Tuesday 12 December 2017 / 03:22 AM

BOX-TO-BOX: EPL MATCHDAY 7

BRAYDEN ISSA wraps up the main talking points from Week 7 of the Premier League season.

Kane Unleashed

Harry Kane must really hate August. It’s the only logical explanation, because as soon as the calendar flipped over, he has exploded — this is isn’t just trademark Kane, it’s peak Kane.

Huddersfield shouldn’t hurt too bad in the post-mortem of their 4-0 loss. Their defensive record — one that entered the week as the second-best in the league — fell victim to Kane’s dominance and a Spurs team that finally settled into a rhythm after weeks of disjointed wastefulness.

It will be their lazy offensive contributions, specifically their ball-control, that will haunt Town most. The opening goal was a lazy possession that led to an awful turnover, Spurs quickly capitalising to find Kane, who finished with a clinical strike. There’s no stopping him that open, and a good sign for Spurs scoring early. But that didn’t help prove Spurs have overcome their build-up problems that have dominated critiques thus far.

Their second goal, however, was much more indicative of progress. Quality, direct build-up, clean touches and pristine finishing broke down Huddersfield playing pretty quality defence. The deficit quickly became three, Kane finding a slither of space to send a pearler into the back of the net. The gates were closed at that point, Tottenham confident and secure with Huddersfield lacking the quality to regain the lead.

Kane could have easily had another when the Town keeper fumbled the ball at his feet, but we won’t be pedantic; he was simply exceptional. Five goals this week and the form player of the competition.

Seeing Red

Although not usually the most level-headed of spectators, you could forgive Liverpool fans who are enduring old feelings of disappointment and frustration resurfacing. They dropped another game, a highly-anticipated matchup with Newcastle which ended a scrappy 1-1 draw, but it was the same old problems yet again.

After running through their various issues last week, I advocated for starting Wijnaldum over Can in the midfield. Manager Klopp ticked that box, but even with the line-up adjustment, Liverpool failed to find a balance between go-forward and defensive clarity that has been the root of all problems in 2017.

The first issue was the formation: Klopp made the right change, but it should have come within a 4-2-1-3, with Wijnaldum and Henderson sitting deep in front of the back four. Instead, Klopp implemented a 4-3-3, placing Coutinho and Wijnaldum either side of Henderson in the midfield. This misses on all accounts, marginalising Coutinho whilst expecting his two partners to share offensive load.

It makes two points inherently clear. Klopp, whilst understanding there is issues, hasn’t totally grasped where they originate and how to fix them. That wouldn’t be concerning if they weren’t so bloody obvious. Secondly, they need to steer into the skid. They have a complete reliance on Coutinho — again coming up with their only points — and only look truly dangerous in the counterattack. They need to sit deeper and assist their defence, remain patient and strike in transition. Of course, this would all be solved with a formation change, but instead Klopp has fed Wijnaldum to the wolves and created yet another scapegoat.

Now the only team of the ‘big six’ to sit outside the top six on the table, it’s clear Liverpool are yet to wake up.

Title credentials

Chelsea, despite falling to their top-table rivals, undoubtedly remain the third best team in the competition. There is, however, a gap opening between the top two and the rest of the field.

Manchester City proved they’ve overcome some of their insecurities, able to hold serve as they went back and forth with a top-tier opponent. It’s an impressive feat for their defensive acumen, the first true test of their improvements, even missing two of their normal back four. Only conceding four shots all game, they suffocated an unpolished Chelsea attack into some uncharacteristically poor plays. Fabian Delph was the bright spot, filling in at left-back for Mendy and doing so with ease.

Their attack grew over the course of match and after breaking through with De Bryune taking the lead, they were controlled and poised, steering home the victory with class. An impressive way to win in a massive clash.

United’s match-up was far from a blockbuster, but continuing to take care of business with such authority is important in itself. Another 4-0 trouncing, this time of lowly Palace, continues to remind the league where they sit in the contention hierarchy. Palace remain pointless on the bottom, seven losses in seven games and remain without a goal.

Everton in flux

Everton aren’t the seventh best team in the EPL, a mantle they undoubtedly brought into this season. If you follow the table, they’re the 16th team, and whilst that might seem extreme, they definitely trend more towards the bottom than anywhere near the top.

In the match-day preview, we highlighted this as a dangerous clash for the Toffees, with the precursor that they’ll probably win. Watching the game, that felt overly generous. Unlike a few of the more flawed squads in the EPL, it’s hard to see where Everton look for improvement. Even in moving to a 4-4-2, Everton’s lack of pace remained painfully evident, the team stuck in one gear as they jog around the park. They are totally unthreatening in attack and easily beaten in defence, with little chance of regaining their footing once they fall behind good sides.

And Burnley are no world-beaters – just miles ahead of Everton right now.

They get a chance a respite when they face Brighton in their next fixture — but that sounds like a 0-0 draw in waiting — before facing Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester in the next three. Climbing off the bottom might be harder than first thought.

Parting Shots

  • Leicester have had a tougher schedule than their rivals — four of their seven games against the top six — so their place on the table (17th) seems unfair. That said, their 0-0 draw with Bournemouth is awfully disappointing. Have to turn things around fast if they hope to reach a Euro league spot.
  • We aren’t going to bash Brighton for losing to Arsenal, but what’s become obvious in their two games against top sides is that their lack of firepower is definitely restrictive.
  • They may have been outclassed by City’s brilliant midfield, but Kante and Bakayoko have completely nullified the loss of Matic, after it seemed to be a real problem early on.
  • Don’t confuse me as a Fellani fan, but Mourinho definitely knows how to get the best out of him.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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