Leicester, Southampton major gainers as big names drop points
Leicester City and Southampton emerged the major gainers at the end of Matchday 12 of the 29th Premiership, as almost all big names dropped points even as a back-breaking schedule, piling injury woes and the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), continued to play a major influencing role on team formations, selections and match outcomes.
Tottenham Hotspurs and Liverpool held on to their 1-2 spots on the points table despite failing to win, as Chelsea and Arsenal suffered losses and the Manchester Derby also petered out to a tame goalless draw.
For his double-strike in a scintillating first-half display against Brighton and Hove Albion which Leicester won 3-0, James Maddison takes the Star of the Week honours, given the result also propelled The Foxes to third on the table, a gain of one spot from the previous week.
Southampton had an identical outcome against bottom-placed Sheffield United, both in terms of match result and movement on the points table, ending the week at fourth, to remain as one of the hottest teams of the league so far.
Chelsea’s torrid visits to Goodison Park continued with a Sigurosson penalty felling them this time against Everton, moving them down to fifth from third in the previous week. It also ended a 17-game unbeaten run across all competitions for Frank Lampard’s side, who was out strategized by his former boss Carlo Ancelloti.
Calvert-Lewin still tops scoring charts
The Toffees centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was instrumental in winning the penalty against Chelsea which led to the Sigurosson goal, stayed on top of the scoring charts with 11-goals, being hotly chased by the trio of Jamie Vardy, Mo-Salah and Son Heung-Min, who have 10 each.
Vardy and Salah scored in the week, while Son upped his assist quotient to four, after his pass to Harry Kane led to the Spurs talisman’s ninth goal of the league season, in a 1-1 draw against an inspired Crystal Palace side.
Salah converted off the spot for Champions Liverpool against another inspired side Fulham, to help salvage a point after a Bobby Decordova-Reid strike in the first half had put The Cottagers ahead.
No respite for Klopp’s injury woes
The Champions were hit with further injury worries after defender Joel Matip had to be withdrawn in the second-half. Diogo Jota, their most accomplished player over the last month or so, was also on the injured list ahead of the start of the game.
With Virgil Van Dyk, Joe Gomez, James Milner and Thiago also out indefinitely, and Trent Alexandre Arnold just about feeling his way back, the likes of youngsters Nico Williams and Curtis Jones and Minamino are now holding fort admirably for The Reds.
Jeurgen Klopp actually will be relieved that his team has been able accumulate the most points in the Premiership at this stage, despite having to field a different eleven in almost every game.
A Goalless Manchester Derby
The biggest game of the week, the much-touted Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford, turned out to be a damp squib, ending goalless eventually.
United, who seemed to have settled to playing on the counter for some time now, exhibited great class and composure while defending against a City attack consisting of Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Riyadh Mahrez, to begin with and a red-hot Ferran Torres in place of Mahrez, midway into the second.
United are among the clubs including their derby opponents, to have reverted firmly to a traditional back-four, and the way Luke Shaw at left-back, brought in, in place of left-wing back Alex Telles, nullified an in-form Torres, unleashed by Pep Guardiola in the second-half to snatch a win, showed the value of such a switch.
Both sides did have their chances to win, but in the end, both appeared lacking in conviction. The Red Devils as a result, still sit ahead of the Citizens by a spot on the table, lying eighth. They will also be the happier with the result, coming on the back of a disheartening Champions League group stages elimination earlier in the month.
Goals dry up again
Matchday 12 equaled the week with the least goals scored in the 29th Premiership, its tally of 19, matching the number scored on Matchday six earlier. All other 10 Mathcdays have had 20 or more goals scored, with Matchday two registering a record 44-goals in a 10 game week.
West Ham and Newcastle were part of games having a maximum of three goals scored. The Hammers striking through Tomas Soucek and Angelo Ogbonna, to overcome Leeds United who again squandered an early lead.
The Magpies also winning by a similar 2-1 margin over West Bromwich Albion, with goals from Miguel Almiron and Dwight Gayle.
Aston Villa picked up a sixth win as well, riding on a stoppage time Anwar El-Ghazi penalty to put it over Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux, thereby finishing in the top-half of the table.
Burnely shock Arsenal
It was certainly coming, but when it finally did, it was still a shock. In a listless display, complete with a red-card for Granit Xhaka, Arsenal went down at home at the Emirates stadium to Burnely, thanks to an Aubameyang own-goal.
The Gunners were put under sustained pressure by Burnely as the game progressed and particularly through set pieces. Finally, it was the Gabonese forward whose attempt at heading out a corner at the near post, which found its way past keeper Leno, giving Burnely a much needed second win.
The Gunners are also hampered with injuries to key players Thomas Partey and David Luiz, and a seventh loss in 12 games, means Mikel Arteta’s space for further mishaps, is now non-existent. They are now placed a woeful 15thin the 20-team competition.
Matchday 13: Mid-week action
It gets frantic in the League this week, with mid-week action to complement the usual weekend fair.
The show begins with Chelsea travelling to the Molineux stadium on Tuesday evening to take on The Wolves, before a packed Wednesday with five games.
The top of the table clash between Tottenham Hotspurs and Liverpool, clearly the one to watch out for on Wednesday, with the Arsenal v Southampton and Everton v Leicester, the other juicy clashes on the day.
Manchester United were scheduled to play the last mid-week game on Thursday evening against Sheffield United.