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. City’s depth flex readies for Champions League (Arsenal 0-1 Man City): The game became a bit of a slog and we should credit Arsenal for limiting the damage (and we will below). But how about City doing the thing without starting Rodri, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Sergio Aguero, and Laporte. Only Gabriel Jesus was put into the match, giving De Bruyne a rest as Guardiola prepped for Borussia Monchengladbach. Must be nice. The rest of the way for City, you ask? Find the guards of honor: Four straight league matches at home: West Ham, Wolves, Man United, Southampton. Then Fulham and Leicester City away, followed by Leeds and Villa at home, Palace away, Chelsea home, Newcastle away, Brighton away, Everton at home. (NM)
2. Ancelotti’s Serie A special sinks Liverpool (Liverpool 0-2 Everton): Italian soccer’s top flight is now a league of as many goals per game as any of the top European leagues, but Carlo Ancelotti’s Saturday show to pick up Everton’s first win over Liverpool in nearly 11 years was straight out of the 1990s calcio playbook. Up early against the champs, Everton made life miserable on the hosts. Seamus Coleman was relentless on the right while Mason Holgate followed Roberto Firmino all over the pitch and Michael Keane was the enforcer next to him. Brilliant commitment. Ancelotti saved Calvert-Lewin and Sigurdsson for late. Newly-fit forward DCL took an incredible ball from Richarlison and saw his initial shot saved by Alisson Becker. But Trent Alexander-Arnold’s desperate failed slide to block Calvert-Lewin’s shot also took out the forward’s tracking of the rebound and Sigurdsson put it to bed with a low, composed penalty. He’s been invaluable to Ancelotti, completely bought-in whether sub or starter. (NM)
3. Man United sleep-walk through long periods (Man United 3-1 Newcastle): As good as Bruno Fernandes has been this season (he’ll probably win Player of the Year), Manchester United still need more from him as no one else in the team is willing or able to take control of a 50-50 game and tilt it in their favor. Fernandes does so nearly every other game, but when he doesn’t (like on Sunday), Man United rarely look convincing or confident. Fortunately for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, Newcastle were happy to self-destruct and hand Manchester United an insurmountable advantage, without having to be brilliant brilliant, as the game wore on.
4. Quick-strike Leicester does it again (Aston Villa 1-2 Leicester): Leicester City seemingly has a habit of scoring in bunches, and Harvey Barnes wound up with a goal and an assist in a four-minute first-half span to deliver all the goals Leicester would need at Villa Park. When the Foxes start to feel it, they really act. It could’ve been 4-0 early. (NM)
5. Tuchel tinkers with his team (Southampton 1-1 Chelsea): Tuchel made plenty of changes before the game and during it, and Chelsea lost a bit of fluidity in their play. They still dominated large chunks of the game but they couldn’t quite get their forwards in correct positions as the final pass or finish was off. The way Hudson-Odoi was brought on at half time then subbed off with 15 minutes to go summed up why Tuchel isn’t happy with his attacking lineup. They have huge games against Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United coming up and they need to get the balance right. (JPW)
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6. Mourinho got Mourinho’d by Moyes (West Ham 2-1 Tottenham): Shame on us, but it was easy to undervalue Tim Howard’s early-season comments praising the determination David Moyes would show in building West Ham back into something special. After all, Moyes had been bad essentially everywhere since leaving his special decade at Everton. But Moyes has had the right prescription to get West Ham into the top four this season, and continued the Irons’ hoodoo hold on Spurs by using Jose Mourinho’s tactics to beat Jose Mourinho’s team on Sunday. Full marks to the Scot. (NM)
7. Criminally wasteful finishing from Brighton, again (Brighton 1-2 Crystal Palace): Monday was simply a continuation of the same old story, in which Brighton dominated the game (25-3 in terms of shots taken), had plenty of chances to score, failed to do so, and dropped points unnecessarily. For the vast majority of the field, Potter’s men are brilliant and comprehensive — they’re even good part of the way into the final third, as chance creation is hardly an issue. But, when it comes time to put the ball in the back of the net, they go from 7th in shots taken (12.9 per game) down to 15th in shots on target (3.9) — three of the five teams currently below them will be relegated, and the other two will stay up by the skin of their teeth. Only time will tell if they are made to pay for their transgressions. (AE)
How did Brighton not score here? pic.twitter.com/616CnLFm4g
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 22, 2021
8. Wolves on the front foot (Wolves 1-0 Leeds): It’s been quite some time — perhaps since the early days of the 2020-21 season — since we’ve seen Wolves take the game to an opponent of similar quality the way they did against Leeds, particularly in the first half. While the shot numbers were even (9-8 in favor of Wolves), the location of shots told the real story: 7 from inside 12 yards for Wolves, compared to 2 for Leeds. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side played some uncharacteristically free-flowing football with the considerable talent in the team, and it was a joy to witness. (AE)
9. Plenty good from Fulham (Fulham 1-0 Sheffield United): The Cottagers had drawn nine times in their last 13 league outings and a 10th would’ve been just awful. Thank Lookman for that, but the fact is that Scott Parker’s angsty Fulham has been so difficult to beat after a terrible start to the season. It took him some time to get his late-arriving batch of defenders comfortable with the system, but Fulham’s losses since a dreadful 1-1-7 start to the season read: at Man City, versus Chelsea, versus Manchester United, and versus a Leicester City they beat at the King Power Stadium in November. (NM)
10. Burnley fall flat (Burnley 0-0 West Brom): Home draws against West Brom and Fulham in the last two show that maybe Burnley aren’t going to drag themselves away from the relegation scrap. They have enough to stay up, but they didn’t take enough chances after going up a man. (JPW)