It still looks creepy for Newcastle
This was a great opportunity for Newcastle. Against a Leicester team that had endured a pretty brutal week, Eddie Howe’s team was imagined in some quarters.
So often their defensive line was criticized and although the 4-0 result indicates defensive chaos, this has more to do with a complete lack of bite in promising positions in the opposing half.
Looking at the next four games, the defeat looks even worse. They face Liverpool (A), Man City (H), Man Utd (H) and then Everton (A) before the new year.
Unless Southampton is drawn into the relegation fight – with their form, it’s not impossible – it feels like a four-horse race for a survival position.
So Newcastle might be looking around for some comfort from Norwich and Burnley having tough games in December too, but it’s Watford they should worry about.
The Hornets have Burnley (A), Palace (H), Wolves (A) and West Ham (H). It is not inconceivable that Newcastle could be half a dozen points behind by the new year, having barely reached a dozen points with half of the season gone.
The average number of points needed to survive over the past five years was 37; To achieve this, Newcastle need 27 points in their remaining 22 games, at 1.22 points per game. Given that they have recorded 0.625 points per game so far, a figure that will no doubt drop by January 1 with their run-in, it seems ominous.
To this extent, Newcastle need to be twice as clinical and twice as tight in the second half of the season, and although January is around the corner, St James’ Park still doesn’t have much to do.
There is a sense that Newcastle need to take a step back before making many costly steps forward, but a year is a long time for any player. A year in the league is even longer.
Will the real Everton please stand up?
By all accounts, Everton should have faced Sunday’s match at Crystal Palace full of confidence and momentum. They had ended a seven-game winless streak with a super comeback against Arsenal on Monday.
Rafa Benitez’s team went to a Crystal Palace team that had lost their last three Premier League games. The stats were on their side too: Everton were unbeaten against Palace in 13 league games and had not lost in their previous 10 visits to Selhurst Park, which dates back to October 1994.
But far from brimming with winning confidence, it was a disappointingly lethargic and passive Everton performance. Despite the pendulum of form swung in their favor in the last week of matches, they looked like a team with no ideas and hoping for a win on the break.
There were mistakes strewn across the pitch as Palace ignited style in front of their home fans. An exceptional moment saw Richarlison displeased with being substituted early in the second half, watching from the bench as his replacement Salomon Rondon scored the return for Everton.
Benitez confirmed after the game that Richarlison was carrying a calf injury, and he showed himself in a mostly anonymous performance. The question also arises as to why it was risked from the start in the first place.
Sure, once they had scored, there was a greater sense of urgency for Everton – Anthony Gordon coming close to the edge during an impressive substitute appearance – but the damage had already been done.
Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness said after the game: “Those first 45 minutes here, almost an hour, were so negative and so passive… They were the shadow of a team in the first half.
“We have seen that Rafa’s approach to football is quite unique and different from many coaches, we have seen that at Newcastle he likes to play on the break and tries to steal matches.
“I don’t think Everton will accept that. The idea was to take Everton to the next level, and that didn’t happen. They should have faced this game with the front foot. They were so negative.”
Within a week, the two sides of Everton were on full display and the question arises: which is the real Everton and which direction is Benitez heading? There is no doubt that fans will want to answer these questions sooner rather than later.
Gallagher is just getting better
🎙️ “The ultimate goal: that feeling is incredible.”
🎙️ “I love it. The fact that they chant my name right now is a great feeling for me. They give me confidence, which is great for a player.”
– Sky Sport Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 12, 2021
With the new year just weeks away, Conor Gallagher can look back on a turning point in 2021.
His summer loan transfer to Crystal Palace continued to bring out the best in midfield. Those who have followed his career at Chelsea or in temporary bouts at Charlton Athletic, Swansea and then West Brom on loan will not be overly surprised.
The 21-year-old has shone in most matches for the Palace, but was the standout star against Everton, rightfully winning the Man of the Match award.
Gallagher’s two goals were simply sensational. His first was an emphatic ending of Jordan Ayew’s square cross. The second was a contender goal of the season as he shot home from the top of the box in the 93rd minute to seal a well deserved win for the Eagles.
He also climbed the rankings in almost all categories of statistics: shots (7), shots on goal (3), touches in the opponent’s area (8). He also won possession six times, one of which resulted in his second goal when he stole the ball from Andre Gomes.
The manager of the building Patrick Vieira said so Sky Sports: “There is still a lot to come from him. He will have to manage his forces and find the best way to manage his energy. He is a fantastic player to have. He has given everything to the team and can score goals. To have a midfielder who can score 10-15 goals is important.
“The extraordinary thing is that we were talking about the 90th minute in which he ran everywhere, to find the energy to score. That goal took a long time.”
While Vieira has remained fairly shy about any potential future at the Palace for Gallagher, those of Chelsea and England need to sit back and take note. But are you ready to compete in those talented teams?
“There isn’t now [for Chelsea]”said Graeme Souness of Sky Sports.” There are 21 year olds who look like the finished article, I think he’s a 21 year old who has a few things to do.
“He has all the technique you need, he has a fabulous attitude, stick to that, avoid injuries and you will be a star.”
Former Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew added: “Gareth [Southgate] he was in Burnley today, he was supposed to go home to Palace and see Gallagher. He is knocking on England’s door. “
For now though, the goal will be to improve further under Vieira at the Palace, but Gallagher is a star for the future.
The Pope promptly reminds us of his qualities
The emergence of Aaron Ramsdale meant that Nick Pope’s quiet season for Burnley saw him fall into England’s pecking order. However, Pope, who has lost the last two English teams, will have impressed Gareth Southgate in the stands against West Ham. He has become only the third goalkeeper in his last 19 Premier League games to take home a clean sheet against the Hammers, who usually find a way to score. The Pope was unbeatable though.
This was a day for a goalkeeper to take the pressure off his defenders in such windy conditions, especially against a team with such a strong set piece record as West Ham. Such was his domain of his box, West Ham really only created one chance from its 14 corners. The chance fell on Issa Diop, but his header was brilliantly stopped by the Burnley goalkeeper. It was one of three rescues he was called upon to make. Pope has now kept 29 Premier League clean sheets since the start of the 19/20 season – only Ederson (42) and Alisson (31) have more. His costly mistake in defeat at Newcastle is almost forgotten now.
Sean Dyche said: “The high-level goalkeeper that he is will be happy to have made the saves, but those are what you would like him to do. The defensive unit was strong again.
“I thought it was a good match for him, a solid match.”
If Burnley is to start turning draws into wins – this was their eighth stalemate of the season – Pope’s form will be crucial.