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PL hits and misses: Judgement day arrives for Pochettino at Chelsea

Judgement day arrives for Pochettino

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Brentford and Chelsea

Axel Disasi rescued Chelsea a point at Brentford but the damage was already done for Mauricio Pochettino.

Some Chelsea supporters had been waiting for this moment. A gut-wrenching extra-time defeat at Wembley perhaps wasn’t the right time. A last-gasp victory over Leeds on Wednesday night was a narrow escape but the verdict arrived after Yoane Wissa put the hosts in front on Saturday.

The Chelsea fans chanted against co-owner Todd Boehly, sang Jose Mourinho’s name and then turned on their manager with three damning words: “**** off Mauricio”.

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Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino discusses the reaction of supporters after his side’s 2-2 draw at Brentford

Pochettino insists he is not worried about not being loved by the Chelsea fans and vowed he would keep fighting to improve their relationship. He knows the only way to do that is by winning.

Their next two matches – at home to Newcastle on Monday Night Football and Leicester in the FA Cup – are now must-wins.
David Richardson

Forest must retain focus amid the fury

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool

The frustration following an incorrect restart late in stoppage-time overshadowed events at the City Ground as far as Nottingham Forest supporters were concerned. But with their Premier League future on the line, Nuno Espirito Santo may have other worries.

There were almost two minutes between Paul Tierney’s controversial decision and Darwin Nunez heading into the Forest net. It was the inexplicable failure of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Taiwo Awoniyi to clear the ball that more directly led to Liverpool’s winner.

“We had clear chances,” said Nuno. “We played good but the team that are clinical get the advantage in the score.” He was right. All of Forest’s forwards made poor decisions in the final third as well as on the edge of their own penalty box.

The anger that erupted at the final whistle reflects the tensions and emotions of this game – and how perilous the predicament is for Forest right now. But it will take cool heads on the pitch and off it to safely negotiate this situation. Worth remembering amid the rage.
Adam Bate

Mac Allister makes it happen for Liverpool

Darwin Nunez will take the acclaim for his goal against Nottingham Forest and rightly so but Alexis Mac Allister was the architect for his winner – and Liverpool’s outstanding performer across the full 100 minutes of action at the City Ground on Saturday afternoon.

The assist for Nunez, an inviting left-footed cross, was the sixth chance that he had created in the game. That was more than any other Liverpool player and as many as everyone on the Nottingham Forest team combined. He was the classiest player on the pitch.

Alexis Mac Allister's pass map in Liverpool's win at Nottingham Forest
Image: Alexis Mac Allister’s pass map in Liverpool’s win at Nottingham Forest

The calmest too, according to Jurgen Klopp afterwards. Mac Allister is capable of fulfilling a number of roles in midfield but there was a suspicion that the deepest of them did not suit him so well. With Joe Gomez and later Wataru Endo for company, he could explore.

Mac Allister is a tenacious player, winning duels and covering the ground, but he is at his best when he has enough freedom to make things happen too. Against Forest, when the opportunity presented itself, he made that moment happen. Impressive yet again.
Adam Bate

Spurs can’t keep up this drama – for anyone’s sake

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Tottenham and Crystal Palace

Tottenham can’t keep doing it like this. It’s not sustainable for their supporters’ blood pressure, even less their hopes of reaching the top four.

Saturday’s comeback win over Crystal Palace was the fifth time Spurs have won when conceding first this season. After this victory, only Liverpool have picked up more points from losing positions.

It’s impressive in its fortitude, its mental strength and its never-say-die attitude. Ange Postecoglou called his players’ response “outstanding”.

But that is to ignore 77 minutes of largely dour football, where Spurs struggled to break down a well-maintained low block and toiled despite their near-total possessional dominance.

It’s not a new theme for Spurs, even in the gung-ho Postecoglou era. Front-foot football suits this team, but the precision needed to unlock defences be harder to find.

James Maddison was forced deep, even Heung-Min Son ended upback to attempt to influence the game.

Clearly, there is more potential in the team than it showed until the equaliser finally brought them out of themselves – as they blew Palace away from that point.

But Spurs can’t keep waiting to fall behind before they get going.

Perhaps it will prove immaterial in the end. There is a greater-than-evens chance that there will be five Champions League places given to the Premier League this season.

But longer-term, this is something which needs to improve. Because it’s not just a one-off. It’s a fifth of their entire win tally for this season.
Ron Walker

Familiar Everton failing costs them against West Ham

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Everton and West Ham

The Everton supporters at Goodison Park have seen it all before but still, the sight of their team contriving to lose a game they had dominated 3-1 must have stung. It was the third time this season Everton have had over 20 shots at home against a Premier League opponent and lost the match. And that lack of cutting edge has been holding Sean Dyche’s side back all season.

He said Beto was “chomping at the bit” to play on Saturday and there couldn’t be much argument with his decision to “mix it up” given the fact frontline forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin hasn’t scored in 21 games now. But with the Portuguese firing a one-on-one chance at West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and then seeing a penalty saved in the first half, you can’t help but feel Dyche is working with blunt tools right now.

The goal eventually came for Beto in the second half but Everton should have had plenty more. Areola made nine saves in all. A standout performance from him but the fact only Burnley and Sheffield United have scored fewer goals than Everton this term points to the long-standing problem they have in the final third.

West Ham, in contrast, showed ruthlessness, converting three of their five shots on target at the other end, with quality finishes from Kurt Zouma, Tomas Soucek and Edson Alvarez making the difference. Everton should have won this. But instead defeat sees them slip back closer to the relegation zone while West Ham eye European qualification.
Peter Smith

Southgate must find a way to play Kane and Watkins

Ollie Watkins has been involved in 26 goals this term
Image: Ollie Watkins has been involved in 26 goals this term

When the England squad reassemble at St George’s Park later this month, Gareth Southgate will be working to find a way of getting Ollie Watkins into his side. The Aston Villa striker now has 26 goal involvements for this season, 16 goals and 10 assists.

Harry Kane is in front on 32, but no other Englishman across Europe has more. Like the Bayern Munich forward, Watkins offers far more than just goals. His understanding with Leon Bailey underlines what an intelligent player he is, capable of drifting across the front line.

Unai Emery called him “an example to his team-mates” as one of Europe’s most lethal marksmen.

“He’s shown [he’s one of the best strikers in Europe]. Yes, of course he is,” the Villa boss said of his talisman. “As a person he is humble to avoid having an ego. [The goals] haven’t changed him.”

Jamie Redknapp went further in describing him as “unstoppable”. Watkins has now netted 16 goals in the Premier League across 2023/24, surpassing his previous highest tally in a single top-flight campaign (15 in 2022-23).

Southgate’s preference is to play with one focal point in Kane, but the most immediate competition to Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden in the wide areas should could from the selfless Watkins.
Ben Grounds

Luton show they won’t shrink into survival shell

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Luton and Aston Villa

It was 11 years ago to the day that John Still took charge of Luton for the very first time. Stockport County were the hosts and a Jake Howells’ strike earned a 1-0 away win in a season that would still fall short of promotion back to the Football League.

On nights like these, in front of the cameras, it is worth remembering just how far Luton have come. When you play Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City in successive games, you are entitled to endure a period of uncertainty. But those three losses don’t seem to have unnerved Edwards’ players.

Once more, they were undaunted when faced with Emery’s Champions League chasers. Villa on Saturday became the last of the current top 10 to visit Kenilworth Road.

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Rob Edwards says he’s bitterly disappointed following his Luton side’s 3-2 loss against Aston Villa, but says there is a lot to like about his team’s performance

In those nine previous games, the Hatters took eight points. Reflecting on Liverpool’s late equaliser and Arsenal’s even later winner, it could so easily have been more. Just like the first, against West Ham, they were squeezed out by the odd goal late on.

Edwards has promised his side will be on the front foot with attack the best form of defence, but he knows he must get the balance right in the final 12 games after being punished for overplaying in their own defensive third in key moments against Villa.

From now until the end of the season, there will be heightened expectations that Luton collect the majority of their points on home soil, and Edwards knows his players have to handle that pressure shift.
Ben Grounds

Howe’s tactical tweak confounds O’Neil

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Newcastle and Wolves

Gary O’Neil’s stock has continued to rise this season after guiding Wolves into the top half of the Premier League, but he came out second-best to Eddie Howe as Newcastle stormed to a 3-0 win.

Wolves earned more than 55 per cent of the possession at St James’ Park, with O’Neil saying: “There’s no way Newcastle let us have a lot of the ball. We were really good.”

However, when asked whether he instructed his side to surrender possession, Howe said “yes”, adding: “It was a slight tweak from our normal way of playing – a slightly more transitional game today.”

O’Neil may have just been defending his injury-ravaged side, with Pedro Neto limping off at half-time to potentially join Matheus Cunha and Hwang Hee-Chan on the sidelines.

But Newcastle’s tactics worked perfectly, with Alexander Isak opening the scoring from a perfectly executed break – handing counter-attack kings Wolves a taste of their own medicine on their way to an emphatic win.
Joe Shread

Are Brighton just in a slump, or is this a more worrying long-term decline?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Fulham and Brighton

It all started so well for Brighton this season, winning five of their opening six Premier League games to continue the momentum from the previous campaign’s hugely impressive sixth-placed finish.

Yet Roberto De Zerbi’s side seem to have stalled since then and slipped to ninth in the table after another limp display in the capital on Saturday, meaning the Seasiders have now won only five of their last 21 league outings.

And the reasons for this worrying slump in form? Well, as usual, it is never just one thing, but certainly a long injury list, caused in part by having to contend with the added exertions of playing in Europe this season, has not helped.

But it is at both ends of the pitch they are currently struggling, with the defence leaking goals at an alarming rate – they gifted Fulham two of their three goals on Saturday – while the forwards are also going through a rare lean patch in front of goal.

In fact, after scoring in a club-record 32 consecutive league games from the start of March 2023, Brighton have now failed to register in five of their last 11 games, with a deflated De Zerbi highlighting his team’s lack of energy in his post-match assessment.

And similar to any Jurgen Klopp-managed side, the one thing the Italian always asks from his players to give 100 per cent, as without that, they just become a shadow of their former selves.
Richard Morgan

Sky News
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