Will Isak’s return send Newcastle out of the Champions League?
One wonders how much higher up the table Newcastle United would be at the moment if Alexander Isak had been fit all season.
The Swedish striker, bought for £63m from Royal Sociedad last summer, scored on his Liverpool debut in August, only to later suffer a severe hamstring tear just as he was settling in at St James’s. ‘Park.
That injury sidelined Isak for the remainder of 2022, with the striker missing 16 games in total, before finally returning in January.
However, since returning to full fitness, the 23-year-old has begun to show the kind of form we saw in him before his break, and after Friday night’s double at the City Ground, he has four goals to his name. in his last two matches for the club.
His manager, Eddie Howe, now appears to have decided to go with Isak over trusted leader Callum Wilson for the match, and you can see why given his impressive scoring rate for the Magpies.
Isak has now scored six Premier League goals in just 10 appearances for the club this season at an impressive rate of one goal every 115 minutes.
Leicester show their quality in the recovery of the second half
The writing seemed to be on the wall for visitors to West London. Leicester’s performance in the first half had exhibited his recent problems: lack of attacking forward and uncertainty at the back.
But a wonderful equalizing goal from the team early in the second half was a reminder of the quality of this team. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was brilliant in midfield, holding off challenges, James Maddison did what he does best in pocket, sending a pass into the box, and Harvey Barnes was dynamic and then deadly with his spike.
Brendan Rodgers raised both arms to the sky in delight and relief. It was the kind of movement he enjoys.
The goal restored their team’s confidence and although there was no winner, which would have substantially improved their position in the relegation race, Brentford were denied a shot on target in the second half to clinch the result. This will be a positive step for a team that surely is too good to fail.
Brentford has raised expectations
Brentford have gone unbeaten in 10 consecutive Premier League home games. They are level on points with seventh-placed Brighton in the race for Europe. However, the feeling at full time in their draw with Leicester was one of frustration. That’s a sign of how Thomas Frank has raised the bar for this side.
Brentford have not won a game in which they have had more possession this season and again on Saturday they were unable to convert their extra time into victory. Frank later admitted that his forward players hadn’t shot and perhaps that raises questions about the creativity behind them.
But in the first half they wreaked havoc on the Leicester side with their direct play and perhaps the second half slump can be partly attributed to midweek efforts.
Frank looked tired in his post-match press conference and perhaps the international break has come at a good time for Brentford, providing a chance to refresh their minds and bodies for the final 11-game push, where they will hope to at least consolidate their position. high league.
“Yes and no, because I know what this group of players is capable of,” Frank said when asked if his team was exceeding expectations. He and his team have ambitions, but in the broader perspective, Brentford’s tremendous season has to be appreciated.
Bournemouth’s soft belly exposed
Confidence would have been high amongst the Bournemouth squad after impressive performances against Arsenal and Liverpool. They still have a good chance of surviving relegation, but the loss at Aston Villa will be painful.
They were undone by a slow start to the game (Douglas Luiz scored inside seven minutes) and a lack of concentration in the last quarter hour when Jacob Ramsey and Emi Buendía finished things off for Villa.
But for moments in between, Bournemouth often coincided with an Aston Villa side looking up rather than down. The home defense needed to be sharp and made some crucial interceptions, while Emi Martinez’s superb save on a Philip Billing free-kick served as a timely reminder of their World Cup-winning pedigree.
Aston Villa just looked like a more skilled and high quality team and they punished Bournemouth for their mistakes. The Cherries’ set-piece defense in particular left a lot to be desired at times.
While great results and wins are crucial, as well as central memories for fans, it’s the weekly grind of trips to teams like Aston Villa or Brentford, for example, that can make or break a season. You have to act on each one of them to have any chance of surviving.
While Bournemouth’s underbelly was certainly exposed at Villa Park, they showed they have the quality to hold their own. Now they must put those positive aspects to good use.
Gnonto back in the team and making an impact
Wilfried Gnonto was left on the bench for the games against Chelsea and Brighton, but after being restored to the starting line-up, he made the difference for Leeds in their 4-2 win against Wolves. It was Gnonto who set up the first goal for Jack Harrison.
His cross made Harrison’s task easier and it was the third time the winger had upset Wolves despite the goal coming in the sixth minute of the game. Allowed to isolate his marker, the Italy international is a real weapon for Leeds.
That freedom hasn’t always been there for Gnonto. It had become so obvious that the team was depending on him to create that he was getting a lot of attention. Maybe those two games away from the team helped because Wolves weren’t ready to deal with him.
The wolves must focus on their own mistakes.
Julen Lopetegui noted the decision not to give Wolves a penalty for a foul by Junio Firpo on Nelson Semedo that even injured the right-back and was just as baffled that the referee did not cancel Leeds’ fourth goal despite being missed asked to go to the monitor.
The pull on Adama Traoré’s shirt was clear and with this frustration coming so soon after a penalty was not awarded for Nick Pope’s foul on Raúl Jiménez at Newcastle, Lopetegui is probably right when he says that the margins are against his equipment. .
However, it is his own faults and not those of the officials that should be of greater concern for the Spaniard. Wolves had enough starts against Leeds to get anything out of this game despite conceding four at the other end, but they still lack a lead.
They scored two, a 41-yard lob and a deflected shot, but it was the misses that will persist: Raúl Jiménez couldn’t find the net from inside the six-yard box, Pablo Sarabia went wide with an open goal. He’s been spending too much time now to expect it to change.
Such waste means Wolves have to be solid defensively to win games; most of their wins this season have been 1-0. But once Craig Dawson was replaced, there was a lack of organization at the back. Bad on both boxes. It is a combination that risks going downhill.