‘Man Utd’s predictable exit on dismal night
“Too a few years with out a trophy, with out actually combating for trophies,” stated David de Gea afterwards. “We have to be clear, we need to be combating for trophies, not combating for high 4, and going out earlier than quarter-finals. This membership is simply too massive for the place we at the moment are.”
There was little lifelike likelihood of Manchester United pulling off one thing extraordinary on this Champions League. The Premier League desk reveals the gulf between them and their home rivals even earlier than the very best golf equipment from continental Europe are thought of.
Nevertheless, this was nonetheless a dismal night for United as a result of it was so predictable. Punished on the counter-attack after being uncovered within the extensive areas, what adopted was grim. United looking for a manner via Atletico Madrid’s defensive block. Concepts missing.
“One factor we can’t do in opposition to Atletico is concede the primary objective,” stated Ralf Rangnick. “From regular play, we didn’t produce sufficient possibilities. We introduced all of the offensive gamers we had off the bench, but it surely was troublesome in opposition to this wall of defensive gamers.”
Rangnick knew what he couldn’t do. Diego Simeone knew what he might. “Within the second half, we managed the sport and that made us extra snug. We knew the opponent likes to play on the counter-attack so we determined to disclaim them the areas.”
Sit again and let United have it, in different phrases. They handed it to 1 facet after which to the opposite. Crosses got here in. Fodder for these centre-backs. An more and more determined Cristiano Ronaldo tried to knock it previous a defender and run spherical him. Possibly 10 years in the past.
The followers at Outdated Trafford have been vocal of their assist in the beginning, seeing their facet press their opponents. There was an actual sense of event and indicators that the staff have been up for the problem. However as soon as behind, acquainted frustrations started to bitter the environment.
Harry Maguire’s distribution was sloppy and his cumbersome actions are starting to antagonise annoyed followers. He’s a robust character however that is an ungainly state of affairs for him now. He’s in peril of changing into an emblem of the membership’s decline.
It’s a membership ripe for a rebuild, however one constructed to win now. It’s mid-March and the 37-year-old Ronaldo has no trophies to play for. Maguire is 29, Raphael Varane is 28. Bruno Fernandes is within the worst type of his Manchester United profession and Marcus Rashford is struggling badly.
Securing Champions League qualification would be the focus now however this was an evening to remind everybody that merely qualifying shouldn’t be sufficient for this membership, the purpose have to be to assemble a staff able to doing somewhat greater than this as soon as they’re in it.
That calls for troublesome choices about gamers’ futures and proper ones about the way forward for the supervisor. Rangnick can’t keep however Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Tag, seen as the 2 strongest candidates for the job, have each been eradicated already too.
For De Gea, the exasperation was clear. “All of us need the very best for this membership, particularly myself,” he added. “I’ve been right here a few years, I like this membership. I actually consider, I do not know when, that this membership shall be again on the high.” However the wait goes on.
Tried and examined techniques nonetheless paying off for Atletico
There was one thing becoming about seeing Antoine Griezmann, one of the feted forwards of his technology and to not point out one of the costly gamers of all time, seemingly spending a lot of the second half of Atletico Madrid’s win at Manchester United on Tuesday night time for granted wing-back.
This was like 2016 over again, with Griezmann, again working beneath Diego Simeone after his Barcelona transfer went sideways, offering the second of inspiration in assault for Atletico – on this case, the help for Renan Lodi’s objective – earlier than becoming a member of his team-mates within the trenches as they floor out a clear sheet and a win to progress within the Champions League.
Six years in the past that tactic noticed Atletico go all the best way to the ultimate – the place they have been crushed by Actual Madrid for a second time in two years – and the Spanish champions at the moment are simply 4 matches away from repeating the feat.
The 2015/16 season noticed Atletico concede simply 5 targets on their option to the Champions League last, whereas Griezmann supplied the spark, scoring the targets that noticed them previous Barcelona within the final eight and Bayern Munich within the semi-finals.
Whereas no person is beneath the impression that this model of Simeone’s facet is pretty much as good as his 2016 classic – they’ve already conceded extra targets this season than in every other marketing campaign beneath the Argentinian – the truth that his tried and examined strategies proceed to reap rewards on Europe’s largest stage needs to be admired.
As is usually the case beneath Simeone, Atletico has much less of the ball than Manchester United at Outdated Trafford, in addition to fewer pictures and a decrease anticipated targets complete – but they gained and, in reality, by no means regarded like shedding as soon as they went in entrance.
Gamers could have come and gone within the final six years, and Simeone has even embraced a brand new formation, however Atletico’s mixture of star high quality up entrance, an all-hands-to-the-pump mentality in defence and, as Ralf Rangnick put it, “time-wasting antics”, continues to be irritating Europe’s heavyweight sides.
‘Football-first’ mentality delivers again for Chelsea
Cesar Azpilicueta is the embodiment of what Thomas Tuchel calls the “football-first” mentality at Chelsea.
The Blues captain led by instance of their 2-1 win at Lille which despatched them via to the quarter-finals with a 4-1 combination victory – and he even scored the essential second objective within the second leg.
The 32-year-old has been with the membership for 10 years however may very well be leaving in the summertime along with his contract set to run out and Chelsea unable to increase it because of authorities restrictions amid Roman Abramovich’s departure.
Nonetheless, Azpilicueta is continuous to be a mannequin skilled which has been put in in him since he arrived on the membership.
“He’s used to specializing in soccer and that is the important thing level why it is potential now to remain centered as a result of the membership has the mentality that sharpens the angle, the mentality of the gamers,” stated Tuchel.
“In case you are in there like our skipper for therefore a few years, you do what is required, you step up and it is regular to focus, making it potential even in troublesome occasions.”
Liverpool’s forward options make the difference
Jurgen Klopp had made the purpose when chatting with Sky Sports activities on the eve of the sport he has choices now within the ahead positions, a flexibility that allows him to rotate even within the largest of video games.
“Sure, we are able to do this now,” he says. “It’s all the time in our ideas due to the load and the depth of the interval we’re in.”
There might hardly have been a clearer instance of these choices than in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Arsenal on Wednesday night, a victory that takes them to inside one level of the Premier League leaders Manchester Metropolis and has many believing they are going to now win the title.
Mohamed Salah was named among the many substitutes however the ahead line nonetheless regarded sturdy. Sadio Mane had a objective disallowed. Diogo Jota scored what turned out to be the profitable objective. Roberto Firmino got here off the bench to place the consequence past doubt.
Luis Diaz was trusted with this massive recreation and Klopp has been eager to level out the type of Takumi Minamino and the continued presence of Divock Origi within the squad. It helps to clarify why Liverpool have one trophy already gained and three extra of their sights.
“Now if somebody is having a poor recreation, you understand somebody goes to return on and enhance Liverpool from the bench,” Jamie Carragher instructed Sky Sports activities. “That may be a huge distinction that this staff has by no means had.”
Will or not it’s the distinction within the Premier League title race? That’s too early to say and given Manchester Metropolis’s high quality, there may be no ensures. However what is clear is that Liverpool are stronger now. This win over an in-form Arsenal underlined that.
A painful lesson for Arsenal
You could possibly sense the thrill within the air earlier than kick-off.
There was a buzz, an anticipation as in-form Arsenal welcomed title challengers Liverpool. After a run of 5 straight wins within the Premier League, have been the Gunners lastly able to make an enormous assertion within the race for the highest 4?
Within the first half, that expectation rose as Arsenal induced Liverpool loads of issues. Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka regarded actual threats in behind Liverpool’s excessive line. Nevertheless, Arsenal lacked a innovative with their last ball off all night time.
Then got here the massive second.
Early within the second half, Alexandre Lacazette pounced on Thiago’s sloppy again go earlier than teeing up Martin Odegaard, who was denied by a vital save from Alisson.
Liverpool, who have been by no means going to be as poor as they have been within the first half, then confirmed how scientific it’s important to be in these massive matches. The place Alisson had come to Liverpool’s rescue, might Aaron Ramsdale come to Arsenal’s?
Diego Jota’s shot squeezed previous him on the close to submit earlier than Roberto Firmino’s deft contact put the sport to mattress.
Immediately, the Emirates Stadium was flat. The optimism was gone.
25 – Arsenal have now misplaced 25 Premier League video games in opposition to Liverpool, their joint-highest tally of defeats versus a single facet within the competitors’s historical past (degree with Man Utd). Wearisome. pic.twitter.com/GydLSs7SqZ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 16, 2022
The truth, it was one other false daybreak for Arsenal by way of them difficult the massive boys of the Premier League. Nevertheless, this consequence won’t resolve their top-four push.
The Gunners are nonetheless in a particularly sturdy place in fourth, however now the true take a look at comes. Mikel Arteta should work laborious to get a response from his facet, beginning at Aston Villa on Saturday as they bid to not let this consequence derail their Champions League push.
Spurs showing desire for the top four
After thrashing Leeds 4-0 a couple of weeks in the past, Antonio Conte stated he’s lastly beginning to see his concepts come to fruition on the pitch.
“It’s the first time I noticed my mark with this method… it signifies that the work is beginning to work,” the Italian boss stated in his post-match press convention.
Whereas it has not essentially carried on in a constant method – an FA Cup exit to Middlesbrough and 3-2 defeat at Manchester United for instance – Spurs did present some grit and dedication to combat for a top-four place at Brighton.
Sure, they have been going through a facet on a poor run of type and arguably operating low on confidence, however Tottenham have been hardly at their free-flowing finest both.
Cristian Romero’s deflected objective was the primary shot on course, with Conte’s facet probably not creating a lot till that time, bar a weird second when Harry Kane might have discovered the web if he solely had a greater angle.
Brighton examined them defensively within the second half – though ended the sport with out a shot on course – however a textbook counter-attack noticed Kane additional write his identify into Premier League historical past.
Was it up there with Tottenham’s finest efficiency this season? Undoubtedly not. Nevertheless it was knowledgeable, job-done efficiency that may arguably go a great distance in direction of a top-four push. These are the sorts of outcomes and gritty showings that may assist push Spurs additional in direction of their aspirations.
Brighton’s slump is worrying
And so Brighton’s hunch continues. Their 2-0 reverse to Tottenham on Wednesday made it six consecutive defeats for Graham Potter’s facet, who’ve solely gained three of their final 24 Premier League video games relationship again to September.
It’s relegation type – they’re simply lucky they racked up so many factors within the first few weeks of the season, after they gained 4 of their first 5 video games and the marketing campaign forward brimmed with risk.
That early-season optimism has lengthy light. Brighton weren’t profitable usually sufficient earlier than this shedding streak however they have been not less than troublesome to beat. Now, they appear brittle and toothless.
Brittle due to the sloppiness which has crept into their recreation; toothless due to their incapacity to transform possibilities. Towards Spurs, they’d 15 pictures however not one on course, with Neal Maupay, with out a objective in seven video games, the principle wrongdoer.
An absence of innovative shouldn’t be a brand new drawback for Brighton however by no means has it been fairly as pronounced as this. The strengthening of their ahead line have to be a precedence in the summertime, however there are 9 video games nonetheless to get via earlier than then.
On 33 factors, there appears little hazard of relegation. However rather more of this and Potter may discover himself beneath stress. A season that promised a lot is tapering off.