Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle are the three most surprising teams of the Premier League this seasons. No one saw Liverpool overall levels dropping significant. The signs of freshing up the midfield is there. But players being a shadow of themselves is alarming. Watching Arsenal and Newcastle having great stride on the 2022/2023 Premier League campaign is surprising to say the least.
The Premier League have always been a hotbed of excitement. With each season throwing up its own twists and turns. The 2022 - 2023 campaign is no exception, with several teams jostling for position at the top of the table. One of those sides is Arsenal, who got off to a flying start before a recent dip in form saw them overtaken by Manchester City. Meanwhile, over at Newcastle are going through a slight slump. Amidst all the drama, there was also a controversial red card for goalkeeper Nick Pope that will see him miss the Carabao Cup final against Manchester United.
One thing is for sector for all the three teams. None of the managers are in the hot seat with all the impressive work they did and are currently doing this season. To check the top football manager available The Stats Ball have a guide here.
Liverpool Impressive Win and New Young Player
Stefan Bajcetic is a name that most Liverpool fans were not aware of before the 2022/23 season. However, the 18-year-old defender has now become a regular starter for the Reds and is beginning to draw comparisons to some of the club's greats.
Bajcetic joined Liverpool in 2020 from his hometown club, Celta Vigo. He played mainly as a centre-back in Spain and has carried that form over to Liverpool, where he has displayed natural athleticism and impressive aerial ability. Despite being just 18 years old, he has started in each of Liverpool's last five games and played with confidence, maturity and conviction. In fact Bajcetic performance against Everton was his best yet, with Jamie Carragher describing it as "outstanding" and Steven Gerrard commenting on Instagram, "brilliant" beneath a post confirming Bajcetic's man-of-the-match selection.
A first senior goal for Stefan Bajcetic 🤩 pic.twitter.com/HfkGXknuzq— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 26, 2022
Bajcetic's father, Srdan Bajcetic, is a former Serbian international who played for Celta Vigo alongside Mazinho, the father of Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara. The compensation paid to Celta of around £224,000 ($269,000) for Bajcetic may have seemed significant for a 16-year-old, but it is now looking like one of Liverpool's greatest bargains.
Liverpool's academy staff members have praised Bajcetic's leap and timing, with one of them saying that "it's the best I've seen". He has been impressing since his arrival on Merseyside, earning a chance to train with the senior squad during the pre-season trip to the Far East. His performances in friendly matches, particularly against Manchester United and RB Leipzig, quickly saw him move up the pecking order. Injuries and circumstance meant that his competitive debut came in a 20-minute run-out against Bournemouth in August.
Just over two weeks later, he made his Champions League debut against Ajax, replacing Thiago. His first start came in a League Cup tie against Derby at Anfield in November, where he demonstrated his fearlessness by stepping up first in a penalty shootout, despite his effort being saved. Klopp and his staff noted his character.
Since then, Bajcetic has taken his chances to impress the Liverpool coaching staff, despite the availability of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. Bajcetic has demonstrated tenacity, hunger, and the ability to read the game and stop counter-attacks. The youngster's progress was rewarded with a new four-year contract last month.
However, it should be noted that Bajcetic has only played 13 senior games for Liverpool. While he has the potential to establish himself as a permanent fixture in the team and save Liverpool millions, such hopes and expectations must be accompanied by a sense of reality.
Klopp is planning to overhaul Liverpool's midfield significantly in the summer, with Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham a top transfer target. Despite this, the hope is that Bajcetic will become a huge part of Klopp's next great Anfield side.
Bajcetic's progress has been rewarded with a new four-year contract, and the hope is that he will become a permanent fixture in Klopp's next great Anfield side. Although Liverpool plans to overhaul their midfield significantly in the summer, with Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham being their transfer target No.1, Bajcetic is expected to save the club millions by establishing himself as a crucial part of their team.
Arsenal Not Bottling Their Lead Spot in Premier League
The Gunners have lost their top spot in the Premier League to Manchester City after a three-game winless streak, but there is still hope. Football can change quickly, as seen by Arsenal's recent fall from a five-point lead to trailing Manchester City on goal difference with just one point from nine possible. On Wednesday night, Mikel Arteta's team had a chance to make a statement by beating reigning champions Pep Guardiola's team at the Emirates Stadium.
Victory would have given them a six-point lead with a game in hand, but instead they suffered a 3-1 defeat, dropping them from the top spot for the first time since August and raising doubts about their ability to compete in the title race. Some online comments are already claiming that Arsenal have 'bottled it' and that the season is over, but Arteta strongly denies both accusations. "Psychologically, the marathon is still on," Arsenal's manager said after the City defeat. "We still have a long way to go. As I said before, three months ago and today, it's about tomorrow. The most important thing is how we approach tomorrow and stay focused.
This time there was no negative reactions as VAR as each video assistant referee check had some time to check. To have a basic understanding for football, rules and VAR click here.
Newcastle in a mini slump and Carabao Cup Final in Danger
Newcastle United's manager, Eddie Howe, expressed his disappointment at the red card given to goalkeeper Nick Pope in their recent defeat against Liverpool, which will see him miss the upcoming Carabao Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley. Speaking about the incident, Howe said, "I think it's harsh, Nick's visibly upset. He's been magnificent this season and doesn't deserve to miss next week's game." Pope was sent off for handling outside the box after he slipped while trying to clear the ball under pressure from Mohamed Salah.
With Pope's suspension, Newcastle will have to choose between Loris Karius and Mark Gillespie to start in the Carabao Cup final, as Martin Dubravka is cup-tied after appearing for Manchester United during a loan stint last year and the previous third-choice, Karl Darlow, was loaned to Hull City.
Despite the loss to Liverpool, Newcastle remains in fourth place, with only six points separating them from Liverpool. Manager Jürgen Klopp is optimistic about his team's chances for Champions League qualification, saying, "We scored two incredible goals, top goals and it's a massive, massive, massive win, but we are not in a position where we can have a big mouth and say we are here. It's obvious we're in a better place than a couple of weeks ago, but we have to show consistency. We will keep fighting and see what happens.
Premier League season heads into the home stretch, every point becomes increasingly precious. For Arsenal, the challenge is to recapture their early-season form and mount a sustained challenge for the title. At Newcastle, the focus is on paying tribute to Christian Atsu and finding the strength to move forward after such a tragic loss. And for Nick Pope, the hope is that his suspension will not prove too costly for his team in the Carabao Cup final. With so much still to play for, there promises to be plenty more drama in the weeks ahead.
Lastly, Liverpool are finding some form of late and keeping their hopes of being in the top alive.
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