Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

Thomas Partey has an "aura" about him that helps make Arsenal better, according to manager Mikel Arteta.

Partey provided his first Premier League assist as Arsenal recorded a comfortable 3-0 win over Newcastle United on Monday.

Injuries have limited the midfielder to just eight appearances in all competitions since his arrival for a reported £45million (€50m) from Atletico Madrid in October.

Arteta was delighted with the Ghana international, who had two interceptions and two key passes before being substituted in the 67th minute against Newcastle.

"We've been missing Tommy. He has this freshness, this aura that makes him a special player for us," he told a news conference.

"Hopefully he can keep fit because we can see the difference he makes on the side.

"I think he was growing and getting better as the game was moving and evolving."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a brace and Bukayo Saka was also on the scoresheet and Arsenal kept five consecutive clean sheets in all competitions for the first time since February 2009.

Arteta was satisfied with his side's performance as they climbed up to 10th in the Premier League table.

"We always said that winning is the best thing for any collective team, for us as well," he said.

"To get three clean sheets in a row, that we're scoring goals and everything is more fluent. The energy and the cohesion, the spirit around the team is better.

"We have to keep that and there's a lot of things we need to do better and improve but I'm really pleased."

Arsenal are next in action on Saturday, facing either Southampton or Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup.

Mikel Arteta believes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can build on his latest goals against Newcastle United after his brace led Arsenal to their 3-0 win on Monday.

Aubameyang scored in a fourth consecutive meeting with Newcastle in all competitions, adding to openers in both Premier League encounters last season and a winner in the FA Cup earlier in January.

The Arsenal captain broke the deadlock as he beat Karl Darlow at his near post shortly after half-time and then completed the scoring from Cedric Soares' cutback.

It was Aubameyang's first Arsenal double since last season's FA Cup final and should give the forward a lift, having failed to score with his prior 10 shots in the league before netting at Emirates Stadium.

"He tried even in the first half; I thought he had two or three really big chances and didn't score," manager Arteta told Sky Sports.

"He scored two today and I think it's going to be really good for his confidence. Obviously it's great for the team because he helped to win the match. Overall, I'm really pleased."

Arsenal were also boosted by Thomas Partey's return to the starting XI for the first time since December's derby defeat at Tottenham.

Partey completed 67 minutes and registered his first assist in English football for Aubameyang's opener.

"I'm really happy," Arteta said. "I think he got better and better as the game went on. He had a big influence. He gives us things that are different to any other player.

"Still, we have to protect him because he's missed a lot of football in the last few months, but I'm really happy with the performance."

The manager reserved special praise for Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, who combined for Arsenal's second.

Smith Rowe forged four chances, more than any other player, and laid on the assist for Saka to sweep in on the hour mark, all but ending Newcastle's interest in the contest.

Smith Rowe, still just 20, has now either scored or assisted in seven of his 10 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions this season.

"When we are winning, they put a smile on my face," Arteta added of the pair. "I know what they are capable of doing.

"They are developing really well and that's merit to them, merit to their team-mates and to everybody that supports them and protects them as well. The performances that they are putting in are extraordinary.

"I think it is [a boost] for everybody, to have that mixture of energy, passion and a little bit of immaturity that, at times, is good, so you don't play as tense like the senior players. I think they've been doing really well."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang maintained his fine scoring record against Newcastle United as Arsenal continued to climb the table with a 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium.

Gunners captain Aubameyang has endured a testing season along with his team-mates but enjoys facing Newcastle, scoring in each of the sides' previous three meetings heading into this game - including vital openers in both Premier League encounters last season.

That trend continued on Monday with the breakthrough goal five minutes after half-time and a clinching third 13 minutes from the end as Arsenal picked off a Newcastle team showing eight changes but little improvement from their defeat at Sheffield United.

Bukayo Saka doubled the home side's advantage between Aubameyang's strikes as Mikel Arteta's men breached the top half, albeit having played four games more than 11th-placed Aston Villa.

Arsenal should have led after 15 minutes when Karl Darlow blocked Saka's low shot with his right boot but directed the ball only as far as Aubameyang, who hit the crossbar rather than the back of an empty net from a tight angle.

Aubameyang missed the target again under pressure from a retreating Andy Carroll and soon tallied his 10th consecutive attempt without scoring in the league, also seeing a deflected cross clip the post before the break.

Darlow got down to make a strong one-handed save from Alexandre Lacazette at the start of the second half but was soon beaten as Aubameyang finally got his goal, driving beyond the goalkeeper at his near post as Arsenal countered following a Newcastle corner.

Another break from another aimless visiting attack set the stage for the second on the hour mark, with Emile Smith Rowe able to run at Jamaal Lascelles and cut a low cross back for Saka to sweep in.

Newcastle, facing a ninth game without victory, were grateful to Darlow for a brave block as Lacazette headed goalwards, yet it was merely another temporary reprieve as Aubameyang completed the scoring, benefiting from a favourable VAR check as Cedric Soares kept the ball in play.

Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Martinelli have returned to first-team training ahead of Arsenal's Premier League clash with Newcastle United.

Influential left-back Tierney missed Thursday's home draw with Crystal Palace due to muscle soreness and underwent an MRI scan on Friday to determine the extent of the problem.

His absence was felt in that stalemate, with no Arsenal player having created more chances this season than the Scotland international's 28 across all competitions.

Martinelli, meanwhile, has not featured since the end of December. He injured an ankle on January 9 in the warm-up ahead of Arsenal's 2-0 win over Newcastle in the FA Cup.

However, the teenage forward is in contention to return in Monday's league clash with the same opponents, while Tierney will be further assessed ahead of the match.

An update on Arsenal's official website on Sunday read: "Gabi is now back in full training and is available for selection.

"Kieran has recovered from his tight calf and is back in training with the squad. Kieran will be assessed and tested ahead of Monday's match."

Pablo Mari is Arsenal's only confirmed absentee for the game, with the centre-back continuing his rehabilitation from a calf injury sustained in training.

Speaking on Friday, Mikel Arteta revealed he expects Mari to miss Arsenal's "next few games".

Arsenal head into Monday's match looking to build on a return of 14 wins in their last 15 Premier League meetings with Newcastle, the only loss in that run coming in April 2018.

The Gunners have kept 25 Premier League clean sheets against Newcastle - only Manchester United have kept more against a single opponent in the competition's history (27 against both Tottenham and Aston Villa).

Steve Bruce unleashed a furious assessment of his Newcastle United players, branding their performance at Sheffield United "absolutely s***" and declaring "the gloves are off now".

The Magpies were beaten 1-0 at Bramall Lane on Tuesday to become the first team to lose to the Blades in the Premier League this season.

They were also the first side to fail to score against Sheffield United in the top flight since July as they lost to a team starting the day bottom of the table for the first time since October 2015.

Bruce has come in for increasing criticism from fans for his team's performances during an eight-game winless run in which they have exited the EFL Cup and FA Cup, as well as suffering four league losses.

The Newcastle head coach accepts he got things wrong against Sheffield United but claims some critics have always felt he was "never the right choice".

After their latest setback, Bruce has made it clear he will not tolerate anything but a commitment to his methods at St James' Park.

"I've let them be comfortable," he said of his players. "But, like I say, the gloves are off now and we will do it my way. We've played a certain way to try to get the results we need.

"We were absolutely fr****** hopeless the other night; we were absolutely s****. Unfortunately, that's happened a little too often in my 18 months here; it was nowhere near good enough for the challenge ahead. Maybe it's a mentality thing.

"If you're a Premier League manager you can't accept what happened at Sheffield United. We were completely and utterly hopeless and I have to accept what's coming my way. If I was a supporter I'd be concerned."

While the loss to Sheffield United was the nadir of their season, the signs have been worrying for Newcastle for some weeks.

Much of the criticism of Bruce has centred on a perceived negative style of play, with Newcastle having averaged the lowest possession (37.8 per cent) and completed the second-fewest passes (4,430) in the Premier League this season.

Only Burnley and West Brom have attempted fewer shots than Newcastle's 150, which have yielded 18 goals, the fifth-lowest total in the division. Only five teams have conceded more than their 27 goals and just three have kept fewer than their three clean sheets.

"I wouldn't expect to be reassured after the other night," Bruce said of his position. "I pick the team, I got it wrong and I have to take responsibility. I don't want reassurances. I understand it's nowhere near good enough so let's get ready for the challenge ahead.

"If you look at my record over the years, I've got enough on my CV to make sure I can slowly take the club forward. Some would argue against that. I accept that. In some people's eyes, I was never the right choice. I understand that."

Aston Villa's scheduled home Premier League game with Everton on Sunday has been postponed.

Villa revealed a "significant" coronavirus outbreak on January 7, the day before they were due to face Liverpool in the FA Cup.

While they still went ahead with that match, fielding a squad made up entirely of youth players, their Premier League meeting with Tottenham on Wednesday was not able to go ahead.

The Premier League decided at the start of the week to switch that game with Spurs versus Fulham, another match that had previously been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Craven Cottage last month.

It was always a possibility Villa's hosting of Everton could fall victim as well, and with several of the club's players and staff still in isolation, the Premier League made the decision to postpone on Thursday.

The league also announced a new date for Villa's clash with Newcastle United, which would have been played on December 4 were it not for a coronavirus outbreak at St James' Park.

Now the game is set to take place on January 23, while the Everton match will be rearranged at a later date.

Sheffield United picked up a 1-0 win against Newcastle United to snap the longest ever wait for a victory at the start of a Premier League season.

The Blades had failed to win any of their opening 17 top-flight games this season, losing all but two of those without keeping a clean sheet in any.

Chris Wilder's men were winless in 20 games in the competition stretching back into last season, but they finally got off the mark against Newcastle on Tuesday.

Substitute Billy Sharp converted from the penalty spot 17 minutes from time for his 100th league goal for the club and Newcastle, who had Ryan Fraser sent off in the first half, could not respond.

The south Yorkshire club's 18-game wait for a win at the start of the season is the second longest in English top-flight history, behind only Bolton Wanderers (22 games in 1902-03).

Only Derby County (32) between September 2007 and May 2008, meanwhile, have gone longer between wins in the Premier League era.

The Blades remain bottom of the division and are nine points adrift of safety, but Wilder is hopeful his side can now push on after ending their record-breaking run.

"I'm delighted. I just want to get home to the wife," he told Sky Sports. "It has been a long time coming for a lot of people in this football club, far too long. I am delighted for the players and the supporters.

"Them being down to 10 men and the penalty made it easier but I would be disappointed if that took away from a decent performance.

"I have said all along, we have been competitive in 90 per cent of the games. We have to accept the results have not been good enough.

"It only means something if we build on it. We have to move on from this. There's still a long way to go and a load of points to play for. 

"The season isn't done in January. We have a big task and a huge challenge but, if we keep playing like that, then we can make it interesting."

Gabriel Martinelli is set to for a scan on the ankle injury sustained prior to Arsenal's FA Cup win over Newcastle United, with boss Mikel Arteta describing himself as "gutted" by the forward's latest setback.

The Brazilian was a late withdrawal from Arsenal's starting XI for the third-round tie at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, which the Gunners won 2-0 after extra-time, and replaced by Reiss Nelson.

Martinelli has only recently returned from a serious knee injury sustained in June and Arteta said the teenager was in tears when providing an update on his condition after the match.

"I am gutted. I was in my office before the game and one of the coaches came in and told me that Gabi had hurt himself, that he'd twisted his ankle," Arteta said.

"I went to the medical room and he was in tears. He was in a lot of pain and we're going to have to see how he is. It didn't look good. He was in pain so I imagine that we're not going to have good news with him.

"We really want to know what's going on. He's a character and he wants to play the next game. He doesn't care and can handle pain but I don't know. Hopefully there is nothing too serious but to start with, it didn't look too good."

Emile Smith Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were on target in the additional minutes but only after Bernd Leno had made a fine late stop from Andy Carroll to force extra time.

"We had to be patient," added Arteta, who has won all seven of the FA Cup ties he has overseen as Arsenal boss including last season's final triumph over Chelsea. 

"They are a team who are well-organised and make it hard for you. We had the chances I think, very big chances to score much earlier but when you don't do that, the game is open.

"If you don't do that in your box, you need your keeper in a key moment - like it happened after the corner kick on the counter - to save you.

"Bernd did it in a magnificent way and at the end we scored two and deserved to go through."

A relieved Emile Smith Rowe felt Arsenal showed their newfound togetherness after needing extra time to see off Newcastle United in the FA Cup. 

The Gunners had to go the distance as they began their defence of the trophy, with in-form midfielder Smith Rowe finding the breakthrough in the 109th minute before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tucked home Kieran Tierney's cross from close range. 

It could have been a very different story for Smith Rowe, however, who was shown a red card for his challenge on Sean Longstaff during stoppage time after the initial 90 minutes, only for referee Chris Kavanagh to downgrade his decision to a booking after consulting the pitchside monitor. 

"I was really happy, a bit of a relief for me with the incident before - it definitely wasn't intentional - happy to get the goal and get through to the next round," the 20-year-old told BBC Sport. 

"We knew how tough it was going to be, they're a tough opponent. It was about breaking them down." 

Mikel Arteta's decision to bring Smith Rowe into his Premier League starting line-up sparked a three-game winning run, beginning with the 3-1 Boxing Day triumph against Chelsea. 

And, with the game deadlocked, Arteta turned to the bench and his increasingly influential playmaker. 

"From a young kid I have always wanted to play for this club, I am really happy," Smith Rowe added. 

"It shows how together we are, we have been working off the pitch to get closer as a group and it shows." 

Emile Smith Rowe was the hero for Arsenal as they beat Newcastle United 2-0 after extra time to reach the FA Cup fourth round.

The holders were poor for much of normal time, which looked to be coming to an end with Smith Rowe sent off for a foul on Sean Longstaff.

However, the VAR advised referee Chris Kavanagh to revisit that decision, which was overturned, allowing Smith Rowe to make the most of his reprieve by punishing a wasteful Newcastle side with a 109th-minute goal.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's simple strike added a second and, while there is concern for Arsenal over Gabriel Martinelli, who suffered an ankle injury in the warm-up, Mikel Arteta's men will be thankful to have kept their defence alive following a below-par display.

A familiar pairing helped Tottenham return to winning ways in the Premier League this weekend. 

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were both on target as Jose Mourinho's side ended a four-match winless streak in the competition with a comfortable 3-0 triumph over Leeds United. 

Their rapport has been one of the defining stories of the season but, away from north London, several other games produced some interesting statistics.

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the quirkiest stats from the weekend's action, with Leicester City's win at Newcastle United a source of a couple of fascinating facts.

 

Kane and Son combine again

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min's almost telepathic understanding was on show again in Tottenham's defeat of Leeds.

The South Korea international swept in Kane's pass to become the 18th Spurs player to score 100 goals for the club in all competitions on what was his 253rd appearance.

Kane has now assisted nine goals for Son in the Premier League, while the South Korean has laid on four for the England captain in the 2020-21 season – no two players have linked up more in a single season in the competition.

They have plenty of time left to leapfrog Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, who combined 13 times during Blackburn Rovers' 1994-95 title-winning season. 

Evergreen Vardy keeps on going

Jamie Vardy might be 33 but the Leicester striker is showing no signs of slowing down. 

His assist for James Maddison's opener in the 2-1 win over Newcastle at the weekend means he has been directly involved in 98 Premier League goals since turning 30 (80 goals and 18 assists). 

He leapfrogged Paolo Di Canio to move joint-sixth with Manchester United icon Ryan Giggs in the all-time list for most Premier League goal involvements aged 30-plus. 

He is now within touching distance of Gianfranco Zola (101) and Shearer (102), with Ian Wright in third with 110 involvements. 

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is second with 118, while Teddy Sheringham leads the way with 127 (77 goals and 50 assists).

Tierney waves tartan flag for Gunners

Arsenal do not have a rich lineage of Scottish players during the Premier League era, but left-back Kieran Tierney is doing his best to change that.

The former Celtic man became the first Scottish player to score an away Premier League goal for the Gunners in their thumping of West Brom and the first to do so in the top flight since Charlie Nicholas in March 1986. 

The 23-year-old cut inside from the left flank and curled a brilliant finish beyond Sam Johnstone to open the scoring, before then going on to tee up Alexandre Lacazette's second goal in the rout of Sam Allardyce's woeful Baggies.

Tierney – who has been tipped as a future Arsenal captain by boss Mikel Arteta – only needs one more goal to join Paul Dickov (three) as the Gunners' top-scoring Scottish player in the Premier League.

Carroll ends lengthy wait for Magpies goal

Newcastle tasted defeat against the Foxes but they could at least toast a return to the scoresheet after an almighty break for Andy Carroll. 

Only Wayne Rooney has had a longer gap between Premier League goals for the same club than Carroll, who netted for the first time of his second Magpies spell.

Carroll's goal was his first for Newcastle since he re-joined the club in 2019-20. The former Liverpool and West Ham forward had last netted for the Magpies on Boxing Day 2010, in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City.

With a gap of 10 years and eight days between his strikes for Newcastle, Carroll is behind only Rooney for the largest stretch of time between two goals for the same club in the Premier League.

Rooney scored on the opening day of the 2017-18 season for Everton, 13 years and 121 days after his last goal for the Toffees in the 2003-04 season.

Only Wayne Rooney has had a longer gap between Premier League goals for the same club than Andy Carroll, who netted for the first time of his second Newcastle United spell in a 2-1 loss to Leicester City.

Carroll, who turns 32 on Wednesday, made his ninth top-flight appearance of the season on Sunday, coming on as a 79th-minute substitute with Steve Bruce's side 2-0 down to goals from James Maddison and Youri Tielemans.

He scored within three minutes, thumping in a well-timed volley to haul Newcastle back into the contest, though the Foxes ultimately held firm to secure their seventh away win of the season.

Leicester are the 19th different top-flight side to win at least seven of their first nine away games of a season – none of the previous 18 have finished outside of the top four.

Carroll's goal was his first for Newcastle since he re-joined the club in 2019-20.

The former Liverpool and West Ham forward had last netted for the Magpies on Boxing Day 2010, in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City.

Coincidentally, his only two league goals for Liverpool in 2010-11 – following a reported £35million move – also came against City.

With a gap of 10 years and eight days between his strikes for Newcastle, Carroll is behind only Rooney for the longest length of time between two goals for the same club in the Premier League.

Rooney scored on the opening day of the 2017-18 season for Everton, 13 years and 121 days after his last goal for the Toffees in the 2003-04 season.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp revelled in the long-awaited return of star midfielder Thiago Alcantara.

Thiago came off the bench in his first appearance since October as Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw by Newcastle United in the Premier League on Wednesday.

The former Bayern Munich man, who sustained a knee injury in a 2-2 draw with Everton on October 17, was a 73rd-minute substitute and managed to make 23 passes with 91.3 per cent accuracy midweek.

"We signed Thiago actually because we thought he was a good player, so you can imagine we would like to have him in the team. That's clear," Klopp told reporters during his post-match news conference.

"What the other boys did in the time he was not available is absolutely incredible. James Milner, for example, tonight played a super game in midfield. Really. So, yes, it's good [he is back], he is a super player. I think of the 20 minutes, 12 round about were brilliant and then he felt the intensity, but that's normal. He trained exactly twice with the team. There is still some physical work to do, still some rhythm to get.

"[Xherdan] Shaqiri is back and that's, by the way, the best news tonight – the boys are back and, as far as I know in the moment, nobody got injured tonight, which is a very important thing. That means we can probably go with the same squad to Southampton."

Back-to-back draws against West Brom and Newcastle has seen Liverpool's lead atop the table reduced to three points, with rivals and second-placed Manchester United boasting a game in hand.

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 22 Premier League matches, while the defending champions were unable to win their final league game of a calendar year for the first time in seven years.

The Reds' only shot on target in the second half came in the 88th minute via Roberto Firmino's header. Liverpool have now managed just one attempt on target after half-time in each of their last two Premier League games.

"Look, not scoring is a concern if you don't create," Klopp said. "That's how it is. If you create, it's just momentum, it's for now. But if you keep creating then you will score, that's it. I know we will score again, that's not our problem in the moment.

"We needed to show a reaction from the second half against West Brom because in that game we lost the plot a little bit in the second half, it looked for me like we were 1-0 down not 1-0 up. Tonight it was a very good reaction on that, without getting the result. But we all know: you win this game 1-0 and everybody is over the moon. And we should have won it at least 1-0, but we didn't. That's what we have to accept.

"But I can work with this performance, that's important. I can work with the things I saw tonight. We can build on that, we don't have to now change massively in the next three or four days and say, 'OK everything is going wrong, we have to try to compete another way'. That's why I’m OK, that's it."

Liverpool and Newcastle United produce goals.

Across 50 prior Premier League encounters ahead of Wednesday's meeting at St James' Park, the ball had found the net 159 times.

Indeed, in Premier League history, only four fixtures – Arsenal v Liverpool (166), Liverpool v Tottenham (162), Arsenal v Everton (162) and Arsenal v Tottenham (161) – have provided more goals.

With Liverpool – who claimed their biggest ever top-flight away win in their previous game on the road, thrashing Crystal Palace 7-0 – aiming to respond to a Sam Allardyce special at Anfield, and Newcastle having failed to keep a clean sheet in their past 11 home league matches, the stage seemed set for another goal-fest.

Yet on a snowy night on Tyneside, the champions were held for a second successive game, as Newcastle and Liverpool played out a goalless draw for the first time since February 1974.
 

FESTIVE WOE FOR MO

Mohamed Salah scored twice in Liverpool's rout of Palace, but the league's leading scorer has failed to carry that form into the subsequent two fixtures.

Salah – who did not get any of his three attempts on target against West Brom on Sunday – had been involved in nine goals in his past six away Premier League appearances heading into this trip.

The Egyptian had also netted in each of his previous four starts against Newcastle, but Salah was shorn of his shooting boots on Wednesday.

Having seen Karl Darlow brilliantly save a close-range attempt in the 34th minute, Salah looked all set to break the deadlock after the hour, only to drill wide when one-on-one again. It was his second, and last, attempt.

DARLOW STAKES HIS CLAIM DESPITE DUBRAVKA'S RETURN

Liverpool were denied by a fantastic stoppage-time save from Sam Johnstone last time out, and they found a goalkeeper in similarly fine form this time.

Darlow had four saves to make in total, but three were of the highest quality.

His stop from Salah in the first half showed outstanding reflexes, though it was arguably bettered in the 88th minute, with the former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper somehow keeping out Roberto Firmino's header.

Wedged between those stops was another Firmino header he palmed clear, although Darlow was grateful to have Fabian Schar on hand to clear as he and Sadio Mane scrapped for the ball in the second half.

With the returning Martin Dubravka watching on from the bench, there was another nervy moment for Darlow when he flapped at a corner, yet Firmino was unable to make him pay.

WILSON PUTS IN THE WORK, BUT ALISSON HARDLY TESTED

At the other end of the pitch for Newcastle, Callum Wilson worked tirelessly to run Liverpool's line – after all, the Reds have conceded 20 Premier League goals in 16 matches this season.

Chasing his 50th Premier League goal, Wilson had two attempts – neither on target – and created one chance. He covered 10.28 kilometres and made 22 sprints, the most in the Newcastle team.

Newcastle's problem was a lack of support for their frontman, though Ciaran Clark did send a header too close to Alisson in closing stages.

In total, Steve Bruce's team had just three attempts fewer than Liverpool (11), the visitors limited to only four shots on target, and Newcastle are now unbeaten in their past five home Premier League games against reigning champions.

THAT'S A WRAP...

Though they bossed the possession (73.2 per cent), Liverpool were once again held by a side who sat deep and looked to play on the break.

Their frustration was evidenced late on when Andrew Robertson inexplicably lashed out at Federico Fernandez for clearing a loose ball.

Jurgen Klopp became even more animated when the board was raised to signal four minutes of added time – ultimately, it felt like a night on which Liverpool could have played on for another 90 minutes and not scored.

Against the five teams Liverpool have played this season that resided in the bottom six prior to Wednesday's match, the Reds have now taken just seven points of the 15 on offer.

While 2020 has been difficult, and unprecedented, it has been a superb year for Liverpool, who clinched their first Premier League title and currently sit top of the table heading into 2021, though only by three points.

However, two draws on the bounce to teams either in the bottom half will leave something of a sour taste for the Reds, who had previously won their final league game of the calendar year six times on the spin.

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