Arsenal beat a tame Manchester United side 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday
Qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League may be too tall a task for Mourinho if Kane’s goals are missed for a prolonged period.
Nicolas Pepe finally showed Arsenal fans why the club made a record investment to sign him from Lille in the summer. Pepe scored the opener to help the Gunners beat a tame Manchester United side 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
The win was Mikel Arteta’s first as manager and moved Arsenal up to 10th in the Premier League. United are still four points ahead in fifth, but the Red Devils have major issues to fix, notably in defence, where Harry Maguire continues to struggle.
He’s the most expensive defender on the planet, but the former Leicester City man was clumsy and overwhelmed in north London.
United’s struggles were in stark contrast to those of neighbours Manchester City. The Citizens beat Everton 2-1 thanks to a pair of classy goals from Gabriel Jesus, who led the line superbly in place of Sergio Aguero.
It was a day to forget for a former United boss, with Jose Mourinho making headlines for the wrong reasons when Tottenham Hotspur slipped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Southampton.
Injuries to Harry Kane and Tanguy Ndombele, as well as run-ins with Saints’ coaching staff and the referee, only compounded Mourinho’s misery.
- Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 Chelsea
- Burnley 1-2 Aston Villa
- Newcastle United 0-3 Leicester City
- Southampton 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Watford 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Manchester City 2-1 Everton
- Norwich City 1-1 Crystal Palace
- West Ham United 4-0 Bournemouth
- Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United
Standings (Played, Won, Goal Difference and Points)
1. Liverpool: 19, 18, +33, 55
2. Leicester City: 21, 14, +27, 45
3. Manchester City: 21, 14, +32, 44
4. Chelsea: 21, 11, +7, 36
5. Manchester United: 21, 8, +7, 31
6. Tottenham Hotspur: 21, 8, +6, 30
7. Wolverhampton Wanderers: 21, 7, +3, 30
8. Sheffield United: 20, 7, +4, 29
9. Crystal Palace: 21, 7, -4, 28
10. Arsenal: 21, 6, -2, 27
11. Everton: 21, 7, -8, 25
12. Southampton: 21, 7, -13, 25
13. Newcastle United: 21, 7, -13, 25
14. Brighton & Hove Albion: 21, 6, -4, 24
15. Burnley: 21, 7, -10, 24
16. West Ham United: 20, 6, -7, 22
17. Aston Villa: 21, 6, -10, 21
18. Bournemouth: 21, 5, -12, 20
19. Watford: 21, 4, -17, 19
20. Norwich City: 21, 3, -19, 14
Winner: Nicolas Pepe
Some lean moments aside, Pepe justified Arteta’s decision to hand him a rare start. The Ivory Coast winger tormented United left-back Luke Shaw from the off.
Pepe’s quick feet, running power and willingness to show for the ball reduced Shaw to a quivering passenger in defensive areas. He and the rest of the United back line had no idea where Pepe was when the 24-year-old pounced to convert from Sead Kolasinac’s deflected cross on eight minutes.
Obviously buoyed his goal, Pepe was soon showcasing deft control, neat touches and an array of tricks. Confidence is something one of the stars of last season’s Ligue 1 has been short of since moving to England’s top flight.
Yet Pepe’s influence grew until he whipped in the corner for Alexandre Lacazette to flick on at the near post and allow Sokratis Papastathopoulos to net Arsenal’s second.
While he waned somewhat after the break, before being subbed for Reiss Nelson in the 62nd minute, Pepe had done enough to suggest the £72 million Arsenal paid will eventually prove money well spent:
Nicolas Pépé for Arsenal in the first half against Man Utd in the Premier League:
100% pass accuracy
100% aerial duels won
4 chances created (most)
3 take-ons completed (most)
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 1, 2020
Loser: Harry Maguire
The Gunners’ investment may be starting to bear fruit, but United’s £85 million outlay on Maguire is beginning to rot.
United signed him to be the rock underpinning a formidable back four. Instead, Maguire is failing to lead and organise those around him.
It’s not simply a matter of being vocal enough. Maguire can’t lead by example when his performances are this shoddy.
Whether it was failing to step up and play offside in the buildup to the opener or getting turned around by Lacazette inside the box, Maguire looked lost.
The most vivid illustration of his sketchy form came from how he was outperformed by Arsenal central defender David Luiz. He’s noted for his erratic displays, but the Gunners’ £8 million summer signing delivered the kind of performance expected of Maguire, but for a fraction of the price.
David Luiz’s game by numbers vs. Man Utd:
100% aerial duels
0 goals conceded
Dominant performance. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/b33Fx4b7Vu
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 1, 2020
Maguire needs to prove he isn’t being weighed down by the price tag and that he can make the kind of difference United expected for the money paid.
Winner: Gabriel Jesus
Getting the start ahead of a fit-again Sergio Aguero meant the pressure was on Jesus to deliver against an Everton side tougher to beat since Carlo Ancelotti took the reins.
Fortunately for City, Jesus delivered and then some against the Toffees. The Brazilian produced a masterclass in movement and finishing en route to bagging a clutch brace.
Jesus caused problems for experienced Everton centre-back Yerry Mina all game. His runs were subtle and varied, meaning Mina rarely kept City’s No. 9 in his sights for long.
Jesus’ intelligent off-the-ball running dictated the passes from the City midfield, like when Ilkay Gundogan threaded a ball through in the 51st minute. The touch, turn and curled finish typified a natural marksman inside the area.
The City frontman took his second goal just as decisively, striking hard and low after encouraging the right ball from Riyad Mahrez. In the process, Jesus maintained a stellar run against Everton:
⚽️ Players to score in 5 successive PL appearances against Everton:
Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Mar 2018 – Jan 2020
Ian Wright (Arsenal), Oct 1992 – Jan 1996
Les Ferdinand (QPR/Newcastle), Apr 1994 – Dec 1995 pic.twitter.com/5TTqZTNCKg
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 1, 2020
Aguero will always have more profile, but Jesus’ impressive overall record suggests replacing the former won’t be quite as difficult as Pep Guardiola thinks.
Loser: Jose Mourinho
It wasn’t a good day in any area for Mourinho. Not only did his Spurs side fail to click against Saints, the manager lost star striker Kane to a hamstring injury, per Sky Sports.
Mourinho also saw club-record signing Ndombele succumb to yet another injury. Ndombele was withdrawn after just 25 minutes at St Mary’s Stadium, making way for Giovani Lo Celso.
The Frenchman’s latest setback left Mourinho frustrated:
“Of course it is a concern, you think you have a player, you think the player is in an evolution process, he plays very well against Norwich, you think today he is ready for it and he is not ready for it.” #THFC #COYS
— Jonathan Veal (@jonathandveal83) January 1, 2020
To top it all off, Mourinho received a booking from referee Mike Dean after the 56-year-old appeared to take a look at the tactical notes being written in the Southampton dugout.
Mourinho offered an acerbic response to explain his actions:
Peak Mourinho. pic.twitter.com/awgLyo418c
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 1, 2020
While his wit remains sharp, Mourinho’s reaction betrays the tensions borne from a tough day at the office. Spurs have dropped points in their last two games, including the 2-2 draw with Norwich City.
Struggles against teams in the bottom half have left Tottenham six points adrift of Chelsea in the race to finish fourth. Qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League may be too tall a task for Mourinho if Kane’s goals are missed for a prolonged period.
Meanwhile, a defence that’s kept just one clean sheet in 11 matches in all competitions since he took over will also have Mourinho worried.[bleacherreport]