By Neil Leverett
- Liverpool open up eight-point Premier League lead after 3-1 victory over Manchester City
- Leicester City go second after beating Arsenal, whilst Chelsea win again to cement top three spot
- Spurs held by increasingly-steely Blades, Norwich and Southampton lose again as Manchester United show signs of improvement
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As Liverpool open up an eight-point advantage against the champions, what did we learn from Premier League Gameweek 12?
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Reds champions elect
If they were not before Gameweek 12, this weekend has seen Liverpool firmly strap themselves into the box seat to finally end their 26-year wait to win the Premier League title, after proving too much to handle for the defending champions Manchester City at Anfield.
Holding a six-point advantage over the Citizens coming into Sunday’s blockbuster clash on Merseyside, Jurgen Klopp will be adorning just the slightest of grins after Fabinho‘s early long-range strike laid for the foundations for a 3-1 win.
We have suggested in recent weeks the the Reds’s grip on the top of the table is perhaps not as strong as it seems, however not many can claim such an emphatic display in relative fashion that leaves Liverpool eight points clear of the chasing pack, heading into the final international break 2019.
Indeed, Leicester City after their 2-0 win over Arsenal pose perhaps an equal threat to City now – with Klopp’s men facing a trip to the King Power later in the season – but still stand almost double figures adrift.
There is a long way yet to go however, and as Liverpool fans will remember seeing a ten-point lead slip just a few days before New Year last term, there are many trials to come, not least the festive season including the Club World Cup late next month.
Despite these factors however, all signs appear to pointing to glory for the Reds – not least the odd contentious VAR call – and for now at least it seems there will no stopping Liverpool on their journey to the promised land in May.
Guardiola will seek reinforcements
As Liverpool begin to dream of the league title, the holders meanwhile are left licking their wounds as a side who in the last two season have been so renowned for their defensive qualities, fell apart once more in alarming manner.
Having lost their third league outing already – a ratio of one defeat every four games – the champions are now nine points from the top of the tree but more of greater concern will be their slipping down to fourth in the standings.
Whilst it is true City have been left well short by absence of the talismanic Aymeric Laporte, Pep Guardiola still has a plethora of options to utilise. However as we saw in Gameweek 12, Benjamin Mendy is still not trusted by his manager and with full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko also nursing an injury, that left a largely untested Angelino to be thrown in at the deep end.
With John Stones having taken a drastic step backwards in performance level this season, City look at sixes and sevens in defence with the added headache of being forced to used veteran Claudio Bravo at Anfield, for the stricken Ederson.
All these elements have left Guardiola a entirely vexed man, and that will almost certainly see a busy January for the Spaniard. Attacking reinforcements are perhaps lacking necessity, however, City’s back line could be in for some serious investment come January 1st.
Emery clock ticking
As Guardiola begins to see his attempts at a third successive Premier League crown move away into the distance, his compatriot Unai Emery is left standing on shaky ground following Arsenal’s defeat to Leicester, who now sit in the heady heights of second place.
Whilst still having lost as many games as City, it is the draws that are harming the Gunners, but more problematically the Arsenal steward appears to be losing the fanbase and some of the players at his disposal.
It’s now no league wins in four for the North Londoners, but the concerning matter will be their performances in all competitions, that in recent weeks have seen a distinctly average Vitoria Guimaraes score three goals against his side in the Europa League, as well as surrendering a 4-2 league to Liverpool in the League Cup a fortnight ago.
The knives are out for Emery in force now, and after opting to play a more conservative approach in the Foxes’ loss, the result remained the same as he stood a rather forlorn figure at a sodden King Power this weekend.
That has merely served to convince the fans the Spaniard has now lost his way, and whilst the Gunners’ hierarchy remain in Emery’s corner, this weekend’s loss has accelerated the sands of time on his hourglass.
Martial has revitalised United
It seems the obituary on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s tenure at Manchester United have been written prematurely, after a a beleaguered Red Devils picked up their fifth win in sixth in all competitions with victory against Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford. The reason? Anthony Martial.
The man who came with the world on his shoulders after his move from AS Monaco, has rather fallen short of his best for some time now, but the Frenchman’s return to fold from injury has given United a much-needed shot in the arm.
Since netting the winner against Partizan Belgrade last month, Martial has scored twice on his comeback but his contribution and presence on the field has been pivotal to United’s at least short-term resurgence in recent weeks, and his assist double against the Seagulls underlined that fact.
Solskjaer still has many problems for a United side that are struggling to recover from the fall from grace – not least their away form – but with Martial in tow, the Norwegian has quite the ace in the hole and one, which could see a continued improvement after the international break.
Improvement is something Norwich are in desperate need of on resumption in a fortnight, but it may be too late already to right a Premier League slump that on Friday night saw the Canaries lose a third league game on the bounce, to fellow basement dwellers Watford.
The failure of Daniel Farke‘s men to score for fourth game running is by far the more worrying statistic however, and leaves the German with a mountain to climb – not least ten days of intensive team building in Norfolk, before a trip to Goodison Park.
That is, if Farke is given the chance to turn Norwich’s fortunes around. Teemu Pukki looks player shorn of his early season goal glut form, and after again failing to really get close to ending his scoring drought, the Finn will look to hit some sort of form for his country in the next week.
That will not promise any hope of converting that domestically however, and with now a four-point gap having opened up to 17th spot after Gameweek 12, the Canaries appear to be dive bombing metaphorically, into the coal mines of the Championship.
The Premier League returns with Gameweek 13 on Saturday 23 November, as West Ham United host Tottenham Hotspur, kick-off 12:30pm UK time.
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