The Premier League featured both the Merseyside and Manchester derbies this weekend. Here’s what we learned.
Manchester derby, heavy on drama, light on defense
After one of the more dramatic Manchester derbies in recent history, United came away with a 3-2 win after an impressive second-half comeback. Although the result won’tc hange the final standings, it provided United fans with bragging rights.
Beyond the dramatic turn of events, what really stood out was the poor level of defense from both sides. The art of shut-down defending and strong man-marking seems to be lost. Arguably all five goals were the results of poor individual defense manifested by the failure to close down or track down runners.
Vincent Kompany lost his marker to head home the opening goal, while Ilkay Gundogan drifted unmarked into the United box for the second. After halftime, Paul Pogba lost his marker twice in as many minutes to draw his side level, while Chris Smalling had no one within 10 feet of him when he scored the winner.
That’s simply laughable for two teams aspiring to dominate club soccer. The goals came fast and furious and made for an entertaining match, but it was all too easy. To become truly great, both these teams will need to significantly improve their defensive efforts.
Burnley are Europa League-bound
After an impressive come-from-behind win at Watford, Burnley further established themselves in seventh, a position that would see them qualify for the Europa League unless Southampton win the FA Cup. With limited resources and resorting to a basic, no-nonsense style of play, Burnley have had a really impressive season, especially considering many people expected them to be relegated.
This is testament to Sean Dyche’s abilities as a manager. He’s worked wonders with this team. You have to wonder what Dyche would be capable of with more resources at his disposal. As it stands, Dyche is on the brink of European soccer following a journey from the depths of Championship soccer.
Goalkeepers shine in forgettable Merseyside derby
The winless streak against Liverpool continues for Everton. This time it was for lack of trying. With a Liverpool team riding high and resting key players following their impressive 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Champions League, Everton had a chance to pounce on a rival that seemed distracted by the bigger task at hand.
Sam Allardyce tipped his hand once he substituted Wayne Rooney out only 12 minutes into the second half in favor of the less threatening Idrissa Gueye. Rooney didn’t hide his disappointment.
If there’s anything this Merseyside derby will be remembered for, it will be the performances of both keepers. Jordan Pickford did well to impress England manager Gareth Southgate, who was in attendance, the most impressive save being the point-blank stop on Dominic Solanke. At the other end, Loris Karius came up with a huge diving save to tip Yannick Bolasie’s shot away.