Manchester United were woeful at Huddersfield, Chelsea didn’t deserve to win and Liverpool repeatedly shot themselves in the foot against Tottenham.
Jose Mourinho was honest enough to admit the best team won on Saturday, when Manchester United lost 2-1 at Huddersfield. The Portuguese manager is not always so gracious, in victory or defeat, but he called this one correctly.
It’s not that the Terriers dominated the visitors, as they only had five shots. Two of those were massive chances gifted to them by United mistakes, though, and Huddersfield took their opportunities with aplomb.
What will concern Mourinho and fans of United is the lack of response from their team. Sir Alex Ferguson abided by the old Vince Lombardi adage (“We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time“) and would throw the proverbial kitchen sink at teams who had the temerity to lead against his side.
Despite trailing to a newly promoted team for over an hour, United only mustered nine shots in the whole game. It hardly sounds like Huddersfield were under the cosh, does it?
They did have to make 49 clearances, in fairness, but they seldom looked under any serious or sustained threat.
Romelu Lukaku has had 49 touches in opposition penalty boxes in the league this season, and only six players have had more. He only had two at Huddersfield, and didn’t directly threaten the home side (though he did assist Marcus Rashford’s goal).
The Belgian only had two touches in the box at Liverpool, too. United’s shots amounted to less than one expected goal in both matches. There’s no need to panic, but it’s starting to look like United may struggle to score regularly if they can’t find Lukaku in the box.
Watford were superb at Chelsea
Speaking of touches in the box, we have to mention Richarlison. The young Brazilian has made an impressive start to life in the Premier League. He’s also one of the players who has had more touches in opposition penalty areas than Lukaku this season.
Leroy Sane, with 14, was the only player this weekend who topped Richarlison’s tally of 11. The Hornets’ wide forward’s three touches in the Chelsea box in the opening nine minutes of the second half went a long way to determining the story of the match.
In the 48th minute, he missed a chance in the six-yard box. A minute later, he assisted Roberto Pereyra to give Watford the lead. Finally, in the 54th minute, Richarlison missed a clear-cut chance which would’ve given the visitors a two-goal advantage.
In that seven-minute period, Chelsea had no shots and only two touches in the Watford box. The game was on a knife edge, and Watford’s young sensation was central to what unfolded.
Chelsea finished the match with just 0.1 more expected goals on their balance sheet than their visitors did. It’s clear Watford were ahead on points going into the final three minutes when the score was 2-2.
But then Cesar Azpilicueta headed in a deflected cross, and an error by Miguel Britos allowed Michy Batshuayi to wrap things up. Two clear-cut chances, two goals and three points on the board for Chelsea.
Watford should’ve been two goals up and out of sight, though, and Richarlison played a massive part in that. The kid has got a huge future ahead of him.
When will Liverpool’s defense learn?
When Liverpool are at their very best, they rip teams to shreds. But when they’re at their worst, they allow teams to batter them without even having to play that well. The Reds weren’t horrendous from start to finish at Wembley, but they contributed hugely to their own downfall.
It’s hard to believe, but Jurgen Klopp has improved Liverpool’s frequency of Opta-defined errors in recent times. No, really, he has. But they still tend to come along like buses, and both Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet made basic mistakes which lead to goals. Joel Matip’s weak header, which lead to the third goal, could easily have been counted as an error too.
It doesn’t matter how well a team plays otherwise, if theyr’e so bad at key moments in games. Consider this: in the Premier League this season, around one third of touches in opposition penalty boxes have been shots.
Yet thanks largely to Liverpool’s defensive incompetence, 11 of Tottenham’s 14 touches in their box were shots at goal. The Reds’ woeful defending also contributed to four of those shots being classified by Opta as clear-cut chances.
In the 470 top flight matches since the start of 2016-17, there has only been one other match where a home side has had at least four clear-cut chances from fewer than 15 touches in the opposition penalty area. Care to guess who the away side were?
There’s no prize, as it’s too easy a question. Liverpool got away with it that day, as they beat a wasteful Swansea side 2-1. But they simply have to improve at the back to achieve anything this season.