January 24, 2018

FREE KICKS: Inconsistency is the constant at Arsenal, Liverpool

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

One thing is for certain when you’re a supporter of either Arsenal or Liverpool: You never know what you’re going to get.

Yes, the only certainty with these two squads is uncertainty.

In one week’s time, the Reds went from ending league-leading Manchester City’s season-long unbeaten run to losing to the team at the bottom of the table, Swansea. Even worse, this was a Swans team that had lost 5-0 at Anfield less than a month ago.

Arsenal, on the hand, showed what it is truly capable of, scoring four goals against Crystal Palace in the first 22 minutes of their game. This comes hot off the heels of a disappointing loss to Bournemouth the week prior.

It must be truly maddening to know exactly what your team is capable of and then see it lay an egg against obviously inferior competition.

It’s this type of inconsistently that haunts both Liverpool and Arsenal. If either team truly has ambitions of contending for a title, they’ll have to address that factor, first and foremost. It’s the best teams in the world that show up to play, week in, week out, and get it done no matter who lines up against them.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Sergio Aguero just flat out loves playing against Newcastle. The Manchester City striker scored a hat trick against the Magpies this weekend and now has 14 goals against them in just nine games.

You’ll recall that the Argentine striker potted five against them a few years ago and hasn’t slowed down since.

After going through some injury woes and being benched by manager Pep Guardiola at times, Kun has proven that he remains one of the Premier League’s best scorers. It will be interesting to see what the team does when Gabriel Jesus returns from injury.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

If the Gunners played London teams every week, they’d be on top of the table. Arsenal stayed undefeated in derbies this season with that crushing of the Eagles … The Gunners weren’t the only London team to score four this weekend. Chelsea battered Brighton and Hove Albion 4-0 and did so without top striker Alvaro Morata, who received a red card during their midweek Cup match … It was a brutal sight to see Solomon Rondon break the leg of James McCarthy. It was an accident that I’m actually surprised we don’t see happen more often … In the big-money starting XI of Manchester City, starting at left back this week was attacking midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko, who cost them just 1.7 million pound … What a lovely backheel by Xherdan Shaqiri to set up Stoke’s second goal. It also helped get Paul Lambert a win in his first game in charge of the midlands club … Everton isn’t just sinking themselves this season, they’re taking down other teams with them. At least that’s what it seems like after Watford basically blamed the Toffees for unsettling manager Marco Silva, who was sacked this week … Oumar Niasse sure works quickly. He was only on the pitch for a minute before scoring the equalizer against West Brom … The most insane rumour of the week: Chelsea’s interest in Peter Crouch. Surely the Blues could find a better target man to backup Morata, right? … West Ham used the old FIFA kickoff glitch to equalize, officially just two minutes after Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser gave his team the lead … Southampton should’ve at least tried to mark Harry Kane on that corner, right? Awful defending when the league’s leading scorer can get free on a set piece … In the 33 games that Mauricio Pochettino has managed this season (in all comps), he has made 99 subs and they have produced just one goal and one assist.

THE LAST WORD

Alexis Sanchez finally got his wish and Henrikh Mkhitaryan gets another shot at proving himself in the Premier League.

With the two attackers being involved in a rarely seen straight swap, both get a new chance at regaining past glory.

Sanchez is well off the pace this season, scoring just seven goals so far after potting 24 last season. He also sat out the first few games of the season, looking for a transfer out, but didn’t get it until now.

Mkhitaryan’s tenure at United was nothing short of a disaster, scoring five goals in two seasons, but more shockingly, collecting just six assists in that span. You might remember that the Armenian led the Bundesliga in assists before his move to Old Trafford and was even voted player of the year in Germany.

Alexis will wear the revered No. 7 jersey for United – though to be reserved for Cristiano Ronaldo, should he return – and he has a lot of big names to live up to. We don’t yet know how Jose Mourinho will deploy him, but with a wealth of wingers already in the fold, somebody is going to lose out on minutes.

Mkhitaryan has less pressure on him and could be just the beginning of moves the Gunners could make. His former Borussia Dortmund teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang is looking more likely by the day.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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