Solskjaer’s position back under the spotlight
Defeat by Manchester City has brought back the manager’s woes
London — Life does not get any easier for Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer whose side was outplayed, outmuscled and outthought by neighbours Manchester City on Saturday.
Two managers — Daniel Farke of Norwich and Aston Villa’s Dean Smith — were sacked at the weekend and it seems just a matter of time before Solskjaer joins the list.
This and other talking points from the Premier League weekend.
Solskjaer back in the dock: A 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur last week proved to be a temporary respite for Solskjaer as defeat by Manchester City in Saturday’s derby put the Norwegian back under the spotlight.
It was not as spectacular as the 5-0 home thrashing by Liverpool a fortnight ago, but the way United were outclassed in every department was depressingly similar.
The ease with which City won was underlined by the 753 passes they completed — more than any visiting team to Old Trafford since Opta began recording data in 2003-04.
City were good and United suffered for the lack of the injured Raphael Varane, but the gulf between the two clubs is as wide as it has been since Solskjaer took over.
Open season on Premier League managers: The Christmas lights are not even up yet but already five Premier League clubs have parted ways with their managers this season and others might be looking over their shoulders.
Norwich City manager Daniel Farke had just celebrated his side’s first league win of the season when the tap on the shoulder came, ending his four-and-a-half-year stint.
Less than 24 hours later Aston Villa’s Dean Smith was sacked with the club on a five-match losing run in the league.
In Farke’s case, the decision appeared to have already been made with the club’s hierarchy having decided that this campaign was heading in the same direction as Farke’s previous top-flight season when Norwich ended bottom.
Smith’s exit is perhaps more surprising as Villa performed well last season and had begun this campaign solidly before a worrying loss of form.
The total of five managers jettisoned is already two more than the whole of last season.
International break is bad timing for Conte: Antonio Conte injected much-needed passion into Tottenham Hotspur’s ranks in a 0-0 draw with Everton at Goodison Park and was happy enough with a solid defensive display.
He praised his side’s desire and spirit but the lack of creativity and spark in attack that was so apparent under Nuno Espirito Santo was evident as his side failed to manage a single shot on target.
Tottenham’s squad is not short of quality, especially in attack, and given time on the training ground Conte will surely get them firing again. So it will be frustrating for the Italian that most of his players will be on international duty for the next 10 days, denying him the chance to get his methods across.
Arsenal rekindle top-four hopes: Few Arsenal fans would have expected the Gunners to challenge for European competition after a dreadful start to their Premier League campaign.
But the faith shown in manager Mikel Arteta by the club’s hierarchy has paid off handsomely with Arsenal now looking well-positioned to challenge for the top four.
Sunday’s 1-0 win over Watford was a scrappy one but they are now unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions and have discovered a way of grinding out results like Arsenal teams of old.
Leicester need to plug leaky defence: Leicester City’s 1-1 draw at Leeds United meant they did not concede at least two goals in a match for the second time in their last seven league games, but manager Brendan Rodgers will be aware that had more to do with the hosts’ finishing.
Leeds dominated possession and created a number of chances, with the best one falling to Jack Harrison who found himself unmarked with an open goal, to send his effort over the crossbar — much to the annoyance of manager Marcelo Bielsa.
A moment of brilliance from Harvey Barnes cancelled out Raphinha’s free kick but for all their flair going forward, Leicester seem to be a bit too vulnerable at the back with pressure likely to build with each dropped point.
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