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Premier League is back: Analyzing busy Boxing Day slate of action

Just like that, the Premier League is back. theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from a jam-packed slate of action in England’s top flight on Boxing Day.

Nothing changes for Spurs

Far too often, the absence of one or two players makes the rest of Antonio Conte’s side crumble. Rodrigo Bentancur being unavailable left Tottenham Hotspur short of midfield industry during Monday’s 2-2 draw with Brentford, and they’ll lack bite in both defense and attack while Cristian Romero and Richarlison are out of commission.

The squad’s brittleness could be one of the key reasons for Tottenham’s poor starts to matches. Spurs conceded the opening goal in each of their last six Premier League outings – their longest run since the latter days of Tim Sherwood’s reign in 2014 – and that bad habit stretches back nine matches when you consider games in other competitions.

How Spurs fared after falling behind in last nine matches

Competition Match Result
Premier League Manchester United (away) Lost 2-0
Premier League Newcastle United (home) Lost 2-1
Champions League Sporting CP (home) Drew 1-1
Premier League Bournemouth (away) Won 3-2
Champions League Marseille (away) Won 2-1
Premier League Liverpool (home) Lost 2-1
League Cup Nottingham Forest (away) Lost 2-0
Premier League Leeds United (home) Won 4-3
Premier League Brentford (away) Drew 2-2

The fact that Tottenham lost only four of those nine games indicates the individual character and quality in the squad, and perhaps also the impact of a Conte team talk. They’ve gained more Premier League points from losing positions (14) than any other team this season.

Spurs were 2-0 down at Brentford, but an excellent Harry Kane header suddenly gave them purpose. Dejan Kulusevski’s enterprising wide play – something Spurs sorely missed in October – and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s finish then put them in the ascendancy. After their sluggish start to the fixture, Tottenham created enough chances to take three points.

“To have another comeback is positive, but on the other hand, we need to be more stable,” Conte said post-match.

This is a huge source of frustration. Tottenham are often reactive and seldom proactive. They must address the issues behind their poor starts – low confidence, a lack of motivation, and preparation that is either inadequate or damaged by player absences could all be blamed – if they are to fulfill their huge potential this campaign.

However, the fact that Spurs are falling into the same traps following a gap of over six weeks without a competitive fixture doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.

Newcastle didn’t skip a beat

The unprecedented World Cup hiatus came at an inopportune time for Newcastle United, who were soaring up the table on the back of five consecutive Premier League wins. How teams would respond upon the resumption of the domestic campaign, particularly those that had built up significant momentum – like Newcastle – was a fascinating wrinkle created by the unique timing of the tournament in Qatar. Would clubs in good form have their progress halted?

Newcastle answered that question in emphatic fashion Monday.

The Magpies blitzed Leicester City, scoring twice in the opening seven minutes en route to a commanding 3-0 win that provisionally lifted Eddie Howe’s side to second place in the table. Newcastle, led by Bruno Guimaraes and Miguel Almiron, looked sharp from the opening whistle, cutting through Leicester with relative ease. No rust needed shaking off here.

Almiron, who scored a picturesque goal at the King Power Stadium, typifies Newcastle’s meteoric rise. Once frustrating and profligate, the Paraguayan has taken his game to another level this season.

Since their lone league loss of the season in late August, Newcastle are undefeated in 11 matches, a run that includes eight wins.

Progress was expected under Howe and the club’s wealthy new ownership group. But nobody quite expected this type of immediacy. A title challenge is no longer a preposterous suggestion. Newcastle, who haven’t yet showed off the full force of their newfound spending power, are already a threat to the perennial contenders. That’s a frightening prospect.

Their meeting with Arsenal on Jan. 3 could very well be a top-of-the-table clash. Who could’ve possibly predicted that?

Nketiah stakes his claim

How would Arsenal cope without Gabriel Jesus? In the wake of the Brazilian forward’s knee injury at the World Cup, the Gunners’ ability to maintain their unexpected title push without a vital contributor dominated the discourse around the club as the Premier League return neared.

Eddie Nketiah did his best to assuage those fears on Monday.

The 23-year-old delivered a standout performance in his first league start of the season, scoring an exquisite goal in Arsenal’s 3-1 comeback win over West Ham United that showcased both his talents inside the penalty area and how he’s different from Jesus.

Jesus, with his boundless energy, is more active in the pressing and buildup game for Arsenal, connecting with his teammates and taking up various positions on the field that create fluidity within Mikel Arteta’s attack. Nketiah, on the other hand, is a more well-defined striker. What he lacks in the all-around game compared to Jesus, he makes up with more clinical finishing.

“I’m not here to replace (Jesus), I want to be my own player,” Nketiah said after the match.

Nketiah will find the net if he gets the opportunities, just as he did during a red-hot run near the end of last season. The way he rolled his defender before picking out the bottom corner with pinpoint accuracy against the Hammers was textbook. Nketiah could thrive with consistent minutes on a side that has several creative players crafting openings for him. He’ll get those chances in Jesus’ absence, even if Arsenal are active in the January transfer market.

“We have more faith in Eddie every single day,” Arteta said ahead of the league’s resumption. “We see every day what he brings to the team, what he is as a human being, and the way he is developing as a player … He is ready.”

It sure looks that way. And it bodes very well for Arsenal.

Quick free-kicks

Nunez is pure chaos

Nobody knows what Darwin Nunez is going to do at any given moment. Not even Darwin Nunez. The Liverpool forward is an irrepressible ball of chaotic energy, constantly whizzing around the field like a Tasmanian devil hopped up on caffeine. As a neutral observer, his frenetic and unpredictable style is intoxicating. Physically dominant and blisteringly quick, the Uruguayan uses his athletic ability to consistently take up excellent attacking positions. From there, though, all bets are off. Anything from an inexplicably bad touch or decision to a breathtaking goal is on the table when Nunez receives the ball in a dangerous area. That’s a rarity in football – he’s something of a unicorn with few, if any, comparable peers. Nunez squandered four glorious chances in Monday’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa, but his eagerness never waned. He simply kept buzzing around the pitch, running into the channels, putting defenders under pressure and making himself available for his teammates to find. He had more shot attempts (six), shots on target (four), and accumulated more expected goals (1.15) than any other player in the contest. He was eventually rewarded for his unyielding industry, playing a key role in teenager Stefan Bajcetic’s late goal that clinched the victory. Nunez truly is a treasure.

Wolves need Podence to be consistent

Naomi Baker / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Like many players at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Daniel Podence has struggled for form since last winter. So it was encouraging to see the Portuguese playmaker – in tandem with promising full-back Hugo Bueno – flourishing down the left in Julen Lopetegui’s first league game at the helm. In addition to his controlled finish for his team’s equalizer in the dramatic 2-1 win at Everton, Podence was Wolves’ most involved attacker, constantly taking risks to ensure Nathan Patterson had a rough outing. Getting more out of Podence – and, indeed, other attackers like Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, and the sidelined Pedro Neto – must’ve been near the top of Lopetegui’s priorities when he arrived. Fans should take confidence from Podence’s display on Merseyside after the 27-year-old was among a group of players who disappointed in the midweek League Cup win over fourth-tier Gillingham.

Should Saints backtrack on youth movement?

Nathan Jones’ temptation to bring in more experience may have heightened during Southampton’s 3-1 home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion. Adam Lallana’s headed opener somehow squeezed through the hands of 20-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, adding to calls for Alex McCarthy, Jones’ former Yeovil Town teammate, to be recalled to the starting lineup. Other players like teenager Sam Edozie are undeniably talented, but asking the league’s second-youngest squad to deal with the pressure of hauling the bottom-placed team to safety is a lot. The Saints look in dire need of recruitment in January, but they’ve only signed two players on loan over the past three winter transfer windows, so it may be wishful thinking to believe a goal-scoring striker and creative midfielder will be added. For the second time in his managerial career, Jones may live to regret leaving Luton Town for a bigger job.

Fulham unexpectedly firing

The 3-0 win at Selhurst Park comes with the major caveat of Crystal Palace having two players sent off, but Fulham’s rise is still no less impressive. It’s largely built on a previously unheralded attack that has scored seven more goals than Manchester United. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s Premier League record prior to this campaign was 24 goals across 104 appearances, but he’s raced to 10 goals in 13 outings this season while Marco Silva has fielded committed runners behind him. Andreas Pereira is thriving with regular football after his early-career routine of impressing during Manchester United’s preseason tours and doing little else thereafter. Bobby Decordova-Reid is a menace off the ball. And Willian, the former Chelsea winger who’s now 34, has been a surprise hit after joining on a free transfer following a sour end to his second spell with Sao Paulo club Corinthians.

Stat of the day

Andy Robertson stands alone in the Premier League era.

Tweet of the day

Tough break for Gary Lineker.

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Premier League

Key thoughts and analysis from Saturday's Premier League action

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from Saturday’s slate of action in England’s top flight.

Newcastle need another striker

Newcastle United accomplished several things Saturday. They set a new top-flight club record with their 15th consecutive match without a defeat and collected a sixth straight clean sheet in the Premier League. On an individual level, goalkeeper Nick Pope extended his shutout streak to 812 minutes. Newcastle also gained a place, moving to third in the Premier League standings. But they couldn’t beat 12th-placed Crystal Palace. When Newcastle’s staff and players went to applaud their boisterous fans, they knew they hadn’t accomplished the one thing they’d expected to do.

Their visible disappointment speaks to their rapid growth over the last 12 months. They conceded more goals in December 2021 alone than they have in the entire 2022-23 Premier League campaign, and they’re on course to reach the Champions League for the first time in nearly 20 years. Eddie Howe’s done a magnificent job changing the mentality of a team that stared at the genuine threat of relegation at this point last season. The turnaround has been amazing.

John Walton – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

But it must keep going. Newcastle have created an incredible opportunity for themselves. They know that, and that’s why they were so disappointed with the goalless draw at Selhurst Park. They’ve scored just once in their last four Premier League matches. If the Magpies can’t find any regularity in front of goal, they could just as easily slip out of the top four in the next few weeks. A strong defense will only take them so far.

As of now, Howe’s attacking options are slim. While Alexander Isak is talented, he’s still raw. Callum Wilson is experienced but not nearly prolific enough for a team with Champions League aspirations. Midfielder Miguel Almiron couldn’t possibly continue to score every week. Chris Wood’s departure also leaves Newcastle without depth.

It’s clear they need someone to take the pressure off Isak and allow Wilson to provide that depth. Maybe that player is Marcus Thuram, who already has a friendship with Newcastle winger Allan Saint-Maximin, or Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who’d offer cross-happy Kieran Trippier a reliable target in the penalty area. Whatever the club decides, it needs someone who can do a job now. It doesn’t need a Championship prospect or South American prodigy who may or may not amount to anything in the future.

Leicester are at least competitive again

Though defending remains a glaring issue and individual errors continue to prove costly, Leicester City are showing signs they’re up for the fight against relegation.

Their performance in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with high-flying Brighton & Hove Albion was positive overall. After conceding the opening goal, Brendan Rodgers’ side played with spirit and confidence on the counterattack, which had up until recently lost both its pace and potency. Jamie Vardy ran tirelessly after the ball, and Harvey Barnes, once considered worth as much as £50 million, scored for what seemed like the first time in ages. Even Marc Albrighton offered relief off the bench, prodding home a scrappy equalizer in the first half.

The Foxes just looked up for the occasion. That’s a win in and of itself. Rodgers openly questioned his players’ commitment after Leicester’s Boxing Day defeat to Newcastle United. If he intended to stir a reaction, it failed. Leicester racked up further losses against Liverpool, Fulham, and Nottingham Forest to drop back into the relegation conversation.

Malcolm Couzens / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Few believed they could contain a Brighton side that sliced Liverpool apart a week ago. So, it was quite clearly a blessing to see this team play with fire and intensity Saturday. Even if Leicester couldn’t pull off the win – Evan Ferguson, Brighton’s 18-year-old scoring revelation, leveled late on – the club still managed to earn a point from a losing position for the first time this season.

“What we had today was a real spirit and a mentality,” Rodgers told the BBC. “I think the supporters would have seen that, so in terms of that side and that aspect, we put a marker down for the rest of the season in terms of what we have to do in terms of our fight and mentality.”

Leicester will have to double down on the commitment they showed Saturday if they want to take anything from their next three home matches. Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and Chelsea are all on deck. At least they’ll enter those games feeling slightly better about themselves. At this stage, little victories count.

Differing approaches to a rebuild

There’s not much to say about Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Anfield. Two teams earning a point apiece for such a monotonous match sometimes feels too generous.

The most interesting takeaway from Liverpool and Chelsea’s meeting was to compare their work off the pitch. It’s abundantly clear that both clubs need a refresh or an entire rebuild, and they’re entering their respective new eras very differently.

Chelsea are barging their way into the next chapter, knocking over lamps and shattering vases. Since Todd Boehly’s consortium took over the west Londoners last May, the club has spent well over £430 million on new players, including various clauses tied into the deals. Long-term contracts have been handed out to new arrivals, while other players are unceremoniously shunted down the pecking order. It’s hard to envision significant roles for some players out on loan like Romelu Lukaku, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Ian Maatsen, or even the likes of Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, and Trevoh Chalobah once next season kicks off.

Boehly is going all-in, putting Graham Potter’s man-management skills to the test as the tactician tries to keep his bloated squad happy.

Liverpool are more careful. Or, if you listen to their skeptical supporters, they are ruinously tentative. The acquisition of Cody Gakpo for an initial £37-million fee is good business, but it doesn’t address the area in most desperate need of recruitment.

The midfield is a problem and was notably outnumbered during the first half against Chelsea. Liverpool’s links with Jude Bellingham persist, and his presence would lift the whole squad. However, leaving that deal to the summer gives rivals more time to woo the midfielder and construct an appealing offer for Borussia Dortmund. The reported interest in Mason Mount has led to fears that the Reds are identifying alternatives should the Bellingham pursuit fail.

But the biggest questions are in the boardroom and dugout. Liverpool’s future is up in the air while Fenway Sports Group is open to selling shares – and perhaps a controlling stake – in the club. Jurgen Klopp appears drained 1,000 games into his managerial career. Those issues may need to be solved before Liverpool can truly move forward.

Quick free-kicks

Things could get bleaker for Everton

Everton are a mess. While the team trundled toward its sixth defeat in seven games at West Ham United, the civil war continued as away supporters used chants and banners to express their discontent with the board. Even if someone is brought in to replace Frank Lampard in the coming days, it appears things will have to get worse before they get better as Arsenal and Liverpool await the Toffees over the next two Premier League matchdays. The boardroom seems reluctant to use the January transfer window to bring in players who could make a difference, and the fans’ anger seems to hack away at the team’s confidence. Arnaut Danjuma, who’ll arrive on loan after losing his place in the Villarreal lineup, is wildly inconsistent, and Ellis Simms has only played around 20 minutes since he was recalled from his temporary stay with Sunderland. The Championship is beckoning.

Brighton finally have a No. 9?

Alex Dodd – CameraSport / CameraSport / Getty

Praising Brighton’s style of play but ruing their lack of a cutting edge up front was a near-weekly occurrence. It felt cliched. But now, the answer may have come from an unlikely source. Eighteen-year-old Ferguson was being lined up for a loan move in the January transfer window, but he’s since erupted with three goals in four Premier League outings. The Seagulls have tried and failed to find a reliable finisher in the past. Jurgen Locadia, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Florin Andone, and Neal Maupay have come and gone, while Aaron Connolly may never realize his potential. Ferguson, who was signed from Irish club Bohemians two years ago, has made a strong case to be their immovable No. 9 with his well-rounded game, which belies his tender years. His header to equalize at Leicester City was emphatic.

Forest quietly moving away from bottom 3

Nottingham Forest were below their best at Bournemouth – a team the East Midlands outfit has beaten just twice over their last 12 league meetings – and were missing goalkeeper Dean Henderson after he suffered a thigh injury during their previous outing against Leicester. Still, Steve Cooper was unsatisfied after Sam Surridge’s late equalizer in the 1-1 draw. “A point was the least we deserved,” Cooper told the Nottingham Post’s Sarah Clapson. Perhaps the Tricky Trees are recalibrating their expectations. Following Saturday’s results, Forest have collected the second-most points (eight) in the Premier League in 2023. Many people mocked the promoted club’s frenzied activity during the summer transfer window. But, with record signing Morgan Gibbs-White as its talisman, things may be starting to gel under Cooper. There are now four teams and four points between Forest and the drop zone.

Stat of the day

It’s been a strange season for Liverpool, with narrow wins and disappointing draws or losses punctuated by a 9-0 rout of Bournemouth in the Premier League and a 7-1 stroll at Rangers in the Champions League.

Tweet of the day

The wait for James Milner continues.

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Premier League

Arsenal brush Spurs aside, open up 8-point lead in Premier League table

Arsenal have plumped up an eight-point cushion at England’s summit.

The Gunners boosted their unexpected surge for the Premier League title Sunday with a convincing 2-0 win at archrivals Tottenham Hotspur.

After reigning champions Manchester City lost 2-1 in their own derby date at Manchester United on Saturday, Arsenal went two goals ahead in the first half at Spurs courtesy of a Hugo Lloris own goal and a fine long-range finish from Martin Odegaard.

Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale produced some eye-catching saves during the encounter, but the visitors’ lead never appeared at great risk in yet another impressive display from Mikel Arteta’s side.

The league leaders were on their way to their first top-flight double over Spurs since the 2013-14 season after Lloris deflected the ball into his own net. Bukayo Saka collected the ball in space down the right flank, shifted the ball onto his right foot when Ryan Sessegnon tried to pressure him, and then smashed the ball across the six-yard box. Lloris fumbled the delivery into his own net.

Catherine Ivill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Arsenal again imposed their superiority later in the opening period. Thomas Partey – who rifled a superb drive against the post earlier in the half – slid the ball out wide to Saka, and the diminutive winger then moved the ball inside to Odegaard. The Norwegian playmaker adjusted his body in the space he was afforded before unleashing a low, unstoppable effort into the bottom corner from around 25 yards.

It was clinical. It was mature. Despite the youthfulness of Arteta’s squad, it’s clear that Arsenal now possess players who are made of sterner stuff than those who represented the club in previous years. If there were any doubts before kickoff, Arsenal underlined their title credentials in a dominant first half.

Charlotte Wilson/Offside / Offside / Getty

Tottenham were stronger during the opening 15 minutes of the first half – with the excellent Ramsdale denying shots from Harry Kane and Ryan Sessegnon in that spell – but Arsenal saw it through as Spurs almost lost their cool.

There was pushing and shoving after the final whistle when a Tottenham fan appeared to kick Ramsdale – who had been having a disagreement with Spurs forward Richarlison – as he collected his water bottle.

But as Arteta led Ramsdale and his players away from the ruckus, there was a wide smile on the head coach’s face. His mood was understandable. Eight points is a considerable lead after 18 matches. Catch them if you can.

“We’re in a good position, there’s no doubt about that, but we have to stay humble. There’s a lot we can still improve,” Odegaard said post-match, according to The Guardian’s Rob Smyth.

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Premier League

Key thoughts and analysis from Saturday's Premier League action

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from Saturday’s slate of action in England’s top flight.

Are Manchester United … back?

It hasn’t happened often in recent years, but if you looked closely, there was a smile on Sir Alex Ferguson’s face after the latest edition of the Manchester derby.

After almost a decade of letdowns, such an expression was rare. The Manchester United icon even became a meme when a video of the Scottish tactician went viral while the Red Devils were being humiliated in the last derby in October. With Manchester City leading comfortably on their way to winning 6-3, he was shown on camera as the commentator said, “Sir Alex Ferguson was asked in 2009 if Man City could ever go into a derby as favorites. He said, ‘Not in my lifetime.’ Now it’s every time.”

Fast-forward three months, and it’s a completely different tune for both teams. United’s strong form of late suggested Saturday’s affair at Old Trafford would be much closer than the season’s first installment of the Manchester derby. After going behind in the second half of Saturday’s encounter, United stormed back to change the narrative, scoring two late goals to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over the reigning Premier League champions.

There’ll be plenty of debate in the days and weeks to come about United’s controversial equalizer. However, there’s no doubt that Ten Hag’s team has transformed after registering its ninth straight win in all competitions to cement its place in the top four.

“Now you see a proper team that works hard for each other,” Bruno Fernandes said after the game.

It might still be too early to mention United in the same breath as title contenders alongside City and Arsenal. But it’s safe to conclude that the problems that plagued United during their stuttering start to the season are officially a thing of the past. The win also sparked a glimmer of hope of finishing ahead of City in the table for the first time since Ferguson retired in 2013.

Match officials got it wrong in Manchester derby

The debate about the aforementioned equalizer won’t be much of a debate at all, actually. Unless it’s with a Red Devils supporter, there’s seemingly no doubt among the rest of the football world that United’s second-half goal shouldn’t have counted.

The linesman and match official got it wrong when they let Fernandes’ goal stand in the 60th minute, despite Marcus Rashford’s obvious interference in the build-up.

The United striker was miles offside when Casemiro’s pass was played through to him. Rashford raced to meet the ball before shielding it without making contact, allowing Fernandes to fire a curling shot beyond Ederson. It was an impressive finish, but had City’s defenders already turned off at that point, thinking Rashford was offside and a call from the referee was imminent?

Probably. But that didn’t matter in the end. Match official Stuart Attwell came to the head-scratching conclusion that the goal was good after seemingly receiving reassurances from the linesman, who initially – and correctly – put his flag up and called the play back for offside. But, after seemingly giving in to pressure from United players and irate home fans foaming at the mouth just feet behind him, linesman Darren Cann presumably told Attwell that he made a mistake.

The decision triggered a visible shift in momentum, culminating in United scoring a pair of goals with less than 10 minutes remaining against a City outfit that looked shell-shocked after the decision.

Liverpool have zero midfield presence

Jurgen Klopp said he’d never seen a worse performance as manager of Liverpool. Perhaps that’s true, but Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion couldn’t have come as a surprise. The Reds have been reeling for months. Their lack of consistency has made upsets like Saturday’s at Amex Stadium seem all the more routine.

Klopp tried to find a solution. He changed his formation Saturday, hoping his players would play a more compact game. He even made a quadruple change midway through the second half. Nothing worked.

The most alarming issue lies in midfield. For whatever reason – a lack of confidence, a lack of understanding, a lack of chemistry – Liverpool have made it easy for opponents to pass through the middle of the pitch. It’s a shocking development for a side that used to pride itself on its relentless pressing and made the field as small as possible. The opposite is now true. Liverpool give opponents virtually endless possibilities when in possession of the ball, and they don’t have the pace to recover.

Charlotte Wilson/Offside / Offside / Getty

But Brighton didn’t have to do all that much to cut through Liverpool. They’d find a player in open space after exchanging just a couple of passes and had the time to do virtually as they pleased when they entered the final third. The absence of any midfield presence only magnified Liverpool’s issues at the back, with Fabinho and Thiago hardly offering cover to their already-jittery center-backs.

Saturday’s capitulation wasn’t just a bad day at the office. It carried further hints and clues that Liverpool – as mighty as they were just a few months ago – are in disarray. Seven points adrift of fourth place, Klopp’s side suddenly finds itself in a dogfight for a Champions League berth. And there’s little reprieve in sight, with Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United, Newcastle United, and Real Madrid on the horizon.

Quick free-kicks

Guardiola thinks title race is over

It wasn’t just United that celebrated Saturday’s derby result. Arsenal also had to be delighted with how the game unfolded. The loss gives the Gunners a chance to increase their lead atop the Premier League table to eight points if they win Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham. So, it was probably music to Arsenal supporters’ ears after Pep Guardiola’s proclamation that the Premier League title race is over after City dropped points for the second time in four league games since the league restarted on Boxing Day. Though it might’ve been a genuine statement from the Spanish manager, waving the white flag in January could also be Guardiola’s way of waking up his troops following two straight losses in all competitions for the first time this season.

Trossard who? Mitoma steps up for Brighton

Bryn Lennon / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Despite all the drama around Leandro Trossard’s expiring contract and seemingly inevitable exit, his omission from Brighton’s matchday squad again made no difference at all. Roberto De Zerbi’s side easily handled Liverpool, making 20 to 30 passes at a time. While the Reds played poorly, the surging Seagulls upped their game, showing confidence on the ball. Japanese international Kaoru Mitoma continued to strut his stuff in Trossard’s place, tormenting Trent Alexander-Arnold with a sequence of penetrating runs that left the Liverpool right-back holding his hands up in frustration. If Trossard does end up leaving Brighton in January, fans can rest easy knowing Brighton have the personnel to continue playing high-octane football.

Fans are doing Everton no favors

Everton’s form is undoubtedly a cause for concern. Fans should expect more from a club of its stature. But the scenes that preceded Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Southampton made a tense situation even worse. The club’s entire board refrained from attending the match at Goodison Park out of fear for their safety, with fans calling for immediate change at seemingly all costs. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright received emails that he wouldn’t leave Liverpool alive. The Athletic’s Greg O’Keeffe and David Ornstein reported that a fan had put club CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale in a headlock. Fans also crowded Everton’s team bus as it approached the stadium, setting off a menacing mood on Merseyside that seemed to hover over the players and affect their performance. Afterward, one fan demanded that Yerry Mina, who played no part in Saturday’s loss, stay with the club if it’s relegated. The environment at Everton is toxic, and it won’t get any better if the people who run the club feel unsafe.

Stat of the day

Maybe United have a bright future after all?

Tweet of the day

Cody Gakpo, Liverpool’s £37-million signing, might be regretting his move right about now.

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