USMNT Roundtable: Berhalter, Dest, and the future

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A passionate, perhaps even fiery bit of conference call USMNT small talk prior to a Wednesday’s staff meeting inspired us to bring the conversation to the ProSoccerTalk space.

It started with a hot USMNT topic: Whether there’s real danger of Ajax starting right back Sergino Dest throwing his years of history with the USMNT youth development program away to focus on earning a place with the celebrated Dutch national team, so we’ll start there.

Sergino Dest has two caps for the United States and a longstanding history with the youth national team set-up. He is not 19 until March and starting at right back for Ajax.

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no danger of his leaving for the Netherlands and 10 being he’s going to reject USMNT for the Oranje before Gregg Berhalter can cap-tie him next month, what do your rate his chances of being a USMNT player well into the future and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: 5/10. He starts for Ajax at right back and he should be the USMNT’s long-term full back in that area. No questions about it. But the fact the Netherlands are already sniffing around says a lot about his talent, plus Dest probably wasn’t best pleased with being chucked in at left back by Berhalter.

The Dutch national team needs some cover in full back areas and Ronald Koeman isn’t scared to promote young players quickly. I think we’ve seen Dest in a USMNT jersey for the final time, and that is why I’m giving this a 5/10. If there wasn’t the possibility of losing him to the Netherlands, it would be a 9/10.

Nick Mendola: 6/10. We have to hope that Dest is a bit myopic and excited about the prospect of latching onto a starting spot for a half-decade or more. While the 18-year-old is still a bundle of potential, he’s also played in six matches between the Eredivisie and UEFA Champions League for the biggest club in the Eredivisie. Put into perspective: He turns 19 in November, and is a regular contributor to a Starting XI with national team starters for the Netherlands, Argentina, Mexico, Serbia, Morocco, and Cameroon. Also, they haven’t lost a match he’s played this season.

If I’m Dest and have interest in the Netherlands, am I willing to bet on myself at the expense of not playing in the CONCACAF Nations League? Really it comes down to how often he’s envisioned himself a USMNT player, and how long he’s willing to wait out Holland, because Ajax isn’t a place where careers go to die. Rather, it’s often the platform that launches them to even bigger places. The Dutch team’s starters this break were Denzel Dumfries wide in a 3-5-2 and Joel Veltman, a CB a Ajax, in the 4-4-2. It’s not a long jump to Dest.

Kyle Bonn: 3/10. He’s simply not good enough to play regularly for the Netherlands right now, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll develop the defensive consistency to ever be an option for them. He starts now for the United States because full-back remains, along with DM, a position of horrid depth for the national team, but he has a long way to go for a spot with the Netherlands. He has lots of promise, and that may cause the Dutch federation to try and turn his head, but I think he sticks with the U.S.

Dan Karell: 3/10. Obviously this is similar to the Jonathan Gonzalez situation, except the main difference is Dest has actually been capped. Yes, Nick, he’s been played on the wrong side of the field for him, but the U.S. coaching staff clearly values him and wants him to know they’ll find a way to get him in the lineup one way or another. The Netherlands, though they do often cap a lot of young players, can’t do that. Plus, as of today, is Dest ahead of Denzel Dumfries or Hans Hoteboer, another recent Netherlands call-up? Probably not.

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Which player in the pool is the most difficult to replace? You cannot say Christian Pulisic.

Joe Prince-Wright: Tyler Adams. He is so solid and reliable that he is the kind of player you don’t realize how good he is until he’s gone. For Gregg Berhalter, Adams’ intelligence on and off the ball is particularly important. He plugs gaps defensively and is good enough on the ball to get attacks going. The USMNT need Adams to be fit over the next few years if they’re going to make the 2022 World Cup.

Nick Mendola: I want to say John Brooks, but his recent injury history means they’ve been “replacing” him for so long that he barely qualifies as an answer to the question. As the architect of this question, I’ll cheat in response and say there is not one player outside of Pulisic who answers this question well (yet. Let’s hope Josh Sargent, Weston McKennie, or Dest change my mind).

Kyle Bonn: Michael Bradley. Yep, I said it. As we’ve seen with Wil Trapp, the United States player pool has struggled mightily to produce a holding midfielder that can cover the back line and also distribute forward. While Bradley isn’t at his best defending, he’s far better than teacher’s pet Trapp, and he can distribute with the best of them, something the US sorely misses with Bradley off the pitch. He’s indispensable for this squad, partly because he can still ball – despite what people say about him – and partly because the player pool is so absurdly thin at maybe the most important position in the modern game.

Dan Karell: It’s gotta be Tyler Adams or really, Michael Bradley. Many USMNT fans have wanted Bradley and Jozy Altidore to be banished from the national team after playing a role in the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but in the case of both, and really with Bradley, there hasn’t been a better player stepping up. From 2013-2015, it was hoped that Trapp could be that player, but in 2019, after a few years of stagnation with the Columbus Crew, it’s clear Trapp isn’t good enough to push Bradley out the door.

Adams (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Which USMNT player is getting too much abuse from the fans and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Probably Gyasi Zardes. Has he got the best first touch? No. Is he the best finisher on the planet? No. But he works hard, in my opinion he is better suited out wide and then cutting in to impact the play and he is a handful when on form. Zardes isn’t as bad as he’s being made out to be.

Nick Mendola: It’s Zardes. He’s a place holder as we wait for Josh Sargent to climb up to Jozy Altidore’s level, and fans can’t help but judge him. Honestly, he should be getting these call-ups right now and his status as a former Crew star under Berhalter makes it a bit too easy to claim he should be further down the depth chart. Put plainly, the USMNT center forward pool has no one else beyond Altidore, Sargent, and Tim Weah. Bobby Wood and Andrija Novakovich have stalled, and Aron Johannsson hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Kyle Bonn: Jozy Altidore. Michael Bradley gets a close second here (see above) but Jozy quite frankly receives a TON of abuse for the leading goalscorer in U.S. history. For a player who has given so much to this national team and been a consistent provider of not just goalscoring but also a team-first attitude, the crowd who slights him is vast. It’s simply not fair. While Josh Sargent is the future of the striker spot with the national team, Jozy Altidore is still the best option when healthy and fit.

Dan Karell: Is there any one player? Will it ever end? It’s probably Gyasi Zardes and Wil Trapp. At this point, both players hit their ceiling a while ago and there’s no point in complaining about them, we know what they can, and can’t, do. Perhaps Jordan Morris has gotten a little too much stick too. The man is coming off a torn ACL and when a lot of his game was predicated on speed, it’s not easy to find that old speed/form back again after a major surgery like that. Fans just assume you return to 100% and it just never works like that.

Zardes (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Which player currently outside the USMNT picture should be getting a look?

Joe Prince-Wright: Danny Williams is an interesting character and seems to have that nasty streak the USMNT are missing in midfield. With his experience in the Bundesliga, English Championship and Premier League, I’d say he’s worth a shot in central midfield. If his injuries calm down, the likes of McKennie and Adams could have a true destructive force alongside them who they can work off.

Nick Mendola: Hmmmm. We’re another few weeks of solid Julian Green performances from his being the answer, and there’s an argument to be made he’s already the answer. Johnson is a good shout, but is he like Nagbe and not interested in playing under Berhalter? I’m going to stick with Green. He’s 24, a top player in the 2.Bundesliga, and has goals against Belgium and France on his resume. How is he not one of the 40-some players to get a call from GB?

[ RELATED: Julian Green thriving at CM ]

Kyle Bonn: Fabian Johnson. A regular starter for a top-half Bundesliga side isn’t even in the mix. That’s absurd. He hasn’t really produced the consistent career many expected from him about 6 years ago, but given Berhalter’s struggles to find consistency in the lineup, it’s maddening that Johnson has all but been forgotten. And Josh Sargent needs to become a regular in this squad. Now. Not just for friendlies.

Dan Karell: It’s kind of hard to say, because the players that are constantly missing but would normally make it are always injured. John Brooks. Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, McKennie/Pulisic in the past. Perhaps one player who deserves another look – for me – is Jonathan Lewis. He’s always injected some energy and pace late into matches and I really think he can be a game-changer. He just has to leave the smoldering crater that is the Colorado Rapids.

Mix Diskerud, just for his flowing locks of hair…kidding! He’s been injured since the summer, but I’d love to see Duane Holmes get a run out there from the start. Another player I’m excited that is finally back is Sebastian “Da Boy” Lletget. He’s dynamic, great under pressure, and a talented 8 that should help the U.S. out. It will be interesting to see whether he tries moving abroad this offseason or signs a new deal in MLS.

FBL-NED-USA-FRIENDLY

Is the USMNT on the right path? Why or why not?

Joe Prince-Wright: Not yet, and they are a long way from getting to a point where I’m saying ‘you know what, I can see the light and I like it.’ Berhalter’s philosophy is clear and it is worrying these group of players haven’t picked it up. And that is the main problem. He isn’t getting the chance to drill these tactics into the same group of players day in, day out. The US are trying to possess the ball but a lot of the players being selected don’t seem to be as comfortable on it as they should be. At what point does Berhalter say: ‘my fundamentals aren’t working with the squad I have at my disposal?’ Probably never. And that’s the biggest issue facing the USMNT in the months ahead.

Nick Mendola: The program is moving in the right direction, from the youth levels upward, but whether Berhalter’s program is on the up will lead you to the antacid aisle. I’m leaning toward no. It’s only been nine months, but the signs of progress are only when compared to his first month on the job. Saying the side is better than it was under Bruce Arena or Jurgen Klinsmann would be an unfair comparison (Their best players, like Pulisic, are simply maturing).

I think it’s probable the Yanks will not fail to qualify for another World Cup in our lifetimes unless CONCACAF is combined with CONMEBOL. It’s really, truly difficult to put together our population, resources, and confederation and be left with failure in Couva (Something that, still, needed a ghost goal for Panama to knock the Yanks out of the running). But if you put this team in a “Group of Death” right now, I’d mark them down for a first round exit and at least one extremely ugly loss.

My hope is health and a general manager. Berhalter needs counsel in who he calls up, and someone willing to tell him when he’s letting his ego override reality (Out-of-form MLS players probably shouldn’t get the call over in-form ones from any league, for example). And we’d like Berhalter a whole lot more if Tyler Adams and John Brooks had been available to him for more than a handful of combined matches.

Kyle Bonn: That’s probably not a question that can be answered in one or even two parts. The USMNT is on the right track given there is still time before World Cup qualifying, and Berhalter is looking to find what players fit not only his vision, but also fit together as more than a sum of the parts. In addition, the youth talent is probably at a higher level than we’ve seen with this federation in a LONG time, there is little debating that.

The performances, however, paint a picture that the process is likely to take longer than the U.S. has time for. Berhalter at this point needs to take what’s in front of him and transition quickly from a performance-based coach to a results-based coach. The experimentation period is almost over. Time to start acting like it.

Dan Karell: Yes. Fans are fickle and have short memories. Remember when Mexico almost didn’t qualify for the 2014 World Cup? Mexico in 2013 was AWFUL. Meanwhile, the U.S. were in a really good spot. We had Michael Bradley, Tim Howard (and Brad Guzan), Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron in their prime, and there was also Clint Dempsey, Herc Gomez, and Jermaine Jones. While Dempsey and Jones were on the way down, they were still star players who you could count on for goals or securing a result.

Could Matt Miazga, Aaron Long, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah and Josh Sargent develop into those stars? Sure. But they’re not there now, and it may take 2-3 years. For Mexico, it’s taken a few years for Raul Jimenez and Hector Herrera to grow into World Class stars, and they have more players than ever playing and testing themselves in Europe, with others right on their tails in Liga MX. It’s cyclical in nature. The U.S. is at the bottom of the roller coaster. Only one way to go. Up! 
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

FA Cup schedule: Fourth-round replays, fifth-round draw

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The FA Cup always delivers shocks and plenty of Premier League clubs had tricky tasks facing them in the fourth round. One still has one, in fact.

After Aston Villa, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest, and Bournemouth were all knocked out by lower league opponents in round three, plus Everton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and Brentford knocked out by fellow Premier League sides, there were only 10 top-flight teams left in the competition.

[ LIVE: Follow FA Cup scores, updates ]

Arsenal lost narrowly at Manchester City in a heavyweight clash, while Brighton won late on against Liverpool, and Manchester United beat Reading easily.

And then there’s Wrexham AFC, who nearly sprung a big upset of Sheffield United but will have to settle for a replay.

Read on for FA Cup stream info, fixtures, and predictions.


FA Cup fifth-round draw results

Southampton vs Luton Town/Grimsby Town
Leicester City vs Blackburn Rovers/Birmingham City
Stoke City vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Wrexham/Sheffield United vs Tottenham Hotspur
Fulham/Sunderland vs Leeds United
Bristol City vs Manchester City
Manchester United vs West Ham United
Ipswich Town/Burnley vs Sheffield Wednesday/Fleetwood Town


FA Cup live scores, schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Fourth round (January 27-30) | Fifth round (week of March 1)
Times: Below
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: ESPN+


FA Cup fourth round replays — Schedule

Tuesday

Grimsby Town vs Luton Town — 2:45pm ET
Fleetwood Town vs Sheffield Wednesday — 2:45pm ET
Burnley vs Ipswich Town — 2:45pm ET
Sheffield United vs Wrexham AFC — 2:45pm ET

Wednesday

Sunderland vs Fulham — 2:45pm ET


FA Cup fourth round schedule

All games 10am ET unless otherwise stated

Results

Friday
Man City 1-0 Arsenal – Recap/video highlights

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 0-1 Leicester City
Fulham 1-1 Sunderland
Bristol City 3-0 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Birmingham City
Luton Town 2-2 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 0-0 Burnley
Southampton 2-1 Blackpool
Preston North End 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 3-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-1 Liverpool
Stoke City 3-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 3-3 Sheffield United

Monday
Derby County 0-2 West Ham United


FA Cup fourth round predictions – By Joe Prince-Wright

Friday
Man City 2-1 Arsenal

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 1-2 Leicester City
Fulham 1-2 Sunderland
Bristol City 1-2 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City
Luton Town 3-1 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 1-3 Burnley
Southampton 2-0 Blackpool
Preston North End 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 2-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-2 Liverpool
Stoke City 2-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 1-2 Sheffield United

Monday
Derby County 1-1 West Ham


FA Cup third round replays

Tuesday 

Swansea City 1-2 (AET) Bristol City
Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Birmingham City (original tie postponed due to waterlogged pitch)
Wigan 1-2 Luton
Wolves 0-1 Liverpool
West Brom 4-0 Chesterfield

Wednesday

Leeds United 5-2 Cardiff City

Tuesday, January 24

Accrington Stanley vs Boreham Wood


FA Cup third round results

Friday

Manchester United 3-1 Everton

Saturday

Preston North End 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Reading 2-0 Watford
Tottenham 1-0 Portsmouth
Gillingham 0-1 Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers vs Birmingham City — PPD
Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton
Hull City 0-2 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-5 Brighton
Fleetwood Town 2-1 QPR
Ipswich Town 4-1 Rotherham
Bournemouth 2-4 Burnley
Blackpool 4-1 Nottingham Forest
Chesterfield 3-3 West Brom
Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United
Boreham Wood 1-1 Accrington Stanley
Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Sunderland
Brentford 0-1 West Ham
Coventry City 3-4 Wrexham
Luton Town 1-1 Wigan
Grimsby Town 1-0 Burton Albion
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle
Liverpool 2-2 Wolves

Sunday

Bristol City 1-1 Swansea City
Derby County 3-0 Barnsley
Cardiff City 2-2 Leeds
Stockport 1-2 Walsall
Hartlepool 0-3 Stoke City
Norwich 0-1 Blackpool
Aston Villa 1-2 Stevenage
Man City 4-0 Chelsea

Monday

Oxford United 0-3 Arsenal


Jesse Marsch fired by Leeds United

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Jesse Marsch has been fired by Leeds United just under one year after appointing the ex-USMNT player.

Leeds thanked Marsch for his time with the club and said they hope to have an appointment sealed as soon as possible.

Wisconsin native Marsch, 49, has led Montreal Impact, New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg, and RB Leipzig in his young managerial career.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The twice-capped Marsch twice won the Supporters’ Shield with New York Red Bulls and won two domestic doubles with Salzburg.

He finishes his time at Leeds with a record of 11W-10D-16L.

What’s next for Jesse Marsch? What’s next for Leeds?

Let’s get this out of the way: Our site’s been a big backer of Jesse Marsch. There are varying degrees of blame to be thrown around for Leeds’ current position, but it’s also difficult to say a coaching change was absolutely out of the question.

Marsch will instantly be linked with the vacant United States men’s national team should he be ready to move back from Europe. His star may need a strong World Cup to burn bright enough for a Premier League return, but he will certainly have opportunities in Europe perhaps before the end of this season, too.

Leeds is being linked with Carlos Corberan of West Bromwich Albion by Fabrizio Romano and others. The 39-year-old Spaniard had been with Huddersfield Town and Olympiacos before joining the Baggies. Corberan has been red-hot through 16 matches in charge of West Brom.

Leeds United statement on firing Jesse Marsch

Leeds United can confirm head coach Jesse Marsch has been relieved of his duties.

Jesse joined the club in February 2022 and was instrumental in keeping the club in the Premier League on the final day of last season.

Rene Maric, Cameron Toshack and Pierre Barrieu will also leave the club.

We would like to thank Jesse and his backroom staff for their efforts and wish them well for the future.

The process of appointing a new head coach is underway and we will continue to keep supporters up to date throughout the coming days.

Premier League charges Manchester City with financial breaches

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The Premier League announced charges against Manchester City on Monday, alleging numerous incidences of financial rule-breaking between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 seasons.

The charges will be sent to an independent commission for further investigation.

The rules broken include those that give “a true and fair view of the club’s financial position, in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs.”

[ MORE: Ten things we learned from the Premier League: Week 22 ]

There are also charges related to financial payment to City’s manager during Roberto Mancini’s time at the club, as well as player payment between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

Charges are also mentioned regarding Financial Fair Play, profitability, and sustainability. The full language is below the jump.

Man City had a two-year Champions League ban overturned in 2020 upon club appeal after the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared the club of “disguising equity funds as sponsorship contributions.”

Full Premier League statement on alleged rules breaches by Manchester City

In accordance with Premier League Rule W.82.1, the Premier League confirms that it has today referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules by Manchester City Football Club (Club) to a Commission under Premier League Rule W.3.4.

Details of the Premier League Rules that the Club is alleged to have breached are as follows:

1. In respect of each of Seasons 2009/10 to 2017/18 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those seasons that required provision by a member club to the Premier League, in the utmost good faith, of accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position, in particular with respect to its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs, namely:
(a) for Season 2009/10, Premier League Rules B.13, C.71, C.72, C.75 (amended to C.79 from 10 September 2009 for the remainder of Season 2009/10) and C.80;
(b) for Season 2010/11, Premier League Rules B.13, C.78, C.79, C.86 and C.87;
(c) for Season 2011/12, Premier League Rules B.13, E.3, 4, E.11 and E.12;
(d) for Season 2012/13, Premier League Rules 16, E.3, E.4, E.11 and E.12;
(e) for Season 2013/14, Premier League Rules 15, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.49;
(f) for Season 2014/15, Premier League Rules 16, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.50;
(g) for Season 2015/16, Premier League Rules 16, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.50;
(h) for Season 2016/17, Premier League Rules16, E.3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.51; and
(i) for Season 2017/18, Premier League Rules B.16, 3, E.4, E.11, E.12 and E.51.

2. In respect of:
(a) each of Seasons 2009/10 to 2012/13 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons requiring a member club to include full details of manager remuneration in its relevant contracts with its manager, namely:
(1) for Seasons 2009/10 to 2011/12 inclusive, Premier League Rules Q.7 and Q.8; and
(2) for Season 2012/13, Premier League Rules P.7 and P.8; and
(b) each of Seasons 2010/11 to 2015/16 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons requiring a member club to include full details of player remuneration in its relevant contracts with its players, namely:
(1) for Seasons 2010/11 and 2011/12, Premier League Rules K.12 and K.20;
(2) for Season 2012/13, Premier League Rules T.12 and T.20;
(3) for Seasons 2013/14 and 2014/15, Premier League Rules T.12 and T.19; and
(4) for Season 2015/16, Premier League Rules T.13 and T.20.

3. In respect of each of Seasons 2013/14 to 2017/18 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons requiring a member club to comply with UEFA’s regulations, including UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, namely:
(a) for Season 2013/14, Premier League Rule B.14.6; and
(b) for Seasons 2014/15 to 2017/18 inclusive, Premier League Rule B.15.6.

4. In respect of each of the Seasons 2015/16 to 2017/18 inclusive, the Premier League Rules applicable in those Seasons on Profitability and Sustainability, namely:
(a) for Season 2015/16, Premier League Rules E.52 to E.60; and
(b) for Seasons 2016/17 and 2017/18, Premier League Rules E.53 to E.60.

5. In respect of the period from December 2018 to date, the Premier League Rules applicable in the relevant Seasons requiring a member club to cooperate with, and assist, the Premier League in its investigations, including by providing documents and information to the Premier League in the utmost good faith, namely:
(a) for Season 2018/19, Premier League Rules B.16, B.19, W.1, W.2, W.12 and W.13;
(b) for Season 2019/20, Premier League Rules B.16, B.19, W.1, W.2, W.12 and W.13;
(c) for Season 2020/21, Premier League Rules B.16, B.19, W.1, W.2, W.12 and W.13;
(d) for Season 2021/22, Premier League Rules B.15, B.18, W.1, W.2, W.15 and W.16; and
(e) for Season 2022/23, Premier League Rules B.15, B.18, W.1, W.2, W.15 and W.16.

Commissions are independent of the Premier League and member clubs. The members of the Commission will be appointed by the independent Chair of the Premier League Judicial Panel, in accordance with Premier League Rules W.19, W.20 and W.26.

The proceedings before the Commission will, in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82, be confidential and heard in private. Under Premier League Rule W.82.2, the Commission’s final award will be published on the Premier League’s website.

This confirmation is made in accordance with Premier League Rule W.82.1. The Premier League will be making no further comment in respect of this matter until further notice.

10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 22

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There seems to be a real amount of bellyaching, if that isn’t too harsh of a term, because we’re sitting here in February without an absolute sense of who will be the two, or three final Premier League teams to contend for the Premier League Trophy.

A bonkers weekend of Premier League results also did absolutely nothing for the narrative, especially after Man City didn’t take advantage of Arsenal’s loss at Sean Dyche’s Toffee Shop.

Admit it — yes, even you, Arsenal fans — saying without reservation that one team is going to be in the Premier League title fight on the final day is very difficult this season and that’s probably for a number of reasons.

[ MORE: Kane makes up ground in Golden Boot again ]

For one thing, this is the first Feb. 5 in the last six years that either Manchester City or Liverpool isn’t atop the Premier League table.

And that atop the table, Arsenal, has not been in the top five on a Premier League table at this point in a season since the 2016-17 season. That, coincidentally, was the last time City or Liverpool didn’t win the league.

So, yeah, it takes a leap of faith to declare that Arsenal’s five-point lead with a match-in-hand is as comfortable a lead as it would appear were City or Liverpool here… and probably Chelsea, Man City, and even Spurs. This is new territory. And it’s exciting which, by the very nature of verb, is not comfortable, sound, or solid.

Here’s what the Premier League table’s looked like at the end of February 5 since the 2015-16 season (Keep in mind this is also “matches in hand” time of year the last four seasons, and that usually there have been many more matches played because the World Cup wasn’t in November).

Premier League table on Feb. 5 of the last eight seasons

Season denoted by * indicate there are matches-in-hand amongst teams

2015-16: Leicester City (50 points), Man City (47), Spurs (45), Arsenal (45), Man Utd (40)
2016-17: Chelsea (59 points), Spurs (50), Man City (49), Arsenal (47), Liverpool (46)
2017-18: Man City (69 points), Man Utd (56), Liverpool (51), Chelsea (50), Spurs (49)
2018-19: Liverpool (62 points), Man City (59), Spurs (57), Chelsea (50), Man Utd (48)
*2019-20: Liverpool (73 points), Man City (51), Leicester (49), Chelsea (41), Spurs (37)
*2020-21: Man City (47 points), Man Utd (44), Leicester (42), Liverpool (40), West Ham (38)
*2021-22: Man City (57 points), Liverpool (48), Chelsea (47), Man Utd (38), West Ham (37)
*2022-23: Arsenal (50 points), Man City (45), Man Utd (42), Newcastle (40), Spurs (39)

I mean, that is some viewing, isn’t it? Only three times in eight has the table had as many as four teams within 10 points of first at this point in the season, and we’re a point away from having all five.

You’d have to favor Arsenal to deliver the goods still; Past performance be darned, the Gunners may be unleashing a new dynasty or even just a ridiculous single season on the world. And they could lose to Man City twice and still have a match-in-hand to make up the point.

But as those two matches indicate, Arsenal is also yet to play Man City in the Premier League play. They’ll also see their young squad taxed by Europa League at some point (Aren’t these new knockout round play-offs enticing but so off-putting?)

Anyway, the point is that I want you to know that I understand if you’re feeling thrown by the table this week. The truth is there’s an awful lot of season left — around 3-4 matches per team less than usual — and the following is true:

  • Arsenal is still the front-runner
  • Arsenal has also continued to leave the runway clear for an in-form Man City
  • Man City is very much not in-form
  • Manchester United, Tottenham, and even Newcastle have realistic mathematical paths to climb into the discussion if they win their games against Arsenal and Man City.

Soooooooo…. what did you learn from the Premier League this weekend? Cause here’s where our writers are living, as Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Andy Edwards (AE), and Nicholas Mendola (NM) share their observations from across the most recent PL games.

10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 22

1. Kane Spurs put a bit of chaos in Premier League title fight on historic night (Spurs 1-0 Man City): Look, this is likely still just a three-team Premier League race even taking into account what we’ve posted above. And I personally might want to argue the case that Manchester City has the best odds to sort it all out given past history, but who knows what’s going to happen to Pep Guardiola’s clearly on-fire galaxy brain if City surges in the Champions League, let alone drops out of it. But I can also tell you that a City win on Sunday after Arsenal flopped at physical Everton on Saturday — get ready for more of that, Gunners — would’ve had me feeling like both Manchester sides held the only hope that the title fight wouldn’t just be a scrap over which Gallagher brother’s Oasis songs were the best. There’s just something about Harry Kane, though, and Antonio Conte is the man pulling the strings down in London. Throw in Newcastle only having to worry about one match that isn’t in the Premier League for the rest of the summer, and Spurs’ win over Man City sounded a note for chaos. Can you imagine Arsenal not falling completely off but going through a naive spell? Can you dial up a scenario in your head where Christian Eriksen’s injury and Casemiro’s red card tax United out of title fight? And might you see Man City’s season going with more ennui than a Morrissey B-side or, worse, Belgium’s World Cup campaign? Folks, anything might be possible this Premier League run-in! (NM).

2. Casemiro’s not-so-idle hands put three points in uneasy place (Man Utd 2-1 Crystal Palace): Scoring chances were plentiful for the Red Devils (14 shots, with an xG total of 2.04) and eventually Marcus Rashford put one away in the 62nd minute, giving him 11 goals in 13 games. Those numbers go with four assists in all competitions since returning from the 2022 World Cup. It appeared at that point that Palace would go quietly into the night and humbly accept defeat, until Casemiro was sent off in the 70th minute for putting both hands around Will Hughes’ neck. United was resilient and had to be, as Crystal Palace took just six minutes to take advantage of their numerical advantage; Cheick Doucoure volleyed from the edge of the penalty area and Jeffrey Schlupp redirected the initial effort on target and past David de Gea to set up a tense final 15 minutes and nine nearly never-ending minutes of stoppage time. But Man United will wake up Monday and wonder why they can’t be the in-form team that runs up the table. (AE)

3. Everton does best Burnley imitation, bullies leaders Arsenal (Everton 1-0 Arsenal): From the very first whistle Everton looked well-organized, had a clear plan, and their players believed in what they are doing. The new manager bounce from Sean Dyche was incredible but it isn’t just a bounce. It’s because he’s a very good manager who did a phenomenal job at Burnley. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the focal point up top, and Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi delivered energy and quality from out wide. Abdoulaye Doucoure, Amadou Onana, and Idrissa Gana Gueye will excellent in midfield and the solid back four never looked out of position. This was exactly what we would expect from a Dyche side and if Everton changed their kit colors to claret it was like watching his peak Burnley teams. Arsenal was bullied throughout, couldn’t find their rhythm, and had no answer for the energy Everton showed. Now, can Dyche get that effort and organization week-in, week-out? It is clear the Toffees have the players to drag themselves away from a relegation scrap and also now clear they have a manager who is able to lead them up the table. Dyche to Everton felt like a perfect fit about five years ago and it has started exactly how he would have hoped. (JPW)

4. Lopetegui’s Wolves feast on wounded Reds as top-four hopes locked in the medical tent (Wolves 3-0 Liverpool): Injuries definitely start the story of this one, a 3-0 that was much closer on the xG scoreboard but just as divided in spirit. Jurgen Klopp’s one-time mentality monsters looked mentality defeated, especially in front of either goal, as the boss exclaimed after the game — full comments below — that the club was lined up as directed but “passive, not active.” Wolves, meanwhile, were very active, and Klopp would’ve wondered what might’ve been when Neves lashed in the third goal by darting between a collection of lined-up Liverpool backs to snap home the end product of Adama Traore’s robust work breaking the lines and conducting a trademark dribble. The Reds have big holes by Darwin Nunez is snakebit in front of goal and Cody Gakpo may get there. At the moment, Liverpool’s entire attack seems to be, “Let’s hope Mo Salah cooks today.” Not great, Al. (NM)

5. Anthony Gordon looks uncaged in short but thrilling Newcastle debut (Newcastle 1-1 West Ham): We knew that Anthony Gordon was fast, worked hard, and had promise, but the blonde-topped pest that is Newcastle’s new $45 million man was flat-out electric in his first match for Newcastle. He could’ve easily had one assist today off the bench and two was reasonable. His introduction to the game gave the second half interest given he just moved up north but you know what? He delivered in every way imaginable but a goal. I thought his price tag was silly and the asking price laughable, but would be super happy to be wrong and the initial results are very good. Maybe Gordon was being held back this year at Everton, or maybe he just caught the vapors of an SJP debut. Either way, it looks nice for Newcastle who won’t be happy with a point vs West Ham but should be: The Irons are much better than their season’s results. (NM)

6. Enzo Fernandez impresses but rest of Chelsea… not-so-much – (Chelsea 0-0 Fulham): Chelsea’s spending spree saw the Blues sign eight new players to swell Graham Potter’s first-team squad to 30 players, including Enzo Fernandez, who arrived in west London as the most expensive signing in British football history ($129 million) on Tuesday. The Argentine midfield wasted no time and looked a cut above everyone else on the field as he made his Premier League debut with precious little time to train with his new club. And excuse the dark humor, but his teammates must’ve missed the memo on smashing the transfer record; $360 million later, mid-table Chelsea were able to secure a point in a 0-0 draw with European hopefuls Fulham at Stamford Bridge. (AE)

7. Leicester wins thriller at Villa, but the manner don’t matter more than the result (Aston Villa 2-4 Leicester): Leicester overturned not one, but two deficits to put an end to their five-game winless skid and secure a 4-2 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday. The victory takes Leicester (21 points), who had previously taken just one point of a possible 15, up to 13th in the Premier League table, now three points clear of the relegation zone. Eight teams remain within three points of 18th-place Everton, including those currently below them. Aston Villa (28 points) are not among them, but they remain 11th following the defeat. (AE).

8. Gritty Nottingham Forest sees off disjointed Leeds (Nottingham Forest 1-0 Leeds): Nottingham Forest did not play well but they did what they had to do as defensively they are so solid; Steve Cooper’s men have a clear plan and they are doing the basics so well. With Brennan Johnson in this kind of form plus other threats on the break, Forest are looking set to stay in the Premier League quite comfortably.

Meanwhile, Jesse Marsch and Leeds look very disjointed as they continue to integrate new signings and get players back to full fitness. They looked like a team struggling for confidence and with no win in their last seven the pressure is mounting on Marsch. It seems like they just need one lucky break to get going again and regain their early season form. The Leeds fans aren’t happy, however, and a bad week with their two games against in-form Man United could see the owners forced into a change. (JPW)

9. Savvy Bees make most of Saints’ weaknesses (Brentford 3-0 Southampton): Brentford are very good at whipping in crosses and winning balls in the air. Like Dracula, Southampton do not like crosses. This did not seem to be a good matchup for Saints before this game and it went exactly that way. Thomas Frank’s side were ruthless when their chances arrived and Southampton’s jumbled defense gave them too much time to pick out crosses and then switched off to defend the players arriving to score. These were basic errors from Southampton and it’s the reason they are bottom of the league. These crosses and the chaos they cause before, during, and after the ball is coming in is also why Brentford are pushing for European qualification. This turned into a very routine win for the hosts as the pressure continues to mount on Nathan Jones with six defeats in his seven Premier League games in charge. Saints aren’t cut off at the bottom, yet, but it is getting to a very precarious situation for Jones as new players have arrived but there has been no real improvement for Saints since Ralph Hasenhuttl was fired in November. (JPW)

10. Bournemouth shows hope but Brighton’s got too much class (Brighton 1-0 AFC Bournemouth): Kaoru Mitoma certainly looks to be comfortable in the Premier League, and who needs a 20-yard banger or intra-box juggle-and fire every week? This time Mitoma turned up with a late header for his show-stopper. But Bournemouth can and should feel renewed optimism after new owner Bill Foley sanctioned moves for some badly needed flair players. One of those, Dango Ouattara, looks downright dangerous, while Ivorian attacker Hamed Traore and Ghanaian striker Antoine Semenyo are proper alternatives to Kieffer Moore and injured Dominic Solanke. When the Cherries get Marcus Tavernier back, the puzzle will be much closer to their best. How many pieces remain missing is what will dictate whether Bournemouth keeps its puncher’s chance to stay up. (NM)