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Top 10 soccer players of 2022

With 2022 coming to a close, it’s time to celebrate the best that men’s soccer had to offer over the past 12 months of club and international action. Below, we count down the top 10 footballers of the year.

10. Neymar ??

FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty

Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 30 | Position: Forward

Neymar still hasn’t reached iconic status in Brazil after failing to win it all at the 2022 World Cup. But he did manage to repair his image after ditching his reputation as a diver that he earned at the 2018 tournament. His bright start to the season at Paris Saint-Germain carried over to Qatar where he delivered strong performances and led a supremely talented Brazil outfit.

The 30-year-old etched his name in history after equaling Pele with his 77th international goal before bowing out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals. It was a bitter end to what might’ve been his best chance at winning the quadrennial event, but Neymar showed he still possesses the type of talent that could one day earn him his first Ballon d’Or award.

9. Rafael Leao ??

Clive Brunskill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: AC Milan | Age: 23 | Position: Winger

Among the many gripes that Portugal fans should’ve had with now departed head coach Fernando Santos during the World Cup, omitting Leao from the starting lineup should be near the top of the list. The winger’s knack for finding an extra gear mid-run and contorting opponents with his dribbling would’ve made him a valuable weapon in a tournament with an overall weak contingent of full-backs. His performances in Italy have also proved he’s a reliable source of goals.

Leao was named Serie A’s Most Valuable Player for the 2021-22 campaign after tallying 11 goals and eight assists as AC Milan won their first Scudetto in 11 years. He’s been similarly potent this season with six goals and four assists over 14 Serie A appearances and will expect to make his mark in the Champions League knockouts as the Rossoneri prepare to face Tottenham Hotspur in the round of 16.

8. Sadio Mane ??

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 30 | Position: Forward

Although 2022 ended on a sour note, there were certainly enough peaks to make it a memorable year for Mane. The 30-year-old continued to establish himself as one of the world’s top players and was pivotal in helping Senegal enjoy unprecedented success while arguably surpassing Mohamed Salah as Africa’s best player.

Mane started the year by breaking Salah’s heart twice in less than two months on the international stage. After leading Senegal to its first-ever Africa Cup of Nations triumph with a shootout win over Egypt in the final, Mane scored the winning penalty against Salah’s side again to secure his country’s place at the World Cup. Mane also left Liverpool after six years for a new challenge at Bayern Munich, where he scored 11 goals in all competitions before suffering a leg injury that ended his hopes of playing in Qatar.

7. Robert Lewandowski ??

Lars Baron / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Barcelona | Age: 34 | Position: Striker

Different club, same result: plenty of goals. Lewandowski hasn’t skipped a beat since leaving the familiar confines of Bayern Munich for Barcelona this past summer. He closed out his bountiful spell in Germany by retaining the European Golden Shoe and scored 18 goals in just 19 appearances thus far between La Liga and the Champions League. Many things remain uncertain at Barcelona during a tumultuous time, but the guaranteed production of Lewandowski eases some fears and provides reassurance.

He’s the leading scorer in Spain’s top flight this season, sitting five goals clear of the nearest challenger. The Pichichi Trophy beckons. Some things never change. Lewandowski also realized a longstanding dream this winter by scoring his first World Cup goal, ticking off that outstanding box in what was almost definitely his final opportunity to do so.

6. Vinicius Junior ??

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Real Madrid | Age: 22 | Position: Winger

Vinicius Junior didn’t light up the World Cup like some might’ve expected. But, the 22-year-old won’t be affected by falling short of expectations; he’s been dealing with adversity ever since his high-profile move from Brazil to Madrid in 2018. Vinicius has made impatient critics look foolish in the past as the winger has developed – at his own pace – into one of football’s most electric players.

He’s become a potent finisher after overcoming early scoring struggles at Real Madrid, and his confidence with the ball is unmatched, regularly provoking defenders with fearless footwork and blinding speed. He has all the makings of a global superstar, and his eventual arrival at that level will be worth the wait.

5. Kevin De Bruyne ??

Matt McNulty – Manchester City / Manchester City FC / Getty

Club: Manchester City | Age: 31 | Position: Midfielder

Let’s get this out of the way: He wasn’t very good at the World Cup. Roberto Martinez’s peculiar tactical choices and misguided loyalty to some Belgium squad members may have contributed to De Bruyne’s subpar displays in Qatar, but witnessing the playmaker produce fewer key passes than Iran’s Mehdi Taremi at the tournament was perplexing.

De Bruyne’s performances for Manchester City are another matter. After overcoming the remnants of COVID-19 and injury during the first half of the 2021-22 season, he was unfortunate to miss out on a Champions League final while helping City outmuscle Liverpool in the Premier League title race. He’s on course for a record-breaking campaign in 2022-23 – he already has nine top-flight assists – after instantly striking up a strong on-field understanding with Erling Haaland. De Bruyne habitually turns the tide for Pep Guardiola’s side on his own: The more irritated he gets, the better he becomes.

4. Erling Haaland ??

Matt McNulty – Manchester City / Manchester City FC / Getty

Club: Manchester City | Age: 22 | Position: Striker

Haaland is a one-man wrecking ball. He’s exploded with 20 goals over his first 14 top-flight outings for Manchester City, putting him in the hunt for the most goals in a debut Premier League campaign. (Sunderland’s Kevin Phillips scored 30 in 1999-2000.) He could also trouble the single-season scoring record: Salah hit an unrivaled 32 goals in a 38-game campaign in 2017-18, and Andy Cole and Alan Shearer struck 34 times when Premier League clubs each played 42 games.

Despite missing two matches and playing just 45 minutes on two other occasions, Haaland crammed in five goals during the 2022-23 Champions League group stage, taking his overall tally in the competition to 28. That puts the 22-year-old above Robin van Persie and level with Hernan Crespo in the all-time standings. Football appears primed for a head-to-head scoring battle between Haaland and the next player on this list for the next decade, and that should make for compelling viewing.

3. Kylian Mbappe ??

Michael Regan – FIFA / FIFA / Getty

Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 24 | Position: Forward

Heir to the throne as the best player on the planet, Mbappe continued his ascension in 2022. It was almost inconceivable to think that the French superstar could get even better this year, but somehow, that’s precisely what happened. There’s an inevitability about Mbappe now. Every time he touches the ball, fireworks follow in some form. In that way, he’s already unrivaled.

Mbappe was the top scorer in Ligue 1 in 2021-22. He’s the leading scorer this campaign, too, and nobody has found the net more times in this season’s Champions League. In 21 combined matches between the two competitions, he’s recorded 20 goals. Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in the sport, and he makes it look pedestrian even when the opposition focuses so much attention and energy on trying to stop him. He almost ripped the World Cup title away from Argentina on his own, scoring a hat-trick in the final that punctuated his status as the ultimate game-breaker. Every scoring record that exists in world football could eventually belong to Mbappe.

2. Karim Benzema ??

Quality Sport Images / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Real Madrid | Age: 35 | Position: Striker

It’s a shame an ill-timed injury robbed Benzema of his final opportunity to shine at the World Cup. Would France have defended its title with the Real Madrid striker leading the line? We’ll never know. But that shouldn’t take anything away from Benzema’s achievements in 2022, a wildly prolific year in which he captured the Ballon d’Or for the first time. Benzema’s scoring prowess in the first half of the calendar year was nothing short of legendary. He took home a maiden Pichichi Trophy after bagging 27 La Liga goals over the 2021-22 campaign, leading Real Madrid to the league title.

But it was in the Champions League where he moved mountains. Benzema delivered a pair of indelible hat-tricks in the round of 16 and quarterfinals – against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, respectively – before tormenting Manchester City with three goals over two mesmerizing semifinal legs. He racked up a whopping 10 tallies in the knockout stage; in all, his tournament-best 15 goals powered Real Madrid to yet another Champions League crown. After so many years spent in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow, Benzema towered over everyone else in the Spanish capital in 2022.

1. Lionel Messi ??

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 35 | Position: Forward

Who else? Messi, back to his scintillating best with Paris Saint-Germain after a transitional first season in the French capital, is atop the football world after leading Argentina to World Cup glory. The minuscule magician put on a clinic in Qatar, dazzling every step of the way. He scored in each round of the competition, including twice in the instantly iconic final, to silence any remaining – and misguided – doubters by hoisting the only trophy that had eluded him. This isn’t a case of recency bias after his defining triumph in the desert, though. Messi has been conjuring up breathtaking moments throughout the calendar year for both club and country.

He’s either at the top, or very close, in virtually every statistical category that measures attacking contribution; he leads Ligue 1 in assists this season and is tied for top spot with four helpers in the Champions League. Between the two competitions, he’s already hit double figures in goals, too. But more than the raw numbers, nobody owned 2022 on the pitch like Messi. In any World Cup year, the tournament has an outsize impact on year-end reviews like this one. When we all look back on the past 12 months, Messi aloft with the golden trophy in his hands will be the defining image.

Copyright © 2022 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

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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.

Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

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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.

Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

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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.

Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

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