The tired city finds a way to keep winning
Liverpool have lost one and drawn one of their last two Premier League games. Chelsea have drawn three of their last four in the competition. The demands of the holiday calendar – perhaps as tough as it has ever been in modern times given the illnesses and injuries affecting the teams – have put a strain on Man City rivals for the title. When the standards are this high, those little mistakes can be costly.
Against Arsenal on Saturday, it looked like City could go the same way.
Pep Guardiola later described his group of players as “incredibly tired, mentally and physically”. He pointed to the four Academy boys on the bench.
But City somehow found a way to win.
This was far from certain at various points in the game, with an impressive Arsenal team – described as Guardiola’s best team – seeing the ball cleared from the line and Gabriel Martinelli hit a post after Bukayo Saka had blown away in its forerunner.
There will be a lot of debate about the decisions made by the referees in the game around two key decisions on penalties and Gabriel Magalhaes’ red card but, despite the controversy, City fought until the last moment, when Rodri – a key figure for them in midfield this season – emerged as the unlikely winner of the match.
There are now 11 Premier League victories for the reigning champions, who are nearing the 15-game streak that propelled them to the title last season. Even better, on Sunday they can sit back and watch Chelsea and Liverpool face off.
Whatever the result, City’s lead at the top of the table will still be substantial. The points lost to the Emirates may have offered some hope to their struggling rivals but, even when exhausted, this City squad cannot be stopped.
A short spell costs Arsenal, but there is hope in defeat
Arsenal had just been beaten by Manchester City, nothing new of course.
But this time it was different.
The home fans stayed and cheered their team with great enthusiasm, in full appreciation that Mikel Arteta’s men were absolutely superb against the waiting champions, despite their manager being forced to isolate himself at home after a positive test. at Covid. They were the best team for 85 minutes of the game, in fact.
The problems came in the other five minutes in the middle of the second half. Rarely has a game changed so much in such a short time. Unfortunately for Arsenal, it was all thanks to them.
The lazy challenge and the shot for the shirt of Granit Xhaka on Bernardo Silva gave the referee a decision to make for the penalty of the equalizer. Gabriel Martinelli, full of energy and quality, jumped at what was an open net opportunity after Nathan Ake’s miraculous postponement. And then Gabriel Magalhaes’ moment of inexperience stained his notebook when he took his second yellow card for an unnecessary foul.
These three incidents defined the outcome. Elite teams like Manchester City feed on such mistakes and although Arsenal were superb in every department, the big moments of the match were devoured by the City machine.
“It’s very frustrating in the end, but Mikel was very proud of the performance and frustrated at the same time,” said Arsenal manager Albert Stuivenberg, who replaced Arteta’s absence.
Frustration was the perfect word to sum up the feeling in full-time ground. But when the dust has settled, those Arsenal fans can look back on a performance that gives the club so much hope and excitement for the future.
Lloris proves his worth at Tottenham
Watford have been defending poorly for some time, but for 95 minutes on New Year’s Eve it was clear why there are at least three teams that have had worse seasons than theirs.
Claudio Ranieri’s side have lost their last six Premier League matches, conceding 16 goals in the meantime, but there was real determination in their efforts against a Tottenham who was reinvigorated under Antonio Conte.
Tottenham was expected to find the chances easy to find, but it seemed ideas were running out of ideas before Davinson Sanchez delivered his last swipe.
“We are alive and we will survive,” said a provocative Ranieri. “To concede so late is a real shame, but I was proud of my players and also of our fans.”
Spurs were almost frustrated with their second straight game, having had two controversial goals canceled by VAR in a 1-1 draw at Southampton in 10 men on Tuesday, before Sanchez scored deep in nearly 10 minutes of injury time following. of a delay due to the interruption. to a medical emergency in the crowd.
Sure it was cruel for Ranieri’s side, but Tottenham had 74 percent possession and 21 shots, including nine on goal. They deserved to win, but they might have lost were it not for the brilliance of Hugo Lloris, whose finger parried to deny Joshua King 0-0 proved a turning point.
The 33-year-old Frenchman is about to expire at the end of the season and has hinted that he is ready to return to his homeland, but Conte is determined to keep his captain after once again proving his worth.
When asked about the future of the Spurs goalkeeper, Conte replied: “Definitely [we’d like him to renew].
“You see the level of the goalkeeper in this circumstance when he doesn’t need to do much throughout the game but he continued to be focused on the team and for me it is very important because when I talk to him and the team, the bond between the goalkeeper and the team is very important.
“When you play very high with a defensive line, the goalkeeper has to follow the game and not just stay on the line. Hugo has shown today that he is a great goalkeeper. He is very important to us and I am sure that in a short time the club will find a solution. because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him. “
What would Watford give for a goalkeeper of Lloris’ quality and quiet leadership, after seeing the wait for the first clean sheet of the season extend beyond the 18th game. They remain just outside the relegation zone. With 20 games remaining, their head is out of the water, but for how long?
The top four chase a happy West Ham without the ball
After a difficult one-point run from a possible nine before and just after Christmas, West Ham are firmly back in the chase for the top four with consecutive away wins.
At Selhurst Park, West Ham won without playing particularly well – said David Moyes. Yes, that’s a good sign, etc, etc, but while Moyes’ team have electrifying, interchangeable attacking options – this time it was Manuel Lanzini who did a MOTM performance, with Pablo Fornals out – their game plan is often focused on the transfer of possession.
West Ham only had 37% of possession on Saturday, the seventh out of 20 this season they had possession in the 1930s. They have won four of those games – against Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and this Palace win – and have only suffered narrow losses to Man Utd and Man City.
In fact, West Ham record more points per game (1.85) this season in games they have possession in the 1930s, compared to games where they record more than 40 percent of the ball (1.61).
Four of their most disappointing results this season have come in games where they dominated the ball: draws at Burnley and Saints (59 and 58 percent respectively) and home losses to Brentford and Saints (60 and 56 percent respectively).
In the next six games, four of the current last six will play at home. On paper it looks like a welcome match series, but they will have to show dexterity when the burden is on them to force open spaces onto the ball.