Premier League hits and misses: Dele Alli silences his critics
Dele Alli gave the perfect response to his critics, while Leicester continue to go from strength to strength.
Last Updated: 04/11/19 11:34pm
Dele Alli's declining attacking output has been well-documented this past month with the Tottenham midfielder omitted from Gareth Southgate's England squad for the last round of internationals. It came to a head this week when Graeme Souness claimed the 23-year-old had 'lost his hunger', but this was an impressive response.
A week can be a long time in football, and perhaps Alli received the jolt that he needed to kick-start his campaign. In the absence of Harry Kane - who missed the trip to Merseyside through illness - it was Alli who stepped forward to fill the void of Tottenham's talisman.
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Alli had twice scored before at Goodison - including in last season's 6-2 victory in December - and the locals here must wonder what all the fuss is about. He produced a mature performance to drag his side to the brink of a first away Premier League win since January.
His cute pass for Lucas Moura in the second half deserved better, but he showed a ruthlessness in pouncing on Alex Iwobi's mistake to take his goal very well.
Alli said afterwards: "I've not really paid too much attention to what people have been saying. People will always have their opinion, whether it's to help me or they feel the need to say something. I'm just going to keep working hard." Dele is happy to let his feet do the talking.
Before a ball had even been kicked this season, Manchester City and Liverpool held the exclusive rights to be considered title contenders, and rightfully so after securing 195 points between them in 2018/19, but 11 games into the current campaign, there's an argument for Leicester to join the conversation.
It's three years since the Foxes lifted the Premier League but all the tell-tale signs are there again. To begin with, Jamie Vardy is back among the goals; his 10th of the season sealed the victory at Crystal Palace and saw him become the first to hit double figures in the division this season - the last time he did that, you guessed it, Leicester won the league.
Then there's Brendan Rodgers, who seems to turn everything he touches to gold, a trait Claudio Ranieri famously mastered as he led the Foxes to the title.
Speaking after the victory at Selhurst Park - the ground where his sole Premier League title challenge with Liverpool ended abruptly in 2014 - Rodgers struck an understandably cautious note when quizzed on Leicester's aspirations this season.
"It's still very early in the season," he said. "For us, with the young team that we have, we focus on the performance and getting better each week and every day in training. We will see where we are at with 10 games to go and go from there."
But whether he likes it or not, Leicester are performing to a level where they will be in the mix with 10 games to go and it's time people started talking about it!
When a misfiring Mohamed Salah was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain midway through the second half at Villa Park, with Liverpool well below their best and trailing 1-0 to their well-organised opponents, it felt as though this might be the day their 27-game unbeaten run finally ended.
Thanks to the match-winning heroics of Sadio Mane, however, Liverpool march on, their six-point cushion on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table intact and the feeling that they are heading towards something special significantly enhanced.
There were only three minutes of normal time remaining when Mane dug out the superb cross for Andrew Robertson's equaliser. Then, in the depths of injury time, with the clock ticking and with City having recovered from a goal down to beat Southampton at the Etihad Stadium, he headed home Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner to complete the turnaround.
He is fast becoming Liverpool's main man. Mane has now overtaken Salah for Premier League goals scored this season, with six to the Egyptian's five, but what's more significant is that those goals have won Liverpool eight points - twice as many as Salah's. Only Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has won more points for his side.
They're not the words many at Old Trafford will want to hear, but this Liverpool side and their never-say-die attitude draws parallels to Sir Alex Ferguson's famous side of 1999.
Liverpool have already won 10 points from losing positions this season - they won 16 in the entire 2018/19 campaign - their latest coming with those two late, late goals at Villa Park. That was United's hallmark.
Liverpool points won from behind since Klopp's arrival (PL only)
|Season||Points won from behind||PL rank|
For United it was trust - from the fans to the players, from the manager to the players, from the players to the players - and it's clear Liverpool have it in abundance. It must be relentless and exhausting to play against.
The next step for Jurgen Klopp is to avoid falling behind. It may be entertaining, but he'd prefer Liverpool didn't have to dig this deep too many more times this season.
On a day when Southampton defended bravely and in numbers for 90 minutes, City endured a frustrating afternoon as countless passes and shots were blocked or deflected. The hosts produced 57 open-play crosses and 26 shots at the Etihad Stadium - but only four were on target.
Liverpool have regularly shown their ability to win ugly - the win over Villa being the latest example - but here was City reminding us why they have won the Premier League in both the last two seasons.
Pep Guardiola showed his frustration at times, sprinting down the touchline to gather the ball ahead of a ball boy in an attempt to speed things up - and his side eventually made their 76 per cent possession count.
City developed a reputation of scoring crucial late goals during the 2017/18 season - needing injury-time winners both home and away against Southampton - but Saturday was the first occasion that one of their six goals in the final 10 minutes has been a winner this season.
With Liverpool once more showing their never-say-die attitude at Villa Park, City rediscovered their own powers of recovery just in time to keep up on the coat-tails of their rivals.
Just when it felt like Manchester United were building some momentum under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the same old issues resurfaced in a disappointing 1-0 loss to Bournemouth.
United, so impressive in Wednesday's 2-1 win over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, never got going at the Vitality Stadium, struggling to control the game in midfield, defending poorly at the back and lacking impetus and imagination in attack - despite fielding a pacey forward line which featured Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
The defeat leaves them 10th in the Premier League table, only one point closer to the top-four than they are to the relegation zone. The recent revival provided some welcome relief for Solskjaer, but this was a reminder that he still has significant problems to solve.
After throwing away two-goal leads against Crystal Palace and Liverpool in their previous two games, perhaps this was an improvement of sorts for Arsenal - it was just the one goal that Wolves had to pull back to leave the Emirates Stadium with a well-deserved point. But judging by the boos at the final whistle, these Gunners fans are far from convinced.
Although Unai Emery tried to argue that Arsenal deserved the win, Wolves had 25 shots to their 10 and Rui Patricio did not have a save to make for the final hour of the game. The culmination to a fraught week was supposed to provide some answers and some hope - especially with Mesut Ozil back in the team - but it ends with more questions for Emery.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was captain in Granit Xhaka's absence but will he keep the armband? "Could be," said Emery. "He is one of the captains." Will Ozil keep his place? "He worked. He played well." When asked in the press conference if the players understood his instructions, it did not help Emery's case that he did not appear to understand the question.
Arsenal have midweek Europa League commitments but it is the trip to Leicester on Saturday that looks more awkward for Emery right now. Brendan Rodgers' team are above Arsenal in the Premier League table but it is more than that - they appear to have a clear idea. That is still lacking under Emery. With his contract up in the summer, time is fast running out to show that he has one.
For the third consecutive Premier League game, Wolves drew one-all to claim a point and extend their unbeaten run in the competition that little bit longer. Nuno Espirito Santo's side might be in the bottom half of the table but only Liverpool have gone so long without tasting defeat in the Premier League and it's a testament to this team's resolve.
The truth is that Nuno is short of options. That is why he felt he had little choice but to field a team of youngsters for what should have been a showpiece cup tie against Aston Villa in midweek. It is why executive chairman Jeff Shi has already acknowledged that Wolves will be looking to provide the manager with some help in the January transfer window.
Without Willy Boly and Ryan Bennett, Nuno was forced to go with a back three comprising of a trio who all started their Wolves' careers in midfield but it was still enough to restrict Arsenal to one goal. The Molineux men are muddling through, picking up just enough points to maintain the focus on their European campaign. Wolves will take that at this stage.
Where they had been filled with an unshakable sense of humiliation eight days ago after shipping nine goals at home to Leicester, the Southampton players again dropped to their knees at the final whistle of their 2-1 loss to Manchester City - but the overriding emotion was one of pride.
City, the Premier League's top goalscorers, were left relieved after leaving it so late to breach the division's most porous defence for a second time.
After the meek surrender at St Mary's, Ralph Hasenhuttl's side summoned an immense show of defensive organisation and character that so very nearly brought them the most unlikely of points at the home of the champions.
City only breached their opponents with their 46th cross from open play, with Kyle Walker only narrowly managing to keep the ball from drifting out before finding Sergio Aguero for the equaliser - and Walker's winner also had a degree of good fortune to it.
Danny Ings told Sky Sports this week that relegation is not yet in Southampton's thinking, and while City's superiority finally told, Hasenhuttl will take plenty of positives from this battling performance.
Brighton play football that fans can get behind and even top teams could learn from their aggression after scoring goals.
So often we see sides drop back after taking the lead and absorbing the inevitable pressure that follows, but Brighton did things differently at the Amex Stadium on Saturday, beating their own intensity levels after scoring their first goal, giving Norwich no chance to bounce back.
This was game-management at its finest. The Seagulls were patient and refused to be frustrated by the faltering Neal Maupay or Aaron Connolly's wayward efforts. They waited and were rewarded. The goal was on its way and it took another good managerial decision, the introduction of Leandro Trossard, to push Brighton over the line and see out three comfortable points in the end.
To say Watford have got off to a bad start this is an understatement. Never mind a bad start, the Hornets haven't got off to a start at all. Eleven games in and still the Hornets await their first victory of the season, the 'bounce' from Quique Sanchez Flores' appointment has long since passed and the club are on hurtling towards all kinds of unwanted records.
Last week's draw with Bournemouth saw Watford become the first team to fail to win their opening 10 games of a Premier League season on two occasions, Saturday's defeat to Chelsea saw them become the first side in nearly a decade to fail to win any of their opening 11 fixtures in the top-flight.
Remarkably, there was a sense of optimism among supporters at Vicarage Road despite the torrential rain and blustery pre-match conditions, but that was washed away inside five minutes as Chelsea hit the front. And while there were undoubtedly positives to draw from the defeat, it's victories and points Watford need to keep the storm clouds at bay.
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