What did we learn in the Premier League over the weekend?
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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nick Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. Man City’s genius defense leads way (Man City 1-0 Sheffield United): City will need to win some games without a ton of goals while Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are out, and the defending has been on-point this season. Man City’s league-best defense starts with possession, but Pep Guardiola’s work this season is about more than depriving the opposition of the ball. The possession helps, but Blades managed just four shots and only one was on target over 90 minutes. City has the same amount of goals conceded as wins this season. (NM)
2. Salah puts on a show (West Ham 1-3 Liverpool): If there’s a star player dealing with worse luck in front of goal than Mohamed Salah this season, send him our regards. His first goal in six games was a beauty and a relief coming on the heels of myriad just-misses and phenomenal saves. Creating a yard of space in a congested box, Salah pummeled a curling ball into the side netting and Lukasz Fabianski could only tip his hat. The 28-year-old has 20 goals in all competitions this season, a mark he’s beaten in all four seasons at Liverpool (44, 27, and 23 before this). And the first and second touches on his second goal were, frankly, ethereal. Power. Pace. Touch. Technique. All of the above. (NM)
3. Tuchel’s tactics perfect (Chelsea 2-0 Burnley): Burnley was absent antagonistic forward Ashley Barnes and preferred left back Charlie Taylor, so Tuchel put the old hats in a back three and encouraged Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount to drive that left side. Tammy Abraham and Werner failed to impress, but Pulisic arrived for Abraham and the Werner-Pulisic combo was fantastic in a half that could’ve produced four or five goals. Once Werner starts finishing — and he will — look out. (NM)
4. Big six stumbles continue for Solskjaer (Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United): If Manchester United fails to achieve any of their season goals, please feel free to trace them back to their record against traditional powers. United has scored one goal in six games against Man City, Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea, losing two and drawing four. (NM)
5. Rare failure to seal points for Leicester (Leicester 1-3 Leeds): The Foxes had not dropped points when taking a lead this season, but let go of them all on Sunday. This is Leicester’s first league loss since Dec. 16 and it will bear monitoring to see if the Foxes can avoid dropping points in three-straight matches for the first time this season when they meet Fulham on Wednesday at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers beat Leicester at the King Power Stadium earlier this season. (NM)
6. One-man team (Brighton 1-0 Tottenham): For years, rival fans poked and prodded Tottenham for being a one-man team as Harry Kane quickly developed from an awkward fawn into a superstar striker under Mauricio Pochettino, but it was always far from the truth as the entire team pulled together in the same direction and had a clear idea how they could contribute to the team in a meaningful way. These days, though, under Mourinho, Tottenham proved to be a lifeless bunch without their talisman, managing all of eight shots (one in the first half and three in the opening 70 minute) and ridding the game of any joy to which Spurs fans might have still clung. (AE)
7. Grealish gets love for a reason (Southampton 0-1 Aston Villa): The assist for Villa’s captain brings Grealish’s season production total to six goals and nine assists in 18 matches, and his 0.44 expected assists per game is the fourth-most of players to make more than a half-dozen appearances (Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Cengiz Under, Kevin De Bruyne). He’s also 18th in xG+xA per 90. A word of warning to Villa’s opponents: Ollie Watkins is four spots ahead of Grealish, his eight PL goals three shy of his expected 11. (NM)
8. Almiron dazzles in central position (Everton 0-2 Newcastle): The Paraguayan winger was superb in a more central role and he set up Wilson on several occasions and covered the most distance on the pitch. Almiron scored against Leeds in midweek and seemed rejuvenated by that goal, as he slid in plenty of nice passes and caused Everton so many problems centrally. He should play centrally, just underneath Wilson, more often.
9. Eze comes up big once again (Crystal Palace 1-0 Wolves): He has now scored three goals in his debut Premier League season and the young winger continues to deliver in big moments. Eze, 22, has scored in all of Palace’s last three home wins and they will end up being key as they push for a top 10 finish. He was bought from QPR to ease the load on Zaha and he’s not only done that. He’s also forced Zaha to up his game as Palace’s talisman is on track for his best-ever Premier League goalscoring season. Eze has slotted in very nicely. (JPW)
10. Fulham performances mean little without wins (West Brom 2-2 Fulham): The Cottagers are apparently trying to draw their way out of the bottom three, looking so much better since December. Fulham has lost just twice in nine matches, but the other seven have all been draws dating back to a Dec. 13 home split with Liverpool. (JPW)