Cleat Geeks

Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

Van Gaal on borrowed time lvgg

The criticism for Louis Van Gaal’s style of play has been pretty strong for the past few months and it only intensified further following Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton.

It was a performance typical of the Red Devils under the Dutchman; lots of possession, not enough attacking intent, slow build up play that leaves them susceptible to a smash and grab from their opponents.

To be fair though, Southampton looked the more dangerous when they went forward, and new signing Charlie Austin’s late header inflicted a sixth league defeat on United.

The home fans that had the endurance to stay until the finish of a dire game roundly booed their team and manager at the final whistle, to which Van Gaal intimated that he knew how they felt.

But it is the same old story week in week out at Old Trafford this season, their tally of 28 goals in 23 games is the lowest out of all the top eight sides in the Premier League, and points to an unwillingness to change tactics or strategy.

With Pep Guardiola available for next season, it could be that United are simply going through the motions with Van Gaal until the end of the season. The risk with that is Champions League football is far from guaranteed.

Klopp needs to start Liverpool revolution with defensive cull kloppppp

Liverpool have far from the strongest squad in the Premier League, of that there is no doubt. But the weakest part of their squad, without question is their defense.

This was highlighted by the concession of four goals away to Norwich, a side who sat 16th in the league and had managed just 24 goals in 22 matches prior to their meeting on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was again unconvincing, back up ‘keeper Adam Bogdan doesn’t look like a top four number one and of course dropped a clanger against Exeter in the FA Cup recently.

In terms of centre-backs, Mamadou Sakho doesn’t inspire much confidence, Dejan Lovren has been found wanting since his move from Southampton leaving Martin Skrtel the best of a bad bunch.

The concession of 13 goals from set pieces this season will also concern Klopp, that total is the third highest in the league. In fact, according to the stats, there is a 40.6% chance that Liverpool will concede a goal at each set piece.

Steven Caulker was drafted in on loan until the end of the season, but, despite his experience of the Premier League, there weren’t many suitors rushing to sign him permanently from relegated QPR, which suggests he won’t quite be at the level Klopp would require in the long term.

Left-back Alberto Moreno is a threat going forward but doesn’t do much in the way of helping preserve clean sheets, and Nathaniel Clyne on the other flank is similar in terms of his defensive shortcomings.

If Klopp is to return Liverpool to the top table of European football, then surely these players will all need to be moved on and replaced in the near future.

Alli is the greatest  dele

Dele Alli has been receiving rave reviews all season for not only forcing his way into the Spurs first team, but for becoming one of the first names on the team sheet.

His wonder goal against Crystal Palace was something special as well, the 19 year-old seems to have it all: great technical ability, an excellent passer, tackler, provider and goal scorer.

It’s hard to think of anyone who could pip him to the PFA Young Player of the Year award at the end of the season, and he might even have a shout at winning the main prize.

Usually the English media over-hypes young talented players that come through: Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend, Tom Cleverly spring to mind, but, as in the case of these players, they seem to fizzle out.

Alli could be different. He has already forced his way into the England team and barring injury he will be going to France in the summer, that experience should stand him in good stead for his career in the future.

The only concern might be overplaying, a full season competing on three fronts with Tottenham before Euro 2016 could slow him down, but he looks like he’ll be commanding a starting berth for club and country for some years to come.

Newcastle: Consolidation, progression or regression? Newcastle_United_Logo_svg

Newcastle have become something of an enigma over the past few years. There has been unrest in the terraces at off-field events, the running of the club, Alan Pardew’s management and the money-making mentality of owner Mike Ashley.

As a consequence, results have been on the decline and the magpies only avoided relegation on the final day of last season. This season they have gone a little unnoticed, not doing terribly but not showing the signs of improvement that manager Steve McClaren would have liked.

After a defeat away to Watford, Newcastle sit 18th, which for a club of their size is definitely unacceptable. But McClaren isn’t being vilified by the fans, or the bookies favorite to be the next manager to be sacked, which seems odd.

Odder still is the performance they put in against Manchester United a few weeks ago, drawing 3-3 in an enthralling contest where they were good value for their point. Back to back wins at the start of December at home to Liverpool and then away to Tottenham looked like heralding the dawn of a new era of relative success at St James’ Park.

But since then they’ve won just one of seven league games and dropped back into the relegation zone. There have been some woeful performances this season too, Crystal Palace away comes to mind, and the real inconsistency of the team underlines why they are struggling.

The addition of Jonjo Shelvey from Swansea was a great buy and today they have had a bid accepted for Andros Townsend, so chairman Mike Ashley is sticking to his promise to spend on the playing staff.

McClaren is a good manager, and he seems to be being backed by the powers that be at Newcastle so there maybe is a little light appearing at the end of the tunnel, but should Newcastle be a top 10 side? Would they settle for 17th and survival?

Over halfway through the season and it is still unclear.

Good weekend for Leicester ranieri

A run of one win in seven in all competitions for Leicester City pointed to the bursting of their bubble, some weeks after most had forecast it.

But Claudio Ranieri’s men had other ideas and on Saturday they cruised to a 3-0 win over a steadily improving Stoke City side to move clear at the top.

There are only 15 games to go, and a top four finish looks the least the Foxes should be targeting.

Manchester City dropped points at West Ham and Arsenal lost at home to Chelsea to lose ground on Leicester, who now have a three point cushion at the top of the table.

There is no question that they are definite contenders, and up to now they have held onto their prize assets with the transfer window slowly drawing shut.

This could be their year.

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