Potter shows Auba who’s the boss
Graham Potter may not strike as someone who relishes showing a ruthless streak but to manage a club like Chelsea, he will have to go there. And he went there in Chelsea’s defeat to Manchester City, hauling off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang meaning he joins the list of footballers being substituted having come on earlier into the match.
This particular decision was perhaps low on the embarrassing scale as Aubameyang played 60 minutes following the early injury to Raheem Sterling, yet the striker looked frustrated when heading straight down the tunnel at the full-time whistle.
Potter pointed towards fatigue being the reason for withdrawing Aubameyang despite his team searching for an equaliser with Omari Hutchinson handed a debut in place of the Gabon international. Even if he was slightly fatigued, the fact Potter felt Hutchinson offered Chelsea a better option having never played a professional game could be seen as damning for Aubameyang and his future at the club.
Potter said: “He came on after one minute. He hadn’t played for a while and he put in a shift for us. He did everything for the team, he was fatiguing a bit, as was Hakim [Ziyech]. That was the situation. We needed a bit of energy.”
On whether he spoke to Aubameyang as he came off, Potter added: “I haven’t got time to speak in depth at that point. Forwards want to play and they want to help the team. He gave everything for the team. He was fatiguing a bit so that was the decision.”
City’s depth contrasts Chelsea’s plight
While Pep Guardiola was able to call on Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish, two players worth a combined £160m who duly linked up for the winner, Potter could only turn to two teenagers with four senior appearances between them.
Perhaps there was an element of Potter trying to show the watching Todd Boehly how little he had to work with when he sent on Lewis Hall and Hutchinson. A message being sent as the club’s owner considers a move for Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhailo Mudryk.
But in truth he had few other options when it came to changing the game in the closing stages. “When it rains, it pours,” Potter told Sky Sports when questioned on the late injury which saw Mason Mount added to Chelsea’s absentee list before the game. Little did he know Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic would soon join him.
The young players sent on in their places all contributed positively.
Carney Chukwuemeka, who struck the inside of the post with a low shot before half-time, showed a willingness to carry the ball forward throughout, while Hall defended with far greater impetus than Marc Cucurella and offered more of an attacking threat too.
But the fact remains that Chelsea were badly lacking the pedigree of their opponents and ultimately that’s what tilted the game City’s way. “I’ve never experienced anything like it,” said Potter of Chelsea’s injury crisis afterwards. The extraordinary circumstances put even more emphasis on their business this month.
The ball is in Boehly’s court.
Is there any way back for Southampton?
It may have seemed slightly strange to suggest before kick-off that Southampton needed the win more than Nottingham Forest considering both sides started the evening in the relegation zone, but Nathan Jones’ team were in desperate need of three points as they looked to lift themselves off the foot of the Premier League table.
Against a Forest team that had only scored once on the road this season and were yet to win away from home, it was, at least on paper, an ideal opportunity for Saints to breathe some much-needed life into their survival bid.
But it never looked like happening. They failed to register a shot on target as they deservedly fell to a sixth consecutive league defeat. Six points from a possible 27 at St Mary’s this term says it all.
The club’s decision to sack Ralph Hasenhuttl in November and appoint former Luton boss Jones is yet to be vindicated.
‘You don’t know what you’re doing’, disgruntled home supporters chanted at the final whistle. It’s four league defeats out of four for the Welshman. He has had a brutal start to life as a Premier League manager.
Unless the Southampton board backs him with some quality signings in the January transfer window, it’s likely to get worse. At the moment, his side look destined for Championship football next season, a division he knows all too well.
Spurs show Crystal Palace the attributes they need
Wednesday’s games was another example of just how far Crystal Palace have to go. Patrick Vieira has been introducing younger players into the aging squad he inherited. While youth is often preferred, it does come with the pitfalls and in the Premier League, they can be painfully exposed.
“We have young players in our squad and that kind of game has to be managed better,” the Crystal Palace manager told Sky Sports after the game.
“The way they managed the game and those difficult periods they had shows a huge difference between the two teams. The experience was a massive factor on the game today.”
It’s hard to disagree with Vieira’s assessment. Crystal Palace had more shots – 19 to Tottenham’s 14 – and more final third entries, as well as more passes in the opposition half and passes in the final third.
But for all of their sometimes dazzling football in the final third, it was ultimately four of Spurs’ six shots on target that found the net. Only one of Tottenham’s shots on target in the second half did not end up as a goal.
They have a player in Harry Kane that turned the game hugely in Tottenham’s favour in the second half. Spurs somehow came out unscathed in the large periods of Crystal Palace dominance and made their chances count when they came – the key to any successful Premier League team.
These are all attributes that Vieira needs for his team. While Wilfried Zaha has often been the man to turn on the magic for Crystal Palace – and performed well against Tottenham – it is not nearly as consistent as he or his team would like.
You cannot say there is not the passion, talent or drive in the Crystal Palace squad because there clearly is, but after two bruising home defeats – although starkly different performances – lessons on game management and taking opportunities will have been harshly learnt.
As for Tottenham, after a poor run of form, it is exactly the second half Antonio Conte would have been hoping for. He also needs to find the consistency within his team to keep pushing those top four sides, but Wednesday’s victory at a tricky away ground was – another – good start.
Forest buoyed by Johnson’s return to form
Nottingham Forest’s first away win of the season provided further evidence that Brennan Johnson is in the process of rediscovering his best form. The 21-year-old started the season brightly with two goals in Forest’s six games of the season but then failed to find the net – or register an assist – before going to the World Cup with Wales, and even found himself dropped to the bench on a couple of occasions.
However, a little bit of time to recover after Wales’ group-stage exit appears to have worked wonders for Johnson, who has been re-energised since domestic football resumed. He scored twice at Blackburn as Forest eased into the Carabao Cup quarter-finals and was a constant threat as Steve Cooper’s side outplayed Chelsea at the weekend.
Against Southampton on Wednesday he made a decisive contribution, seizing on Lyanco’s error to race clear and calmly set up a tap in for Taiwo Awoniyi. His performance was backed up by the numbers too, with Johnson leading Forest in chances created (3), dribbles completed (3) and tackles made (2).
“Brennan very rarely makes the wrong decisions, he always makes the right decision for the team,” Cooper said.
“Tonight he made the right decision. And they deserved the goal and the assist.”
With the win having elevated Forest out of the bottom three, there is little doubt that Johnson’s performances will need to remain at a high level if they are to remain clear of the drop zone.
Kehrer’s shocker epitomises West Ham’s issues
David Moyes is a defence-first type of manager. Always has. Always will. He builds solid foundations and adds creative spark in key areas to win games. It’s what has made West Ham the force they have been for the last two years. However, this West Ham side does not look like a Moyes team. It ships goals at an alarming rate. The 2-2 draw with Leeds means the Hammers have now conceded two or more goals in all their last six games in all competitions. Opposition teams do not have to work hard to create big chances.
Thilo Kehrer – signed from PSG in the summer – must make his defensive compatriots nervy, as yet again he did not look up to Premier League level at Leeds.
His West Ham career started badly by giving away a penalty on debut in the 2-0 defeat to Brighton and his showing at Leeds was the latest in a line of wretched and sloppy performances that are letting his manager down. Yes, he was being asked to play an unfamiliar left-back role but within 60 seconds he had already played a horrendous back-pass that sent Rodrigo through on goal – one which Nayef Aguerd bailed him out with a fantastic last-ditch tackle. He spent the next 89 minutes being given the run-around by the excellent Wilfried Gnonto, offered nothing as an attacking outlet and made a host of individual errors. He is a liability and surely Moyes must have seen enough by now.
Villa will rue the result despite the impressive comeback
Aston Villa’s second-half performance underlined how Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui described them – that they are one of the best teams in the Premier League. The issue for the home side is they were nowhere near that level in the first 45 minutes.
Happy for Wolves to have the ball, Villa looked like the away side rather than the home side as they stayed compact, invited pressure, and tried to feed off the scraps that came their way if they could counter.
While this underdog move may work against Tottenham away, it did not against a Wolves side ready to exploit the room left down the wings. The decision in the first half by Unai Emery to set up for the counter-attack ultimately backfired as his side lost out to an early goal, lost control of the game, and subsequently the home support went missing too.
It was a weird atmosphere as the away end made the lion’s share of the noise and the home support remained mostly quiet until they booed the team offside. ‘Wake up’ one Villa fan suggested.
Maybe this was some of the advice passed on by Emery because ‘wake up’ was precisely what Villa did – they were positive, and after the triple substitution which included Danny Ings, Villa looked like the home side again. Emery summed it up nicely in the post-match press conference – “we played with the heart in the second half.”
The Villa fans and players will rue that first half, but not as much as Leon Bailey will rue his miss – he was inconsolable after his last-gasp effort went wide. It was not necessarily Bailey’s missed opportunity to blame, it was the counter attacking setup that put Villa behind in the first place that the hosts will regret.
Wolves miss chance to move out of the drop zone
Three games in and Julen Lopetegui has a win, a draw and a defeat as Wolves head coach. It has been an encouraging start, the improvement obvious. But the challenge is also clear. For the second game in succession, points have been lost late on. He needs them desperately.
Wolves were superb in the first half, Daniel Podence scoring a wonderful goal. Perhaps it sums up their problems this season that he departed with an injury at the break. As soon as someone finds some scoring form, Lopetegui loses him. They needed a second goal.
There were chances on the counter-attack but instead it took a spectacular Leon Bailey miss for Wolves to escape with a point. Three would have taken them out of the relegation zone but the forthcoming fixtures mean they could now be down there for a while.
Following the visit of West Ham next week, the next two Premier League fixtures are against Liverpool and Manchester City. January may yet bring more signings than points. They will need to be the right ones for Lopetegui to continue this fledgling revival.