Plus: Leicester’s defense is asking for trouble, a late spark in Willian’s career and a reality check for Brighton and Roberto De Serpi…
23:26, UK, Monday 08 May 2023
Artist Gibbs-White creates a masterpiece
It was almost impossible to think clearly for a second in a blistering Premier League encounter played in front of a frenzied atmosphere. But the best players see pictures that others can’t. They can slow down the game while all around them are in headless chicken mode. Morgan Gibbs-White revealed as he led Nottingham Forest’s charge against Southampton. As the ball missed him on the Zippy City ground surface, many shouted for him to shoot.
It seemed the only choice. But Gibbs-White sees pictures that others cannot.
He somehow dribbled the ball, taking all the momentum of the process and spinning it perfectly into Danilo’s path. It was artistic. Beauty is a thing. The season can help when you consider the stakes at play.
Leakey asks Leicester for trouble
Leicester somehow managed 23 shots and an expected goal total of 3.09 against Everton, the lowest in the Premier League at the time, in their most recent game, but their defensive display at Fulham was even more impressive.
The Foxes allowed their hosts to score five goals from an expected total of just 1.42, with Dean Smith saying after the game that his team failed to get close to Fulham’s players in attacking areas.
There was a sense that everything Fulham touched turned to gold in the final third, with Willian scoring twice from outside the box, including a free-kick.
But positioning Leicester’s defenders for several Fulham goals was poor, particularly for Carlos Vinicius’s strike, with Cagler Soyuncu and Wout Face leaving a gap like the nearby Thames for the striker to wander through.
Defensive problems predate Smith’s tenure and the manager has not been given much time to fix them – but he must find a way if Leicester are to survive.
They are the only team in a major European league not to have kept a clean sheet since the World Cup – a record that begs to be relegated.
Everton create a survival template for success
In the end, Everton had five points from xG 2.24 compared to Brighton’s 2.81. Roberto Di Serpi’s men could only manage one of their five big chances, while apart from Jason Steele’s unfortunate own goal, Everton scored from all four of their chances.
No one saw this. Earlier in the year, Brighton were beaten 4-1 at Goodison, which precipitated Frank Lampard’s departure. Everton last scored five goals against Sean Dyche’s Burnley in December 2018.
Brighton’s game against Manchester United just four days ago led to a banker home win.
But Dyche, who enjoyed a 3-0 win here as Burnley manager in February last year, is relishing his return to the Amex Stadium. Right from the first whistle, his side was in good form and executed his game plan perfectly.
Along with Leicester’s defeat at Fulham, the traveling fans will be singing long into the night, believing they have opened the door to another great escape.
Abdoulaye Toukour’s skillful late arrival in the box took advantage of Brighton’s sloppy passing and sloppiness in tracking back. The visitors will have to be perfect and rely on the heroics of Jordan Pickford.
Dwight McNeil never looked back after Dyche’s arrival. In a season of shocks and surprises, this might have been the best of them all.
Willian has been enjoying a renaissance of late
Willian’s return to London last summer raised a few eyebrows – and not in a good way.
After leaving Chelsea for Arsenal three years ago, the winger looked broken in his solitary season at the Emirates and quickly returned to Brazil with Corinthians.
But Willian’s homecoming turned sour, prompting him to seek another Premier League spell following their return to top spot with Fulham.
Remarkably, the 34-year-old looked back to his best after two barren years and directed the game from his position on the left wing as Fulham demolished Leicester.
Scoring two goals from an expected 0.1 is some achievement, and while he struggled to score his first goal, Willian’s second was an example of the quality he displays when he is in full flight.
His renaissance in the autumn of his career was one of many impressive achievements in the big time during Fulham’s admirable first season.
De Cerby’s Brighton Realty Sec
Roberto De Zerbi wore a worried expression throughout the first half. Having racked up two red cards and four yellows this season, he kept his emotions under wraps, his mood completely dictated by his team’s lackluster defensive performance.
Brighton were brought back down to earth by Everton four days after the Amex Stadium erupted in jubilation following Alexis MacAllister’s 99th-minute winner against Manchester United.
De Serpi admitted his players were still living on cloud nine at the end of a long weekend of celebrations, not just for those who remember the King’s coronation. It’s a well-timed punch in the nose, so he hopes.
„If we want to improve our target and set it higher, we haven’t forgotten the win against Manchester United,” De Serpi said.
„With big teams, the biggest quality is to forget when you’re winning. You have to be ready to play every day, every day, and today we came on the field late.”
De Serpi’s way was that his team only started playing at half-time, at which point four substitutions were made.
He continued: „I hope we can remember this date for a long time because today we can improve a lot.”
Eighth-placed Brighton have two games in hand at Aston Villa, so Europa Conference League qualification is still at least within their grasp.
But here’s proof that playing three games in a week requires more depth and a stronger mindset. An injury to Chloe March added to a day to forget.
With trips to Arsenal and Newcastle next, it would be a shame if the Seagulls saw their European aspirations go up in smoke and spoil a memorable season.
Saints youth needed more help
Southampton gave it their all, but this could be their season short. A vulnerability that has proved costly at Premier League level promises individual performances from players with big careers.
„We were ready to come, ready to perform, but for one reason or another, some details were against us, details from us,” Ruben Celles said. Sky Sports. „It’s painful because by fixing those things we could be in a better position.”
The young coach put in a good performance throughout and showed glimpses of his potential. But doesn’t that just echo the activities of his players? Romeo Lavia looks classy. Kamaldeen Sulaimana came and entertained. But this side lacks little iron.
Brighton have also brought in young talent from abroad, but it can be overlooked that their success has been built around experienced defenders Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster. James Milner is reportedly set to join Adam Lallana in midfield. Composition is key.
That combination was not ideal in a Southampton team that needed more help. The most experienced signing in the January transfer window is Mislav Orcic. He is rarely featured. Paul Onuwachu did not score a single goal. Lessons to be learned.
„Całkowity introwertyk. Nieprzejednany specjalista od sieci. Przyjazny fanatyk bekonu. Student ekstremalnych. Miłośnik piwa. Organizator.”