Jota provides a welcome boost to Liverpool’s attack
Diogo Jota may not have scored since returning from a four-month break, but it may not be a coincidence that Liverpool have enjoyed an upturn in form since returning to action.
The Reds have been unbeaten in the Premier League since Jota recovered from a serious calf injury that saw him miss the World Cup. .
Jota provides many things that Liverpool have been missing in recent months. Time spent in Jürgen Klopp’s system means he is more sensitive to the demands placed on the manager’s forwards when their team is out of possession, while also being more direct than some of his attacking teammates.
Jota also has more cunning in possession than Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo, as he showed with his controlled ball into the box for opener Virgil van Dijk, while he had the misfortune of fouling Max Kilman in the run-up to Nunez’s disallowed goal after setting up a chance with a powerful running.
The Portugal international’s lack of goals shows he is still far from back to form, but his return has come at just the right time for Liverpool, who are moving closer to the top four.
Toothless wolves continue to show an alarming lack of threat
Wolves’ lack of goal-scoring was once again evident in their defeat to Liverpool.
Julen Lopetegui’s men had only one shot on target in the third minute after Joao Moutinho’s save.
The second half in particular was a statistically dismal read. Wolves did not fire a single shot and managed to hit just two passes into the opponent’s penalty area.
Their empty spot at Anfield means they haven’t scored in 12 Premier League games this season – the most against Bournemouth.
Wolves have also scored just 18 league goals this season – only Everton (17) have scored fewer in the top four leagues of English football.
These are alarming numbers for Lopetegui, who needs to fix it quickly.
Wolves remain just three points clear of the bottom three, and with most of their relegation rivals now out of the game, the issue of scoring goals takes on a whole new meaning.
Zinchenko gives Arsenal a factor of unpredictability
For 40 minutes at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal’s efforts to beat the two rows of blue shirts defending Jordan Pickford’s goal ended in frustration. Everton were tight and organised. The hosts barely managed to get a shot on goal.
They needed a spark, and as often happens, it came from Oleksandr Zinchenko. Bukayo Saki’s opener was of course brilliantly exploited, but the opportunity came only because of Zinchenko’s vision and his ability to make passes that other players can’t.
The fact that he took it from the right of midfield seemed even more appropriate. Zinchenko is a left-back in name only. In this game, as in many others, he spent most of his time in the central areas, where Everton ultimately could not stop him.
“That’s why we bought him,” a smiling Mikel Arteta later said, “because he brings something different to the team, his mentality and quality, he does certain things that allow us to be more unpredictable, he generates a lot of threat every time we are in possession.”
It also helps that he’s done it all before. He became a serial winner at Manchester City, but as Arteta later noted, he also accumulated invaluable experience in unlocking stubborn defences. “He’s played these kinds of games against low blocks 200 times and it’s been very helpful.”
His role in this victory can be seen in the numbers. Apart from the assist, Zinchenko had the most touchdowns of any player on the pitch (109), while no one made more passes in the last period (31), and his performance is reminiscent of how he helped Arsenal to a higher level this season.
Another sobering night for Everton
Everton beat Arsenal 1-0 in Sean Dyche’s first game, so they could do it again less than a month later, right?
For 40 minutes it certainly looked like they came in with a shout. Sean Dyche’s men were incredibly well organized for much of the first half, with tightly packed groups of players limiting Arsenal’s room for maneuver and also looking a threat on the counter-attack. If it wasn’t for two breakdowns of concentration before the break, perhaps after it they built on solid foundations.
Oleksandr Zinchenko put in a wonderful ball and Bukayo Saka finished with some angle from the corner and was second in no time when Gabriel Martinelli hit home after Saka stole the ball from Idriss Gan Gueye after his costly – and bizarre – whining stint. Suddenly the wind was taken from the sails of the Merseysiders.
The second half was no better as a goal from Martin Odegaard and a second from Martinelli finished the job for the Gunners who once again moved five points clear of second-placed Manchester City with 13 games to play.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall, given that Arsenal won the same fixture 5-1 on the last day of last season, and Everton’s away form this season has been nothing short of one win in 12 Premier League games in 2022. /23. But there’s no escaping the fact that even a point in north London would be invaluable to Dyche and Co.
The reality is that they remain in the relegation zone, one point from safety, and have played one game more than the two teams directly above them – West Ham and Leeds – and the two teams directly behind – Bournemouth and Southampton.
With 13 games left to play, their fate is in their own hands, but with just seven points picked up from the last 30 on offer after the World Cup, the fear of relegation is not going anywhere anytime soon.