Friday, March 1, 2024

Premier League grades: Manchester United outplayed vs. Aston Villa; Chelsea, Everton, West Ham struggle

Horror, horror Man. United! 

Horror, horror Man. United! 

Horror, horror Man. United it!

As the reds go stumbling on on on!

Manchester United’s struggling form continued on Saturday with a shockingly inconsistent display against Aston Villa without Cristiano Ronaldo. The Red Devils, up 2-0 through two Bruno Fernandes goals, conceded twice in five second-half minutes to settle for a 2-2 draw that leaves them five points back of the top four and with just one win in their last four matches.

After reaching 74 points last season, they are on pace for 60 this season, which has not been enough to qualify for the Champions League in any of the last several seasons. 

And while the attack has still been below average with no cohesion in a 4-2-2 formation that has not had any positive impact, the defense is matching it. They allowed Aston Villa to record nine shots on goal, which was the second most all season. Nearly 70 percent of Villa’s shots hit the target, which is just the second time this season United conceded higher than 50 percent and by far the highest amount all season by about eight whole points. What’s most concerning is, four of the five worst defensive performances in terms of percentage of shots on target allowed have been since Ralf Rangnick’s appointment. For a team looking to dominate the middle to create in attack, which they haven’t done, they also aren’t marking well enough and allowing far too many looks on goal.

In the the five performances where they allowed the highest percentage of shots on target, one was the Villa game and the other two were against relegation contenders Newcastle and Norwich City. It is a growing trend of playing down to opponents … and playing their way out of Europe.

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Aston Villa 2, Manchester United 2 (xG: 1.81-1.29)

Aston Villa: An inspiring comeback, and boy did Philippe Coutinho look comfortable. Not close to where they want to be in the table, but don’t be surprised if they go on a little streak here soon. They face Everton, Leeds, Newcatle and Watford next. 

Grade: B+

Man. United: The same old United. Below average and can’t get out of their own way. The defense is absolutely atrocious, and they have no cohesion at all.

Grade: D

Leeds United 3, West Ham 2 (xG: 2.00-2.00)

Leeds: A brilliant Jack Harrison hat trick was enough for Marcelo Bielsa’s team in a game they really needed. They’ve now won two in a row to move nine points clear of relegation. They aren’t safe yet, but they are close.

Grade: B+

West Ham: Just painful. A point was there for the taking with Jarrod Bowen’s last-second header that recorded an xG of 0.82, but he somehow sent it over the goal with his chest. These are the games they have to win for Champions League qualification, and those prospects are not looking too good.

Grade: D

Liverpool 3, Brentford 0 (xG: 3.19-0.34)

Liverpool: No Sadio Mane, no Mohamed Salah, and no problem. It took a while to get going, but this one was never in doubt. They got some minutes for some backups and looked good in the process. Hanging by a thread in the title race.

Grade: A

Brentford: It was always going to be a challenge with how the Reds control the ball. They could not do much of anything in attack though, and it’s now a concerning trend. Just three goals in their last five Premier League matches.

Grade: D

Manchester City 1, Chelsea 0 (xG: 0.84-0.55)

Man. City: Always felt like they were going to win, despite not creating the normal amount of danger. They’ve now swept Chelsea in the league this season and half a hand around the trophy.

Grade: B

Chelsea: Not good at all. The attack was predictable, far from sharp and never really got going. Romelu Lukaku isn’t in form, and Christian Pulisic got minutes but did nothing with them. Just outclassed.

Grade: D-

Newcastle 1, Watford 1 (xG: 1.17-1.49)

Newcastle: The kings of blowing leads. They find themselves in this position because they have a defense that makes a local U-13 team look like Atletico Madrid’s elite defense from a few years ago. About to be the richest team in the history of the Championship.

Grade: D-

Watford: They will take that point any day. A loss would have put them in the drop zone, but they hung tough and deserved it. It ended a poor run of form and gives them a bit of confidence.

Grade: B

Norwich City 2, Everton 1 (xG: 1.10-0.71)

Norwich City: Their best performance of the season by far. It was just the third time all season they’ve scored two goals in a game. This has the chance to be the turning point.

Grade: A

Everton: They lost to arguably the worst team in the league and were thoroughly outplayed. It cost Rafa Benitez his job, and deservedly so. Changes should have come at the half.

Grade: F

Wolves 3, Southampton 1 (xG: 2.11-0.93)

Wolves: Just the second time all season they’ve scored three goals, and it came on their third-highest xG. If they’ve turned the corner in attack, look out. Now up to eighth place.

Grade: A

Southampton: Ended what was a solid run of form, but they could not get anything going against what is a good defense in Wolves. Now they must push to get into the top 10, but the attack needs to find some consistency. 

Grade: D

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