Mourinho is now the Premier League’s style counsel
Manchester United’s showing against Watford was comfortably their most vibrant of the season and it contrasted sharply with the usual way of things under Mourinho.
Yet, United’s manager believes the free-flowing style his team showed on Saturday is likely to become an increasing rarity in the Premier League and should be enjoyed while it lasts, citing the lack of English managers — and therefore more commitment to defensive play — across the top flight.
Currently, the Premier League only has four English-born managers: Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche, Mark Hughes, and Sam Allardyce.
“What I think you are forgetting this season is to say this is the most defensive Premier League I have ever known,” said Mourinho.
“It is not because of my team. There are many defensive teams in the Premier League — more than ever. Less English managers. This is my seventh or eighth year in the Premier League and is the most defensive Premier League I have ever had.”
Prize fighters never quite got it on
Briefly, for one moment in the first half at Turf Moor, it appeared that two of the Premier League’s most notorious enfants terrible were about to come together in the sort of titanic clash that would dominate social media for days to come.
Joey Barton and Diego Costa, by-words for controversy in the modern game, tangled at a set-piece, the Chelsea man seemed to grab his counterpart around the face and Barton required treatment before he could continue.
The tone had already been set in the first minute when Barton had clattered into Costa, raising the intensity and atmosphere in a game that lacked neither for the 90-plus minutes that followed.
Both players, it must be pointed out, however, behaved themselves after their coming together and not until the closing minutes did referee Kevin Friend book one: Barton for fouling Willian.
Liverpool take a week off from goalkeeping crisis
Jurgen Klopp expertly laughed off the question of who would keep goal that was put to him in his pre-match press conference before this impressive victory over Tottenham in the wake of Simon Mignolet’s latest error a week earlier.
A horrible performance in the shocking 2-0 defeat at Hull had left many expecting the Belgian to make way for German understudy Loris Karius, as had been the case earlier in the season.
Klopp dodged the question with an easy quip and insisted he had made no such decision on Friday lunchtime, though, by the time Mignolet was announced in his starting line-up, more than a few Liverpool fans were questioning that wisdom.
In the event, Mignolet had little to do, but, when he was called upon, he coped comfortably, keeping his first clean sheet of the year.
Thus, the issue of Liverpool’s goalkeeping frailty was avoided for another week at least, but clearly this is an area Klopp will have to address with some urgency in the summer.
Respite for Arsene, but for how long?
The future of the Arsenal manager is a talking point that will not go away until the Frenchman decides whether or not he will sign a new contract. The ‘Wenger Stays’ placard on display at this match was in contrast to the usual ‘Time To Go’ signs, showing the supporters are divided.
The vast majority were behind Wenger on Saturday and the pleasure Le Boss gained from that was evident afterwards, but will they still be a happy family by the time of the next home game, against Bayern Munich on March 7?
Not likely, as they will have played the Germans away, as well as had trips to non-league Sutton and Liverpool by then.
Ultimately, only two people have a say: Wenger and owner Stan Kroenke. The American has offered a new contract to extend his 20-year tenure so now, as ever, only ‘Arsene Knows’.
Has Claudio Ranieri lost the dressing room?
Danny Drinkwater insists not: “The manager has our support and we have his support. We’re a bunch of honest lads. We work hard and are more disappointed than everyone. We know it’s not acceptable and need to get things right quickly.
“We’ve not changed much, it seems to be we’re not getting the rub of the green but we believe in ourselves as a bunch of lads, so as long as we keep our heads up, it will come.”
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