the match with the fewest shots in Premier League history, and it felt like it. That is not to say Bournemouth v Burnley did not have its plus points, such as the physical commitment of two well-drilled sides, but what there was only served to shut down goal opportunities further. For Bournemouth this was an immediate concern, with the home side taking more risks for no reward and ultimately another defeat, their sixth in seven matches. But it’s also a longer-term worry. After Watford, Bournemouth have scored the fewest goals in the division. The underlying stats suggest that total is not unfair. Last season Eddie Howe’s side made hay time and again through the combination of Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser but that spark has not come back. The team look short on ideas and attacking alternatives; they need to find some, and quickly. Paul MacInnes


4) McGoldrick offers everything but the goal


Not long before Roberto Firmino was scoring for Liverpool in the Club World Cup final, the closest thing Sheffield United have to the Brazilian was missing a sitter at Brighton. But, as ever, David McGoldrick made a big contribution to his team’s victory. His intelligence, dynamism and finesse make him a key factor in their rise up the table. And one of these days he will score his first Premier League goal. “The roof will come off when he does,” Chris Wilder said. “He makes us play, he makes us tick. Out of possession, in possession, he’s a really good player. Another one we got who was going nowhere and he’s absolutely fantastic for us. The majority of fans know what the game is about … and if he was a pretender our punters would have definitely found him out and isolated him. And he isn’t. The roof will come off when he scores. It’s coming.” Paul Doyle


5) Where should Ancelotti start Everton rebuild?


“There’s no point kidding ourselves,” Duncan Ferguson said, “we are at the wrong end of the table.” Carlo Ancelotti is known as a lover of the finer things in life, not just in football, and the immediate worry as a new era dawns is that despite fielding Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Cenk Tosun and Moise Kean in the same game Everton went 90 minutes without a shot on target. The new manager is likely to want to spend in January, so where should he start? Another striker would only add to an already long list, when a lack of creativity might be the real problem. André Gomes is injured and Alex Iwobi limped off early against Arsenal, while Gylfi Sigurdsson does not look fully recovered from his spell on the sidelines. Ferguson has shown there is spirit, it is now up to Ancelotti to try to introduce a little sophistication. Paul Wilson


6) Top four the new target after Foxes are found out


Leicester have played four away games against last season’s top six and from them they have taken only one point. It’s true that they might have got a draw at Liverpool but they were poor against an uninspiring Manchester United at Old Trafford and they were well-beaten by Manchester City. The positive is that they have got four of their toughest games out of the way in the first half of the season – and they did beat Tottenham and Arsenal (if they can really be classed as a ‘big six’ side any more) at home. But this result should perhaps serve as a check to expectations about them. They are not – yet – a side equipped for a serious title challenge and, just because their form through the autumn suggested something extraordinary might be possible, a top-four finish would still represent a remarkable achievement. Jonathan Wilson


7) Team player Almirón gets overdue reward

Cold statistics said Miguel Almirón had failed to score and contributed one assist since his £21m move from Atlanta last January but those numbers failed – spectacularly – to highlight how very good the Paraguay playmaker is. Against Palace, amid joyous scenes rarely witnessed at St James’ Park in recent times, he finally broke his duck, volleying the winner against visitors let down by Wilfried Zaha’s habit of sulking whenever colleagues failed to give him the ball. In contrast, Almirón is an ultimate team player who blends high-calibre nutmegs and talent‑laden first touches with serious elbow grease. “Miggy’s bloody good,” said Newcastle’s manager, Steve Bruce. “He’s a great pro, popular. Physically he’s huge in what he does for the team, his running, so you want him to succeed. He’s a joy to work with. I’d break down the door to get another player as good as him.” Louise Taylor


8) Norwich denied by Wolves’ collective will


One week ago Wolves had Tottenham on the ropes but failed to land the finishing blow. This time it was Daniel Farke’s turn to rue his team’s missed opportunities. “Should be three or four goals,” he said, sighing. He was correct. Norwich dominated Wolves in the first half thanks in large part to the most astonishing first-half performance from Emi Buendía. But Wolves weathered the storm, taking advantage of rare poor finishing from Teemu Pukki to drag themselves back into the match. Adama Traoré continues to be relentless and the goalkeeper Rui Patrício kept them in it but their collective spirit was most impressive. Setbacks are inevitable in an exhausting season and it is how Wolves react that will decide how high they can finish. The fortitude Nuno Espírito Santo’s team have shown this season is encouraging. Tumaini Carayol


9) Spurs attackers need more from midfield


José Mourinho cannot do much about the individual mistakes that resulted in Chelsea’s two goals – apart from replace those who committed them in January. What is more achievable in the short term is ensuring Tottenham are better in possession of the ball and can keep it. With Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko occupying the centre of the park, it is unlikely they are going to utilise the ball with requisite speed and incisiveness for Spurs to threaten top opposition such as Chelsea. With Harry Winks and Christian Eriksen settled on the bench, Spurs’ midfield watched as Chelsea popped the ball around and through them to open up the lead, while the hosts mainly wasted what little of the ball they saw. Having forward players with the talent of Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Harry Kane is pointless if they are given so few sightings of the ball. Will Unwin


10) Pogba shows what United may end up missing


Once Paul Pogba was introduced, Manchester United became a different proposition. Or at least in attack; their defence were still being pulled apart by opponents who had scored only nine previous goals this season. During the first half, United’s forwards received little service from a midfield where Scott McTominay and Fred were being dominated. Jesse Lingard missed the sole chance, chipping over rather than placing or powering past Ben Foster. It was the latest demonstration of a player struggling badly since his heady World Cup summer of 2018. Pogba replaced Lingard with United two down and 34 minutes left to play, and soon created space, angles and danger. But can that really be seen as a positive for United when Pogba’s future remains opaque? Without him, United are bereft of creativity unless the opposition allow them to counterattack. John Brewin


Editor Picks

Multimedia