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'We deserved to lose': Pogba's truth bomb, slow mo shows Salah genius, Bruce's last stand in PL Talking Points

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18th October, 2021
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With those pesky internationals out the way, the Premier League was back in action and it was a weekend full of drama.

In this eighth round of matches we arguably saw the greatest comeback in Premier League history as well as one of the greatest strikers to ever play in the league. We also saw the pressure build on Steve Bruce and Paul Pogba announcing that “we need to change something” as Manchester United collapsed. Lots to talk about, so let’s get stuck in…

Paul Pogba calls for change as Solskjaer struggles
It wasn’t just the loss to Leicester City at the weekend that has got the drums beating, it was the absolutely shocking performance from Manchester United that has amplified the concerns that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just isn’t up to the job and even midfielder Paul Pogba is calling for a change in the club’s approach.

Following the defeat – a loss which broke a run of 29 unbeaten away league games – the Man United midfielder didn’t hold back when interviewed about the performance.

“We need to find the key for this change because we deserved to lose. I don’t know if it is the mindset of the players. We need to change something. We need to find the mentality and tactics to win. We have to look as individuals and as a team to fix this,” shared a frustrated Pogba.

The performance was perhaps best summed up by the awful afternoon that Harry Maguire had in defence against his former club. He looked so out of his depth that it wouldn’t have been a surprise if someone had thrown him an inflatable rubber ring.

The issue the Solskjaer faces is he hasn’t been able to get his wealth of talent to play together in an effective strategy. It just feels like he’s hoping that one of his superstars will win the game with a moment of natural talent instead of the team breaking the opposition down and creating genuine, consistent opportunities.

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There are many who point out that recent results are hiding the impressive overall impact that Ole has had since joining Man Utd. If you compare him with Jurgen Klopp, in their first 104 games in charge, the Liverpool coach won 196 league points while Solskjaer picked up 194.

But it’s the next phase that really stands out. Klopp went on to win 283 points from the next 123 league matches. Does anyone really believe that Solskjaer can match that rate?

Man Utd have dropped to sixth in the table and have a tough week ahead with Atalanta in the Champions League before then having to face Liverpool in the next Premier League round.

If the team and manager can’t find a way to improve and improve quickly, then Solskjaer might well find it impossible to justify his position.

Klopp believes Salah’s balls are more golden than the rest?
One of the questions Solskjaer is going to have to answer is how on earth to stop Mo Salah. Claudio Ranieri certainly won’t have much advice after watching Salah tear his Watford side to pieces this past weekend.

To be fair though, according to Klopp, Salah is the best player in the world right now. When interviewed after another goal-filled performance that saw them reach 22 goals for the season so far from just eight games, Klopp was asked where Salah sits compared to players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappé.

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“At this moment, he is for sure, on top of that list,” responded the Liverpool manager without hesitation and when you check the stats, it’s clear that he’s not just a loyal boss backing his man.

Salah has scored in eight games in a row for Liverpool now and with his seven in the league and four assists he’s been involved in a goal every 65 minutes. He keeps breaking records week in, week out and it is hard to bet against his name being confirmed as the latest winner of the Ballon d’Or when the announcement is made on 29th November.

He drew praise for a delightful assist for Sadio Mane but it was the goal he scored that blew minds.

Slow mo footage that emerged after the game shows the pure genius of Salah’s close control.

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Villa blow it
When you’re 2-0 up with just ten minutes to go, you wouldn’t be blamed for starting to think that the three points in the bag. Unless of course you’re playing Wolves it seems.

With Aston Villa so close to a crucial home victory, Wolves not only found a way to draw level with two minutes left on the clock but then also stole a winner five minutes into injury time.

Wolves have now won four of their past five matches and have won away from home three times in a time – a club record.

Coach Bruno Lage explained after the match the decision making that had gone in to the match day squad and especially the approach of leaving in-form Raul Jimenez on the bench until the 88th minute. Jimenez had just returned from international duty and Lage felt he was still tired.

“I don’t want to take risks with him because we don’t have a big squad. I don’t want injuries because we don’t make the best decisions. It’s difficult to make decisions to not start with Raul or different players, but when we win it’s easier for me!”

Steve Bruce struggles as Harry Kane finds form
A lot has been written about the takeover of Newcastle United by a consortium including the Public Investment Fund (the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia). While many Newcastle fans hope that it means huge investment, big name signings and trophies galore, manager Steve Bruce is likely more concerned with the immediate future.

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Managing in his 1,000th game this past weekend, Bruce knew that the best way to impress the new bosses would be a solid win.

When Callum Wilson scored after just two minutes it looked like it was going to be a good day for Bruce and Newcastle. Unfortunately things didn’t stay that way as first Spurs drew level thanks to Tanguy Ndombele and then soon took the lead as Harry Kane scored his first goal of the Premier League season.

A third before half time from Son Heung-Min was the nail in the coffin and Newcastle struggled to mount any sort of a comeback.

With PIF reported to be worth in excess of £250bn, Newcastle have become one of the richest clubs in the world overnight. With that sort of money comes very high expectations and likely, not much patience.

If Bruce does get fired, PIF would have plenty of reasons including the fact that the side are winless so far this season and the wishes of the fans. Many of the Newcastle supporters at the weekend could be heard chanting “we want Brucey out” and “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as their team struggled to hold onto the ball or create many genuine chances.

Spurs manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, would have been in a much better mood. Not only did his side pick up their second win in a row and move to fifth in the league, but Kane showed a deft touch to give his side the lead.

Spurs have struggled to provide Kane with good service so far this season and the England striker has looked out of touch and energy. But with this goal perhaps he can shrug off that feeling and help Spurs build some momentum.

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Watford bound for the Championship?
We’re only eight rounds into the season and there’s a long way to go but Watford are in serious trouble if they don’t improve their basic tactics immediately.

Losing to Liverpool is something all teams are familiar with but conceding five goals at home with a brand new manager is not a good look.

Liverpool hero Steve McManaman didn’t hold back when asked about the Watford performance. “The good thing is that they can’t get any worse. This was rock bottom,” was McManaman’s view.

New manager Claudio Ranieri might even have had second thoughts about taking on the Watford role as he watched on and he saw his side destroyed by Liverpool.

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What would have frustrated him the most wasn’t the lack of skill, but just a simple lack of basic tactics and effort. The things that anyone can do – trying hard – was just missing from his side and that is alarming. Two shots on target and one corner the entire game tells a sorry story for a team that will very soon find itself in a relegation battle if things don’t improve.

Over the next few weeks they have to play Everton, Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd and it’s very conceivable that they will pick up just one or two points from the next eight games.

That is the form of a team that is destined for the Championship next season.

At a press conference ahead of the weekend, Ranieri said that “I am strong, I am still young.” With a heavy defeat now recorded as his first game in charge, an injury crisis in defence and a team that are struggling to do the basics, he’s going to need every ounce of that youthful energy to keep Watford in the Premier League this season.

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