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Monday Cannon Fodder: half recap

Sheffield United v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Good Monday morning, TSFers. January is an annoying month to be an Arsenal fan because the team plays just three times, although it would have been four had they defeated Liverpool in the FA Cup Third Round. It’s probably nice for the club, however. And a lull in the frequency of matches came at the right time for Arsenal — injured players have to to recuperate, other players get to rest, and everybody has time to work on their finishing.

As you know, Arsenal drubbed Crystal Palace 5-0. There were three other games in the Premier League, and Brighton take on Wolves to finish the half-weekend of action.

Brentford 3 - Nottingham Forest 2
Ivan Toney scored on his return from his 8-month gambling ban, although the goal was not without controversy. The Brentford striker moved the ball and the spray foam to give himself a better angle to shoot around the wall. What he did was against the rules. Had the referee or linesman noticed (and the linesman should have been watching), Toney would have received a yellow card and the ball would have been reset. His bit of skullduggery aside, Toney had a solid game and made me feel slightly better about Arsenal’s rumored pursuit.

Sheffield United 2 - West Ham 2
All you really needed to watch of this one was the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time. In that window both clubs scored a penalty and had a man sent off. James Ward Prowse converted a bog-standard penalty in the 79th minute. In the 93rd minute, Rhian Brewster, who had only come on in the 80th minute, saw his extremely rash challenge upgraded from yellow to red by VAR (it should have been a straight red on the field).

In the fracas that followed the challenge, Vladimir Coufal was booked for something he did. Four minutes later (97), Coufal picked up a second yellow and was sent off. Then in the 98th minute, Alphonse Areola came off his line to contest a ball in the air, missed it entirely, and smashed into Oli McBurnie. After 5 minutes spent attending to the injured Areola, McBurnie converted the penalty, his 103rd minute goal becoming the latest ever in the Premier League. West Ham wanted a penalty right at the full time whistle too, but it was one of those “not a clear and obvious errors.”

Bournemouth 0 - Liverpool 4
What an inopportune time for the Cherries, who were top of the form table, to forget how to play football. Bournemouth were arguably the better side in the first half and then looked as if they were just learning the game in the second. Liverpool also got extremely fortunate — Diogo Jota had a shot go off the post and in. A few minutes later, he completely whiffed on a shot attempt and saw it fall right back into his path for him to score.

People will try to tell you that Liverpool are ruthless finishers and so clinical. They’ve scored 47 goals off 47.8 xG this season. In his career at Liverpool, Jota has 52 goals from something like 52.7 xG. Darwin Nunez, who scored a brace against Bournemouth, is well below his career xG.

Liverpool are playing well right now. They’re a very good team, one of the three best in the Premier League. They’re also getting rather lucky. They’re more than 7 points ahead of expected on the season, mostly because their opponents have scored nearly 8 fewer goals than expected. Part of winning the Premier League is having things break your way, but luck and bounces are a fickle thing. Should the winds shift, Liverpool will fall back to where they should be — more or less even with Arsenal and Manchester City, perhaps slightly behind.