What did we learn in the Premier League over the weekend?
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Here’s a look at 10 things that stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nick Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across a weekend (and Monday) of Premier League fixtures.
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Let’s get to it.
1. Bruno, Rashford make sure Red Devils don’t slip up (Man United 2-1 Brighton): Marcus Rashford scored his first Premier League goal in five matches and just his third PL marker of 2021 when he ran onto Bruno Fernandes’ through ball to tie the score with a half-hour left versus a game Brighton side at Old Trafford, and both the health and wealth of that combination has been critical to United’s runner-up status. Fernandes and Rashford have played in each of United’s 30 PL matches this season. Only five times has one or the other gone less than 70 minutes. And there have only been 10 occasions when neither has a goal nor an assist. United is 1W-6D-3L in those matches. When both get a goal or an assist? 11W-2D (NM).
2. Moyes, Lingard continue revival tour (Wolves 2-3 West Ham): If there was ever a chance for an outside-the-box choice for Manager of the Year, it’s this year (Yes, even with Pep Guardiola’s Man City masterclass waltz to the title). David Moyes has picked up his career from a dire, dire place and reinstated the Evertonian overachieving vibe that helped him become a Manchester United boss. Lingard’s renaissance is nearly as remarkable, the English playmaker looking as good as he has in any period of his career after being considered an “Eh, I guess” loan signing from Old Trafford. Lingard has six goals and four assists in eight appearances for West Ham. That’s nuts (NM).
3. Sluggish Chelsea go down a man, then implode (Chelsea 2-5 West Brom): Thomas Tuchel’s side started slowly and even though they took the lead, he wasn’t happy with their display. Thiago Silva was sent off in the first half (he could have got a red for the first yellow he picked up) and Jorginho, Timo Werner, and several others were way below par. Yes, they’ve just returned from international duty, but Tuchel’s side had conceded just two goals in 14 games before this abomination. This was a shocking Chelsea display — They made big mistakes which were ruthlessly exposed. That solid defensive unit was totally missing and the Blues fell apart when they went down to 10 men (JPW)
4. Deja vu for Tottenham (Newcastle 2-2 Spurs): Tottenham has now dropped 15 points from winning positions, the third-most in the PL this season, and Spurs just can’t close games out. The latest example came after Spurs took a 2-1 lead over the previously-moribund Magpies at St. James’ Park. Jose Mourinho keeps changing his back four and the backs made a mistake for the first goal. Then it was too easy for Newcastle to swing in a cross, head down and finish for the second. Spurs are stuck in a strange mental block in these type of situations and they are not learning from their mistakes. That will cost them a top four finish this season, as they didn’t make the most of Chelsea’s slip-up and they have some pretty tough games in their final eight games. They are still in with a chance, but this was a big opportunity missed. Again (JPW)
5. Everton whiff on big chance to close top four gap (Everton 1-1 Crystal Palace): This is a big blow for Everton. They were a few minutes away from going two points off the top four with a game-in-hand. All season long they have got within one step of making that big leap into the top four. All season long they have come up short, especially at home. Carlo Ancelotti’s side only has itself to blame. They should have won this game easily and after Chelsea and Tottenham dropped points this weekend, this is a huge opportunity missed (JPW).
6. Fulham flinches, loses twice (Aston Villa 3-1 Fulham): The relegation-worried Cottagers were better in the first half and went deservedly in front through Aleksandar Mitrovic, who might’ve had a couple goals on another day by the time he put Fulham ahead with a half-hour to play. But Fulham just fell apart, perhaps shocked a bit when Trezeguet scored his first goal. Scott Parker’s men never really found their footing despite forcing a pair of saves from Emiliano Martinez. And the late third goal could makes the loss sting more, as Fulham’s goal differential advantage over Newcastle shrunk to three (NM).
7. Klopp is adapting, yes, but Fabinho and Jota more helpful (Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool): Liverpool has sorted out its defensive woes, at least for now, keepers of three-straight clean sheets in wins over RB Leipzig, Wolves, and now Arsenal. The Reds, who’ve been quite unlucky this season in both bounces and fortune, entered the day allowing 8.5 shots-per-game. Only Man City has allowed fewer.
But a deep dive into the statistics will be a worthwhile endeavor to dig into just how Klopp has sorted out his defense despite injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip. The growing chemistry Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips has helped a bunch — the center backs teaming up in all of the aforementioned wins — but the midfield in front of them has taken so much pressure away from the youngsters. Thiago Alcantara was sensational against Leipzig, winning 7-of-10 ground duels, but Fabinho has been a force in the other two. On Saturday, he won 11-of-14 duels while making six tackles. Danger? Snuffed out (NM).
8. Leicester City’s only obstacle is themselves (Leicester City 0-2 Man City): The Foxes did not have James Maddison ready to start after a long injury absence, and they’ll hang their top four hats on three things: His return, a four-point lead on the chasing pack, and an upcoming soft portion of the fixture list. After visiting top-four rivals West Ham next week and hosting Southampton in an FA Cup semifinal on April 18, Leicester will meet West Brom, Crystal Palace, Southapton, and Newcastle before their brutal run to finish the season. Brendan Rodgers will have his men firing forward to handle their business before finishing with Man United, Chelsea, and Spurs. Any hiccup will recall last season, when the Foxes were top four from Matchweeks 3 until 36, tumbling into the Europa League via a 1W-1D-3L run to finish the season which included a 4-1 loss to Bournemouth and no goals in final week losses to Spurs and United (NM).
8. Danny Ings comes back with bang (Southampton 3-2 Burnley): What a comeback from injury for Danny Ings, as he set up one goal, scored an amazing solo effort, and was involved in Saints’ third goal. Ings, 28, has just one year left on his contract and is wanted by Manchester City and others, but he may stay at Saints. He will be the main man for his hometown club, will play regularly, and when he’s fit and firing on all cylinders he gives Southampton an entirely new dimension. Can Saints persuade him to sign a new deal this summer (JPW)?
10. Concussions hamper Blades but show import of rule change (Leeds 2-1 Sheffield United): George Baldock came off as Sheffield United’s first concussion sub just before halftime, and thank goodness that the Premier League now allows a fourth substitute because Jayden Bogle looked even worse off than Baldock when he left with an apparent head injury in the 73rd minute. It also shows how much of a non-controversy the concussion sub rule is to the PL. Sure, someone could abuse it, but it would be truly shameful and likely punished in a firm manner. It just makes sense and always has because, you know, human brains (NM).