We are down to the final two for the A-League season 2021-22. reigning champions Melbourne City take on cross-town rivals Western United in Saturday…
The past weekend provided plenty of quality games, but some teams have come out better than others.
When the games concluded, here is what we learnt.
Chelsea continue their winning ways, but Timo Werner needs to be sure of himself
Chelsea dominated Newcastle and have picked up another clean sheet. Frank Lampard seems to have Chelsea poised to challenge after working out some early kinks. In order for Chelsea to be successful, they’ll need to ensure Timo Werner is fully firing.
Against Newcastle, he seemed to overthink a lot of the goal-scoring opportunities and ended up squandering the chances.
This season, he’s scored in three out of the nine games for a total of four goals. Those games were against Southampton, Burnley and Sheffield United.
Chelsea will now have some tougher games coming up with Tottenham, Leeds, Everton and Wolves on the horizon. While Chelsea have so much firepower going forward, they’ll be hoping that Werner can find some consistency very soon.
Brighton finally get some fortune and secure three points
Brighton all season have had quality performances but unfortunately have not been able to secure any points for a variety of reasons. After having a late penalty disallowed to Aston Villa, Brighton can finally celebrate their second win of the season.
While they may have not been the best team against Villa and dealt with Tariq Lamptey being sent off the final minutes, they managed to hold on to give them some space from the relegation zone.
They have had unfortunate losses to Tottenham and Manchester United but would probably be disappointed that they couldn’t get a win against Crystal Palace, West Brom and Burnley.
They now have a tough road ahead with Liverpool, Southampton and Leicester part of the fixtures ahead.
Tottenham will be hoping Jose Mourinho’s tactics can navigate through their difficult fixtures
Spurs sit on top of the league but with Chelsea, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Leicester and Wolves all coming up, it will really show us where they are as a team. This is while having to play Europa League games during the week.
It’s been impressive to see how Spurs have adapted during the nine weeks. Earlier in the season, they tried to get forward and play long balls over the top to allow the likes of Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura to use their speed. They scored plenty of goals but they never really focused defensively.
Since their disastrous draw against West Ham, Mourinho made the evolution to his classic strategy of defending deep while playing on the counter attack.
It has since yielded three clean sheets while conceding only one goal in the last four games. Against attacking teams in Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool, I would assume they would employ a similar strategy as it was successful against Manchester City.
Manchester United need their front three to support Bruno Fernandes
West Brom managed to give Manchester United a run for their money after the Red Devils scraped out a victory after a Bruno Fernandes penalty.
So far Fernandes has managed to score almost half of United’s goals in the league, but the glaring issue seems to be who else can step up outside of the Portuguese midfielder?
Marcus Rashford is second on the team for goals scored with only two goals and questions will need to be raised regarding the forwards up front.
Can Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial be relied upon over the course of the season? Against West Brom, Rashford and Martial had chances to score but couldn’t deliver.
The midfield outside of Fernandes seems to be a mess and there are a lot more questions than answers for Manchester United.
Everton’s defensive woes are coming back to haunt them
After Everton got off to a flying start, they have cooled down significantly and were able to escape with a win against Fulham.
After a number of weeks, its time to start emphasising the major issue for Everton: their defence. They have only kept one clean sheet against Tottenham on the opening week and since then have conceded at least two goals in seven of their last eight games.
They haven’t seemed to sort out their goalkeeping with Jordan Pickford looking fairly unreliable on multiple occasions.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been in amazing form leading the league with ten goals already. I can only imagine the trajectory of Everton if Calvert-Lewin had slightly under-performed in this season. If they have plans to make it into Europe, the defence needs to be addressed.
Sheffield United looking likely to go down
After an amazing 2019-20 season, they haven’t been able to replicate their grittiness and defensive stoutness in this season. It seemed that they managed to catch people by surprise by being a difficult team to beat and with Dean Henderson between the goals he was one of the top goalkeepers last season.
While Sheffield United managed to keep a number of clean sheets, they have not registered one this season and add in the fact that they cannot score goals, it just spells disaster for the club.
In the early part of this season, at least West Brom and Fulham have managed to produce some goals to trouble opposing defences, but Sheffield United look helpless.
Arsenal desperately need creativity to create goal-scoring chances
Leeds were extremely unfortunate to not come away with a win as they had battered Arsenal at home. The Gunners managed to hold on with ten men and escape the game with a draw.
What is eye opening, however, is their lack of creativity especially in the midfield. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been very poor to start the season and outside of Bukayo Saka, no one else seems to be able to generate quality opportunities.
Having scored nine goals this season, they have relied heavily on their defensive improvements. Nonetheless, it is very concerning that they have been creatively bankrupt and have relied on defeating weaker teams for the most part.
Liverpool show that they are a class above the rest
The defending champions Liverpool showed why they are going to be the team to beat after they defeated Leicester comfortably while being undermanned.
The past couple of fixtures have seen Liverpool having to scratch and claw to earn their victories. However, against one of the better teams in Leicester, they outplayed them and battered their goal-line with 24 shots on goal and 13 on target.
Fortunately for Jurgen Klopp, Andy Robertson was able to play with Fabinho and Joel Matip available also.
This just shows that it’s going to take special performances like Aston Villa to beat Liverpool.
Crystal Palace’s inconsistency must be infuriating for their fans
Roy Hodgson and Crystal Palace have had a mixed start to the season, and it shows in their record having four wins, four losses and one draw.
Led by Wilfried Zaha, they have had emphatic wins over Manchester United and Leeds but have also fallen to major losses against Chelsea and Wolves.
The main issue is that outside of Zaha, there hasn’t been a consistent threat to score goals. The wings for Palace have been impressive with Andros Townsend, Eberechi Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp doing well out wide. But whether it’s Jordan Ayew, Michy Batshuayi or Christian Benteke, they haven’t been able to step up.
Crystal Palace are a team that you can’t take lightly as they are capable of punishing you. But as demonstrated through their recent loss to Burnley, they will be nothing more than a mid-table team.
Southampton could keep the ship afloat with Che Adams and Theo Walcott
Southampton have managed to extend their unbeaten run to seven games with a draw against Wolves.
They have flown under the radar this season and have really turned it around since their loss to Tottenham. They have an odd partnership where they are strong defensively and have a number of options going forward.
They have one of the tallest centre-back pairings in Jannik Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has done well this season.
Going forward, Danny Ings was their main man but with his injury taking him out to the end of December, questions were asked how the Saints would cope. Che Adams and Theo Walcott were always needed to step up and they have done so for the time being.
Both Adams and Walcott have linked up now against Newcastle and Wolves, showing signs that they may very well keep things afloat until Ings returns.
If they can extend their unbeaten run until the end of the year, they will be in prime position to challenge for a spot in the Europa League.