Saturday 29 April 2017

Premier League weekend review: The statistics that cement Liverpool's status as title contenders

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp reacts as Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho looks on. Reuters / Phil Noble
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp reacts as Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho looks on. Reuters / Phil Noble
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Liverpool may have left Old Trafford lamenting a missed opportunity after a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday, but Jurgen Klopp’s side are still topping one table that tends to be very significant at the end of a Premier League season.

LIVERPOOL WINNING THE TOP SIX BATTLE

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was a vision of frustration as his side threw away a game to secure a moral boosting victory against Manchester United on Sunday, yet there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful for the German tactician.

While Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late equaliser for United denied Liverpool a chance to reclaim second spot in the Premier League standings, the Reds are the clear leaders in the table made up of fixtures contested by the Premier League’s ‘big six’ this season.

With the leading teams separating themselves from the chasing pack like never before this season, matches contested between the top contenders for the title are likely to be crucial and on that count, Liverpool have an edge on their rivals.

Liverpool’s fine away wins against Arsenal and Chelsea, not to mention their clinical victory against Manchester City give Klopp’s men a lead at the top of this mini-league, with Chelsea set to come to Anfield later this month to add to the calculations.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s presence at the bottom of the standings confirms they have struggled to beat the top teams in England this season and unless Arsene Wenger changes that narrative, his hope of ending a long wait for a Premier League title may well be forlorn.

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WILL GUARDIOLA STILL BE CITY BOSS NEXT SEASON?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has never experienced the kind of consistent setbacks that have littered his first season in the Premier League - and now he is facing up to his biggest test yet.

City’s thumping 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Everton at Goodison Park inspired Guardiola to admit his side’s hopes of challenging for the Premier League title may already be over after just 21 games.

With a ten-point chasm separating Guardiola’s pre-season favourites from leaders Chelsea, the City manager may already to thinking about rebuilding for next season and for the first time, there may even be some doubts over whether one of the game’s most decorated managers will still be in charge at the club by then.

City should give Guardiola time to find a winning formula in English football, but he has admitted publicly that his brand of free-flowing football is not effective in the Premier League.

Despite that confession, this decorated tactician will not change his methods under any circumstances and you wonder whether he will want to remain in charge if City fail to secure a top four finish in the Premier League this season.

TIME TO RESPECT TOTTENHAM

It took Tottenham a long time to convince their doubters that they were genuine title contenders last season and by the time they were identified as the best team in the Premier League, Leicester’s fairy tale run to the most impossible title glory was already in full swing.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs were the best side in England for much of last season and they are putting up a claim to that lofty billing once again this season, with their sparkling performance as they beat West Browmich Albion 4-0 on Saturday one of the more complete seen in the Premier League this season.

Comprehensive wins against Manchester City and Chelsea this season confirm that Pochettino’s side are worthy of serious consideration to challenge for top spot again this season and if they can keep star men Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele fit, Tottenham may well emerge as Chelsea’s more credible title rivals this season.

THE EYE CATCHERS

Andy Carroll’s sensational goal in West Ham’s win against Crystal Palace allowed the club to move on from the ugly sideshow that has become Dimitri Payet’s attempts to get out of the club a few weeks after he claimed a ‘loyalty bonus’ for his fake dedication to their cause. If Payet’s commitment is so shallow, West Ham are better off without him.

An example of what passion for a club is all about was in evidence at Goodison Park on Sunday, as Everton youngster Tom Davies confirmed his rising reputation was not misplaced with a sparkling display to dismantle Manchester City. His joy as he scored Everton’s third goal in their 4-0 reminded us what this game should be all about.

In a week when reports emerged suggesting Chelsea hit-man Diego Costa fancies a move to China, Payet’s apparent refusal to play at West Ham as he pushes for a move this month is a reminder of the ugly side of the beautiful game.

INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK

Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)

Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)

Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)

Kyle Walker (Tottenham)

Seamus Coleman (Everton)

Marko Arnautovic (Stoke)

Dele Alli (Tottenham)

Tom Davies (Everton)

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Andy Carroll (West Ham)

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