Gameweek 12 of the Premier League 2021-22 season featured plenty of goals, entertainment and even resulted in a notable managerial sacking.
The two-week wait for Premier League football to return was exhausting, but certainly worth it. The action from England’s top-flight league picked up from where it left off, giving fans plenty of entertaining football.
With the season now nearly a third of the way through, a clearer pattern on who stands where is beginning to emerge. Chelsea are currently leading the table, although their lead is by no means a runaway one.
Liverpool and Manchester City are both hot on their heels, while the race for the final spot in the Top 4 is also tight. Meanwhile, there has been some movement in the bottom half of the table.
Aston Villa and Norwich both felt the ‘new manager bounce’ this weekend; whether or not this builds to a sustained survival campaign remains to be seen. Meanwhile, fellow strugglers Leeds United and Newcastle United got results they probably didn’t want.
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 21, 2021
As such, the weekend’s fixtures left fans with plenty to ponder on. Here we analyse the major talking points from all the Premier League matches played out this week.
Well, it finally happened. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as Manchester United manager was on shaky ground after a 5-0 thrashing against Liverpool at Old Trafford. A 2-0 loss at home to Manchester City only made things worse. The final nail in the coffin, as it turns out, was this weekend’s 4-1 loss to Watford.
It featured a United performance typical of their recent form: disjointed, incoherent and littered with personal errors. Harry Maguire’s red card was as frustrating as it was inevitable, but no one else – save maybe Donny van de Beek – acquitted themselves well either.
Solskjaer himself seemingly knew time was over afterwards, as he was noticably glum in the post-match interview with the broadcasters. For now, Michael Carrick is in charge on an interim basis. But the road ahead doesn’t merely begin with bringing in a new manager. A lot needs to change in terms of how those at Old Trafford run things if they are to become a top force again.
The game against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium was supposed to be a stiff challenge for Chelsea. However, the reigning European champions simply breezed past their opposition on the day. Their 3-0 win to begin the week’s fixtures ensured that, come what may, they would spend another week atop the standings.
It is easy to see why Chelsea are considered title favourites based on this display alone. They have goals all over the pitch – Antonio Rudiger opened the scoring from a Ben Chilwell corner, meaning two defenders combined to give them their first goal. N’Golo Kante scored a screamer to double their lead, whereas Christian Pulisic finished the game off late in the second half.
But not only do they score plenty – their defence is watertight too. Leicester did have a few bright moments, but Chelsea’s three-man defence kept them at bay. Edouard Mendy was also stellar when called upon and he unsurprisingly earned another clean sheet. All in all, a good day in the office for Thomas Tuchel’s team.
Defending champions Manchester City, however, are in no mood to ease up on their title rivals. City’s start to the season might have been a bit inconsistent, but they have found form lately. This rich vein of form continued with a dominant 3-0 win over Everton that saw their deficit to Chelsea remain at two points.
Much is made about City’s lack of a proper number 9 up front. The thing is, City too have goals at all ends of the pitch. Raheem Sterling’s opener came about thanks to a delicious ball from Joao Cancelo. The second goal came courtesy of an absolute screamer from Rodri, who thumped home from outside the penalty area. And Bernardo Silva sealed the deal later in the game.
When City won the title last season, many saw it as a default win due to Liverpool’s loss of form. However, Pep Guardiola’s men are chock full of quality and, on their day, can beat anyone. Wrestling the title away from them will be easier said than done.
Many saw this year’s title battle as a four-horse race. Well, Manchester United’s loss of form has made that unlikely, but a three-way race is still very much on. Liverpool, led by an in-form Mohamed Salah, have been in imperious form lately. And their 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal was par for course as far as Jurgen Klopp & co.
And, like City and Chelsea, Liverpool too have goals aplenty in the team. Their first goal came courtesy of Sadio Mane, with Diogo Jota adding the second. Salah scored his customary goal thereafter, with Takumi Minamino adding a fourth off the bench. All in all, it was exactly what Liverpool needed.
Conversely, it was exactly what Arsenal did not need. They came into this fixture with their fortunes somewhat revived, having started the season horribly. But even though they did not perform poorly, they were still no match for a top side. It’s telling that the Arsenal man who showed most fight was Mikel Arteta, when he charged towards Klopp with a few unsavoury words during a touchline spat.
Of all the new managers who have come in this season, no one quite boasts the same pedigree as Antonio Conte. The Italian is, by his own words, ‘a serial winner’. That might seem cocky but he’s won trophies at all his past three jobs. However, it is safe to say that managing Tottenham Hotspur might be his biggest challenge yet.
The Spurs squad is good but not great, and Conte will need some time to not only sign players but to work out in training how he wants them to play. Till then, the best course of action would be to get results – no matter how. And that is exactly what they did against Leeds.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men are a well-drilled unit and took the lead courtesy of a Dan James tap-in before half-time. But Spurs bounced back, with goals from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguillon rescuing a 2-1 win. It might not be much in terms of style, but 3 points is 3 points any which way.
That’s all for this week. See you again in a few days when we look at the talking points from the Champions League!