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Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp

Jake Jackman

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Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool were comfortable winners in their home match against Newcastle United, a victory that saw them climb to 2nd. They were frustrated in the first half, as they dominated the possession, but struggled to break down a resolute visitors’ defence.

The Magpies were always likely to set up deep and look to counter-attack. This has been their gameplan against the top-six teams and it has led to a lot of media criticism of the tactics.

For the home side, they managed to find a way through and that will be an encouraging sign for Jurgen Klopp. At the beginning of his reign, they struggled in matches such as these and dropped lots of silly points. That is no longer the case as they look devastating in attack and capable of breaking down teams with a negative gameplan.

Here are three talking points from Anfield…

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is growing into his role at Liverpool

The England international was given the start again in the advanced midfield role and he played superbly, as he supplied the creativity to put his side in front.

It came at a crucial time as Newcastle would have been encouraged had they got to half-time with the scores still level. The 24-year-old received the ball in central midfield and played a superb ball to release the deadly Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian doesn’t need to be asked twice in his current form and slotted past Martin Dubravka with ease. It was a great display of vision and technical skill from Oxlade-Chamberlain.

During the match, he completed one dribble and made one key pass. However, his influence was much more than that, as he was often playing forward passes that put his side in dangerous positions.

In terms of work rate, he has slotted into Klopp’s tactical plan well as he runs relentlessly for his team. He completed three tackles and made two interceptions, which shows his tenacity in the middle of the park.

As the season heads into the run-in, Oxlade-Chamberlain should be a regular starter for Liverpool.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Rafa Benitez has been constrained at Newcastle

There has been a lot of criticism of Newcastle’s style of play this season as they regularly set up to defend against the top sides with little motivation to attack.

They come across trying to keep the score down rather than win the game. That is probably an unfair criticism as they will want to take a positive result, but there is no doubting they are focused first on defending.

It was seen as a great occasion as Rafa Benitez returned to Anfield for the second time as Newcastle manager. However, the performance shows how his job has now changed, as he is managing a side fighting relegation rather than challenging for trophies. His team had less ability than the home side and that led to the tactics employed.

Benitez remains a very good manager and days like this one show the size of the job he is being asked to do at Newcastle. The owners were not willing to back him in the transfer window and that has left him with a limited squad.

If they are to compete, they need to employ defensive tactics, otherwise, they will be played off the park. They limited Liverpool to only 14 shots and managed to have seven themselves. The tactics worked to an extent, but the lack of talent meant they still couldn’t take anything from the game.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Virgil van Dijk has made Liverpool better defensively

Throughout the first half of the season, it was clear that Liverpool’s main weakness was their defence and that was going to prevent them from challenging at the very top of the game.

The problem is far from fixed, but the addition of Virgil van Dijk has gone a long way to solving them. He has provided an assured and confident figure at the back that can organise the defence.

 

His dominance was evident on Saturday as he completed four ball recoveries and won six aerial duels. Liverpool can now defend an aerial threat with ease and that was useful yesterday as Newcastle were targeting set-pieces as a way to threaten.

In addition to his quality at the back, Van Dijk is very confident on the ball and that suits Liverpool’s style of play. He can step out of the back four and launch attacks with a good passing range. Against Newcastle, he completed 88% of his passes and was forever looking to make positive contributions on the ball.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

West Ham United

What’s next for Jordan Hugill after becoming a West Ham outcast?

The former Preston striker has had a difficult time since his January move.

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Photo: Getty Images

When Jordan Hugill signed for West Ham United on January 31, many in east London had high hopes for the former Preston North End striker.

However, nearly three months later, the 25-year-old striker has played a grand total of 22 minutes for the Hammers and registered no goals.

The West Ham outcast must now look for a move back to the Championship to end his Premier League exile.

Hugill earned his big move to the top flight after an impressive first half of the 2017/18 season that saw him score ten times for the Lilywhites. The forward was coming off a productive 2016/17 season when he bagged 12 goals and was Preston’s top scorer.

(Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

But his time at the London Stadium has been a deeply disappointing one. Hugill has played on a paltry three occasions for the Hammers: ten minutes against Brighton, two minutes against Watford, and ten minutes against Southampton.

The English striker was always going to find things difficult making the step up to the Premier League, but few expected him to struggle this much. It is telling that even when main striker Andy Carroll was out injured, Hugill was not granted a larger role in the first team.

With the season winding down, the ex-Preston man must be desperately searching for an escape from his West Ham nightmare.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Starved of playing time and vital confidence, Hugill would do well to seek a return to the Championship. With his physical style of play and target man attributes, the forward would slot in seamlessly in many a Championship squad.

One team that has been linked with the West Ham man is Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough; a club that would be a perfect setting for Hugill. Pulis cherishes hefty strikers that can bully defenders and lead the line like Hugill can, and would certainly grant him significant time on the pitch.

After his failed Premier League step-up, Jordan Hugill would do well to save his career and make the switch to the Riverside to link up with Tony Pulis.

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English Premier League

If Everton are serious about top four challenge they must battle rivals for Clement Lenglet

The Frenchman has been sublime for Sevilla this season and Everton need a new central defender.

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After a summer of investment Everton‘s aim for this season was to challenge for the top four. It was a bold and ambitious plan which failed miserably.

They spent much of the first half of the campaign in the relegation reckoning, sacked their manager and have now limped their way to the top-half playing a dreadful brand of football under the guidance of Sam Allardyce.

It is fair to say, Everton fans are not happy.

Next season, the challenge again will be to try and compete with the Premier League’s elite.

But if Everton are going to do that, they need to improve one area of their team drastically – the defence.

Ashley Williams has been woeful this season and Everton fans would happily see the back of him.

Phil Jagielka does his best, but age is starting to get the better of him. Michael Keane took a while to settle following his move from Burnley.

Meanwhile, Ramiro Funes Mori has been injured most of the campaign and Mason Holgate has had an inconsistent season.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

A new centre-back is a must and, if Everton are serious about challenging for Europe, it needs to be a top defender.

Plenty are about at the moment, but the one which springs to mind for Everton is Sevilla star Clement Llenglet.

He caught the eye of English football fans after shackling Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford in the Champions League.

The Frenchman has been in fine form for the club this season and now Lenglet is being linked with a host of clubs.

One such team is Liverpool, and with good reason. Lenglet has a release clause in his contract at Sevilla which stands at just €30 million (£26.25 million) – according to Marca.

(Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Considering the price paid for the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Aymeric Alporte and John Stones after the past year that fee is an absolute bargain.

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is expected to dig deep into his pockets again this summer as Everton look to mount a renewed campaign next season.

Beating the likes of Liverpool to Lenglet’s signature would be the biggest signal of intent yet that Everton are ready to push into the Premier League elite.

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English Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur should give Reo Griffiths first-team chance after 9-0 heroics

The teenager scored four and assisted three as Tottenham Hotspur’s under-18s routed Arsenal.

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Tottenham Hotspur have plenty of young talent coming through at the moment and never has that been made more evident than in the under-18s result this afternoon. Tottenham dealt their North London rivals Arsenal a serious thrashing, winning 9-0.

It was a massive win for Spurs’ talented youngsters, albeit against a much changed and much younger Arsenal side.

But any North London derby win of this magnitude was going to have Spurs fans excited and rightly so. One player, in particular, was the talk of social media for Tottenham fans after the game. Reo Griffiths put in a fantastic performance for Spurs. He netted four goals and also grabbed three assists. That means the youngster only failed to play a direct hand in two of Tottenham’s nine goals.

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The 17-year-old forward has long been tipped as a future star for the Tottenham first-team and his four-goal salvo this afternoon took his tally for the season to 23 goals in 18 games in the under-18 Premier League.

His excellent form has not gone unnoticed and fans on Twitter were ecstatic with his display. In fact, some are even calling on Tottenham to give him a place in the first-team for the end of the season:

So should they?

It is hard to see why not. Harry Kane is, of course, the undisputed starter for Spurs – even when clearly not at full fitness. But second choice Fernando Llorente is widely expected to leave the club this summer after failing to find his feet in North London. Whilst Kazaiah Sterling is a strong option as another youngster, Tottenham fans would like to see Mauricio Pochettino give the 17-year-old a chance instead.

Griffiths is clearly a top talent of whom Tottenham will have high hopes. With just four games of the season left and Spurs looking strong in a top-four spot, it would be no skin off Pochettino’s back to see what the young lad can do.

Griffiths certainly looked like the real deal this afternoon and Tottenham should definitely consider giving him a chance in the first-team before the end of the season.

He can do no worse than Llorente and it could be the dawn of a fantastic career in North London for the teenager.

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