If nothing else, Bernardo Silva showed again why he’s Bernardo Silva

If nothing else, Bernardo Silva showed again why he's Bernardo Silva

It is my duty as a Liverpool supporter to bitch about the early kickoff on Saturdays for TV. We all signed a call to action on it and it’s ironclad. In truth, there’s not much the Premier League could have done about Saturday’s clash between the biggest rivals in the league the past few seasons. With Man City due in the Champions League on Tuesday, Sunday was out altogether. Manchester police ruled out a 5:30 local start due to a desire to not see both sets of supporters having all day to get gassed up, so the only television slot was the 12:30 one.

It certainly didn’t help Liverpool’s cause, as three of their most important players – Alexis Mac Allister, Darwin Nunez, and Luis Diaz – are all South American and got one training session on the right-handed side of the Atlantic before the match. City were less affected, with only Julian Alvarez in their usual 11 coming from COMNEBOL qualifying. Still, it was off an international break, so both teams weren’t together fully for very long before the game.

Which led to a quieter affair than we’re used to from these two. City played with its food for too long, which has been a habit this season, and let Liverpool hang around to equalize late. Liverpool were off-color for at least the first half and couldn’t muster much through City’s defense. Some of their play through midfield was gorgeous, but ran up against a wall at the last line, especially when City sometimes had five in that defensive line.

The game acted as yet another resume polisher for Bernardo Silva, whom Liverpool couldn’t find when City had the ball and he stunted Liverpool’s progression defensively by standing exactly where Trent Alexander-Arnold tends to fold into midfield. The combination of Silva on his inside and Jeremy Doku on his outside kept Alexander-Arnold in limbo for a good portion of the match. Right up until the time he scored.

We’ll circle back to that, but Silva was brilliant for the entire match. Consistently finding space to receive the ball doesn’t sound like it should be hard, but it sure is when opponents are briefed all week to keep you from doing so. Didn’t matter to Silva, who completed 56 passes and took 86 touches. And also had the time to come up with silliness like this on the edge of his own box:

It’s no coincidence that Liverpool’s equalizer came from rooting Silva out of his spot. Cody Gakpo likes to drop into the very space that Silva had been occupying from the frontline, while Nunez, whom Gakpo replaced, is kept up against the defensive line to get in behind. Gakpo drags Silva out of the way just long enough to open up space for Alexander-Arnold to receive a pass from Mo Salah, take a touch, and get a shot away:

(Which also gave us this Louvre-worthy snippet in time)

The 1-1 draw doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. There are a few gears that City can still move through, one suspects, especially when John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne return full-time. They probably should have won and yet only scored courtesy of Alisson slipping while trying to hit a long clearance. Which was something of the same story against Arsenal or Newcastle or Wolves. Liverpool might have gears, too, but not as many, and are harder to suss out given how much rebuilding they’re trying to do while simultaneously competing. The amount they can challenge for the title is dependent on how quickly they can finish reconstructing. But a team that’s still in the shop almost certainly isn’t one that can run with City for a full nine months.

What else went down on the holiday weekend?

4. That’s some protest

After City-Liverpool, all eyes were focused on Sunday at Goodison Park, where Everton were playing their first game after getting docked 10 points for their unlicensed financial circus the past few years. Certainly the Everton supporters came to the stadium ready to shout their lungs out about the injustice. But they’re still Everton supporters, which means over all they want to see Everton win. So seeing this just three minutes in might have made them feel like the next 87 minutes were kind of moot, because it’s not your day when the opponents are scoring goals like this:

That doesn’t mean Everton were bad the rest of the way, as they certainly weren’t. Or that the fans didn’t make their voice heard, which they did for at least the first half. Everton should have gotten an equalizer (1.43 xG in the first half alone). But this has been Everton this season, producing far more than they can finish.

As far as the injustice and protests go, it’s completely understandable. At the same time, it’s hard not to smile a little at the juxtaposition. Recall that about 12 seconds after Everton saved themselves from relegation last season on the last day of the season, the entire stadium sang, “Sack the board!” So both the supporters and the Premier League agree that Everton have been run in an unacceptable fashion, with fans fearing that board would land them in the kind of mire that relegation or this points-deduction now has them in. Whether they like it or not, Everton fans and the league are on the same page more than they’d admit.

More pressing matters. Everton’s next three games are at Forest, never an easy place to play, home to Newcastle and Chelsea, who can be anything on any day. They’re now five points from safety. Luton play Arsenal and City in that same timeframe, while Bournemouth play Villa and away to United. It’s hardly panic stations yet, because neither of those teams are going to get away from Everton before the Christmas rush. It just might inch closer to it.

3. It’s never boring with Chelsea

You have to admit it: You’ll always be entertained by this Chelsea team. To wit:

Thiago Silva is now the leading art installation of the folly of the fight against time.

Chelsea didn’t have any answer to a depleted Newcastle, especially in midfield where Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton were apparently still foaming over Brazil’s loss to Argentina. Chelsea were also bitten by the international break, as Enzo Fernandez was woeful and Moise Caicedo wasn’t even back. Thus, they were overrun by an injury-wrecked Newcastle.

Watch next week as they win, 6-0, over Brighton and then lose by 12 to United three days later. Everything is on the menu.

2. What are Crystal Palace?

Luton got their first win at home in the league, and, of course, it had to be over Crystal Palace. Because Palace are just kind of . . . there. They may be the only club in the league that doesn’t have an overarching story attached. Nor do they much seem to want one.

Palace have been a Premier League fixture for a while now, This is their 11th straight season in the top flight. A couple years ago, they looked like they wanted to be more than furniture when they hired Patrick Viera to take over for Roy Hodgson. Then they decided that was too much work and went back to Hodgson. Hiring Hodgson again signals a definite ceiling to what a team is trying to be. They’ve finished 10th once, but no higher. Fulham managed that in their first season back in the PL last year. Palace have been passed by Brighton and Brentford. Maybe they can’t be West Ham, but after a solid base of a decade in the Premier League, shouldn’t they be more than a team that can lose to Luton and not have it be a surprise? What is their style? What is their calling card?

A loud home support for sure. Tricky games for more illustrious opponents, though one they always seem to come through. Maybe Palace stand out in that they don’t stand out. That’s a personality, too.

1. Villa are serious

Aston Villa could have given up five in the first half to the Spurs, such was how open the game was. God bless Ange Postecoglou for starting four fullbacks in defense — two of whom moved into midfield all the time — four attackers and eschewed the chance to ever bring on Eric Dier, the only established central defender he had.

But never accuse Unai Emery of not being able to adjust on the fly. Early on, Villa’s compact defensive shape gave Brennan Johnson and Bryan Gil (and his wonderful ‘70s hair) all the space out wide and their high-line was consistently pierced by Son. Some half an hour in, Emery shifted Douglas Luiz into the backline without the ball, making for five across the back and spreading them wider. From the 35th to the 75th minute, Spurs only had two shots on target, after which they just had to throw everything at it.

They’re probably not going anywhere. While missing Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Buendia, they’re not nearly as beat up as Sthe purs and Newcastle, the latter of which still has to try to make a fist of the Champions League (though PSG could end that this week). They will see City and Arsenal at home in the next three games, so that might stunt them a bit. But again, given the roll they’ve been on, maybe it won’t.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.