Premier League. Premier League and Carabao Cup final: 10 talking points from weekend



Premier League and Carabao Cup final: 10 talking points from weekend

Virgil van Dijk rises to the challenge, Jorginho provides control for Arsenal and Douglas Luiz finds the net again


Colossal Van Dijk uses his head

When Liverpool needed a hero, when all their other leaders had been sidelined through injury, Virgil van Dijk cast himself as the Carabao Cup final’s protagonist at the decisive moment. Earlier in the game, the Dutchman had cut a bemused figure after he’d been denied by a marginal VAR call. The ensuing debate over the offside on Wataru Endo might have haunted Liverpool on another day, but Jürgen Klopp’s youngsters sparkled to keep Chelsea at bay as the game went into extra-time and they needed Van Dijk to rise highest to rubber-stamp the Reds’ dominance. At the time of his 118th-minute winner, Van Dijk was about the only player left on the Wembley pitch capable of using his head. Having been a transformative signing more than six years ago, it feels apt that the defender should play such a pivotal role in this trophy success. Dominic Booth


Ten Hag walking tightrope

Admissions of Manchester United’s naivety do not help Erik ten Hag as he seeks to convince Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new regime to retain him as manager. The 52-year-old did so when analysing Alex Iwobi’s 97th-minute winner for Fulham that came after Adama Traoré was able to run in and pass to the wideman. Ten Hag said: “They had a throw-in and we didn’t take the right positions. Actually, one player didn’t take the right position but then we should manage this in the team so they can’t escape.” Here, Ten Hag probably means Victor Lindelöf, United’s auxiliary left-back. There was more, though. Harry Maguire was left trailing by the Spaniard and, like the Dutchman, accepted a callowness of choice. “I was on a booking [to be suspended],’ the defender said. “Maybe I should have just brought him down but then you miss next week. It is easy to say now.” This all points to a poorly managed team that points, also, to job-security precariousness for Ten Hag. Jamie Jackson


Guardiola savours grinding it out

Pep Guardiola called his Manchester City players “supermen” after they eked out a second 1-0 win in five days, Phil Foden’s strike earning victory at Bournemouth and the compliments kept on coming. By City’s standards, they were unconvincing but Guardiola was fulsome in praise. The City managerrattled off a gruelling run of fixtures after comparing last Tuesday’s game against Brentford to a trip to the dentist – without anaesthetic. They visit Luton in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday, before March means they resume their Champions League defence and brings tests against Arsenal, Brighton and Liverpool, as well as the Manchester derby. The prospect of a back-to-back Treble is on. “A big month,” Guardiola said. “I thought: ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen with my players after winning everything. How will they react?’ Oh my God … better than they have is impossible. Impossible.” Ben Fisher


Jorginho steps up to shine for Arsenal

Jorginho is not a headline grabber but is proving his worth to Arsenal. Mikel Arteta called him into a Premier League starting XI for only the sixth time this season and he was outstanding in the rout of Newcastle. Going with the Italy international instead of Leandro Trossard looked a conservative move but it was anything but His promptings and prodigious ground coverage helped Arsenal exert overwhelming control, while his marvellous pass to Gabriel Martinelli set up the crucial second goal. “He’s a top player,” Arteta said. ”Especially when opponents have certain behaviours and setups, the way I imagine the game, he was going to have a big impact.” Jorginho’s cajoling of teammates was also noticeable and in a fixture that had previously descended into niggly chaos it was easy to see why Arteta might elect to deploy an on-pitch sentinel. Jorginho was far more than that; Arsenal’s midfield depth has been questioned but his experience could just pull them over the line. Nick Ames


Branthwaite looks the real deal

Generations of Evertonians have had to get used to the flogging of the family silver. Francis Jeffers, Wayne Rooney, Joleon Lescott, Ross Barkley and John Stones all departed Goodison for richer clubs. Jarrad Branthwaite looks a certainty to join that list and his goal and overall performance at Brighton proved to be high-quality marketing. His control and searing finish are not what is making his reputation but showed off the rangy 21-year-old’s innate talent. A couple of late blocks as Brighton pushed for their equaliser was evidence of his discipline; Brighton’s forwards struggled for time and space right up until Pascal Gross found Lewis Dunk for a late leveller. “I feel good and confident going into games,” said Branthwaite, “I know I am good enough to play at this level.” And so do plenty of admirers among the game’s elite, Manchester United and Real Madrid, to name just two. John Brewin


Luiz taking leading role for Emery

Another Aston Villa home game, another Douglas Luiz goal. A first half double, in fact. Luiz, nominally a holding midfielder, has nine Premier League strikes this season, all at Villa Park. Recently, after Boubacar Kamara’s ACL injury, Luiz’s importance has been heightened, and Unai Emery holds him to the highest of standards: “He lost the first two balls in the second half and I told him: ‘Please Douglas, you are a key player for us to keep confidence playing in our style’,” Emery said. “He took control of the game with his skills and gave us confidence.” Luizwas full of praise for his manager: “He has lifted me; it is the truth. He tells me every day, you need to defend, and if you go you need to score.” Luiz is following those instructions to the letter. Sam Dalling


Callow Chelsea show lack of nous

By the end, it was Jürgen Klopp’s kids versus Todd Boehly’s buys. Finally for Chelsea, this was an opportunity to justify – to some extent – a £1bn transfer spend under Boehly, to put a piece of silverware in the cabinet for the first time post-Abramovich and to signal progress. As Klopp was forced to throw on the novices Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Jayden Danns, Pochettino was able to call upon Mykhailo Mudryk and Christopher Nkunku, who cost a combined £140m. Yet as they made increasingly heavy weather against greenhorn opponents, the Blues’ own shortcomings – their lack of trophy-winning nous, their weak mentality – were exposed. There is inexperience in terms of age and then there’s footballing immaturity; Chelsea showed the latter at Wembley. “Billion pound bottle jobs,” was the phrase used by Gary Neville on commentary. It was hard to argue otherwise. DB


Ayew adds polish to Glasner’s debut

For years, Jordan Ayew was one of the most frustrating players in the world, blessed with enormous talent but seemingly doomed always to be caught offside or to take the wrong option – what might have happened, for instance, had he squared for Asamoah Gyan to tap in when Ghana led 2-1 against Germany at the 2014 World Cup? He is 32 now, though, and over the past couple of seasons, has become one of Crystal Palace’s most reliable performers, hard-working and, in a more withdrawn role, increasingly effective. He seemed to revel in the freedom afforded him by Oliver Glasner’s 3-4-2-1, laying on Chris Richards’s opener with a clever cross to the back post, and then tapping in the second, arriving unmarked to finish off a counter. That’s four goals and six assists this season – already the most goals he’s set up in a campaign. Jonathan Wilson


Neto shines but could be next for exit

During the summer Wolves sold the Portuguese players Rúben Neves and Matheus Nunes to help balance the books, collecting more than £100m in fees. It remains impressive how well the club has done relying on cheaper replacements and those already in the building to step up. The next Portugal international to make Wolves a healthy profit will undoubtedly be Pedro Neto. The winger was the most dynamic player on the pitch against Sheffield United, effortlessly drifting through red and white shirts to create chances. He will be disappointed not to add to his nine assists and two goals against the league’s most porous side. Neto has been linked to a number of clubs higher up the league and will inevitably command a high fee, something Gary O’Neil will be hoping to reinvest. Will Unwin


Relentless league is taking its toll

As well as goals, goals, goals, one of the themes of this Premier League season has been injuries, injuries and, well, more injuries. They can be used an excuse for poor results – see Manchester United and Chelsea – or a team can knuckle down and unite in difficult circumstances, as top teams tend to do. Liverpool most certainly did in the Carabao Cup final after Ryan Gravenberch went off on a stretcher. It was Ten Hag who hinted at the reason for the huge number of top-flight injuries this season when explaining Rasmus Højlund’s recent muscle twinge. “It is a risk in high-intensity training,” said the United manager. Klopp said in December that management is “not to do with coaching any more, it’s just recovery and then meetings”. Clubs are falling victim to the Premier League’s greatest strengths – its speed and relentlessness. DB

2Man City263359
4Aston Villa262152
5Tottenham Hotspur251447
6Man Utd26044
10West Ham25-836
13Crystal Palace26-1328
14AFC Bournemouth25-1428
16Nottm Forest26-1424
20Sheff Utd26-4413


Post a Comment

Post a Comment (0)