August 29, 2018

EPL FREE KICKS: The big reason why Liverpool could win it all

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Mohamed Salah.

Sadio Mane.

Roberto Firmino.

Take your pick. If you try to focus on the Reds’ stellar attacking trio, one of the other two will likely use the extra space to carve you up.

But, here’s the thing: It’s not Liverpool’s attack that has given it a legitimate chance to come away with a first league title in the Premier League era.

It’s the defence.

Shocking, I know, but the numbers don’t lie.

Since a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Spurs last October, Liverpool has allowed just 22 goals in 31 games and has kept 15 clean sheets – all numbers that lead the league. The Reds have also faced the second-most shots at 208 with 70 on target (the most). They’re also the only team that hasn’t allowed a goal this season and they currently sit atop the table.

It seems the leaky back-end of the Reds has disappeared, something that has scuttled any hopes of truly contending over the past few years.

The best part about this, though, is that we should get an incredibly exciting title race now.

Manchester City won’t be able to sit back in the league and focus on Champions League. After dropping points at Wolves this weekend, the defending champs now sit fifth, two points back of Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea and Watford.

Three of those teams — sorry, Hornets –  have a talented enough squad to back an honest run at the top of the table, though we think Liverpool is the best of them.

With that many contenders, slip-ups like City’s at Wolverhampton could be the ones that decide the title race later on.

And with the Reds not caving in like they have in the past, we could see Alisson, Virgil Van Dijk and Andrew Robertson backing this club to glory.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

We thought that Lucas Moura had been forgotten at Tottenham after transferring over in January from PSG and playing just 206 minutes with Spurs.

This season, he has stepped up with most of his teammates seemingly off form after long runs in the World Cup.

Slotting in as a replacement for Son Heung-min, the Brazilian now has three goals this season after bagging a brace at Old Trafford.

He was so good that even United fans were clamouring for selfies after his second goal.

Lucas always had sky-high potential and he could be living up to it now. The big question is how manager Mauricio Pochettino will deal with the lineup headaches when Son returns from the Asian Games in a few weeks.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

We’d love to go in deeper on Mesut Ozil being left out of the squad, but Manchester United blew up again this week. Manager Unai Emery says that the petulant German was “sick,” but we’ve seen this happen before. There were some reports that Ozil and Emery had a row at training, which we wouldn’t bet against. We’ll see how this shakes out in the long run, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Ozil isn’t with the team in 2019 … Chelsea is really playing Sarri-ball now. The Blues held possession against Newcastle for a jaw-dropping 81.1% of the game, but still needed an own goal from Deandre Yedlin to win it … We don’t blame the American for that winner. If he hadn’t played it, a Chelsea player was there to tap it in. Tough luck … That was Chelsea’s first win at St. James Park since 2011 … Harry Maguire won it for Leicester in injury time, and he didn’t even need to use his cement block of a head to do it. The defender slotted home a nice shot from outside the box … Was there something in the water on Saturday in England? There were four red cards in six matches … Everton’s Michael Keane was hospitalized after a nasty clash of heads with teammate Idrissa Gueye. Keane will miss at least a month with a hairline skull fracture. We wish him the best in his recovery … Everton will also be without Richarlison for three games after the Brazilian picked up a red card for violent conduct. It’s a real shame considering how well he has been playing since joining the Toffees … Wilfried Zaha is now Crystal Palace’s all-time leading Premier League goal-scorer with 24 … What is wrong with Burnley, specifically their defence? It has allowed seven goals in three games so far after allowing just 39 in 38 games all season. Is it Joe Hart in net, or is it all falling apart? Without much in the way of attacking, the Clarets need their defence to be  stout to stand a chance most weeks … Aleksandar Mitrovic is on fire for Fulham, bagging a brace this week. Think that Newcastle, which has two goals total, would like to have him back? … Once again, Romelu Lukaku failed to score against a top-six club. He even missed a couple of brilliant chances, too.

THE LAST WORD

OK, so maybe we were wrong about Manchester United.

Just week, we said to give Jose Mourinho’s crew a chance after their shocking loss at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.

Now, it might be time to panic.

It looks like the Special One has reached his third-season breaking point after a 3-0 loss against visiting Tottenham. It was the biggest home loss in Mourinho’s career and he didn’t seem to pleased about it in post-match interviews.

“From a strategic point of view we didn’t lose, the tactical point of view we didn’t lose, but we lost,” he said, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

When speaking of United fans leaving early: “I would too… I know how difficult it is to get to the centre of Manchester from here.” This after calling the fans “the best judge” of a team’s performance.

Mourinho ended the presser by saying “Do you know what 3-0 means? Three Premier League titles I have won, more than all the other 19 Premier League managers combined. Have some respect.”

Well, he’s not wrong, but he hasn’t won any with United, and that’s the real thing here.

This season, the attacking numbers are terrible for the Red Devils. Prior to the Spurs game, they were dead last in the league in % of touches in the box and time spent with the ball in the final third. That’s pretty damning when you consider that they were sixth in overall possession — what were they doing with the ball?

There’s a lot that needs to be sorted out at Old Trafford, but with the bookies setting Mourinho as the overwhelming favourite to be the first manager sacked this season,

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Leave a Reply