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Everton’s resurgence and Arsenal stumbling – things we learned from the Premier League

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56472821 10707263 Image M 15 1649678251744.jpg
56472821 10707263 Image M 15 1649678251744.jpg

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The Premier League delivered on expectations this weekend as the race for the title and the battle for survival intensified.

Leaders Manchester City and nearest challengers Liverpool played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in the pick of the action. 

Everton secured a vital victory in their pursuit of survival as they beat a hapless Manchester United 1-0, while Norwich boosted their slim hopes of avoiding the drop with a 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Burnley.

Manchester City and Liverpool played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad on Sunday

Manchester City and Liverpool played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad on Sunday

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola shared a warm embrace at the end of a pulsating contest

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola shared a warm embrace at the end of a pulsating contest

There were also twists in the tussle for the top four as Arsenal suffered a second straight defeat, going down 2-1 at home to Brighton, before Tottenham hammered Aston Villa 4-0 to boost their chances of Champions League qualification. 

Here are 10 things we learned from the weekend’s Premier League action.

Sunday showpiece proves title race WILL go down to the wire

All eyes this weekend were on the Etihad Stadium for the crunch clash between league leaders Manchester City and Liverpool.

Such encounters are often overhyped but this titanic showdown lived up to its pre-match billing as the top two sides played out an epic.

City and Liverpool are considered the best two teams in Europe – let alone the country – and the reasons why were there for all to see. Neutrals got everything they wanted. 

Players from both teams had been at pains to stress before the match that the contest would not be decisive in the title race and so it proved as Liverpool twice fought back from behind to claim a 2-2 draw – although they were saved by VAR when Raheem Sterling’s goal was ruled out for offside in the second half.

Liverpool twice came from behind to salvage a point in a match billed as a title decider

Liverpool twice came from behind to salvage a point in a match billed as a title decider

City and Liverpool are separated by a single point – just as they were before Sunday’s game – with seven matches remaining, and it is difficult to see either side slipping up as the season reaches a thrilling climax.

Jurgen Klopp’s men, who had won 10 straight matches before the short trip to the east side of Manchester, arguably have the trickier run-in on paper but will be waiting to pounce if City drop points.  

The result was undoubtedly a better one for City, with Pep Guardiola’s charges still in the driving seat in the title race. Get ready for another dramatic, tantalising and nerve-shredding ride.

There’s life in Everton yet

Frank Lampard would not have needed to give his Everton players much motivation for the visit of Manchester United. Burnley boss Sean Dyche had done the work for him.

After Burnley fought back to beat Everton last Tuesday, Dyche slammed the Toffees’ credentials, boldly declaring that Lampard’s ailing team ‘did not know how to win’. 

But Everton, tipped for the drop by even the most optimistic of their own supporters after the damaging defeat at Turf Moor, proved Dyche wrong as they battled to victory over a poor United team at Goodison Park.

Anthony Gordon scored the only goal as Everton beat a hapless Manchester United 1-0

Anthony Gordon scored the only goal as Everton beat a hapless Manchester United 1-0

The victory boosted Frank Lampard's hopes of keeping Everton in the Premier League

The victory boosted Frank Lampard’s hopes of keeping Everton in the Premier League

Lampard had lost six of his previous eight matches prior to the Saturday lunchtime encounter with United and many Everton fans were fearful that this weekend could spell the beginning of the end of their long stay in the top flight.

Following a fortuitous opener by Anthony Gordon, Everton showed the fighting spirit which has been lacking in recent weeks as they easily repelled United’s blunt attacks to cling on for a vital three points.

There is work still to do for Lampard’s Everton, whose remaining fixtures include a Merseyside derby and hosting top four-chasing Arsenal, but this win could yet kick-start a relegation-saving run. 

Arsenal shoot themselves in the foot at the WORST time

Arsenal had established themselves as the favourites for the much-coveted fourth spot but a disastrous week has threatened to derail their Champions League bid.

Mikel Arteta had been looking for a response to the dismal 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Crystal Palace last Monday when the Gunners hosted Brighton on Saturday. He did not get it.

Brighton had not won a league game since beating Watford in February but were in dreamland after finding themselves two goals up at the Emirates thanks to Leandro Trossard and Enock Mwepu.

Arsenal's top-four hopes suffered a blow as they were beaten 2-1 at home by Brighton

Arsenal’s top-four hopes suffered a blow as they were beaten 2-1 at home by Brighton

A late Martin Odegaard goal proved little more than a consolation for Arsenal as they handed the initiative to rivals Tottenham, who took on Aston Villa in the teatime slot, in the top-four battle.

Talk after the game focused on Arteta’s decision to let Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang depart in January without signing a replacement. Arsenal’s lack of quality in front of goal again showed – they were toothless until mustering a desperate push in the dying stages – and it could end up costing them a first top-four finish since 2016.

‘I haven’t heard that question in the last six weeks so I have already forgot about that question,’ a defiant Arteta said when asked about Aubameyang. ‘When you remind us with those questions its always after a defeat and I don’t like to comment on things like that.’ 

Coach Conte proving his worth

While Arsenal are faltering, Spurs are flying under the astute leadership of head coach Antonio Conte. 

Three goals in a brutal 20-minute spell in the second half saw Conte’s side cruise to a fourth straight victory which leaves them in pole position to qualify for the Champions League.

Questions had been asked of the colourful Italian and his methods during a run of four consecutive defeats in February but his team have emphatically answered them in recent weeks.

Antonio Conte's Tottenham continued their good form by thrashing Aston Villa 4-0

Antonio Conte’s Tottenham continued their good form by thrashing Aston Villa 4-0

The front three of Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min – who bagged a hat-trick at Villa Park – are blowing teams away. Spurs, with Kane in a deeper role that is paying huge dividends to Conte, have now scored 21 goals in their last five matches.

Conte wasn’t lying when he said results would turn in their favour when he got more time with his players on the training ground. Spurs are fully buying into the 52-year-old’s approach – which some have speculated was the reason behind him not being appointed Manchester United manager in November.

The effervescent Conte is showing United just what they are missing. 

Mood turns sour as gutless United struggle again

The vast majority of Manchester United’s fanbase have long stuck to a mantra of getting behind their team, irrespective of results or how poor they might be.

United’s away support has been considered the epitome of this. But for how much longer?

The mood at the final whistle at Goodison Park was perhaps as toxic as it ever has been among United’s travelling fans, rivalled only by the scenes in 2005, when the Glazer takeover turned from a nightmare to reality.

Cristiano Ronaldo endured another disappointing afternoon as United lost at Goodison Park

Cristiano Ronaldo endured another disappointing afternoon as United lost at Goodison Park

Marcus Rashford also failed to impress in another gutless display from United

Marcus Rashford also failed to impress in another gutless display from United

Few stayed behind to clap off Ralf Rangnick’s players. Most had already departed by the time referee Jon Moss put them out of their misery.

The absence of the traditional ‘we love United, we do’ chant told its own story. There is little love or affection for this group, who have thrown more managers under the bus than they’ve won trophies in recent years.

With their Champions League hopes in tatters, it is unlikely that the feeling will improve among United fans – both at Old Trafford and away from the Theatre of Dreams. Most just want the season to end, a sad indictment of a once great club.

Marsch gamble paying off

More than a few eyebrows were raised when Leeds sacked their talismanic manager Marcelo Bielsa and replaced him with the untried American Jesse Marsch.

The task given to Marsch, a relative unknown to some, was far from an easy one. Having just been thrashed 4-0 by Spurs, Leeds were hovering perilously close to the relegation zone and there appeared little light at the end of the tunnel.

Fast forward a little over six weeks and things are much brighter at Elland Road as a comfortable 3-0 win at struggling Watford moved Marsch’s side nine points clear of the bottom three. 

Leeds are almost sure of safety after they earned a comfortable 3-0 win at Watford

Leeds are almost sure of safety after they earned a comfortable 3-0 win at Watford

Jesse Marsch's appointment as Leeds manager to replace Marcelo Bielsa has paid off so far

Jesse Marsch’s appointment as Leeds manager to replace Marcelo Bielsa has paid off so far 

The victory surely cemented their place in the Premier League for at least another season and it would take an almighty collapse for Leeds to make an unwanted return to the Championship.

Leeds have now won three of their last four, a run which included the stunning 3-2 comeback triumph over Wolves at Molineux. 

The club deserves credit for making such a bold choice at such a crucial time of the season. It is a gamble that has – handsomely – paid off.

Norwich’s great escape – is it on?

Pierre Lees-Melou was an unlikely hero as Norwich boosted their slim chances of survival with a 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Burnley on Sunday.

Lees-Melou scored his first Premier League goal since joining the Canaries last summer before Teemu Pukki sealed all three points late on.

Defeat to Dyche’s men would almost certainly have condemned Norwich to relegation and while they are still red-hot favourites for the drop, the victory – just their fifth Premier League win of the season – has got their fans dreaming of an unlikely escape.

Teemu Pukki scored Norwich's second goal as they saw off Burnley 2-0 at Carrow Road

Teemu Pukki scored Norwich’s second goal as they saw off Burnley 2-0 at Carrow Road

Norwich, rooted to the bottom of the table, are still seven points adrift of safety even after seeing off Burnley, who are now only three points ahead of Dean Smith’s side.

‘We’re still fighting and I think today was important for not just ourselves, but our supporters as well,’ said Smith. 

‘It’s still a mountain but we’ve got a few rungs up it now.’

Chelsea’s perfect preparation

Chelsea had suffered a miserable week – on and off the pitch – before travelling to the South Coast to face Southampton.

A shock 4-1 home loss to Brentford was followed by a chastening 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge.

Thomas Tuchel, who seemingly pulled no punches in a clear-the-air meeting with his players last week, would have been hoping to take some momentum into the daunting trip to Madrid on Tuesday with victory over a Saints side with little to play for in their remaining games.

Thomas Tuchel got the response he wanted as Chelsea hit six in victory at Southampton

Thomas Tuchel got the response he wanted as Chelsea hit six in victory at Southampton

The response was emphatic from the Blues as Mason Mount and Timo Werner both scored twice in a thumping 6-0 win at St Mary’s.

Such was the level of domination and control exerted by Chelsea that there would have been understandable fears of yet another 9-0 drubbing among Saints fans, but Tuchel’s men took their foot off the gas in the second half.

‘The result and performance (at Southampton) is good because I am sure that lifts everyone’s spirits,’ Tuchel said. ‘But the task is huge. Let’s be honest. Everything is possible in football, but let’s be realistic — it is still the Bernabeu and an opponent very different from today. But it is the best way to prepare.’ 

Brentford may face fight to keep Toney

With a place in the top flight all-but confirmed for Brentford, attention has turned to what their squad might look like in their second consecutive season in the Premier League.

It is not just Christian Eriksen who the Bees will be fighting to keep. Judging by Ivan Toney’s display in the 2-0 victory over West Ham, Brentford may have to fend off plenty of suitors for the striker in the summer transfer window.

Toney, who has twice caused controversy with disparaging remarks about the club, set up Bryan Mbuemo for his side’s opener before heading his strike partner’s cross past Lukasz Fabianski to make sure of the three points.

Ivan Toney scored one and set up the other in Brentford's 2-0 win over West Ham on Sunday

Ivan Toney scored one and set up the other in Brentford’s 2-0 win over West Ham on Sunday

The 26-year-old was vital in Brentford achieving promotion to the Premier League last season, scoring 33 goals in a spectacular campaign. 

He has followed that with 12 goals in 27 league appearances to help guide the Bees to a position of safety.

‘Yeah, 100 per cent,’ Toney told the Evening Standard when asked if Brentford would be a Premier League side next season. ‘I felt like we were safe before, the players we have got in the team, I feel like we’ve got more than enough to stay in the League. We were feeling closer and closer and better.’

Dewsbury-Hall is the story of Leicester’s season

Leicester have endured a disappointing campaign thus far, with early hopes of a European push fading and a meek defence of their FA Cup crown making for a below-par season for Brendan Rogers’ side.

One positive for Rogers – aside from progression to the latter stages of the inaugural Europa Conference League – has been the emergence of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.

The 23-year-old has shot to prominence with a series of impressive displays for the Foxes, including in yesterday’s 2-1 win against Crystal Palace, where he scored one and made the other.

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (right) is enjoying a stellar debut season in the Premier League

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (right) is enjoying a stellar debut season in the Premier League

Dewsbury-Hall made his first Premier League start less than five months ago – following a successful loan spell at Luton Town in the Championship – but he is already Leicester City’s player of the season.

He may yet end his breakout campaign with silverware as Leicester are in the last eight of the Europa Conference League. They travel to Holland to play PSV Eindhoven in the second leg of their quarter-final on Thursday with the tie locked at 0-0.

Should Dewsbury-Hall maintain his current form into the start of next season and beyond, then England recognition will surely not be far away. 



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