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Tottenham tactical hint for Liverpool; lifeline at Chelsea and Solskjaer’s double standards - talking points

Dan Kilpatrick,Simon Collings,Jack Rosser and James Robson
·6-min read
 (Getty Images/Getty Images/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Tottenham have switched to a back three twice in the past month, against Wolves and in Sunday's 3-1 win at Sheffield United. On both occasions it has brought the best from Tanguy Ndombele, who scored an outrageous lob at Bramall Lane.

Spurs' five defenders also looked more comfortable, with wing-backs Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier enjoying more freedom to attack, while Harry Kane was able to drop deep and pull the strings as Steven Bergwijn and Heung-min Son ran ahead. It may have only been lowly Sheffield United but the success of the formation will have given Mourinho food for thought ahead of Spurs' next League game – at home to champions Liverpool. Dan Kilpatrick

2. Lifeline for Rudiger

With Fikayo Tomori on the verge of leaving Chelsea, Frank Lampard opted to give a rare Premier League start to Antonio Rudiger.

There has already been a breakthrough with the Germany defender, who was so eager to leave last summer, with Lampard welcoming him back into the fold earlier in the season. But starting him against Fulham felt significant in a month when he was expected to push for a move.

Rudiger is still determined to get more playing time ahead of the Euros, but it is unlikely Lampard will allow two centre backs to leave this month, with Tomori closing in on a move to AC Milan. Was this a message to Rudiger that he can expect more action in the coming months? James Robson


3. Time for Arsenal to move on after Ozil saga

Arsenal didn’t play over the weekend, but they still managed to dominate the headlines. Mesut Ozil’s move to Fenerbahce moved a step closer after he was given permission to fly to Turkey to undergo a medical. Once that is complete, the midfielder will join Fenerbahce and bring an end to his time at Arsenal.

For the Gunners, that feels like welcome news. Ozil - even when he hasn’t been playing - has been the centre of attention. Now, finally, Arsenal can look to move on and focus on the bright future being offered by young players such as Bukayo Saka. Simon Collings

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

4. West Ham hopes hang on Antonio's hamstrings

West Ham are still working to bring in a replacement for Sebastien Haller this month, but until then, everything hangs on Michail Antonio and his hamstrings.

The Hammers talisman, who scored the winner on his first start since November against Burnley on Saturday, has again struggled with hamstring issues this season but he remains David Moyes's most important player. Antonio transforms the way the West Ham play and lifts the confidence of all those around him.

If they are to continue to impress and build on a brilliant first half to the season, his fitness is vital. Jack Rosser

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

5. Is Solskjaer benefiting from double standards?

When Jose Mourinho took a title-challenging Manchester United to Anfield in 2017 and left with a goalless draw, his tactics were roundly lambasted. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s leaders left with the same result on Sunday – against a makeshift Liverpool team – but hasn’t suffered anything like the same criticism. Why?

The truth is a point in front of the Kop is a very decent return for any team with title ambitions. That is as true today as it was when Mourinho was in charge at Old Trafford. United’s players admitted they felt ‘flat’ after failing to extend their lead over Liverpool to six points – but if their title pursuit proves to be another false dawn, it won’t be because of a draw at the home of the champions. James Robson

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

6. No rest for Parker’s Fulham

After playing Tottenham and Chelsea in the space of four days, Fulham now have to dust themselves down and go again. This time, it is Manchester United who they are up against as they host the leaders on Wednesday night.

It will cap off a tight run of games for Fulham, who have been recovering from an outbreak of Covid-19 at the club last month. Scott Parker has praised his players for how they have coped with that and bounced back, but this clash with United promises to be a huge test - especially off the back of matches with Chelsea and Spurs. Simon Collings

Chelsea FC via Getty Images
Chelsea FC via Getty Images

7. Chelsea Women equal WSL record

Chelsea Women beat Manchester United 2-1 to jump above their rivals and move top of the WSL. The Blues are unbeaten in 31 matches in the WSL and have now equalled Manchester City's record top-flight run set between 2015 and 2017.

Chelsea were crowned champions last season on a points-per-game ratio and in this form they will be confident of defending their crown. Fran Kirby scored the winner which leaves the Blues above United on goal difference, and with a game in hand. “United are the best team we have played this year,” said manager Emma Hayes. "The difference was experience.” Simon Collings


8. Rowett worried as Millwall slide continues

Gary Rowett sent a strong message to his Millwall players after their dismal run in the Championship continued on Saturday. “We’ve got to start getting serious,” said Rowett after the Lions lost 3-1 at Nottingham Forest. “We’ve got to go and start grabbing games, we’ve got to start being more aggressive. The recent run is unacceptable.”

Millwall have won just once in 15 games stretching back to October and they have been dragged into relegation danger. The south Londoners still have seven-point cushion to the bottom three but unless they arrest their run they will be in real trouble. Dan Kilpatrick


9. Forster-Caskey getting back to his best at Charlton

Jake Forster-Caskey scored straight from a corner to give Charlton their first win in six games in League One. His goal secured a 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers and manager Lee Bowyer now wants the Addicks to go on a run as they target an automatic promotion push in the second half of the season.

Forster-Caskey has been held back by injuries in recent years but the midfielder has now notched up his fifth consecutive 90 minutes on Saturday and is getting back to his best. If he can stay fit then he will give Charlton a good chance of an immediate return to the Championship. Simon Collings


10. Palace must come back with a bang

Out of the FA Cup and with no midweek game, Roy Hodgson and his players have a break before their next game against West Ham on January 26. The Eagles were dismantled by some brilliant Manchester City goals as they lost 4-0 on Sunday without Wilfried Zaha.

A good start to the season before some stuttering form means Palace are comfortably clear of the relegation zone but the energetic, attacking football they are capable of has been far too rare this season. Should Zaha return to the side against West Ham, fans will want a sign that there is going to be some entertainment across the second half of the season. Staying up is vitally important, just not that attractive when done like this. Jack Rosser