Last week saw a number of high-profile player changes, but the two names that seem to be dominating proceedings are Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. While both have been crucial in their new clubs’ campaigns so far this season, it is worth considering whether they could help kickstart an impressive run for each club.
Leaders Manchester City defeated Wolves 1-0 at the weekend, giving the Premier League’s top three teams all wins.
Manchester United won 1-0 at Norwich City on Sunday to close the distance on fourth-placed West Ham, who were held to a goalless draw at Burnley the day before.
In other matches, Leicester City bounced back from their Europa League loss with a 4-0 win over Newcastle United, Arsenal strolled to a 3-0 win over Southampton, and Crystal Palace held off Everton 3-1.
Brentford overcame Watford 2-1 on Friday night after scoring two goals in the closing ten minutes.
Check out my team of the week before making your own choices at the bottom of the page.
David de Gea is the goalkeeper (Manchester United)
If Teemu Pukki’s save was world-class, Ozan Kabak’s header was world-class as well. This is the second Manchester United league performance I’ve seen under Ralf Rangnick, and they would have lost both games if De Gea had not been in goal.
He’s in incredible form and is once again United’s finest player. This club still has a lot of work to do, particularly in defense, but De Gea is making them appear better than they are.
Norwich, on the other hand, is beginning to look like a team under Dean Smith, putting Burnley, Newcastle, and Watford in jeopardy. What a shame they aren’t able to capitalize on their opportunities.
What if I told you that Ralf Rangnick is the first Manchester United manager since Ernest Mangnall in 1903 to keep a clean sheet in his first two league games in charge of the club.
Arsenal’s Gabriel, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, and Bayern Munich’s Antonio Rudiger are among the defenders (Chelsea)
Gabriel: Arsenal weren’t at their best against Southampton for most of the first half, but I don’t believe they have been at their best all season. In fact, I’m baffled as to how they’re sixth in the standings.
They’ve been churning through games without performing especially brilliantly since beating Spurs in the north London derby. Gabriel’s performances are one of the reasons they have continued to progress under Mikel Arteta. Arsenal appear sturdy at the back and a danger in attack whenever the Brazilian is available.
For disciplinary grounds, their captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was taken out of the starting lineup. He should remain out until he learns how to handle himself.
What if I told you that With Gabriel’s second goal in the Premier League, Arsenal has now scored eight goals in their past four league games.
Virgil van Dijk: One of the many reasons I believe Van Dijk is the finest defender on the planet is that he handles tough situations with ease.
When attackers back into him, he wins headers and doesn’t protest to the referee. He wins tackles he has no right to win and then sets the assault in motion with one touch. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself.
He reminds me of a previous colleague of mine, Alan Hansen, who was similar and not awful! In the Crooks of the Matter below, I explain why I believe dressing room banter in the wrong environment may be quite deadly.
What if I told you that After Manchester City, Liverpool has surrendered the second-fewest amount of shots (135). (105). For the first time since December 2019, they prevented Aston Villa from having a single shot on target in a league encounter.
Rudiger, Antonio: Regular readers will be aware of my strong regard for Rudiger. For a long time, the Germany international has been a standout for Chelsea. He made my team of the season, and if he continues playing like he is now, he has a good chance of doing so again.
His performance against a dogged Leeds side, who were partly to blame for their own demise, was outstanding. There’s a chance Rudiger’s contract with Chelsea is still up for renewal. If this is the case, I recommend that they resolve the issues as soon as possible.
If you put him in a Manchester United jersey, for example, they become a very appealing prospect. Simply said, Chelsea cannot afford to lose him – and especially not to one of their rivals.
What if I told you that After Yuri Zhirkov in March 2010, Rudiger is the first Chelsea player to win two penalties in a Premier League encounter.
Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace), Jorginho (Chelsea), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), and James Maddison (Leicester City) are among the midfielders (Leicester City)
Conor Gallagher: This was a crucial victory for Crystal Palace, who had dropped three points in a row. Gallagher was a pillar of strength in the first half and delivered a game-winning goal in the second.
The Chelsea loanee continues to make an impression at Selhurst Park. The only issue is that he will either be too expensive to purchase for Patrick Vieira, or he will remain at Chelsea, which would be a catastrophic error in my opinion.
If Seamus Coleman hadn’t attempted to be too smart, Everton may have gotten something out of this game. In an attempt to hit Jeff Schlupp with the free kick and get him booked for encroachment, he missed the player and threw the ball away, which Gallagher took care of.
What if I told you that Gallagher has had a direct role in 41% of Crystal Palace’s Premier League goals this season, the greatest percentage of any English player in the tournament for a side.
Jorginho: His backpass put Chelsea on the back foot against West Ham last week. His two expertly-executed penalties against Leeds, on the other hand, gave the Blues three crucial points in a championship battle that is much too unpredictable and close to call.
Taking spot-kicks may be a nerve-wracking affair, and only those who have done it before can grasp the feeling.
Jorginho has developed into a reliable penalty taker, which is very crucial in a squad that has battled to find a quality penalty taker since the days of Frank Lampard.
What if I told you that Jorginho’s winner came after 93 minutes and 11 seconds, and it was Chelsea’s first Premier League victory since September 2009.
Tielemans, Youri: Leicester’s recent defeat at Villa Park was made up for by two goals and a brilliant performance from the Belgian international.
Tielemans dominated the game against a Newcastle team that lacked a cutting edge, while Maddison ripped them to shreds.
Newcastle may have new owners with cash, but they need to spend it fast or risk being relegated to the Championship, where their purchasing power would be severely limited.
What if I told you that After Riyad Mahrez in May 2017, Tielemans became the second player for Leicester to score on his 100th Premier League appearance.
James Maddison: This match had Maddison’s flare and ingenuity written all over it towards the finish.
Since his return to first-team action, the player has looked more like the youngster who made a name for himself at Leicester two seasons ago. His goal was a fitting reward for all of his efforts, as he put Newcastle to the sword.
In every aspect, the Magpies were outclassed, and manager Eddie Howe is having issues. Over the holidays, his games may leave him solitary and stranded at the foot of the table. They may have no choice but to use their inventiveness in the January transfer window if they want to avoid relegation.
What if I told you that This season, no Leicester player has assisted on more goals than James Maddison (10 – level with Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka).
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), and Bryan Mbeumo (Manchester United) (Brentford)
Mohamed Salah: Scoring goals is the most hardest thing to achieve on a football ground, which is why I make such a big deal about goalscorers on my team of the week.
Taking penalties is the same. They are purposefully intended to elicit a sense of suspense. They often make the test taker feel nauseous, but the sense of pleasure when you succeed is incredible, and the feeling of despair when you fail is equally depressing. Seeing a player of Salah’s caliber hyperventilate before taking a penalty against Aston Villa reminded me of what it’s like for him, particularly when the stakes are high.
The victory against Villa retains Liverpool in the championship race and puts Manchester City on the back foot.
What if I told you that Salah has now scored or assisted in 14 straight Premier League games, one short of Vardy’s record of 15 set between August and December 2015.
I despise phony centre-forwards, but if you have to fit a square peg into a round hole, you can’t do much worse than play Sterling there.
However, as a great supporter of Raul Jimenez, I’m baffled as to why the striker was so irate when referee Jon Moss told him to go 10 yards away from the free-kick he had given away in the first place.
It was the most flagrant defiance of authority I’d seen on a football field in a long time. Not only did the official have the right to dismiss the player, but I would have penalized him a week’s pay if I had been his management. The sending-off undoubtedly cost Wolves the game, and Jimenez should bear the brunt of the loss in his wallet.
What if I told you that At 27 years and three days old, Sterling became the eighth-youngest player in Premier League history to record 100 goals.
Bryan Mbeumo: Converting a penalty in the 95th minute as your team is battling for its life in the hardest league in the world has to be the most incredible feeling in the world.
Mbeumo displayed steely grit to steal victory from Watford, who had done the most heinous self-harm on themselves. It’s hard to believe William Troost-Ekong felt compelled to go to ground in his own penalty area at the most vital moment of the game.
Worse, not a single Watford player was yelling at him to remain on his feet. The Hornets have a lot of interesting guys on their roster, but they’re all attacking.
What if I told you that Brentford became the first team in Premier League history to have all ten of their home Premier League goals scored by different players, thanks to Mbeumo’s strike.
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The crooks in charge of the situation
Liverpool raced into the Champions League’s last 16 in record time last week, winning all of their games – but not without controversy.
When Jurgen Klopp said the Africa Cup of Nations was a “small competition,” he accidentally set off a football landmine.
When questioned about the potential for the tournament to create disturbance, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made the remark. Senegal manager Aliou Cisse was enraged when he heard Klopp’s statements.
“I coach Senegal and my players play for Klopp at Liverpool,” the former international skipper shouted. I like Liverpool, but not Klopp, who is known for undermining African football tournaments.
“Because of African players, he is where he is today. Klopp credits African players for his success, having lost ‘every final’ before the arrival of Salah, Sadio Mane, and defender Joel Matip.”
Cisse has a valid argument. Klopp was having trouble until Salah and Mane arrived at Anfield.
However, it wasn’t until I heard Klopp’s explanationexternal-link in his pre-match interview with a journalist before to the AC Milan match that I realized the words were ironic.
Klopp was being sarcastic, implying that the tournament was everything but. Rather than being a little event, Liverpool’s manager said that it was significantly more rigorous than most people realize.
The difficulty with sarcasm is that it doesn’t always translate well or is extremely evident in other parts of the globe. What may look humorous in a dressing room may not translate well or be very clear in other parts of the world.
It will also educate Klopp not to be so rash with his dressing room rhetoric in the future. I’m not his greatest fan, but I’ve watched enough of his teams to know that he not just admires but also appreciates African football. Why would he purchase them if he didn’t have to?