IN action-packed Saturday (Dec 9), the standout result was certainly Bournemouth’s thumping of Manchester United at Old Trafford, heaping further pressure on beleaguered manager Erik Ten Haag. There was a new manager bounce on show as Sheffield United collected their first points under Chris Wilder’s second tenure as manager.
Liverpool came from behind again to earn a valuable away win at Selhurst Park to move to the top of the table.
Manchester United 0 v Bournemouth 3
The Red Devils came into this game on the back of a convincing home win against Chelsea in midweek. Another win and it would have taken them level on points with cross-town Manchester City, albeit having played a game more.
The visitors had other ideas though as they put Manchester United to the sword with a fine display of counter-attacking football. It could have been worse for the home side had VAR not intervened to deny the Cherries a fourth goal.
Things look bleak for Erik Ten Haag as he struggles to bring consistency to his side, whose next assignment is a must-win encounter against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Crystal Palace 1 v Liverpool 2
Palace players were jeered off the pitch in midweek after an abysmal showing against Bournemouth. They responded with a much more spirited performance here but were unable to stop Liverpool from collecting maximum points. Jurgen Klopp’s men again had to come from behind when VAR decided that the Eagles should be awarded a penalty almost two minutes after the initial foul occurred.
Still, they could not prevent Mo Salah reaching his milestone 200th Liverpool goal or substitute Harvey Elliot banging a late winner to help take the Merseysiders to the summit. If winning ugly is a sign of a champion, then Jurgen Klopp’s men are showing it in buckets this season.
Aston Villa 1 v Arsenal 0
After outplaying and outclassing reigning champions Manchester City in midweek, Aston Villa supporters were confident of another masterclass from Unai Emery. That it did not go quite as planned, however, failed to prevent the home side from making another statement win. An early goal by skipper John McGinn set Villa on their way to their 15th consecutive home win, but they had to ensure plenty of pressure from Arsenal.
The Gunners missed some glorious chances, not least when Martin Odergard failed to find the back of the net after being cued perfectly by Gabriel Jesus. Emery refuses to be drawn into any talk of a title challenge, but with Villa sitting just two points off the top, they might just be this season’s dark horses.
Sheffield United 1 v Brentford 0
In the era of three points for a win, the only team with eight points or fewer from their first 15 games to survive relegation from the top flight were—insert drum roll—Sheffield United in 1990–91, with one Chris Wilder in their playing ranks. With the hugely popular Wilder back in the dugout and a significant win against difficult opponents, Blades supporters may be forgiven for thinking that the great escape is on. And why not?
With Everton to play Chelsea on Sunday, the Blades are just two points shy of safety. Wilder will be exceptionally pleased with the resilience shown here as well as in the previous game against Liverpool in midweek. Add a couple of shrewd signings in the January transfer window and Sheffield United could very well avoid the drop.
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 v Burnley 1
Vincent Kompany will surely feel extremely satisfied with his side’s battling performance that earned Burnley a valuable away point. Both sides are struggling with injuries and fatigue as the holiday season’s demanding schedule exacts its toll. Kompany had his goalkeeper James Trafford to thank as he pulled off a series of outstanding saves to keep the Seagulls at bay.
Burnley took the lead via a fabulous strike from Wilson Odobert and Kompany said post-match that more players will need to step up if they want to escape relegation. Brighton will certainly rue missed chances as they seek to steady the ship after a few weeks of inconsistent performances that have seen them drop to just outside the European places in eight.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 v Nottingham Forest 1
Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper waved at travelling supporters at the end of the game but quickly denied it was a sign he was throwing in the towel. Cooper has been under intense scrutiny as Forest had lost the previous four on the trot, culminating in a 5-0 drubbing to Fulham in midweek. He made nine changes to the side as well as changing formations from a 4-2-3-1 to a more defensive 3-5-2.
The point was just rewards for his team’s stubbornness after that spineless collapse at Craven Cottage. Wolves meanwhile will have felt that this was a missed opportunity to climb up the table as games against teams below them in the table are perfect opportunities to earn maximum points, especially at the Molineux. – Dec 10, 2023
All photos credited to The Guardian