SOCCER

Mouthwatering Matches To Finish The Premier League Round

Apr 22, 2022, 1:33 PM
Soccer Match Liverpool...
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 19: Luis Diaz of Liverpool celebrates scoring their side's first goal with teammates during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on April 19, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – After a solid weekend of fixtures, we had an explosive midweek round that left a few teams licking their wounds.

Manchester United had an eventful week. After getting hammered at Anfield by bitter rivals, Liverpool, they announced current Ajax manager, Erik ten Hag as the new manager for next season. Of course, all of this pales into insignificance after star player, Cristiano Ronaldo announced the passing of his newborn son earlier in the week. The most heart-wrenching thing for a parent to go through, and of course we at KSL Sports extend our condolences.

As Man City and Liverpool keep up their title fight, we saw Chelsea slip against Arsenal. The Blues will be looking over their shoulder the rest of the way as Arsenal and Spurs will try to keep the pressure on as they all fight for a top-four finish.

At the other end of the table, Burnley made it four points out of a possible six since the sacking of Sean Dyche, and the convincing win against Southampton moved them to within a point of Everton, although Burnley has played one game more than Everton.

Arsenal v. Manchester United

Saturday’s early 5:30 a.m. kick on USA and Universo is an extremely mouthwatering tie. Arsenal are fighting it out with Spurs for a top-four finish, whilst United come into the Emirates shell shocked after getting overwhelmed against Liverpool.

Arsenal were, it has to be said, a little fortunate in their victory against Chelsea. Some of the goals they scored came from uncharacteristic mistakes, but at the same time, I don’t want to take anything away from the Gunners as they put pressure on Chelsea and took their chances. What was evident throughout, is that although they didn’t dominate possession they attacked quickly and smoothly, watching Emile Smith-Rowe and Martin Ødegaard drive through the gears and use the ball wisely in the buildup was really good to watch. Bukayo Saka on the right provides pace and power.

Then we had the interesting conundrum, with Brazilian wide man Gabriel Martinelli, who might be the best of the bunch on the bench. I’d expect him to come back into the starting XI. Eddie Nketiah is also another interesting talent, as he’s been leading the line over Alexandre Lacazette. Both center forwards are out of contract come season’s end, and while Nketiah hasn’t progressed at the rate of his other young teammates, his movement and finishing ability were there on show midweek. In a league where English homegrown talent is at a premium, could they really let him walk for pretty much peanuts?

What can we say about United? Much like Arsenal, it’s been a yoyo set of results this season. United have been in a holding pattern since Rangnick took over. I don’t want to say that they wrote the season off, as there is a fourth to fight for but the season end can’t come quick enough so they can start to rebuild if the ownership gives that the green light. Ten Hag has a massive job on his hands, not just in managing one of the largest clubs in world football, but the recruitment has been so off the mark that he will need to gain more control, or, United need to improve that side of the club, something I fully believe Rangnick can do as he slides over to a consulting role.

But until then, Man U must show more fight. It’s that basic need right now. United are a soft touch, Liverpool walked all over them until 19-year-old midfielder Hannibal Mejbri came on late in the second half. He immediately showed energy and desire—fouled a few players and got a yellow card. You might not be impressed with that, but all I saw was a player willing to close down and press, be physical, and not let opposition players stroll around unopposed. United’s lack of leadership is drastic and needs to be addressed.

Prediction: I have to believe United come in with something to play for, and I don’t mean the fading hopes of a top-four finish. Pride.

Arsenal will be heavy favorites but their only downfall this season outside of some suspect defending has been putting the ball in the back of the net. Nketiah will be on a high from midweek, and Lacazette might’ve just had a fire lit under him. It will be a close encounter, but Arsenal should take all three points.

Liverpool v. Everton

The Merseyside derby. A treat for your Sunday viewing. Kicking off at 9:30 a.m. on USA and Telemundo with one team fighting it out for a Premier League title, and one trying to fight off the very real scenario of relegation to the Championship.

Everton come into Anfield on the back of another scruffy performance, but ultimately grabbing a last-gasp equalizer against Leicester could be vital as they sit a point above Burnley, who occupy 18th. Everton are in a dog fight, and whilst they have shown spirit on occasion in recent weeks, they are still leaking goals, poor ones to concede in the professional game. Easily opened up, easily pulled out of position. That said, at the other end, they are creating. Richarlison got the equalizer mid-week, he was also guilty of missing a couple of really good chances. But that’s the point of turning this into a positive. Richarlison keeps getting into really good positions to affect the game.

In what has been a largely poor season for the Toffees, the emergence of Anthony Gordon has been a shining light. His four goals and two assists don’t tell the whole story, as his tricky wing play and direct relentless running produces freekicks and penalties. If Everton do survive, they need to build around his talent. Much like Manchester United, recruitment has been woeful over the years, and lead them to this position.

Lampard came in after replacing Benitez and there was a true new manager bump around the place, but it ended quickly, and it became obvious that this team was going to be a relegation candidate. Lampard tried to get his players to pass and move and be a little more possession-based, of course in hindsight, he probably could have and should have focused on defensive shape and spacing, as it’s the teams who properly manage their defensive line that avoid going down.

Liverpool, like most teams will have to fight fatigue, physically and mentally. Looking at a quadruple, the pressure is relentless. The old saying of “one game at a time” is all they can do, anything else could see a slight downturn in performance and before you know it the title race will be over, out of the Champions League, and a lost FA Cup final. Liverpool though is meticulous in their approach, changing two or three players out every game or every two games to keep players rotated and as fresh as possible without, remarkably, their standards dropping.

After walloping Man Utd 4-0 during the week, there was a collective sigh of relief as Mo Salah ended his mini goal drought by putting two goals away (22 EPL goals). He also added an assist which moved him to 12. They will most likely ride the wave of the Egyptian winger for the rest of the season and rightly so; however, keep an eye out for Sadio Mane. Since the arrival of Luis Diaz, we’ve seen Mane move to a central striking role, and he looks like he’s played there his entire career. Goals and assists aplenty, he was devastating on Tuesday! His assist for Salah’s first goal was a particular highlight.

Prediction: Liverpool’s midfield control should do the business and ensure all three points. But it’s a derby. Everton’s run-in is tough if you compare it to Burnley’s, and a point would be priceless. The bonus of derailing Liverpool’s title charge? Well, you couldn’t write it, could you?

A battle at Anfield, but one that sees the men in Red take all three points.

That’ll do it for this week. We will recap all the fallout from this weekend’s fixtures and see if there is a clearer picture of the title race and the fight for survival.

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