Spurs concede late again – it is a problem
Ange Postecoglou was downbeat after seeing his side drop two points in stoppage time and that late failing risks undermining their impressive performances this season. Tottenham have now conceded eight goals after the clock has struck 89 minutes.
That is more than any other team in the Premier League this season and more than Spurs have conceded in any full campaign in the competition’s history, which is a particularly worrying statistic. Especially given that this was the first-choice defence.
Sean Dyche insisted that Guglielmo Vicario had not been specifically targeted but expect teams to do so now. Nathan Ake bundled in the winner against them for Manchester City in the FA Cup in startingly similar fashion – that goal coming in the 88th minute.
It is 27 goals conceded in 15 Premier League games now. Spurs are entertaining and that matters, engendering a feeling of optimism under Postecoglou. But expect the man himself to want to see his team be more clinical at both ends to win games like this one.
Where do Palace go from here?
Crystal Palace are at a crossroads. For so long, mid-table stability, combined with developing a smattering of exciting young players, has been enough for the south Londoners.
Much of that stability has been provided by Steve Parish, whose backing helped to bring the club up from the Championship, and Roy Hodgson, who has done so much across two spells to keep the Eagles in the Premier League.
But now many of the supporters want more. Shorn of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise for much of the season, Palace have slipped to just five points above the relegation zone, while winning just two of their last 14 games.
Hodgson’s side have conceded nine goals in their last two away games, both of which saw fans turn on Parish and the board.
January’s investment in Adam Wharton and Daniel Munoz doesn’t appear to have placated the fanbase. With Hodgson aged 76 and only having a contract until the end of the season, a change in the dugout is surely coming sooner rather than later.
But what then? Palace have the 12th-highest net spend over the past five seasons and have been missing arguably their three best players – Eze, Olise and Cheikh Doucoure – for huge chunks of the campaign.
Is it fair to ask them to be achieving any more than they already are? Palace supporters may want to be careful what they wish for.
If Burnley survive, thank David Datro
David Datro Fofana was fighting a one-man battle at times to carry Burnley to an unlikely point against Fulham.
Aside from scoring both goals, he had as many opposition-box touches as anyone on the pitch except Wilson Odobert, registered the highest xG on the pitch by more than double, and still found time to make two tackles – another match high.
He was even good enough to give everyone else an hour-long head start before his introduction on the hour. His 30-minute cameo won’t live long in the memory outside of Turf Moor but it is certainly more important than the draw he can claim he earned on his own.
Burnley have been lacking an X factor in the final third all season. Now they have it. Fofana is direct, he is explosive, he is physical. How he only scored once at Union Berlin in the first half of the season is a mystery, because he is Premier League quality.
He proved it at Manchester City in midweek, where he was given another half hour to impress and made Ameen Al-Dakhil’s late consolation and finally gave Josko Gvardiol something of a test.
He was unlucky not to start after that cameo. It would be gobsmacking if he is not on the team sheet at Liverpool next weekend.
Burnley have both the second-worst attack and defence in the Premier League – so sitting 19th in the table feels exactly right. But it shows Fofana’s immediate impact that he can score one 12th of their season tally in less than one half of football.
No-one expects him to repeat that goalscoring form from now until May but there are signs that he can provide the energy and quality in the final third that has been lacking.
That, coupled with the defensive additions of Maxime Esteve, who himself enjoyed a steady debut from the bench, and Lorenz Assignon, who assisted his first goal, can give Burnley hope. And with a seven-point gap to safety, that’s about all anyone can ask right now.
Oggy, oggy, oggy!
There is no coincidence that Luton’s fortunes have taken a significant upgrade since Chiedozie Ogbene came back into the side. With Issa Kabore on international duty, Ogbene has been handed his chance as the right wing-back in Luton’s fluid 3-4-3 formation.
Although capable of mucking in and doing his duties without the ball, his strengths are when the play turns over and he can stretch his legs. And boy can he stretch his legs. His direct running and added attacking outlet down the right has seen Luton go unbeaten in the six matches Ogbene has played. In that period, they have scored 13 goals, including eight in their last two Premier League encounters.
He’s had a huge influence in both the 4-0 win over Brighton and this 4-4 draw with Newcastle. In total across his 180 minutes of action, he made eight successful dribbles. Dan Burn won’t be sleeping well tonight having had his head spun by Ogbene’s wizardry and speed with the ball. It was Burn’s foul on Ogbene that handed Luton the penalty that took them 3-2 up.
Only Michael Olise, Jeremy Doku, Luca Koleosho and Mohammed Kudus average more successful dribbles per 90 this season than Ogbene (2.74) now. He is among the elite. A real livewire.
Newcastle’s defence has collapsed
After 23 games of last season, Newcastle had only conceded 15 goals, the fewest in the Premier League by a street. This time around, the goals against column reads 37.
Never has their defensive collapse been more apparent than in Saturday’s bewilderingly open 4-4 draw with Luton. Rob Edwards’ side were rewarded for their boldness. But it is hardly surprising they went for it. Newcastle’s vulnerabilities are obvious.
Until fairly recently, their struggles were at least limited to their away games. Not anymore. Following 3-2 and 3-1 losses to Manchester City and Nottingham Forest respectively, they have now conceded 10 goals in their last three Premier League clashes at St James’ Park.
Luton were able to hurt them in multiple ways, through the speed of Chiedozie Ogbene against Dan Burn on the right flank, through the time and space afforded to Ross Barkley in midfield, though the set-piece threat which Newcastle failed to negate.
And yet the back four that started Saturday’s game is the same as the one that excelled for so much of last season. It is not a simple question of personnel, it is systemic. There are gaps right across midfield. The pressing is disjointed. The confidence is shot.
The fact they were able to claw their way back from two goals down shows their fighting spirit remains. But a season of strife could yet get worse if their defensive issues are not resolved. Right now, it is difficult to see a straightforward solution.
There’s no defending Sheffield United’s defending
If defending is an artform, Sheffield United have produced crimes against it this season.
This latest walloping at the hands of an Aston Villa, who should’ve been vulnerable after a midweek 3-1 home defeat to Newcastle, means the Blades have now shipped 59 Premier League goals in 23 games. That average of 2.56 goals shipped per game means this Blades defence is officially the worst defence in Premier League history, at this stage of the season. No team has conceded more after 23 games.
The underlying metrics back up that stark record. The Blades have faced the most shots (390) and have the highest expected goals against (46.07) figure this season.
Any momentum gained by appointing club legend Chris Wilder has disappeared into the abyss. He hasn’t helped himself at times, either, in the search for cohesion in his backline. In nine Premier League games in charge, he’s named six different defensive line-ups. He doesn’t know his best XI – and neither did his predecessor Paul Heckingbottom. The planning must start now for next season back in the Championship.
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