8, December 2019
Liverpool’s relentless march to a first English title since 1990 gathered pace with a comfortable win at Bournemouth, while Manchester City’s defence of the trophy was hit by a painful defeat against rivals Manchester United.
Fuelled by Jamie Vardy’s blistering form, Leicester have emerged as the closest challengers to Liverpool.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Premier League weekend:
Solskjaer’s big week
Seven days ago Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fielding questions over whether he is the man to return Manchester United to their former glories after a 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa left the Red Devils in ninth and with just four wins from their opening 14 Premier League games.
A week on and Solskjaer has secured the two biggest victories of his time in charge since a famous 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in March helped turn his caretaker spell in charge into a full-time position.
United have beaten Tottenham on Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and now Manchester City 2-1 to climb up to fifth and within five points of the top four. On both occasions the scoreline arguably flattered the losing side with Solskjaer’s vision slowly coming to fruition.
Marcus Rashford has already matched his previous season’s best for goals with 13, Fred has enjoyed two of his best games since a £50 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk 18 months ago, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was outstanding in nullifying the threat of Raheem Sterling and Harry Maguire marshalled his defence resolutely under a late City bombardment.
There is still much to do for Solskjaer to convince the doubters, not least catching Chelsea in fourth to secure a return to the Champions League next season, but this was undoubtedly his best week as permanent United boss.
Klopp relishes Liverpool shutout
Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool’s first clean sheet in 14 games was the talk of the dressing room after the leaders’ 3-0 win at Bournemouth.
Klopp’s side made it 33 league games unbeaten as they maintained an eight-point lead over second-placed Leicester.
Goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah earned the victory, but it was Liverpool’s first shutout since September 28 that pleased Klopp the most.
“I forgot actually how it feels, to be honest. It’s great, we should have that more often,” Klopp said.
“For the boys, that was the most used word in the dressing room when I came in, ‘clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet’.
“Obviously everybody was desperate for that and now we have it, so let’s have it more often.”
Leicester happy to stay in the shadows
With Jamie Vardy on the kind of hot streak he last managed when Leicester won their fairytale title in 2016, Brendan Rodgers’ side have become the last hope of a competitive race to be crowned kings of English football.
Liverpool have left Manchester City trailing in their wake, but Leicester remain in the hunt after Vardy’s double inspired a 4-1 rout of Aston Villa.
Vardy, the Premier League’s leading scorer with 16 goals this term, has netted in eight successive games, recalling his 11-match scoring streak from 2015-16.
The Foxes have reeled off a club record eight consecutive top-flight victories, but Rodgers has no intention of talking up his team’s title chances.
“I don’t think anyone expects us to be near the top. We respect that, we get on with our work and keep developing as a team,” Rodgers said.
“It’s just natural, Man City and Liverpool are both incredible teams. We know we are looking to improve and close the gap. We have finished ninth in the last two seasons but today we looked like a top team.”