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Figuring out what to do with Ronaldo will set everything else up for Ralf Rangnick


Benching Cristiano Ronaldo turned out to be the best decision Michael Carrick has made during his short tenure. It was the eighth game in a row that Chelsea had failed to beat Manchester United and eliminating the bold game meant the visitors were simply working better as a team. While still disjointed, the quick vertical play could have opened up Chelsea on more than one occasion, but they either couldn’t find the right ball or looked for it.

Sancho received a blow to be replaced by the Portuguese but he didn’t add much. United were more compact defensively, but Chelsea managed 24 goal attempts against United’s three and that tells a lot of stories. Chelsea create lots of chances but don’t seize enough.

Statistics don’t suggest that a draw was the fair result, but somehow it was. Ralf Rangnick has a lot of work to do, but figuring out what to do with Ronaldo will set everything else up. A future on the bench as an impact surrogate seems the better choice. This would allow him to sauté his pan for 25 minutes, gain some fame and look very satisfied with himself, which is all he really wants to do.

No new manager bounces back for Newcastle

Thirteen games have been played and they still have a big zero in the win column. But Newcastle seemed happy with their 2-0 loss to Arsenal, believing they were playing better than under the hated Steve Bruce regime. The truth is, their new manager has yet to make any noticeable improvement. There was no new manager rebound. Some even say that Eddie Howe has been drafted for next season’s promotion out of the championship. I think this gives homeowners too much credit for forward thinking.

By the January transfer window, they could easily be a dozen or more points away from safety and won’t look like a club that many want to join. After the game, Eddie Howe claimed his team played a lot better than they really did, and claimed they should have had a penalty, which they shouldn’t have. But then Newcastle fans are living on a diet of lies, right now, mostly told by themselves, to themselves about their club.

Hasenhüttl is wrong

The Saints manager is a highly respected German coach, one of many to owe his philosophy and thought in part to future Manchester United boss Rangnick. However, Southampton, although 14th, have only scored 11 times and only Norwich have fewer goals. They remain a far from unrealistic bet for relegation. Against Liverpool, he was wrong in his settings. For some reason, he thought he would try to take on the Reds, instead of going for more pragmatic tactics. He surely knew what was going to happen. Three at halftime, it could have been seven. While it is true that they had a few chances and sometimes put pressure on Liverpool, it was at the expense of defensive overexposure.

A heavy defeat was inevitable. Strange thought of Hasenhüttl.

Gerrard brings a new intensity

It was Vieira against Gerrard at Crystal Palace and the former Liverpool man came out with all three points for Aston Villa, for the second week in a row. What has changed in the last two games to turn a failing team into a winner? I would be surprised if the stats didn’t show that Villa is simply working harder, playing a more intense game, running more miles and at a faster pace. Gerrard decided to play Ollie Watkins in the middle where he offers so much in terms of ball retention and kickoff. Also important is Ashley Young’s gaming experience. With City, Leicester and Liverpool next to Villa, we’ll soon have a better idea if this new intensity is making a really deep difference, or just a new temporary managerial move.

Arsenal’s strength is its youth

The Gunners’ bid to be the best in the Premier League is driven by their young talent. Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Nuno Tavares and substitute Gabriel Martinelli all had a good game against Newcastle, with the latter scoring a fine goal. All of them are 20 or 21 years old and play with the lack of fear that youth brings. Saka is now particularly crucial to the way the Gunners play. After the team’s poor form at the start, although not yet good enough to face the top three and win, real progress is clearly underway. Equally significantly, their exciting youngsters make Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang look a lot like the man of yesterday. How he missed that two-yard open goal blunder only pointed out that the 32-year-old needs to move forward and his huge salary is better spent elsewhere.

Liverpool thrill machine strikes again

It has now been 98 games since the Reds lost after leading at half-time, dating back to December 2016. They were leading 3-0 after 45 minutes against Southampton in a game that went only one way from opening goal scored in the first few minutes. They now average three goals per game in the Premier League and only Chelsea and Manchester City have conceded less. While these two clubs are both in great shape and playing equally ruthless football, to both of them it feels more mathematical, more like the scientific development of a plan. As such, they don’t always engage the neutral like Liverpool do.

Their great achievement makes it seem like they are recklessly going for leather in an orgy of attacking football, despite being led in a specific pressing style. That means they’re a bit sloppy defensively and that’s one of the adorable things about them. They are the thrill machine of this season. Since joining in 2015, Jurgen Klopp’s side have now scored 702 goals. Wow.

Norwich finds the form

Wolves were one of the fit teams for this game and many expected them to score a victory that would have taken them to fifth place. However, this Norwich side are starting to believe in themselves, are now undefeated in three and have dominated for periods of play with four shots on target against two of the Wolves.

With Billy Gilmour installed in midfield under Dean Smith, having fallen out of favor with the previous manager, they’re actually playing a decent game. Teemu Pukki could easily have scored a winner with a kick and they limited the visitors to a decent chance throughout the game. Many, myself included, had assumed they would be relegated, but for the first time, this assumption seems vulnerable to contradiction. With a six-point start at Newcastle next Tuesday, win that and Canary fans can start to get excited.

Brighton lacks firepower

Brighton is suffering from the draw curse, having now shared the points six times. They need to find a good striker looking for a new challenge and instant hero worship in January. They have so much going for them. Well organized defensively and fluid until they reach the last third, but then it all ends in vain.

A total of 20 shots against Leeds but 15 off target shout “please buy a goalscorer” as loud as they can.

If, and this is a great if, they can find such a player, a European place is open to them. Without it, mid-table mediocrity awaits.

West Ham fails his hearing

West Ham has received a lot of well-deserved praise this season and many have questioned whether they could make it into the top four. City away was an important test of their credentials in this regard. They failed. Not that they played badly, they did indeed cause a lot of problems for Manchester City, especially in the first half. So many problems that if they had had an absolutely first-rate strike force, they could have taken the lead. Aymeric Laporte struggled to keep up with Michail Antonio, but his early season purple patch appears to have passed and the Hammers conceded nearly 70% possession as they ran out of ideas. A long-range boost from Lanzini flattered the final score.

The second half of their season seems more likely to be played in the lower European places, as they just don’t have a sufficiently consistent quality in the penalty area.

Everyone loves white stuff

All fans of a certain age will have loved seeing games played in the snow. The sight of men with large brooms pushing white objects off the field is a throwback to a simpler time when variable playing conditions were all considered part of the game. Snow has always made fans more excited. Always. It was an added spice, it made the game more unpredictable, but of course today unpredictability is not desired and is the enemy of the corporate football culture which wants to be guaranteed.
returns without unpleasant shocks on the share price.

You would see games played on mud and sand, on smooth green surfaces, and others with a large strip of hooves in the middle. You had to work with it and find a way to deal with it. It was a good thing. The locations and weather might even increase the contest. Today’s pool tables have taken it all away. And no one was wearing gloves.