Manchester United biggest gainers as Covid disrupts Premiership
In a week which saw the raging Covid-19 pandemic disrupt as many as two Premiership games, 13-time Champions Manchester United turned out the biggest gainers, moving into second place on the points table with a 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, at home in Old Trafford. Their ninth win in 15 games, now takes them just three points behind Champions and leaders Liverpool, with United still having a game in hand.
The Champions played out an expectedly tired goalless draw against Newcastle in the final game of Matchday 16 on Wednesday night, dropping points in successive games now.
Our previous Star of the Week Karl Darlow, again dished out a goalkeeping performance to remember for the Magpies. While continuing to be in the top two on all keeping parameters, he now makes a welcome and deserving move up the clean-sheets charts as well, with his third shut-out of the season.
This week though, Manchester United sensation Marcus Rashford bags the Star of the Week honours, his seventh league strike for The Red Devils in stoppage time against The Wolves, meaning they finish the year on a high after being close to the bottom six for a considerable period, in the initial stages.
Contrasting back to back wins for Arsenal, Leeds
Both Arsenal and Leeds United picked up back to back league wins in contrasting fashion.
Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking machine crushed Sam Allardyce’s West Bromwich Albion 5-0 at the Hawthorns. Leeds were up 4-0 at the break with the first coming off an embarrassing back-pass from Baggies defender Romaine Sawyers- the ball rolling into the net with keeper Sam Johnstone caught outside the goal area.
The Yorkshiremen however scored some brilliant goals of their own, with the second by Ezgjan Alioski specially standing out for the accuracy, power and purity of the left-footed bazooka. The fifth scored by increasingly impressive Brazilian winger Raphinia, reiterated his growing stature in the league.
The Gunners on the other hand, dished out a much more professional and tight performance, soaking in a lot of Brighton pressure, before turning it on in the second-half. Alexandre Lacazette, scored the all-important winner after the ever-improving Bukhayo Saka, found him inside the box with a perfect cross, post a brilliant run from the right flank. The Frenchman had been on the field for all of 43 seconds.
Both teams lie just outside the top-half still and will have a lot more to do in the second-half of the league to fulfill any lofty goals that they might be harbouring.
The pandemic is taking its toll
There were just 12 goals scored in the eight completed games, pointing to a heavy toll of the pandemic on the world’s most competitive and most watched football league.
Games between Manchester City and Aston Vila and Tottenham Hotspurs and Fulham, had to be postponed given high Covid positive cases, making it three games in all now to have faced similar consequences.
Things have come to such a passé, that the Premiership management has finally decided to meet and discuss the possibility of a circuit break.
Differing views on the subject have already been put forward by various league managers and a decision is expected soon.
In the meanwhile Matchday 16 witnessed two goalless and two 1-1 draws, with three games ending 1-0, certainly pointing to an almost inhuman schedule, making training games out of top competitive action. The players on the pitch also certainly looked a tired lot, going through the paces.
Matchday 17: No respite for now
For now though, there will be no respite, with Matchday 17 scheduled again with no more than a 48-hour gap.
The first game on New Year’s evening pits Everton against West Ham followed by Aston Villa against the red hot Manchester United.
The Champions again play last on Monday against Southampton with seven games scheduled over Saturday and Sunday. The one not too miss among them would be Chelsea v Man City on Sunday evening.