Plus: Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace show fight even in defeat, Brighton are rescued by Danny Welbeck and Tariq Lamptey, Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea get back on track, while Jack Grealish is anonymous again as Manchester City drop points at Southampton
Monday 24 January 2022 12:15, UK
Sunday's trip to Crystal Palace could quite easily have been a defeat for Liverpool. It would not have been the first time that a trip to south London has tripped them up in the push for the Premier League title.
The opening 35 minutes were all Liverpool, and they capitalised on that domination with two goals - although the first of two contentious refereeing decisions allowed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's second to stand.
But Palace should have been level before the break and ahead not soon after as Liverpool began to lag behind. One player who did not see his levels drop, however, was Alisson, who made a number of remarkable saves to keep Palace at bay.
Odsonne Edouard, Jean Philippe-Mateta and Michael Olise all tested the Brazilian either side of half-time, but he stood up to the test. At times, you thought it could have been a reverse 7-0 win - the scoreline Liverpool won by on their last trip to Selhurst Park - for Crystal Palace had it not been for the goalkeeper.
After a lacklustre performance from Chelsea at Brighton in midweek, Liverpool are another side who dropped off during Sunday's game. But they have barely had a chance to stop - they have played six games in January, including a draw against Chelsea and a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal.
Giving his assessment, Klopp told Sky Sports: "It was a bit Jekyll and Hyde football today. You could see how good we can be. We were incredible in the first 35 minutes. Then after an intense week - away at Arsenal - I don't have any real explanation but the intensity might be one.
"You try absolutely everything and you are not always superior or dominant but you need results. That's football. We did it the hard way but we did it."
Of course, the Palace side of the argument will also point towards a string of refereeing decisions going Liverpool's way, and there was that element to Sunday's victory too.
But for now, in the depths of the season and without key players in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Liverpool are getting the job done where they can as they keep Manchester City in their sights.
The lack of cutting edge displayed against Burnley was nothing new for Arsenal. It is now four games without a goal for the Gunners. This is the first time they have failed to find the net in four consecutive games since December 2005.
Alexandre Lacazette has started all but one of those four games and his lack of confidence in front of goal was obvious throughout Sunday's game at the Emirates Stadium.
In the first half, he created an excellent opening for himself with a bustling forward run, only to slice his effort woefully wide at the end of it. In the second, his miss from Smith Rowe's cut-back left him with his face buried in the turf.
The striker's link-up play was below-par too at times, his 71 per cent pass completion rate the lowest among Arsenal players, with several wayward passes drawing groans from the frustrated home fans.
With Lacazette underperfoming, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of favour and unavailable, and Eddie Nketiah only afforded limited opportunities, the need for a new striker before the end of the transfer window is increasingly urgent.
Arsenal have targeted Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, who has scored 17 goals in 21 Serie A appearances this season, but with their chances of a top-four finish taking another hit on Sunday afternoon, it may be tough to attract a player of his calibre.
The club have just over a week to find a solution.
The last month has been challenging for Chelsea - in the Premier League, at least.
Since slipping from top spot after a 3-2 defeat to West Ham on December 4, Thomas Tuchel's team have lacked a certain cutting edge, winning just two of the eight games that followed to continue the slide away from current leaders Manchester City.
In the Carabao Cup, however, there has been no such trouble. Having seen off Brentford in the quarter-final with a 2-0 win three days before Christmas, they beat Tottenham over two legs to reach next month's final at Wembley. So it was perhaps fitting their first league win since Boxing Day would come against Antonio Conte's side.
Since 1990, Spurs had won just one of the 36 meetings between the two at Stamford Bridge and though Chelsea launched attacks at regular intervals this time around, they were unable to make their dominance count - initially, at least - giving the visitors hope, though their defensive approach meant chances were often limited.
They thought they had done when Harry Kane tucked home after controlling Ryan Sessegnon's cross, but what might have been the opening goal was chalked off by referee Paul Tierney, who adjudged that Kane had fouled Thiago Silva in the build-up.
Refreshed after the break, Chelsea took less than two minutes to break their opponents' resolve when Hakim Ziyech curled a stunner past Hugo Lloris and doubled the lead soon after when Silva headed home Mason Mason's inch-perfect free-kick.
With 24 games under their belt already, the Blues have played more games than any other side in the Premier League to date. With the games in hand stacking up for their rivals, this was a crucial win in their quest to finish in the top three.
'It's happened again!' and 'Can we play you every week?', were the cries from the Stamford Bridge crowd.
On the back of the most thrilling moment of Antonio Conte's reign - Wednesday's dramatic 3-2 win at Leicester - this latest trip to Chelsea was supposed to be different for Tottenham, yet an all-too-familiar script unfolded.
For the first time in the club's history, Spurs have failed to score in six consecutive games against an opposition team, a statistic which is all the more painful given it was old foes Chelsea who were responsible.
Worst still, a third defeat in January to Chelsea, after losses in both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-finals, inflicted Conte's first setback in the Premier League as Spurs boss, dealing a significant blow to a top-four charge that was just starting to gather pace.
Having won just one of their last 32 away league trips to Chelsea, just where do Tottenham turn next in their bid to crack the Stamford Bridge code?
With Conte conceding his squad remains some way off that of Thomas Tuchel, it's clear he sees recruitment as the answer. Whether the Spurs board see likewise, well, that remains to seen.
Burnley may have lost Chris Wood this month but in James Tarkowski, they have kept hold of their most important player. The centre-back was immense as Burnley kept Arsenal at bay to claim a valuable point in their battle against relegation.
Nick Pope played his part too, making a standout save from Emile Smith Rowe in the second half, but Tarkowski provided a formidable defensive barrier ahead of him, tackling, intercepting, clearing danger and winning more aerial duels than any of his team-mates.
There were important blocks in there too, taking his total for the season to 30 - the most by any player across Europe's major leagues. Burnley's performance was a triumph of teamwork - "the mentality was spot on," said Sean Dyche afterwards - but it was also a reminder of Tarkowski's huge value to the side.
Patrick Vieira has transformed Selhurst Park into a fortress since his summer arrival. Up until the middle of November, Crystal Palace were unbeaten at home, and had yet to lose two successive games in south London under their new manager.
However, defeat to West Ham on New Year's Day was followed by a 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Super Sunday saw that spell inevitably come to an end. Vieira himself has lost consecutive home league matches for the first time since November 2020 - his final two home matches in Ligue 1 with Nice.
Although the scoreline may suggest an easy Liverpool win, it was anything but. Palace did start slowly, conceding twice in the opening 35 minutes, but they soon began to find their feet.
And they could have been out of sight by the 55th minute, when Odsonne Edouard did actually find the net. Conor Gallagher, Michael Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta all saw a raft of chance pass them by, some by poor finishing and others due to the inspired form of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.
They were not helped either by two questionable refereeing decisions - one in the build-up to Liverpool's second goal and the other when the visitors were awarded a penalty - and the Palace fans made their thoughts on the officiating well known.
But after the deafening boos that ushed Kevin Friend off the field at full-time, there was loud applause for their players that followed. Palace showed the determination to come from behind against one of the Premier League's best sides and should have come away with a point or more.
It's not the first time they have done so this season either. Under Roy Hodgson, once Palace went behind, you did not always feel a comeback was likely. But now, there is always hope, always passion and always fight.
While the result and extenuating circumstances may not have gone their way, there is definitely plenty for Palace fans to be happy about.
This was not the Brighton side we are used to seeing for much of the first hour at the King Power Stadium.
They gave the ball away too easily, were pushed back by Leicester and generally second best. There were few complaints when Patson Daka put the hosts into the lead.
First-team coach Bjorn Hamberg admitted after the game that they were not up to their usual standards before the break.
After 62 minutes, the two players dropped from the side who drew 1-1 with Chelsea came on. And Danny Welbeck and Tariq Lamptey changed the game completely.
Lamptey was a real threat down the right and gave the young Luke Thomas a torrid time. He constantly beat him for pace and his trickery had the full-back in knots. The quality of his delivery was high-class too.
For Welbeck, his third goal of the season was a just reward for the impact he had coming off the bench.
The 31-year-old gave Brighton more of a focal point and had already seen Schmeichel keep out one header when he drew them level.
The Seagulls continue to impress and their fight was there for all to see again. This result and comeback also reiterated the strength in depth they now have in the squad.
Hamberg emphasised that numerous times after the game and they will continue to fly in the Premier League if they are able to bring quality players like Lamptey and Welbeck off the bench.
The number of times you type the name of a player out when live blogging a game tends to be a clue about how involved they were in the action. The words 'Jack Grealish' did not have to be typed out too many times in Manchester City's draw with Southampton.
It was another performance where the England midfielder was on the edges of the game rather than at the heart of it. He only had 56 touches of the ball against Saints. Phil Foden had 90, Kevin De Bruyne had 95. Even Ederson had 31.
It points to perhaps a lack of confidence in a player that has built a career on going searching for the ball even in the most testing of times.
Pep Guardiola does not seem worried, though. He had the chance to hook Grealish at any point during this underwhelming showing but decided to switch Raheem Sterling for Gabriel Jesus in his bid to change the momentum of the game. In typical Pep style, it worked as City enjoyed their best spell of the match with the introduction of the Brazilian. Not that Grealish played too much of a part in the fightback.
In 17 Premier League games this season, Grealish has just two goals and two assists to his name. His last goal involvement came during the 7-0 drubbing of Leeds in December.
In a numbers-focused industry, that is a debatable return for a player that cost Manchester City £100m in the summer.
After a run of 11 games without scoring, and with his form under intense scrutiny, Marcus Rashford followed up his late strike against Brentford on Wednesday night with a crucial winner in the final minute of stoppage time against West Ham.
Ralf Rangnick's side were seemingly heading for a goalless draw having failed to break West Ham down but, with only seconds remaining at Old Trafford, Rashford rushed in at the far post to convert Edinson Cavani's low cross.
The goal propelled Manchester United above West Ham and into the top four, and it may prove just as significant for Rashford. "I think, for any forward, when you go through a patch of not scoring for a few games, it's a great feeling when the goals do start coming back," he told Sky Sports after the game.
How he needed this. Rashford scored three times in his first four appearances of the campaign after returning from injury in October but the subsequent months brought nothing but frustration, his poor form eventually prompting Rangnick to use teenager Anthony Elanga ahead of him.
Rashford is not the only one to have struggled to hold down a place in United's attack, of course. The same is true of Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho. But with two goals in four days, he may just have reignited his own season as well as United's top-four bid.
Southampton are a team going places with a manager who is proving he is a dab hand at significantly improving players without the need to spend big money.
Just look at their two outstanding performers in this impressive draw. Walker-Peters, a £12m purchase from Tottenham, scored a goal that Guardiola would have been proud of if his team had scored it while Salisu, a £10.9m investment from Real Valladolid, put in his best performance in a Southampton shirt to repel City's array of attacking stars. He is getting better and better under the watch of Hasenhuttl.
Hasenhuttl's style of football, which demands non-stop pressing, creativity from out wide, and a team focused on turning oppositions with quick counter-attacking football, caused City problems in transitions. The direct running of Armando Broja meant Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias could never switch off.
When his team are hot, Southampton are hot. However, inconsistency has hindered progress, to the extent he was nearly dismissed after an embarrassing 9-0 thrashing by Leicester in October.
The remarkable turnaround has won Hasenhuttl and the club plenty of admirers. That the Southampton hierarchy stood by their man and he rewarded that faith, suggests an impressive structure within the club is in place. To avoid defeat in two matches this season against the team running away with this Premier League title is a remarkable achievement. Hasenhuttl is an elite manager. He deserves more respect for the job he is undertaking.
From the ridiculous to the sublime. At one stage, you wondered whether Wolves' 2-1 win at Brentford would ever end after three separate stoppages - most bizarrely when an unauthorised drone forced a 19-minute halt to proceedings in the opening period.
But Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves have been providing moments of quality throughout their respective careers. Moutinho's opener - according to Opta's expected goals metric - had an xG of 0.06 while Neves' winner came from an xG of 0.07. In total, Wolves' collective xG was 0.27 compared to Brentford's 1.47.
Bruno Lage's side continue to defy the statistics but are certainly a force and cannot be ruled out of the race for the Champions League at this rate, extending their unbeaten run to six games in all competitions. Indeed, the Midlands club have started a calendar year with three consecutive league victories for the first time since 1994.
They arrived in West London eighth in the table, where they remain having dropped only two points in their last five Premier League games, but they are now only four points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with a game in hand.
On this evidence, Lage will not need to do too much strengthening in the remaining days of the January window.
"We're on our way to Europe," sang their supporters. They have been going under the radar this term, but their intentions are now being heard loud and clear. The top six is firmly in their sights, and who knows what lies beyond that?
With Arsenal and Tottenham coming up next, Lage will hope the winter break does not halt their momentum.
Norwich's 3-0 win over Watford on Friday could prove a result of real significance, with the Canaries moving out of the relegation zone for the first time this season at their opponent's expense.
Dean Smith said afterwards: "For a long period of the game I was happy but I wasn't happy in the final 15 minutes as with a man advantage we should have done better with the ball. But to get the win was the main thing today.
"Two games ago we were thinking it was between four of us, after getting six points in two games you can maybe look ahead and start grabbing others into the battle. Winning back-to-back games in the Premier League is a massive boost for everybody."
Norwich are now believing survival is within their grasp. Smith confirmed his players will have six days off across the next fortnight to recharge their batteries, and it is certainly a well-earned break.
Yes, Watford have two games in hand to go with the two points they need to make up, but there has been a visible shift in momentum among Smith's players, typified by two-goal hero Josh Sargent.
Norwich demonstrated the type of fight and hunger that both Burnley and Newcastle must show if they are to have any chance of clambering back from off the canvas in the second half of the season.
This could represent a huge week in Norwich's fight against relegation, and largely thanks to the American Sargent, who provided the spark to take all three points.
Norwich captain Grant Hanley summed up the mood in the away dressing room after this seismic result at Vicarage Road.
"It's a big result for us at an important time and back-to-back wins is tough to do in the Premier League," he said. "Now we have time to rest with the break but we have to be better. We got the three points, that is what matters.
"I'm over the moon for Josh, he deserves it, he works unbelievably hard and the lads love him, he is a top, top lad. They were [top finishes] and it has been a long time coming."
All good things come to those who wait and that includes Premier League wins on the road, as Newcastle found out on Saturday.
Not many people would have predicted Eddie Howe's side coming away from Elland Road with all three points. But after a resolute display, the visitors held on to record a massive 1-0 victory, the north-east club's first away league win of the season at the 10th time of asking.
Sure, the victory was slightly fortuitous in that Newcastle often rode their luck at times, while Jonjo Shelvey's second-half winner owed a lot to a mistake by Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
However, you make your own luck in football, as the old adage goes, and that was certainly the case on the weekend as the visiting players ran themselves into the ground to protect their narrow lead.
That led to unwanted injuries to Joelinton, Paul Dummett and skipper Jamaal Lascelles, although the club's trip to Saudi Arabia for a warm-weather training camp may help to soothe some of those aches and pains ahead of their next clash at home to Everton on February 8.