Premier League week 16 round-up: Klopp’s selection errors + Everton’s anti-football = frustration for Liverpool

Premier League Review Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has been largely lauded by Liverpool supporters since arriving at Anfield two years ago, but on Sunday afternoon he copped a lot of flak for his very questionable team selection and substitutions during the 1-1 draw against Everton. The German boldly left Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho on the bench and, even with a game coming up on Wednesday, it was a gamble that backfired dismally. Mohamed Salah was later taken off, but not before he gave Liverpool a 41st-minute lead with an exquisite lob over Jordan Pickford. The Reds should have been more than one to the good at half-time and could well have been had Sadio Mane laid the ball off to any one of three ideally-positioned team-mates rather than taking the shot on himself. Klopp’s decision to withdraw Salah at 1-0 was baffling and ultimately proved very costly as, on 75 minutes, one neat ball into Dominic Calvert-Lewin left Dejan Lovren flat-footed and the only way he could stop the young Evertonian was to barge him over. It was a clear penalty and Wayne Rooney buried it with the only shot worthy of the name that Everton managed all day. It was a draw that felt like a defeat for Liverpool, considering the litany of chances that went abegging, Klopp’s infuriating personnel choices and the anti-football of Everton, who even for a Sam Allardyce team were set up extremely negatively and did nothing to deserve a point from this game.

The Premier League title race might not be done and dusted yet but Manchester City landed a huge psychological blow on neighbours United at Old Trafford on Sunday, winning 2-1 to establish an 11-point lead at the summit. Pep Guardiola’s men were good value for their win, having dominated the first half before eventually taking the lead through David Silva, who finished from four yards out having been played onside by an inattentive Ashley Young. United drew level swiftly, though, Marcus Rashford with a confident finish beyond Ederson on the stroke of half-time. City made the most of a large slick of luck to go back in front on 54 minutes, Romelu Lukaku’s attempted clearance hitting off a team-mate and rebounding to Nicolas Otamendi, who gratefully accepted the present. While the visitors were the better side on the day, they were indebted to goalkeeper Ederson, who pulled off two outstanding saves in the closing minutes to extend City’s winning run to 14 league games, equalling a Premier League record. It was their fourth 2-1 league victory in a row and United’s first home defeat since City beat them in this fixture in the early weeks of last season.

Despite Liverpool dropping two points at the weekend, they still ended it a point closer to Chelsea in third after the champions were downed by a revitalised West Ham at London Stadium on Saturday lunchtime. The only goal of the game arrived inside six minutes, the enigmatic Marko Arnautovic with a sweet strike that beat Thibaut Courtois. Unsurprisingly, Chelsea dominated possession thereafter but they created precious few chances against a Hammers defence that was supremely marshalled and organised. Their best chance fell to Alvaro Morata, who amazingly fluffed his lines when through on goal, although it wasn’t a case of Adrian being required to dig out West Ham on multiple occasions. While this certainly goes down as one of Chelsea’s poorest displays of the season, David Moyes and his team deserve plenty of credit for the effort they invested in holding firm for just a third league win of the season. Could this be a turning point for the Hammers?

Just like Liverpool and Chelsea, Arsenal also failed to take the full quota of points on offer at the weekend and were left being grateful for the one they collected away to Southampton, who led for 85 minutes but ended up having to settle for 1-1. The Saints struck after just three minutes, Charlie Austin continuing his superb form with a fourth goal in as many games. The home side weren’t exactly pinned back in their own half, either, and were unlucky not to double their lead as a long-range Oriol Romeu effort thundered off the crossbar. Ryan Bertrand missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 and it would prove costly as, with just two minutes remaining, Olivier Giroud brilliantly dispatched a header into the top corner of the Southampton net. Arsenal might have been targeting three points at kick-off, but they could have had no complaints if they ended up with nothing after this ‘get out of jail’ job.

Aside from Manchester City, Tottenham were the big winners of the weekend as they took full advantage of the slip-ups of their top four rivals by thumping Stoke 5-1 at Wembley. It took a 21st-minute own goal from Ryan Shawcross to put Spurs in front, but they were streets ahead of Stoke overall and quickfire strikes early in the second half from Son Heung-min and Harry Kane made the rest of the game a procession. Kane added Tottenham’s fourth before Christian Eriksen produced a brilliant individual finish for 5-0. Shawcross managed to deny Hugo Lloris a clean sheet in the final 10 minutes but it barely registered in the overall context of the match. Spurs had been losing touch with the top four but this win, allied to other results, has pulled them right back into contention.

It took Crystal Palace almost four months to climb off the foot of the table, but they find themselves back in 20th within a week after Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Bournemouth. Jermain Defoe gave the visitors an early lead before a crazy five-minute period at the end of the first half which saw Luka Milivojevic equalise from the penalty spot, Scott Dann complete the turnaround and Defoe restore parity with a sublime van Basten-esque volley over Julian Speroni. The second half was low-key by comparison but Palace were given a chance to win it at the death when Charlie Daniels was adjudged to have fouled Wilfried Zaha in the penalty area. Christian Benteke grabbed the ball off Milivojevic to take the spot kick but his tame effort was easily saved by Asmir Begovic and the Eagles had let two points slip through their grasp. It was a foolish act of selfishness from the ex-Liverpool striker and one which cost his team dearly.

Swansea had occupied bottom spot on Saturday morning but hoisted themselves back above Palace after a hard-fought and deserved win over West Brom. Both of these teams have had poor seasons and most of the fare they served up at the Liberty Stadium was far below the standard you’d expect from the Premier League. The winning goal came from Wilfried Bony, who netted his second goal in a week following a 13-month drought. It wasn’t an aesthetic masterpiece by any means, the Ivorian lashing the ball home from a penalty box scramble, but its importance could not be understated. Swansea were good value for the three points, whereas Alan Pardew has taken on a rather challenging task at toothless West Brom.

It isn’t just Pardew’s current club facing a relegation-battling winter; his former employers Newcastle are right in the mire after a sixth defeat in seven on Saturday. On the day that the club marked its 125-year anniversary, things began so well as Joselu put them in front after just four minutes. Riyad Mahrez equalised for Leicester in the 27th minute and the in-form Demarai Gray gave the visitors the lead on the hour mark. Dwight Gayle brought the teams level again on 72 minutes but the Geordies’ killer blow was self-inflicted as, in attempting to get to the ball ahead of Shinji Okazaki, the unlucky Ayoze Perez turned it into his own net. Newcastle are now just two points above the drop zone while Leicester climb to eighth, continuing their excellent form since Claude Puel took charge in late October.

Burnley put daylight between themselves and the teams beneath them by beating Watford 1-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday. Snowy conditions meant that it was not a day for fluid football, although that didn’t stop Abdoulaye Doucoure from having a shot that was well saved by Nick Pope. Watford suffered a blow on 39 minutes when Marvin Zeegelaar was sent off for a two-footed lunge on Steven Defour. Just before the interval, Scott Arfield found the net to edge the home side in front and their winning margin could have been greater had Ashley Barnes not had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside in the second half. Burnley remain in hot pursuit of the Champions League chasers while Watford, with just one point from the last nine on offer, have dropped to ninth.

Brighton were very impressive in their first three months in the Premier League but a run of one point from their last four games sees them nervously peering over their shoulders as the hectic festive schedule looms large. They were rather off-colour in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield, who arrested a worrying streak of four consecutive defeats to haul themselves ahead of the Seagulls in the table. Having not scored since netting twice on the opening day of the season, Steve Mounie helped himself to another double for the Terriers, who continue to gather much-needed points at home to compensate for their atrocious away record. They fully deserved their win and can now look forward to welcoming Chelsea to the John Smith’s Stadium in midweek.

Liverpool won’t have long to lick their wounds from Sunday’s disappointing derby draw, as they are back at Anfield on Wednesday for the visit of West Brom. Anything less than a win against the Baggies will be perceived as a wretched result and, after foolishly under-utilising three members of his potent attacking quartet against Everton, Klopp has absolutely no excuses for not fielding them from the start in midweek. Over to you, Jurgen.

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