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. Ilkay Gundogan, Player of the Year candidate (Man City 3-0 Tottenham): Pep Guardiola has given Gundogan a lot more freedom in attack while Kevin De Bruyne recovers from injury. KDB famously plays a bit of a “do whatever you want” role in Guardiola’s otherwise meticulous system, as there’s always one player with special freedom whether it was Leroy Sane on the left wing a few years ago, David Silva roaming the field for space like an older Lionel Messi, or De Bruyne’s Harry Potter turn with a wizard wand the past few years.
Gundogan has six goals and an assist since De Bruyne left, a five-match stretch, with three braces accounting for the goals. Keeping an eye on his injury from the second half will be big time. Guardiola said the player thinks it’s not a big deal but that he’ll wait until follow-up to breathe easy. Nice Ederson assist here, huh? (NM)
2. Fernandes the key for United, but needs help (West Brom 1-1 Man United): What a goal from Bruno Fernandes, who is in the running for Player of the Year for his heroics in the Red Devils’ current status as Premier League title contenders. The 26-year-old now has 19 goals and 12 assists in 35 matches across all competitions, including 14 and 10 in 24 PL outings. Wow. (NM)
3. Leicester sucks the life out of Liverpool (Leicester 3-1 Liverpool): For most of this game Liverpool looked energized and when they 1-0 up late on, you expected them to kick on. They didn’t. Leicester hit them hard with three quick goals as the Foxes smelt blood. At the end of the season we will look at this game at being pivotal in where Leicester and Liverpool ended up. (JPW)
4. Spurs dead before the ship even sank (Man City 3-0 Tottenham): Okay maybe not dead but severely hampered. Beating City takes speed and creativity on the counter and resolute defense (Oddly enough, The Smiths guitarist and City fan Johnny Marr played on the Modest Mouse album cited in the lede). Davinson Sanchez was a mess at center back for Spurs, who’ve needed center back help since the summer, and the absences of Giovani Lo Celso and Sergio Reguilon — especially the latter — were glaring.
Meanwhile, City knew it wouldn’t have Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero for a run of matches against Liverpool away, Spurs at home, Everton away, Arsenal away, and West Ham at home. It’s a 7-1 combined scoreline so far with Carlo Ancelotti’s Toffees up next. (NM)
5. Alisson blunders, again (Leicester 3-1 Liverpool): This was another awful day for Alisson, as he tried to make up for his big errors last week and it cost Liverpool dear. He came running out of his goal and clattered into his own player, Ozan Kabak, as Vardy scored into an open net. Alisson made a great save just after that but the damage was done as Liverpool’s frail confidence took another big hit. Alisson has to get back to basics but the defenders ahead of him are making his life even tougher. (JPW)
6. Arsenal’s ceiling raised with Aubameyang on song (Arsenal 4-2 Leeds): He’s one of the most lethal finishers on earth and there’s no way he went from serial 20-goal scorer to nothing overnight. The hat trick saw two good goals and the penalty is worth one, too, and you wouldn’t bet against him cooking up the sort of hot streak that gets him to 20 again. And that’s the sort of thing — combined with a healthy Thomas Partey — that could shoot the Gunners up the Premier League table. The 10th-place Gunners are six points back of fourth-place Liverpool with the same amount of matches played, so it’s not insane even if the five teams between them all have matches-in-hand. (NM)
7. Not the time for panic stations at St. Mary’s (Southampton 1-2 Wolves): Yes, Saints have lost six-straight and one was a 9-0 hammering by Manchester United. But most of the performances fit neither the mailed-in or disorganized categories and the club was missing Jannik Vestergaard, Oriol Romeu, Nathan Redmond, and Kyle Walker-Peters for several matches of the run. Has it been bad? Of course, but Saints had superior xG in the losses to Newcastle and Aston Villa and a draw with Arsenal. They also lost 1-0 to Man City and beat Liverpool 1-0. With Chelsea, Leeds, and Everton next, it’s not getting much easier but Southampton is a March 13 home win over Championship side Bournemouth from the FA Cup semifinal. (NM)
8. Burnley back on track (Crystal Palace 0-3 Burnley): They have looked more like themselves for several months now and the Clarets are looking up towards the top 10 rather than over their shoulder at the bottom three. Their biggest win of the season equalled their biggest-ever away win in the Premier League and this was a case of Burnley just wanting it more. They were dominant in every aspect of the game and were hungry. Any lingering doubts of being dragged into a relegation battle are now over. (JPW)
9. He’s a Maja-c man (Everton 0-2 Fulham): (No apologies for the pun.) Not only was Maja a last-minute transfer deadline day signing for Fulham, but he was very much a fall-back option after Joshua King chose a move to — you guessed it — Everton, rather than joining the Cottagers. The universe clearly has a sense of humor and wanted to make it very clear on Sunday. If it wasn’t clear enough after Maja’s two goals, King had a goal of his own ruled out for offside. (AE)
10. Villa, Brighton tell same-old story (Brighton 0-0 Aston Villa): It’s somewhat fitting that the pre-match storyline centered around whether the Premier League’s least lucky finishers could find a way through a gritty Villa who had kept 11 clean sheets including leaving Leicester City, Southampton, and Arsenal (twice) without a goal. Brighton entered the day 8th in shots-per-game (12.3) but 15th in shots on target/90 (3.5). Villa had allowed the seventh-most shots in the league/90 (13.2) but were top half in goals conceded.
Brighton kept the ball 58 percent of the time — 64% in the second half — and the shot numbers were a cartoonish 26-4 for the Seagulls with nine shots on target. But no goals. Again. (NM)