Premier League hits and misses: Illan Meslier conceded 11 goals from 11 shots on target – why does he remain undroppable? | Football News
Masterful Liverpool show what could have been
Liverpool’s creativity was simply sublime. Unstoppable. They cut through Leeds like a knife through butter. Javi Gracia’s side put up little resistance but the attacking output from Liverpool was near-impossible to combat, epitomised by the sensational Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The full-back-cum-midfielder touched the ball 153 times at Elland Road. That’s the second-most of any player all season. He dictated and commanded the middle of the park, alongside Fabinho, while sparking wave after wave of attack. His influence was greater than any other, delivering an assist in each half, taking his league tally to 50 overall.
“There are very few players in world football – bar Kevin De Bruyne – who can match him in that area,” Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher said when analysing the 24-year-old’s impressive contribution.
Klopp was equally gushing. “Trent played a really really good game,” he told Sky Sports. “The formation suits us much better,” the German added. If only the realisation had hit Klopp sooner.
This is not the first time Liverpool have been breathtaking this term – they blew away Man United with a seven-goal thrashing not long ago. But this is the first occasion away from Anfield that they have delivered such a ruthless, yet slick display. The kind of performance Premier League onlookers got accustomed to enjoying week-in-week-out a few seasons back. It begs the question – ‘what could have been?’
Klopp can afford to be experimental with the remainder of this campaign. There is very little for Liverpool to play for, although a surprise late push for a top four spot isn’t beyond the realms. This will serve as a timely reminder – Liverpool still have class. It’s consistency that remains their biggest foe.
Is it time to drop Meslier?
“They look like they’ve got a kid in goal – he’s got no presence,” said Jamie Carragher when asked why Leeds have so many issues with keeping the ball out of their net.
Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier isn’t a kid anymore though. He turned 23 last month but is the youngest goalkeeper in Premier League history to rack up 100 appearances. The shirt has been his ever since Marcelo Bielsa put ultimate faith in his ability with a clear liking for his savvy use of the ball. However, is he developing at the rate you’d expect with a goalkeeper playing at this level? That is certainly up for debate when assessing his record in the past two seasons.
Although he wasn’t at obvious fault for any of the Liverpool goals, the damming statistic of him conceding 11 shots on target in a row over two consecutive games doesn’t look good.
Trying to showcase how important a goalkeeper is to their side is a difficult conundrum but a starting point is to analyse the expected goals data and see whether that goalkeeper is overperforming or underperforming when it comes to quality of chances being fired at his goal. Well, he underperformed by 16.8 goals last season – the worst record of any Premier League goalkeeper. And he’s at an underperformance of 7.8 this season – only Gavin Bazunu (9.74) is performing worse in that regard.
Maybe it’s time for a change to try and ignite some stability back there for a Leeds team that is out of control defensively.
Arsenal’s shine is fading
When Bukayo Saka put his penalty at West Ham wide of goal, it was the sign of how things can move away from the norm in a title race.
Saka is normally so reliable from the spot. His four previous spot kicks – against Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea – all went in.
But the temperature is rising in the UK and so is the pressure in the title race. At West Ham, it got to Saka, it got to this young Arsenal team.
The last two Sundays are not how Arsenal have been this season. Mikel Arteta’s side have been consistent all term. Free from injuries, fast starts, managing games, good responses to setbacks, fortunate with VAR calls, dramatic finishes.
Fast starts have been there in their recent away games at Liverpool and West Ham. But the rest has not. Now there are back-to-back slip-ups emanating from similar circumstances. Two-nil up. Sloppy error before half time to make it 2-1. Equaliser in the second half. Not enough to grab the game back.
Just like in the first 30 minutes at Liverpool, Arsenal played like champions at West Ham. Their performance was the perfect response to Manchester City’s game with Leicester to go 2-0. But the same unfortunate themes came up.
Bukayo Saka’s penalty miss two minutes before Jarrod Bowen’s equaliser for 2-2 is the flashpoint moment – but Arsenal threw it away when Thomas Partey’s lapse in concentration allowed the Hammers to get their penalty for 1-2.
Arsenal’s consistency has been something to marvel this season. They have kept the same starting team all season but got us on the edge of our seats week in, week out. They have dazzled us with late winners against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Manchester United. They have bounced back when everyone expected a crumble.
Perhaps the shine of this young team is fading. They need to bounce back again in time for the Manchester City trip in under two weeks.
Fernandes can flap all he wants
In an interview with Sky Sports this week, Bruno Fernandes conceded emotions sometimes get the better of him when he pulls on a Manchester United – or any – shirt. It’s an underlining principle of his game which delivers both good and bad consequences.
At Anfield in March, when Manchester United were embarrassed like never before at the hands of rivals Liverpool, Fernandes’ gesticulation and protests drew widespread condemnation from club legends Gary Neville and Roy Keane.
Fernandes, a player who has perhaps grasped what it means to play for Manchester United more than any other during the post Sir Alex Ferguson era, could not contain his frustration as seven Liverpool goals hit the net, clashing with a linesman and prompting calls for the ugly side of his game to be banished for good.
But to take that passion out of Fernandes’ game would be to deny the Portuguese of the very instincts which have propelled him to the elite-level in which he resides. His footballing currency is passion and emotion, which when tuned appropriately can deliver peerless results.
Look no further than Manchester United’s 2-0 victory at Nottingham Forest on Sunday for a timely reminder of this very point. Fernandes didn’t even score yet he left the field the game’s standout player after a mesmeric display of attacking creativity and awareness.
After his performance at the City Ground, ask any Manchester United fan if they would change Fernandes’ unique outlook on football. It goes without saying what the answer would be. For when he is firing, Fernandes can flap all he wants.
West Ham aggression will please fans
Such was the emphasis on the title race and the drama of Arsenal faltering that West Ham’s own need for points took second billing but this was a big point for David Moyes and his team. The aggression showed in turning the match will encourage supporters.
Declan Rice had no right to be pressing Thomas Partey as he did in the build-up to the penalty won by Lucas Paqueta. At a time when Arsenal had looked to be in total control, the West Ham captain took it upon himself to carry the fight back at the leaders.
Where Rice led, the rest followed – on and off the pitch. If this was an audition for the England man to show Arsenal and others just what he brings to the table, then the part is surely his. He was monstrous in the West Ham midfield, covering 11.2km in the match as he and Tomas Soucek ran themselves into the ground.
Suddenly, after the Bukayo Saka miss, the home side were winning the duels and the supporters were up again. The point takes them four points clear of the bottom three. The battling qualities will have them believing they can stay out of trouble. And with a player like Rice in their midfield they should be nowhere near the Championship. Champions League more like.
Forest now need to find something special to avoid the drop
Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis had called for an immediate improvement in results when he backed head coach Steve Cooper last week. Two defeats later, it feels like a sudden transformation for this side is unlikely.
In fact, after a comprehensive defeat to Manchester United, their position could well get worse before it gets better.
Next weekend they go to Anfield. Then it’s in-form Brighton at the City Ground before a trip to Brentford – never an easy away day. In that space of time, Everton – level on Forest with points but with a better goal difference – could edge away from the drop zone with games against Crystal Palace and Leicester.
Forest’s home game with bottom-club Southampton on Sky Sports on May 8 is now a must-win. There’s no two ways about it. There are then games with Chelsea and Arsenal before their season finale at Crystal Palace – another one they have to take three points from.
But two more wins would only take Forest to 33 points – shy of the 37-point mark which has been the target for relegation-threatened clubs in recent times. Even in this exceptional season, with more teams in danger than usual, it feels like Forest will need to cause an upset somewhere along the way.
To do that, they cannot afford to be as open as they were against Man Utd, allowing the visitors’ midfield time and space. They must capitalise on set-piece opportunities, such as the one which saw Felipe head over from two yards out. They must be clinical in front of goal, a ruthlessness Taiwo Awoniyi was missing on Sunday. And they are going to need some fortune, which was absent when Harry Maguire got away with a handball in his own box.
It’s not over yet and the difference between third-bottom and safety is just goal difference. But the games are running out, the stakes are going up and a Forest side which hasn’t tasted victory in 10 matches need to find something special.
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