An under-pressure Chelsea star hinted at the way forward for Frank Lampard with a promising split-second decision.
Liverpool are locked up in a battle for top spot with Manchester United and one club legend has a clear plan on what they must do to take out the title.
Here are the five biggest talking points from the latest round of Premier League games…
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UNDER-FIRE $128M RECRUIT’S GLIMPSE TO EASE LAMPARD’S PAIN
Frank Lampard has called for patience on big-money signing Kai Havertz but there was one sign in Chelsea’s defeat to Manchester City that would have pleased fans. The Blues dropped $A128 million on the German international but he has largely failed to fire since in frustrating viewing. Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has called for Frank Lampard to switch formations in an attempt to spark an otherwise predictable attack and better unleash Havertz.
“At the moment it does not look like there is a plan, Chelsea look like a group of top players who have been told to just go out and play,” he said. “They need to ditch the 4-3-3, get Kai Havertz behind a front two, get two up front, play that way and cause teams problems, because as it stands things are predictable with Chelsea.”
Havertz did show a sign of promise though late in the second half against Manchester City, coming up with an assist in the consolation goal for Callum Hudson-Odoi. It was the turn of pace from Havertz, the element of surprise that Merson was calling for, that saw him break free of Rodri and be there in time to take the pass from Christian Pulisic. He then showed the composure to put it back in for Hudson-Odoi who scored the goal. The instinctive run from Havertz is exactly what Chelsea are lacking and is a sign of exactly what he can achieve if used correctly and given enough of a chance.
For Lampard though, the key is time – but even reports emerged this week suggesting he does not have much of that left. “Moving country and missing pre-season, Kai had eight days with us, five work days before he played,” Lampard said before the City game. “That is just not beneficial for a player in any league, let alone when you are coming into the fastest, most physical league in the world. Just as Kai was just coming to terms with it he got Covid. He had Covid quite severely. The expectation around him – you have to put context into the story. Kai’s talent is undoubted. Giving him the time to adapt is crucial.”
THE ‘IMPERATIVE’ CHANGE LIVERPOOL MUST MAKE
The match against Southampton was there for the taking on the weekend. The relentless red machine Jurgen Klopp had put together last season would have pounced at even the slightest opening. It is important not to get too carried away with the 1-0 loss to Southampton.
But with just one shot on target and draws against West Brom and Newcastle preceding the defeat, the Reds need to turn around this form slump fast. Manchester United are now level on points at the top of the table and have a game in hand. Injuries have taken their toll and Jurgen Klopp would certainly point towards a congested schedule for the “rusty” period the side is going through at the moment.
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher though sees a clear hole in the current line-up that could cost them the title. Fortunately though, he insists it is one they can fill this month. While Klopp maintains that he will look to solve any problems internally, Carragher has urged him to reconsider.
“The results Liverpool have had recently have nothing to do with them defensively. It’s going forward that is the problem,” he said on Sky Sports following the 1-0 result. “But l just think that it’s imperative Liverpool sign someone in January. Henderson isn’t a centre-back. “I can’t see Liverpool winning the league if they don’t bring in a centre-back. They have enough quality to go for the title if they don’t bring someone in. But unless they do, it’s a really tough ask.”
The defending champs are without three senior centre-backs. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are expected to miss most of the season while Joel Matip will remain sidelined for a few weeks. Klopp said earlier in the week that it made “no sense” to go after a short-term solution on the transfer market. He pointed towards the financial insecurity of the pandemic as a key reason why the champs should not be forced into a panicked buy.
His confidence to do just that could be reassuring for the entire playing group if they need an extra boost in the current slump, not that they need it. With Manchester United up next though, a loss would only heap more pressure on Liverpool to come up with results. The Reds will be in the title race regardless but it remains to be seen how hard they make it for themselves.
TOTTENHAM’S DEADLY DUO STRIKE AGAIN… BUT DO THEY NEED MORE?
They are the most lethal combination in the Premier League right now but could Tottenham be guilty of becoming too reliant on Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane. No duo has combined for more goals this season with Kane and Son responsible for 13 of Tottenham’s scores. Kane again turned provider for Son in their second goal in a 3-0 win over Leeds.
“That movement of Kane appearing on the right side and Sonny in a finishing position, it fit well with our game plan,” Mourinho said. “They are doing special things this season.” It is a pretty simple recipe for success when it is working but if either of the pair have an off night or injury strikes, is it too much of an adjustment for someone else in the team to stand up?
Steven Bergwijn, for instance, is a key part of Mourinho’s front three alongside the deadly duo. He has certainly been able to produce on the defensive end of the field but the 23-year old has not yet found the net in 11 Premier League games. Mourinho revealed after the victory over Leeds that injury issues were behind Bergwijn’s lack of potency in attack.
He did make the assurance though that if fit, the Holland international will begin to fire again. “He’s accumulating also physical problems. I don’t know if you could see but even in the last ten minutes he was touching his groin, he was touching his adductor,” he said.
“He’s having problems that are stopping him now and again from training properly and at high intensity, so he’s suffering a little bit. But of course he gives very good things to the team. I believe the goals will arrive if his condition improves.” Mourinho himself in the aftermath of the Leeds’ result admitted he wanted to see other players lift around Son and Kane. “I want more goals, especially more goals from other players,” he said.
FAVOURABLE STRETCH HAS CITY PRIMED
Manchester City left Stamford Bridge with more than just the three points. They left with a statement to the rest of the competition after dismantling Chelsea in a 3-1 victory that Pep Guardiola hailed as the blueprint for future success.
“They make a step forward and they make an incredible display against one of the best teams in England,” he said. Far from the attacking struggles earlier in the season, City were ruthless and relentless as they overcome a host of first-team players being sidelined following an outbreak of coronavirus at the club. City currently sit fifth on the ladder just four points behind first-placed Liverpool and with two games in hand.
If Guardiola’s men are going to strike and take a serious tilt at the title it is going to happen in the coming weeks. With Brighton, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley in the near future – there is no reason why City can’t bag points in all of those games. They then play title contenders Liverpool and Tottenham. By then, City have a huge chance to lay the foundations for the rest of the season and build on their most impressive victory yet.
YOUNG GUN’S STUNNING RISE BAD NEWS FOR $130M STAR
Arsenal’s comeback continue on the weekend, albeit against West Brom but it was more exciting signs for a young gun and less so for a record purchase. Bukayo Saka impressed again with his evasiveness on the wing while his crossing ability is just another threat that makes him so hard to defend against.
The England winger also fired home a goal to extend Arsenal’s lead to two as he capped off another stunning performance. His move to right wing has not only improved the youngster’s game but also opened up more space for Kieran Tierney. Saka is quickly coming to symbolise the secret behind Arsenal’s potential revitalisation – the injection of youth, the willingness to go out on the field with no fear and a burning desire to make the most of every opportunity.
It could spell bad news for one $130 million record signing who is not having the same impact. According to OptaJoe, Saka has been directly involved in 22 goals in all competitions (seven goals, 15 assists) since the start of last season – the second most by a teenage currently playing in the Premier League.
The pressure now is on Nicolas Pepe and understanding where exactly he fits into Arsenal’s line-up. There is no doubt he has the talent and natural ability, but with such a big price tag and Saka already showing he has it in him to develop and grow his game quickly, it shapes as a difficult decision for Mikel Arteta and the Gunners moving forward.