Round 15 of the Premier League was a good one for the new managers, with Leicester and Everton both climbing the table with wins, while West Brom and Crystal Palace shared the spoils and each earned a point that could prove crucial in the relegation dogfight (Palace have now risen to 18th). West Ham were the only team to have changed their manager this season that did not pick up at least a point, but they put in a good show at the Etihad and led 1-0 at half time before goals from Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva saved City’s blushes. Elsewhere, Liverpool and Chelsea kept up the chase on the Manchester clubs with wins over Brighton and Newcastle respectively, while Arsenal’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United drops them out of the top 4.
He’s a keeper
De Gea is arguably one of the best shot stoppers in the world, capable of making reflex saves with hands and feet alike. It will be difficult to name a keeper in the world who on current form is doing better. When you watch him play like this, it is clear why United have the best defensive record in the league (just 9 goals in 15 games).
Perhaps the most incredible thing is when you look at the way he played when he first joined United. Despite having a defence in front of him that contained Ferdinand and Vidic, it took de Gea a while to grow accustomed to the physicality of the league and the amount of aerial balls into the box in comparison with La Liga. However Fergie stuck with him and he has developed into probably the best keeper in the world. This is a great reminder that sometimes a player will take a while to adapt, so if they are given the chance by the manager and the fans, they can overcome a shaky start to become a world-beater.
A chink in the armour
Manchester City may have won their last few games, but if their rivals have been paying close attention they will have noticed a potential weakness. Over the last couple of games, City have looked vulnerable at corners. They conceded from a corner at Huddersfield last weekend and on Sunday against West Ham, while Southampton also failed to capitalise on 2 chances they created from corners.
Vicent Kompany does not currently look the player he was a couple of years ago before a series of injuries, John Stones was improving but is currently out injured, but Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have not regularly lived up to expectations since signing for the Sky Blues. In front of the defence, they are not blessed with height which will also not help them when defending set pieces into the box. While City continue to bang in multiple goals per game they will probably be able to overcome this issue, but if they start struggling to find the net with such regularity then set piece issues could prove costly.
City’s next Premier League match is against Manchester United. The Red Devils may be missing Paul Pogba after his red card against Arsenal, but they still have height up front in Romelu Lukaku and may even draft in Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to give themselves the advantage at set pieces. Jose Mourinho’s team selection for this game will likely give us a good idea of the tactics they will use come kickoff.
On the counter
After Round 13, I wrote about how good the Liverpool attack was doing this season. With Firmino, Coutinho, Mané and Salah, they have the opportunity to rotate their front 3 in order to avoid tiring the players, while also being able to play all 4 in the big games if looking to go super offensive. This attacking capability will only improve with Adam Lallana returning from injury. Against Brighton, Liverpool showed the most effective way to use this attacking quality: on the counter. Glenn Murray’s shot was saved by Simon Mignolet and Liverpool quickly broke the length of the field for Firmino to score their third of the game.
As well as being technically gifted, Liverpool’s attackers are also incredibly pacy, so when they break on a team it is very difficult to defend against. If the Reds can get more solid at the back, then this could be a fantastic tactic for Klopp to use.
Round 16 predictions:
West Ham United v Chelsea – Chelsea win
Burnley v Watford – Burnley win
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth – Draw
Huddersfield Town v Brighton & Hove Albion – Draw
Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion – Draw
Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City – Spurs win
Newcastle United v Leicester City – Leicester win
Southampton v Arsenal – Arsenal win
Liverpool v Everton – Liverpool win
Manchester United v Manchester City – Draw