Monday morning quarterback: Klopp will be heartened by all-action variety show

Klopp will be pleased by Liverpool variety.

With Joel Matip injured, Ragnar Klavan ill, and Joe Gomez also absent, those Liverpool supporters making the long journey to Brighton may have feared another defensive collapse. Jurgen Klopp eventually settled on a back five of Emre Can, Dejan Lovren, and Georginio Wijnaldum with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson as wing-backs.

In an ideal world, none would be first choice in their position. Post-match, Klopp was quick to point out that this was not the complete performance, with Liverpool enduring a sticky 15-minute spell in which his team conceded a goal and the new-look defence started to creak.

Yet when you have an attack as majestic as Liverpool, there is some margin for error. Mohamed Salah has been the dominant member of this front three (Klopp did make one nod to solidity by leaving Sadio Mane on the bench), but against Brighton, Salah ceded top billing to Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho.

That pairing scored three of Liverpool’s five goals, contributed eight of their 12 shots and created four of the nine chances they created. If Coutinho, Firmino, and Mane can rise up to Salah’s early season level and each fill in in turn, Liverpool really are in business.

Allardyce the unnecessary firefighter.

When Sam Allardyce was named Sunderland manager, they were 19th in the Premier League and five points from safety. When Allardyce was named Crystal Palace manager, they were a point and a place above the relegation zone. When Allardyce was named Everton manager, they were in 13th and five points above the bottom three. You can spot the difference. Allardyce was the firefighter and engine sent to rescue a cat on the first branch of a small tree.

Still, that does allow Allardyce to broaden his footballing horizons a little more than is customary.

Everton kept only their third league clean sheet of the season against Huddersfield Town and will surely tighten defensively under Allardyce’s watchful eye, but it was interesting to hear Everton’s new manager address the perfunctory nature of the win after the game.

“It could have been better for entertainment, more passing and moving, but we can build on that as we go on,” Everton’s new manager said. If Allardyce really is in for the long-term at Goodison, he will know that style, as well as substance, forms part of his remit.

That only becomes more important as Everton move away from serious relegation trouble.

Promoted clubs facing up to tough reality.

On November 19, Brighton were eighth in the Premier League. They have since lost two games and drawn another two. They are 11th.

On October 29, Newcastle were seventh in the Premier League. They have since lost five games and drawn one. They are 14th.

On November 17, Huddersfield were 10th in the Premier League. They have since lost all four games. They are 15th.

Their bursts of form in early season have allowed for the inevitable dips thereafter, but the dips have duly arrived. It has taken far longer than most expected, but reality is now biting for Rafael Benitez, David Wagner and Chris Hughton.

Their teams have conceded 33 goals in their last 12 combined matches.

Mourinho and Manchester United have responded in style.

It would be a stretch to say that Manchester United looked comfortable at any point against Arsenal, but for Jose Mourinho, only the result is king. United are in the middle of a stretch of three league fixtures that they lost last season — Watford (a), Arsenal (a), Manchester City (h) — but have come through the first two unscathed.

The result of next week’s derby will do far more to shape the mood than victory at Arsenal, but it is not easy keeping on the coattails of a runaway leader and United should be applauded for their form. Victories over Watford and Arsenal, scoring seven times in the process, mean City will go into Sunday’s game at Old Trafford slightly wary of their opponents’ threat, particularly with defensive injuries of their own.

On November 6, 2016, Mourinho’s United moved into sixth in the Premier League and stayed there for four months without moving up or down. On September 23, 2017, Mourinho’s United moved into second place. There must be a good chance of eclipsing last season’s positional consistency.

Puel is another foreign manager disproving the doubters.

There was an air of anticlimax when Leicester City announced the appointment of Claude Puel.

Leicester had approached Carlo Ancelotti and Thomas Tuchel, but eventually settled on a Frenchman sacked by Southampton and accused by the supporters of playing miserable football.

This was, many felt, the deeply uninspiring choice.

Six league games later, and Puel is responding to his doubters. Leicester have lost just once during his brief tenure, to runaway league leaders Manchester City, and on Saturday beat a Burnley side who have only lost to Arsenal and Manchester City since August.

Most importantly for Puel, Leicester are not dull. They have failed to score just once in his six matches in charge (also against Manchester City), but against Spurs last week played with all the style and panache of 2014/15 Leicester City. Against Burnley, they created their highest number of chances in a Premier league game since the final day of last season.


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