The records keep tumbling for Mo Salah. The first Liverpool player to score in nine consecutive home games. The latest to hit 100 goals at Anfield. A third successive season of scoring 30 goals in all competitions.
Salah continues to rubberstamp his place in Liverpool’s Hall of Fame and all this for just £34.3m from Roma. Has there been a better signing in the last decade?
The 30-year-old has been key to the club’s success under Jurgen Klopp ever since his arrival. He has won everything with the club during this period.
Salah has dazzled despite not playing as a striker or a traditional winger, making the inside forward position his own with 186 goals in 302 appearances. One of his best traits is his availability. Salah is on the teamsheet week-in, week-out. He was last sidelined in November 2020 due to Covid.
“I can’t see him stopping because that’s just his nature,” said Klopp, who will hope Salah stays beyond his 2025 contract. “When he sits in a studio in a few years and works as a pundit everybody will then finally know how good he was when we were all watching him.
“He’s an all-time great but at the moment he has to work extremely hard to help us and that’s what he’s doing.”
This time last season Liverpool were slugging it out with Manchester City for the Premier League title. They have fallen some way from those heady heights.
Liverpool were, after all, two games from winning it all. Coming so close to a historic quadruple and falling short at the last hurdle had taken the wind out of their sails.
As Jurgen Klopp says, Liverpool, for all intents and purposes, were dead and buried about a month ago. But the gamble to change the team’s system mid-season has paid off for the German.
Irrespective of the outcome of this season, Liverpool have found a new blueprint for success.
Six wins on the bounce has brought about a sense of hope back to Anfield. The supporters can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.
You never know, they could emerge from it with Champions League football if things fall their way in the final month of the season.
The sense of relief was written across every Chelsea face at the full-time whistle. Two late goals saw them to a 3-1 win against Bournemouth, who many would have had as favourites heading into Saturday’s game.
No wins in ten games. Six straight defeats. No points under Frank Lampard since he returned as interim manager. The list of cons keep on coming for Chelsea.
But at least some of those have been put to rest – at least for now. The Blues’ undoubted quality shone through in the end, scoring three goals in a game for the first time since their previous win on March 11 at Leicester.
The combination and play between Raheem Sterling and Joao Felix for Chelsea’s third offered a timely reminder of the kind of players they can bring on to change the tide of a game. Finally, it paid off as the Blues began to show signs of becoming a team rather than a group of expensively assembled individuals. Just as importantly too, they dealt with an in-form Bournemouth, although rode their luck at points.
Now is time for relief, but not over-confidence. Lampard himself told Sky Sports: “It’s one step. I don’t want to sound like we’ve cracked it and this is it because it’s a tough time. But at the same time, we want more of that and there’s a lot of work to do and we can move forward because there is talent in the squad.”
Chelsea have overcome a massive mental hurdle, and must harness the lessons from their trip to Bournemouth with a week now to prepare for an equally as important game against Nottingham Forest.
Following that, they face Manchester City and Manchester United away before a final day meeting with Newcastle. None are easy fixtures, but the potential for back-to-back wins heading into a tough run will be much-needed if they are to end a horrible season on a high.
While Lampard may be struggling in many areas since his Chelsea return, he has already demonstrated one of his strengths – identifying young talent nestled within a vast squad.
Lampard previously made Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori first team regulars, and Noni Madueke looks to be the next to do so. The interim manager has already sung the winger’s praises too.
While Madueke’s arrival from PSV in January was hardly the headline from Chelsea’s free-spending transfer window, he has proved his talent in recent weeks and was very impressive against Bournemouth.
Despite taking an early lead, the Blues largely struggled for creativity in the first half and Madueke was the bright spark. He continued to get the better of Matias Vina down the right wing, trying time and again to create for his side. It was his hustle that helped Chelsea score their first goal too.
However, being only 21, there were certainly areas for improvement, especially with his decision-making. In the first half, he decided to go for goal rather than cross the ball in for waiting teammates. It ended up in the side of the netting.
But there is no doubting his impact against Bournemouth, following on from his first Chelsea goal against Arsenal. He now has a handful of games to prove he can be a regular first team player under the new manager.
A stroll in the park. First half, Manchester City barely broke sweat. They were made to summon a little more exertion in the final 10 minutes after Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty miss was punished further by Rodrigo in an ill-fated 58-second passage, but no player in a sky blue shirt appeared fazed.
The only irritation was felt by Pep Guardiola on the sidelines, incensed at Gundogan’s decision to accept spot-kick duty ahead of Erling Haaland. A furious Guardiola was seen mouthing “you have to take it” towards his 51-goal striker. Instead, Gundogan stepped up looking certain to complete his hat-trick, before cannoning an effort off the post.
The main taker has to take the penalty,” the City boss told Sky Sports post-match. In the end, the miss was incidental. City had won the game. Guardiola’s angst quickly subsided. A 90 minutes that held very little jeopardy for the reigning champions did at least get a spot on the billing of Saturday’s live broadcast, despite the usual 3pm domestic blackout.
Any spectator who tuned in watched another City walkover. A scoreline that flattered limp Leeds. And now, with the finish line in sight, a fifth Premier League title in six years is City’s to lose.
For 45 minutes, as Manchester City produced an insatiable attacking performance befitting of a team with the Premier League title in their sights, it looked as though Sam Allardyce had bitten off more than he could chew.
Leeds were porous in defence, toothless in attack and comprehensively outplayed at the Etihad Stadium, as one of the four games they have left to secure their top-flight status came and went.
Allardyce admitted after the game he was fearing how many more City goals he and his Leeds players would have to endure as the second half began with Pep Guardiola’s side already two to the good after Ilkay Gundogan’s brilliantly-taken double.
But the fact Leeds left the field having shutout City in the second period, having won the second half thanks to Rodrigo’s late goal, and having, as he put it, sparked panic among the hosts with their late rally, meant there were positives, however slim, to be drawn.
Leeds’ season wouldn’t usually be measured by games against the defending champions, but it will hinge on what comes next. Home games against Newcastle and Tottenham, either side of a trip to West Ham, will decide whether it’s another year in the Premier League or a return to the Championship.
The gulf in class on display at the Etihad underscored the scale of Allardyce’s task, but with another week with his players under his belt by the next time Leeds take to the field, those shoots of resilience could blossom into safety.
Ryan Mason isn’t going to be Tottenham’s next manager. But what this period of interim responsibility gives him is a shop window to show he has the potential to be a shrewd operator of a football team.
He made a key tactical tweak for their win over Crystal Palace that played a huge part in grabbing a much-needed three points for his club. It revolved around the positioning of Pedro Porro, who was utilised in a far more attacking role down the right flank with the insurance of Emerson Royal, back from injury, playing as a more conventional full-back in a back four.
Mason admitted afterwards about switching things up slightly to engage Palace higher up the pitch with six-men tasked with pressing the opposition – one of those was Porro.
His defensive blunders in recent weeks have been clear to see but what the rampaging wide man does have is creative juices – and plenty of them. His key attribute is his delivery and it was clear Mason wanted to utilise that quality.
Porro registered 13 crosses in the match with four of those creating chances for his teammates – the one that mattered was his accurate centre that was buried in ruthless fashion by Harry Kane. With more emphasis on him joining in with his front players, this new position for Porro may just help Spurs with their short-term goals this season.
Tottenham and Crystal Palace will have lots in common this summer. Both will be looking for new managers. Perhaps a complete new strategy. And both have a job on their hands to convince their star man to stay. Kane will dominate the headlines on that front but the future of Wilfried Zaha at Crystal Palace is just as important of what Steve Parish is trying to build.
Zaha is only a few weeks away from his deal at the club expiring and the 31-year-old will be a tempting proposition on a free transfer for some of Europe’s top clubs. Arsenal and PSG have reportedly made contact.
Zaha looked a man full of motivation to impress in the defeat at Tottenham. His battle with Emerson Royal was a great watch whilst he also showed his usual zest for a bit of confrontation when getting booked for an altercation with Fraser Forster. He was up for the fight.
The correlation between a player’s performance and the length of their contract remaining is an under debated topic in football although in fairness to Zaha, his performance levels are always consistently high, especially this season.
A barnstorming end to the season with Palace could make all the difference between clubs deciding on whether to take a chance on Zaha, who has openly spoken about his desire to play European football. If he continues to operate at this level then surely no matter what Palace put on the table, a giant is going to pluck him from their clutches for nothing.
Wolves looked as if they were on the beach at Brighton when beaten 6-0 last weekend but this 1-0 win over Aston Villa was another impressive performance in front of their own supporters that helps to explain why there is so much admiration for Julen Lopetegui.
Remarkably, given that they were bottom at Christmas, no team in the Premier League has kept more clean sheets at home this season. It is seven wins from nine games at Molineux now, with every single one of those wins coming to nil. That has kept them up.
The fear was that Lopetegui did not have the firepower squad to keep Wolves in the Premier League and they still have only two players who have scored more than twice this season – Ruben Neves and Daniel Podence having netted six apiece.
But they have been able to make up for that with enough endeavour and industry to see out these narrow wins. Diego Costa has scored only once all season but typifies that spirit with his work rate. Pedro Neto brought the same energy against Aston Villa.
Unai Emery has rightly received huge praise for transforming Villa’s fortunes, lifting them seven places up the Premier League table. But there is another Basque manager in the Midlands who has done just the same. Credit Lopetegui for saving Wolves’ season.
Until last weekend, Aston Villa had scored in every Premier League game under Unai Emery. That record was ended with a whimper at Old Trafford, where Villa registered just one shot on target and were beaten 1-0.
Lightning struck twice at Molineux on Saturday, though Emery’s boys had more than enough opportunity to leave the Black Country with at least a point. Tyrone Mings and Ollie Watkins were the guiltiest parties on a day when they drew another blank, but it was a team effort that registered their third-worst xG differential this season.
Defeat at Man Utd was to be expected even if Emery made his high standards clear by labelling the afternoon a “very bad result”, but this was an opportunity against a generous Wolves defence which had been hit for six at Brighton last weekend.
Emery has called next weekend’s showdown against Tottenham a final, but even if Villa do miss out on European football it would be harsh to be too hard on their season.
The incredible consistency he has produced at Villa Park has left dark memories like a 4-0 defeat at Newcastle in the last game before his appointment, which left them a point outside the bottom three, a distant memory.
“The position we are in, we could not have dreamed of three months ago,” was Emery’s explicit reminder on Saturday evening.
But he does need something to click again. It’s 12 years since Aston Villa were last in Europe, and given the rollercoaster they’ve been on since who knows when the chance may present itself again.
It might seem strange to praise a head coach and his side after a 3-1 defeat at home, but that’s exactly what’s about to happen. Despite Saturday’s loss to Chelsea on the south coast, Bournemouth still deserve huge recognition.
When most clubs around them were changing managers, the Cherries stuck by Gary O’Neil. They could have easily dismissed the 39-year-old after a poor run of form that saw them win just once in 10 Premier League games after he was appointed permanent boss at the end of November.
Bournemouth were bottom of the table after 25 matches and there were little signs they would find a way out of the relegation zone, but O’Neil has overseen an incredible turnaround. Six wins in nine games before this weekend all but guaranteed his team will remain in the Premier League next season.
“You could make an argument for Gary O’Neil,” Jamie Carragher recently said on Monday Night Football about the Bournemouth boss’ chances of being named Premier League manager of the season.
The Sky Sports pundit, who praised O’Neil’s courage and proactive approach during games, is right to give him a mention.
O’Neil’s brand of football is exciting. Bournemouth are brave and never afraid to attack their opponents – sometimes that’s their undoing – but it is nevertheless refreshing to watch. It paid off at Tottenham last month and almost at league leaders Arsenal at the beginning of March.
Against Chelsea on Saturday, the Cherries responded well to going 1-0 down and could have even won the game themselves had they been more clinical when the score was level. Win, lose or draw, Bournemouth have a clear way of playing and for that they deserve a significant amount of credit.
They are not yet mathematically safe, but recent wins over Southampton and Leeds have put them within touching distance of survival. With new owner Bill Foley’s backing in the summer transfer window and spending off the pitch, there’s every reason Bournemouth could become an established Premier League side. O’Neil is just getting started in management and the early signs are promising.