JAY EPL WEEKLY ROUNDUP
Written by Chukwuemeka Umesi on April 2, 2023
Welcome to the first edition of JAY weekly EPL roundup where I take you around the weekly matches in the EPL, summarizing what happened, and the news you want to be dissected.
The weekend started with Manchester City continuing their quest to win their fifth EPL title in six years as they welcomed struggling Liverpool. For many fans, the match would decide, to an extent, how comfortable arsenal will be on the top of the table.
Liverpool started the match cautiously, with their attacking three of Salah, Jota and Gakpo barely getting time on the ball. But a moment of brilliance from Gakpo and Salah saw Liverpool take the lead. Without Erling Haaland in the team, one would have wondered how City would respond, but City, even before Liverpool’s goal, looked the more compact and confident side.
Liverpool’s lead was shortlived as some brilliant play from De Bruyne and Jack Grealish, who put up a man-of-the-match performance, saw Alvarez equalize.
The first half ended one all, but City had other plans.
Eight minutes into the second half, the citizen’s blistering, champagne football yielded results. Goals for KDB and Gundogan saw City snatch the game from Liverpool’s grasp before they could make sense of what hit them.
City’s attack, it must be stated, looked more fluid with Mahrez, Alvarez and Grealish leading the line. KDB was pulling the strings from the middle, while John Stones, deployed as an inverted full-back but spent more time in the defensive midfield alongside Rodri, made Liverpool’s combative midfield of Elliot, Henderson and Fabinho look useless.
For City, having Alvares leading the line gave them more options as they were able to play between Liverpool’s defensive line. Alvarez joining the midfield to win balls and create play makes City more dangerous than when they have a target man in Haaland.
And for Jack Grealish, he ran Liverpool’s defence ragged, so ragged I wonder why Klopp kept TAA for the entire 90 minutes. The goal he scored capped a brilliant afternoon for the English man.
ARSENAL CAN’T BE STOPPED
If City were hoping that Leeds’ recent resurgence would be enough to stop arsenal’s brilliant campaign, they were in for a shocker.
With a changed front three without Bukayo Saka, with Martinelli, Jesus and Trossard running rings around the Ayling-led Leeds team, Arsenal looked, in the second half, like the team that can beat anyone, no matter how well the opposition played.
Although Arsenal was slow, tepid and lacked intensity in the first half, they returned in the second with the urgency and speed that has epitomized their brilliant season so far. Ending the first half one goal up courtesy of a Jesus penalty was unfair to a Leeds team that looked like they could hold their own. But in the second-half Arsenal was too good for Leeds.
Martinelli continues to be a threat, and his pace and trickery were too much for Ayling, who’d caused the penalty in the first half. Ben white was too free not to have scored from Martinelli’s sweeper across the 18-yard box.
Two nil as soon as the second half started, and you were certain arsenal would run Leeds to the ground. Two more goals for the gunners, one from Xhaka and another from Jesus saw Arsenal stay on top of the table, leading City with 8 points, even though City have a game in hand.
Arsenal has looked like a team willing to grind results when they don’t play well and up the ante when they need to. Against that LEEDS team, the gunners knew what they needed to do and did it. Plus, when Gabriel Jesus is back, Trossard will surely enjoy giving assists.
And I must not forget to say that Edu’s recruitment has been splendid so far. Trossard as a replacement for the expensive Mudryk, who has yet to score a goal for Chelsea, shows that you don’t have all the monies in the world to build a super team.
CHELSEA’S WOES CONTINUE
We all thought Graham Potter’s team were resurging after they won four games consecutively in all competitions. Returning to Stamford BRIDGE on Saturday against a resuscitated Aston Villa team, many fans had hoped Chelsea would do the needful and win.
But they had other plans.
A defensive error in the first half saw Watkins open scoring for Villa in the 18th minute.
But there was still enough time for Chelsea to come back, right?
Well, not so as their frontline of Mudryk, Felix and Havertz was toothless against a compact Villa defence.
If you were angry at Havertz for spurning decent chances, you will tear your skin at Mudryk’s lack of awareness and total aloofness in the frontline against Ashley Young on the left. For a man Chelsea sneaked in the middle of the night to steal from Arsenal, Mudryk’s game has looked more like a makeshift, low-budget Theo Walcott. Whether he is tired of struggling to get the ball from his midfielders or he just hasn’t adapted to the Potter style of football, one can’t say. But what I can say is that Mudryk looks like a nightmare compared to who we all saw in Ukraine.
But Chelsea fans at least had something to smile about despite the dour, uninspiring performance from their team; Ngole Kante returned and played over 30 minutes.
Although Kante wasn’t at his vintage best, his presence alone is enough relief for Chelsea fans who have had to endure a traumatic season.
And while Chelsea fans were still celebrating Manchester United’s loss to Newcastle United, they received another piece of news that raised their hopes, even if a few metres up.
But before I delve into that, I should complete the news round-up with Newcastle’s revenge mission going according to plan.
NEWCASTLE GET THEIR POUND OF FLESH AGAINST AN OUT-OF-CHARACTER MANCHESTER UNITED
After winning the Carabao Cup in February, Manchester United have not scored a goal or won a match in the EPL!!
Of course, it is staggering.
Manchester United was humbled by Newcastle at Saint James’ Park by Newcastle United to send alarm bells ringing all over old Trafford.
Manchester United was going through a resurgence under Erik Ten Hag after they (Manchester United) won the Carabao cup. It was their first trophy in almost forever. And having beat Barcelona in the Europa League, with Rashford scoring goals for fun, United, some even whispered in football street corners, had a chance to win the EPL.
But win no goal since after the Carabao cup victory in February, and sitting in fourth position, the same point as Newcastle but with a +4 goal difference while Newcastle has +22, the United resurgence has quickly slipped into a full-blown crisis.
Goals from Joe Willock and Callum Wilson were enough to see off a united team that Erik Ten Hag and Luke Shaw claimed “did not have enough passion like Newcastle”, to lose again.
While it is not out of place for a team to lose a football match, it is bad for United because more than half of their starting eleven players, many have said, was below average and would not start in a good team like Manchester City.
WEEK OF BIG SACKS!!
Leicester City finally parted ways with Brendan Rodgers after they lost, again, to Brentford on Saturday.
For a man that won the FA cup for Leicester City some seasons back, one might say it is unfair that he was sacked. But sitting 19th on the EPL log, just two points above bottom-placed Southampton is never good enough for an ambitious team like Leicester City.
The owners at Leicester will have to find a replacement fast, and one that can help navigate them out of this precarious situation they currently are in.
While one blue side made their decision early, another blue side waited for Palm Sunday to release their sack letter.
Chelsea FC, after weeks of enduring bland football and losses, finally cut the plug on Graham Potter, a man they hired on 8th September 2022.
Potter’s sack did not come as a surprise to many who had felt he should have been shown the gates a long time ago.
Chelsea currently sits in 11th position in the league and has a quarter-final UEFA Champions League berth with reigning European champions Real Madrid.
Bruno Saltor will take charge of the team till the end of the season, some reports say.
Thank you for reading my first EPL weekly roundup. If you want more, comment below and I promise to write more football and sports stories here.