Liverpool are back at the summit of the Premier League after earning all 3 points in a game they would have been desperate to win. The reds are once again a point clear of Manchester City approaching the midway point of the season. Meanwhile, new Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has earned his first win with his new club after an impressive display against high-flying Arsenal.
A clash between fierce rivals Liverpool and Manchester United is a always a fixture to look forward to in the Premier League calendar, but it has somewhat failed to live up to expectation in recent times. Whilst Mourinho is renowned for successfully restricting how well his opponents in big games can play, it can lead to a less entertaining affair than many would have been hoping for. This has shown in this particular fixture with a couple of the latest encounters ending in lacklustre draws. Thankfully, yesterday’s match didn’t play out this way. It was the home side who dominated the match with United struggling to have any real impact. It was only for a poor Alisson mistake that they managed to get on the scoresheet through Jesse Lingard. Yet, this wasn’t enough for them to salvage any sort of result with the game finishing 3-1 greatly thanks to super-sub Xherdan Shaqiri’s late brace.
The vast difference between the two sides was easy to see. Liverpool looked comfortable throughout the whole game displaying just how far United have fallen behind their competitors. The scary statistic that the Merseyside club accumulated 36 shots to United’s puny 6 tells you everything you need to know. Even when they do manage to pull off a rare win, United never look like running riot, something they’ve certainly lost from the Sir Alex Ferguson era. Ferguson always went into a game looking to get a win and the huge success he experienced is evidence that this has to be the way forward for the club. They are no longer the solid side all football fans have become so familiar with; the defence almost looks like it needs a complete overhaul. The back line does seem to be a bit of an issue but United aren’t without a number of technically gifted players going forward. Yet, none of them are being allowed to play to the best of their ability under Mourinho. Given how leaky United have been this season, a strong argument could be made for Mourinho starting to focus on outscoring other teams rather than just trying to be secure, at least until he can make a few additions to sure up his defence. United look like conceding at least one against whoever they face and that’s not something the manager is going to change with his current group of players, whereas not scoring enough goals could be.
Aside from the main attraction of Liverpool Vs Manchester United, Southampton grabbed a much needed win against Arsenal, who’s unbeaten run of 22 games has now come to an end. Three headed goals by the Saints helped them on their way to securing an entertaining 3-2 win. Whilst giving the fans a voucher for a free drink will go someway in building their enthusiasm, it’s new boss Hasenhuttl getting his side putting in performances like this one that will have the greatest impact. Given how they played yesterday against one of the league’s top sides, it’s difficult to comprehend how Southampton are in such danger of facing the drop, only out the relegation zone on goal difference. Yet, with the Austrian having such a great affect after such a short time, there’s no limit as to what he can achieve over the rest of the season and beyond.
As for Arsenal, this will be a slight bump in the road of what has been a promising start to the Unai Emery reign. The gunners have been a very difficult side to overcome this season indicated by their long unbeaten run, further emphasising what a great achievement this win is for Southampton. Although on paper Arsenal would have been clear favourites, this fixture did look like one which could pose a few problems. Injuries and suspensions forced Emery into playing a very makeshift defence which included a central midfielder in Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny, who has only just returned from a long term absence. Although Southampton were very good going forward, for Danny Ings, who isn’t the biggest or most physical player, to score two headed shows that the defence must have made a few mistakes even if they were just slight ones. It also doesn’t help when your keeper comes flying out and misses the ball leading to the third goal. Despite all this, the return of a few key players and a stern talking to from the manager should see Arsenal get back to winning ways and playing like they have been for the majority of the season.
Overall, Sunday was an embarrassing day for a couple of the Premier League’s top teams. Losing to a team towards the bottom of the table is always going to bring a certain amount of mockery, and Arsenal fans will be hoping this is only a one off. The latest loss for United, however, certainly isn’t a one off. Whilst a 3-1 loss away to the side who currently sit top of the table may not look overly embarrassing, the performance itself most definitely was.