Vlasic shows he can help West Ham
West Ham were already well on their way to victory when Nikola Vlasic scored his fourth goal against Watford at Vicarage Road, but the Hammers are hoping it will be a significant moment for him.
The Croatian international has had only modest impact since joining West Ham from CSKA Moscow on a £ 33.5m contract last summer, but perhaps his first goal for the club is a sign of bigger things a come in the second half of the campaign.
Vlasic had to be patient. The striker, who had a stint at Everton in 2017/18, has only played two Premier League games with the Hammers so far, but fans have been encouraged by what they’ve seen recently and has certainly left the game so far. sign at Vicarage Road, making Jarrod home Reduction of Bowen’s recovery time after his introduction in the 85th minute.
Bowen’s glittering form is one of the reasons Vlasic struggled to keep a place in David Moyes’ starting lineup. But West Ham faces a grueling agenda as they juggle national and European commitments in the months to come. Their team depth will be tested.
Vlasic looks ready to step forward. With a period of adjustment behind him and finally off the mark with his first goal, the 24-year-old could prove to be a determining factor as West Ham aim to finish the season as vigorously as they started it.
Spurs’ European release could be a blessing in disguise
The general consensus was that Antonio Conte had wasted little time in transforming Tottenham, and at St Mary’s he extended his unbeaten departure to his last role to seven league games, becoming the first Spurs manager to achieve that feat.
But one also wondered how the Spurs would have been in the Premier League away from home under the Italian, as an oddity from their recent spate of three games postponed due to Covid cases had wiped out their last three road trips.
A total of 51 days separated this South Coast visit with their last home away game on 7 November at Everton, and there was some slowness in their game as they deserved to be behind James Ward’s third goal- Prowse in as many games.
Tottenham only ignited after Southampton were reduced to 10 men. Harry Kane scored his 11th goal in as many games against the Saints and thought he had completed the turnaround only to be partially denied by the VAR.
In all, Spurs had 22 attempts with three goals scored correctly, but were not convinced as two points slipped away.
The vocal celebrations for Southampton fans at the final whistle told the story as they were able to reflect on four points from two games against Champions League contenders within 48 hours.
Asked about the fact that his team was unable to take advantage of the numerical advantage for most of the hour, Conte replied: “Surely it is a wasted opportunity and we must try to exploit this situation to try to get the three points.
We knew very well that facing Southampton at this stadium is not easy. At a certain point in the match, a draw would have been positive for us but we felt tired and our minds were not very clear to make the best of situations ».
Spurs may be starting to feel the pinch, and their elimination from the Europa Conference League after UEFA determined they lost their final match against Rennes could still prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Steven Bergwijn suffered a calf injury in the match against Crystal Palace, to go with Giovani Lo Celso lost after doing the same warm-up by not appearing in Boxing Day. It’s an illustration of the high intensity Conte wants from his players at a time when games are inexorable and muscle injuries are the order of the day.
Conte knew he had to manage his players’ minutes, but with six more games coming in January – three against Chelsea – he will need his entire squad available and shooting to keep the momentum behind his transformative impact.
Crystal Palace transforms Selhurst Park into a fortress
There would have been some nervous looks from Crystal Palace fans when the team news came out on Tuesday. They were already without the talisman Wilfried Zaha on disqualification, while manager Patrick Vieira was in solitary confinement due to Covid.
Then, Conor Gallagher was also excluded from the squad, although the reason remains unknown. Three of the keys to their success this season would not have been present with a 3-0 defeat at Tottenham fresh in memory.
But perhaps their greatest tool this season has been Selhurst Park itself. It has always been a place renowned for its atmosphere, with Holmesdale End as its epicenter.
And under Vieira, Crystal Palace has only lost once and scored 18 goals in 10 Premier League home games this season (17 points), having lost five and only scored nine times in the previous 10 (11 points).
But perhaps one of the nicest things about winning against Norwich would have been completing it without their star players, especially Zaha. Crystal Palace had only won three times in the previous 24 games without the striker. They can now register up to four.
Sure, Crystal Palace didn’t play its best game of the season, but it punished a sloppy Norwich with its three shots on goal in the first half. It was a game they would have expected to win and in the second half they faced the game with discipline.
He sees Crystal Palace in the top half of the table until 2022. They are just five points behind Manchester United in seventh place and, say it quietly, could they push for a spot in the Europa Conference League next season?
It would be an achievement if they did, but for now, there are many positives to bring into 2022.
The Norwich team was decimated at the worst possible moment
When he arrived in Norwich, Dean Smith said he was pleased with his team’s form as they faced an uphill battle to avoid relegation to the Premier League.
However, in recent weeks, he has seen his team stripped to the bone with injuries and illnesses. Only on Monday, Todd Cantwell, Teemu Pukki and Max Aarons were not available. Dimitris Giannoulis was out at half-time with a blow, while captain Grant Hanley and number 1 goalkeeper Tim Krul were also sidelined.
The list goes on and Smith was forced to make six changes for the trip to Selhurst Park. No one on their day 18 had scored a Premier League goal this season and in December they lost five straight games without scoring a goal.
Still, Norwich put their opponents to the test, particularly in the second half. But a series of mistakes in the first half sealed their fate and, quite simply, they didn’t have the quality to find their way back into the game.
“What we had when I first joined I was fairly optimistic, but it’s been decimated at the time and that’s where we were today … We miss a lot of leaders in our group who are sadly injured or ill at the moment,” Smith said. after the match.
“I told the players at half-time, you have to go out and show some character and pride in the second half. I didn’t think the first half was a 3-0, it was just the way the goals were disappointing and, unfortunately, the result is the only thing people will talk about. “
Their long list of absentees couldn’t have come at a worse time. Christmas is always the busiest time of the season – including two games in 48 hours, a schedule for which Smith has been a critical audience – and they are three points from safety at the bottom of the table, having played the most games in the league. teams surrounding them.
With each passing game, Norwich seems like a bigger and bigger task to stay in the Premier League.