Liverpool need to wake up to their own failings
Jurgen Klopp would do well to Google Albert Einstein’s* definition of insanity. Liverpool seem to be repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results. And that is stopping Klopp’s Liverpool from achieving their potential. The defensive frailties of the side were all-too apparent at St James’ Park on Sunday as ex-Red Jonjo Shelvey split Liverpool open with one simple (albeit expertly judged) long pass. Klopp could only shake his head and prepare his defensive comments for the post-match press conference, but the manager needs to accept that his team is in need desperate need of a defensive overhaul. If that doesn’t mean bringing in new centre-backs, then it certainly should mean offering the existing ones better protection than a Jordan Henderson/Georginio Wijnaldum central midfield pairing. (*The famous definition of insanity by Albert Einstein is believed to have been misattributed to the scientist.)
Don't be fooled by Arsenal's revival
On the subject of repeating the same mistakes over and over again, Arsenal’s season is following a very familiar pattern. Their “crisis” - brought about by a transfer window perceived as weak and a shambolic loss to Liverpool - is now but a distant memory. And Arsenal fans are even eyeing a top-four spot following their run of six wins and a draw in their last seven games in all competitions, up to Sunday's 2-0 win over Brighton. But, let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen, is it? Arsenal will look good at times, then they’ll go through another poor run of form, the fans will turn on them, the squad will start racking up an eyebrow-raising number of injuries, and then, when all appears lost, they’ll have a strong end to the season and snatch some sort of glory from an otherwise disappointing campaign. It’s what Wenger's Arsenal do.
Barcelona deserve credit for their on-pitch composure
Whether or not Barcelona’s match against Las Palmas should have gone ahead on Sunday is a big talking point and one with surrounding political context that is too complex for us to properly address in such a short space here. But out on the pitch Barcelona did a commendably professional job in ignoring all of that and ruthlessly putting their opponents away in the surreal environment of a deserted Camp Nou. The ramifications of Sunday’s clashes in Catalonia will run and run, but in a footballing sense it was a day where the team minimised the damage it could have caused. For that they deserve credit.
Sluggish Everton need to change gear
The overriding theme of Everton’s play over the last few weeks has been just how slow they’ve been. Going away to Goodison Park used to be an intense experience - not so for Burnley, who won 1-0 on Sunday. Everton would pressure and harass you for 90 minutes and you would have to fight to take anything away. The style has changed and it’s now too patient and you always feel you’ve got a chance. Koeman made a mistake in the window in not directly replacing Romelu Lukaku, and by signing too many of the same type of player: Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen. It may be time for Everton to think about a change…
Dyche deserves praise for sticking to guns
When Michael Keane left Burnley to join Everton, talk turned to how the Clarets would spend their newly acquired funds on replacing the centre-back. Sean Dyche wasn’t interested in such conversations and made it clear that he had faith in James Tarkowski, just as he did with Keane before that. The gamble has paid off brilliantly with Tarkowski slotting in effortlessly next to Ben Mee at the heart of defence. Having only made his debut at the back end of last season Tarkowski hasn’t looked out of place so far this season. With teams sitting deeper and defending more at Turf Moor, Burnley have had to find a way to improve their away record. With Tarkowski leading the defensive unit they’ve picked up points against Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and now Everton.
Benitez’s Shelvey gamble pays off
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez had been very clear that Shelvey would have to work hard to win his place back in the team but he decided the visit of former side Liverpool was the appropriate game. Given Shelvey’s tendency to get a bit too stuck in against his old club this seemed like a big gamble but Benitez, as usual, was correct in his decision. Shelvey was relatively disciplined in midfield, worked really hard against Jordan Henderson and former Magpie Wijnaldum, and his pass through to Joselu for the goal was fantastic.
-- by Tom Bennett and Pete Sharland