Home Sport EPL Wrap: Reds announce themselves as contenders after some gritty displays

EPL Wrap: Reds announce themselves as contenders after some gritty displays

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It’s often possible to discern which sides have the mental fortitude to mount a title run, and Liverpool’s name can be added to that of Arsenal as the end of the year approaches.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates with teammate Curtis Jones after scoring their first goal during the English Premier League football match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in south London on December 9, 2023. Picture: Adrian DENNIS, AFP

There are no Premier League winner’s medals handed out in December, but it’s often possible to discern which sides have the mental fortitude to mount a title run, and Liverpool’s name can be added to that of Arsenal as the end of the year approaches.

Saturday’s comeback win over Crystal Palace showed the kind of grit and determination that will be needed over the Christmas period, traditionally a war of attrition in English football.

The ruthless way in which the Reds exploited the sending off of Eagles forward Jordan Ayew to turn the game around will have delighted Jurgen Klopp, and sent a warning to other teams around the league.

That may be no bad thing, as Klopp’s team has suffered a number of injuries to key players, and Saturday won’t be the last time they are forced to dig deep if they truly want to be contenders come May.

HAALAND INJURY SPELLS TROUBLE

While Manchester City breathed a sigh of relief with their first win in five league games on Sunday, a 2-1 victory at Luton Town, the feeling could be fleeting if Erling Haaland’s injury is serious.

The prolific striker did not travel to Luton due to what Pep Guardiola called a “stress reaction”, and the manager is clearly concerned about Haaland’s fitness ahead of some key fixtures for City.

“We don’t know. It’s his foot, we’ll see. Day by day, week by week. Hopefully, we can recover him for the (Club) World Cup,” Guardiola told the BBC.

The 23-year-old Norwegian has a league-leading 14 goals this season, after setting a league record with 36 last season.

City have some breathing space in the Champions League having already claimed top spot in their group ahead of Wednesday’s game at Red Star Belgrade. They host Crystal Palace in a league game on Saturday, then play the Club World Cup semi-final against a team yet to be determined on December 19.

FAN POWER GIVES COOPER COMFORT

Football fans are often accused of having short memories, but not those who follow Nottingham Forest.

The Forest faithful have nailed their colours firmly to the mast of manager Steve Cooper despite a run of only one win in 12 games.

Cooper earned the former European champions promotion back to the Premier League last year after a 23-year absence and kept them in the top flight last season.

Another season of struggle looks on the cards but just as they did in the 5-0 hammering at Fulham in midweek, the fans sang Cooper’s name throughout Saturday’s battling 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It will be interesting to see if Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis retains the same loyalty, but the way Forest played at Wolves and the spirit Cooper has instilled at the City Ground mean that it would surely be a risky move to part ways .

PACE THE PROBLEM

Much has been made of Roberto de Zerbi’s sometimes breathtaking football with Brighton & Hove Albion but on Saturday the sluggish Seagulls were held to a 1-1 draw by Burnley as they failed to inject any urgency into their play.

Everything Brighton did seemed to lack pace, from their wingers and midfielders waiting for players to challenge them before they decided what they wanted to do with the ball, to the passes themselves, which were often struck without venom.

The introduction of Kaoru Mitoma at the break provided a much-needed injection of speed and trickery into the Brighton attack, but it also highlighted how hard his teammates were finding it to find another gear against a team they really should have beaten.

POCH CALLS FOR MORE INVESTMENT

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has said the club must delve further into the transfer market if it is to improve, a bold view given the London side has reportedly spent way over £1 billion on players in the past 18 months.

Chelsea had over 70% possession in Sunday’s 2-0 away loss at Everton but failed to force home goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into more than a handful of saves, none of which were particularly taxing.

“We need to analyse the reality. We need to talk and to try to improve in the next transfer market,” Pochettino said, after the game.

The third away loss in a row, which leaves Chelsea in 12th and 14 points off the Champions League qualification places, will put Pochettino under more pressure.

Owner Todd Boehly may question whether spending more money is the answer to their problems.

Reuters

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