‘Leaky, noisy, messy’: Utd savaged as ‘truly unexceptional’ PL giants face grim reality: Talking Points
Embattled Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick continues to do little to repel the critics, while Antonio Conte struggles to spark life into a stuttering Spurs side.
Meanwhile, a West Ham star continues to leave little reason as to why he somehow hasn’t received an England cap as a rejuvenated Newcastle have given themselves the injection of life they so desperately needed.
Read on as foxsports.com.au analyses all of the biggest points of contention from the weekend’s action in our Premier League Talking Points!
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RANGNICK STRUGGLES TO INSPIRE ‘LEAKY, NOISY’ MESSY CLUB’
Manchester United are a right old mess.
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the conclusion of the 2012/13 season, it’s difficult to say if there have been many moments when all involved were singing off the same hymn sheet.
And after the Red Devils’ latest result — a 1-1 draw with mid-table Southampton — the noise engulfing the club is growing louder by the day.
The squad is reportedly at loggerheads with interim boss Ralf Rangnick’s methods, especially since the German has reportedly given assistant coach Chris Armas the lion’s share of the workload on the training ground.
According to ESPN, some United players have “jokingly likened Armas to fictional soccer coach Ted Lasso,” another damning indictment at the state of affairs at Carrington.
Centre-back and captain Harry Maguire was also the point of directed criticism.
The England international endured a torrid time trying to keep Southampton’s Armando Broja at bay.
Former Liverpool marksman Michael Owen didn’t hold back in his analysis of Maguire’s performance.
“I did fear for him and that was quite embarrassing,” Owen told BT Sport.
“He’s got no pace at the best of times but he was outwitted there (by Broja).”
But if there was one quote that encapsulates the worrying slide of United, it was that of Saints boss Ralph Hassenhuttl.
“It’s not a big secret that when they lose the ball the reverse gears are not the best from everyone,” the Austrian said.
To label the accusation that a player isn’t working hard enough is what Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville describes as “the biggest criticism you can have levelled at you as a sportsperson or an athlete.”
That’s not the only worrying downward trend happening at the club.
Superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has scored just twice since Rangnick arrived on an interim basis, compared to the nine goals in 13 games he chalked up when Ole Gunnar Solksjaer was in the managerial hot seat.
The lack of form has contributed to what ASare claiming as a ‘fractured’ relationship between the Portuguese star and the gaffer.
Throw all of this into a blender, hit the button, and you get what legendary English striker Alan Shearer describes as a “leaky, noisy, messy club.”
“They have become an interim football club — a club of caretakers, where authority has become diluted and players inhabit a world of excuses — who have spent an absolute fortune to become truly unexceptional,” Shearer wrote in a column for The Athletic.
“On the pitch, they are frayed and ragged, edgy and bad-tempered, casting around for someone else to blame, unsure of who and what they are.”
It would be remiss to not point out that despite all of the deserved criticism levelled their way, United are only one point off fourth-placed West Ham United, and also have a game in hand over the Hammers.
But delving deeper than a mere glance of the table offers a dark and depressing outlook that United don’t look like they’ll shake off anytime soon.
IS TOUGH LOVE THE RIGHT APPROACH FOR CONTE TO GALVANISE ‘DYSFUNCTIONAL’ AND ‘DEMORALISED’ SPURS?
As the rain pelted down in London during Tottenham’s disappointing defeat against Wolves, Spurs boss Antonio Conte cut a desolate and frustrated figure as he paced around the technical box.
The weather only served to dampen the mood further, as a comedy of errors from goalkeeper and skipper Hugo Lloris gift-wrapped the visitors’ two goals.
Sky Sports’ Liam Jones felt “it seemed like Tottenham were completely switched off from the job in hand from the first whistle, with their passing out from the back shambolic at times and the lack of reactions to danger in the box equally as bad.”
Conte has been a serial winner in his managerial career since taking over as Juventus boss in 2011.
But for someone so accustomed to leading teams to trophies, the way Spurs have struggled of late must be eating away at him.
That was no more evident than in a post-game interview he did with beIN Sports, with the Italian stating “it’s very difficult to talk about fourth place, because I am used to playing for other targets.”
His team is visibly low on confidence, even more so now having lost three on the bounce.
It led Conte to respond to a question about the team’s mentality in a post-game interview by saying that “you cannot buy the winning mentality.”
“You transfer it day by day and it is not sure that day by day, because there are players that are more open and they understand the process quickly, other players need more time to understand this.
“We are working very hard with the players, the players there is a great commitment but it is not enough. It is not enough. It is not enough.
“I repeat that if we want to be competitive, we have to wait and build.”
The approach of tough love didn’t work so well when Jose Mourinho was Spurs boss, and The Athletic’s Spurs writer Charlie Eccleshare feels Conte could be following a dangerous path by sending a similar message.
Eccleshare notes that Conte has done a lot right since joining, including improved performances from previous underachieving players.
“But if we’re to praise Conte for all the good things he’s done since taking over — the improved defence, the discernible attacking patterns — it’s far to ask whether a team so shorn of confidence needs being told again and again that they are not good enough,” Eccleshare said.
“And when he implies a battle for the top four is a bit beneath him, it risks showing a detachment from reality.
“What was he expecting from the dysfunctional, demoralised Spurs team when he took over in November?”
MAGPIES’ MOMENTUM ERASING ‘ABSOLUTELY DEPRESSING’ GHOSTS OF THE PAST
It wasn’t pretty, but a vital 1-0 win over big spenders Aston Villa has moved Newcastle United further away from the relegation zone.
The Magpies’ third win on the bounce has gone some way to shushing the doubters who felt that even with their new-found riches, they would still face relegation.
Make no mistake: Newcastle are still not entirely out of the woods yet.
But it does feel that they are starting to leave Norwich, Watford and Burnley behind in their wake.
Newcastle’s recent run of form has also sparked a bit of life and hope into a fanbase that has been left disillusioned for so long after several years of pent-up frustration at dour styles of play and the maligned former owner Mike Ashley.
Against Villa, the atmosphere was electric, and Gary Neville noted it could be the most important thing for the team to continue pulling away from the relegation zone.
“The work rate of the players was really good and it feels like St James’ Park is back,” Neville said on The Gary Neville Podcast.
“I’ve got goosebumps as this place has been absolutely depressing.
“In fact, it’s been awful and I’ve not enjoyed coming up here at all.
“There’s been woeful football and it’s been spiritless in terms of the club being disconnected from the fans.
“Now, this feels like something.
“They’re still down the bottom of the league but watching that performance against Aston Villa, I’ve got no doubts they’ll get out of relegation trouble this season.”
HAMMERS ACE CONTINUES TO PROVE HE’S ‘COOLNESS PERSONIFIED’
It feels as if West Ham star Jarrod Bowen’s insane season has slightly flown under the radar.
As of writing, Bowen has the second-most combined goals and assists in the entire league, having contributed eight goals and eight assists for the cause.
The only man with better figures? Mohamed Salah, who has bagged 16 goals and provided nine assists for the Reds.
What’s startling to think about is that Bowen is yet to receive a call-up to the England squad.
But with his recent run of form, including a goal against Leicester City in the Hammers’ 2-2 draw, it seems that England boss Gareth Southgate cannot overlook him for the next set of international fixtures.
Liverpool great Jamie Carragher certainly seems to think Bowen deserves a call-up.
When discussing the forward’s finish against the Foxes, Carragher likened it to one of the best strikers to grace the Premier League.
“Let’s talk about the finish, it’s very similar to Robbie Fowler,” Carragher said on Sky Sports.
“Keep an eye on Bowen, he doesn’t look at the goal once.
“He knows where he is, he’s absolutely fantastic — coolness personified.
“He’s got to have a shot at the England squad.”
If Bowen can maintain his form, it can only be a good thing for the fourth-placed Hammers as they chase a Champions League spot.