The marketing of every Sunday as a ‘Super’ one is misleading. ‘Super Sundays’ are regularly terrible examples of Premier League matches. With European football played frequently at this time of year, the Premier League’s big boys are often kept away from the Sunday showpieces.
This Sunday, however, is worthy of the now overused title. After a week of European football, four of the Premier League’s supposed top seven play each other. Everton host Arsenal in the lunchtime kick-off, which is followed by another Merseyside versus north London clash with Liverpool travelling south to face Spurs at Wembley.
The stature of the clubs means their difficulties have all been well publicised. This weekend will be a pivotal one for each of the managers, with each of them having several points to prove.
Everton v Arsenal
Seeing as they are kicking off earlier, it’s only fair to look over to Goodison Park first.
This is being written on Wednesday, so obviously the mood around these two teams is a bit of an unknown quantity with their Europa League matches taking place on Thursday evening.
Regardless of their European fate, this is a must-not-lose match for Ronald Koeman. Sitting two points above the bottom three with only five goals scored in eight league matches, Everton are imbalanced, and failing at both ends of the pitch.
Arsenal, meanwhile, looked to be reviving their season with a four match unbeaten run and four straight clean sheets. That, in quite typical Gunner fashion, came crumbling down late on against Watford last weekend. Arsene Wenger’s side are again having to bounce-back, or the depths of the early season pessimism will resurface.
After a summer of unprecedented spending, Koeman must now deliver points. There are a couple of factors blocking his team’s path to success: his side are still bland in the final third, and the defence is unreliable.
Defeat here might not quite spell the end for the former Southampton manager, but it would be another mark against his side. At least competing with the top six was the minimum at the start of the campaign, and falling to a home defeat to a wounded Arsenal would underline the early signs that even a top half finish is a long way off.
Koeman cannot afford to revert to the negative tactics he used against the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham. The expectant Goodison crowd will become restless again, and the static forward line provides no threat. Frustrating Arsenal might be effective, but Everton need a moment of inspiration, or a sign of flair, to provoke the hostile Goodison atmosphere that has played such a role in many big game victories.
Unlike other teams, there is not the fear of backlash when playing Arsenal after defeat. The Gunners’ defence was again vulnerable, and the midfield can be overrun. If Everton go into this match on the front foot, harass, and attack with speed, they have every chance of potentially righting the direction of their season with three crucial points.
Defeat will mean no more than angry fans for Arsenal, though they could fall six points behind Spurs. For Everton, this match is the most significant of Koeman’s reign. It is a chance for the Toffees to prove to the footballing world and their fans that the early season struggles were merely teething troubles with the influx of new players. Everton must seize their best chance of all to show that they can trouble the Premier League’s aristocracy.
Tottenham v Liverpool
Tuesday night saw Spurs pick up one of the best European results in their history as they drew with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Liverpool played at the same time – which eliminates any excuses about rest between matches – and broke records as they drubbed Maribor 7-0.
The difference in quality of opponents is obviously vast, but both teams come into this on a relative high.
Last weekend was a slightly different tale. Spurs squeaked past the languishing Bournemouth, and Liverpool were frustrated, though far the better side, against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. The title is probably out of reach for these two this year, meaning that retaining their top four, Champions League status is their main domestic goal.
Spurs sit five points off Manchester City, while Liverpool are four back from Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
As was harmful last season, Jurgen Klopp cannot guide his team to supposed routine victories. Failure to beat Burnley and Newcastle has already cost four points, and a draw away to Spartak Moscow in the Champions League has made tough work of topping the group.
Defensively, Liverpool are as flimsy as they were last season. And, just as we saw for much of 2016/17, they are missing far too many chances. Their record against fellow top-six sides is superb under Klopp, however.
The backline cannot give up their usual portion of opportunities with the red-hot Harry Kane lurking, though, and their attack must not misfire against the league’s best defence over the last two seasons.
Spurs have their own worries ahead of another 90 minutes under the famous Wembley arch. The large pitch will favour Liverpool, and the Lilywhites have scored only three Premier League goals in four matches at the national stadium. While backing a Liverpool clean sheet is almost never a good idea, last season’s runners-up are still searching for the home form – in performance and result – that made them contenders in the previous couple of campaigns.
Dropping to seven points behind Spurs with the Manchester clubs looking set to occupy the top two spots would be a damaging blow, even at this stage, for Liverpool. The chance of Klopp being sacked remains minute, but the repetition of flaws is limiting their ambition.
Pochettino, despite their superb midweek result, will hope to silence the Wembley pestering. A victory is a must if they are to mount a significant title contest again.
Who needs it most?
The first match is perhaps the more significant of the two. Koeman nears the exit with every negative result, and, if Arsenal are to return to the Champions League, they cannot lose further ground.
Klopp and Pochettino, though, might be secure in their positions, but the ramifications of this match will be felt months from now. With probably two top four spaces realistically up for grabs, the head-to-heads are enormous.
Overhyping ‘big’ matches will almost always let us down. There are no guarantees we will have two crackers on this ‘Super Sunday’, but they will be tense, and are at least ‘Super’ in their meaning for the four teams.