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), Nicholas 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. Lamps’ little-used becomes Tuchel’s titans (Chelsea 2-1 Leicester): As Frank Lampard is rumored to replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace, it’s worth remembering that the Chelsea boss couldn’t solve his club’s defending and still kept both a world-class center back and metronome on the bench. The latter, Antonio Rudiger, has been perhaps the key veteran piece in putting Chelsea back on track under Thomas Tuchel, and the big German was at the doorstep to bundle the corner kick over the line that sent the Blues back into the Champions League.
Then there’s Jorginho, who rolled his penalty home to double the lead after the hour mark. Look at the differences between the playing time for both players before and after Lampard was fired and Tuchel hired on Jan. 25
Before Jan. 25
Chelsea record: 8W-5D-6L
Jorginho: 11 appearances and nine starts
Rudiger: Four matches, all starts
After Jan. 25
Chelsea record: 11W-5D-2L
Jorginho: 16 appearances and 14 starts
Rudiger: 14 appearances, all starts (NM)
2. Have Spurs considered playing the good midfielders? (Tottenham 1-2 Aston Villa) The answer is, clearly, no. Mourinho rarely, if ever, picked Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso during his 18 months in charge, and Ryan Mason has largely been hesitant as well. The result? For two seasons, Tottenham have been routinely dominated by sides that press high up the field, targeting the likes of Harry Winks in midfield and Eric Dier in defense — both of whom as significantly less accomplished on-ball players than, say, Ndombele and Lo Celso, neither of whom started on Wednesday. The slew of own-half turnovers aren’t ever limited to the midfield as the defense gave the ball away plenty itself, but the lack of dynamism and advanced players showing for the ball is a direct cause for someone like Dier or Sergio Reguilon to continuously play passes to no one in particular. (AE)
3. United has one more match to sharpen up (Manchester United 1-1 Fulham): The Red Devils have taken just one point from three matches, losing to Leicester City and Liverpool at home before Tuesday’s draw. They have a trip to the Molineux on Championship Sunday which will serve as a last chance to find footing ahead of the Europa League Final at Villarreal in eight days time. Villarreal has won its last two matches by a combined 6-0 scoreline and their final tune-up is a visit to Real Madrid. (NM)
4. Foden thrills with insurance goal (Brighton 3-2 Manchester City): We’re not sure exactly the height of Phil Foden’s ceiling, but there’s some kind of cathedral vibe to be sure. Foden doubled his 10-man champions’ advantage with a long dribble and finish that left a very good defender in Ben White and a promising goalkeeper in Robert Sanchez out on the tiles. The 20-year-old’s 15 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season do very much feel like the tip of the iceberg for the “Stockport Iniesta.” (NM)
5. Phillips as Liverpool’s symbolic stress reliever (Burnley 0-3 Liverpool):Nat Phillips has grown from emergency fill-in for a center back-starved Reds to a relative standout in their back line, so his thumped header being not just his first Premier League goal but also strengthening their top-four stock with one match left is just perfect. Phillips may not become an out-and-out star a la Virgil van Dijk or even a senior international like Joel Matip, but you can point to him as someone who helped lead Liverpool out of the dark. (NM)
6. A platform to build upon (Crystal Palace 1-3 Arsenal): It’s been said many times already, but Arsenal already have a strong core of players around which a future top-four side can be built… if only they fully commit to that idea and let the young Gunners run wild next season. Pepe has been the best (Arsenal) version of himself down the stretch this season, while Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel each improved from the start of the season. The key question is: Does Mikel Arteta feel he has the job security to commit the longer-term plan, rather than prioritizing every last point on offer? (AE)
7. Moyes manager of year candidate (West Brom 1-3 West Ham): Nobody, nobody, expected this from West Ham this season. After just escaping relegation last season, the Hammers have been so consistent this campaign. They have found a way to get wins, have talented individuals working together and Moyes has created a real team unit. His achievement of taking West Ham to Europe equals, if not betters, Pep Guardiola’s Man City winning the league. Talk about getting the best out of your resources. (JPW)
8. Allan Saint-Maximin is too pure for this world (Newcastle 1-0 Sheffield United): The magic Newcastle dribbler might have been blessed with a brain capable of beauty too incredible for his body withstand, because the oft-fouled winger’s only problem at St. James’ Park has been injuries. Just look at this perfect pass to set up Murphy’s assist of Willock. Sensational. (NM)
9. Toffees edge over the line (Everton 1-0 Wolves): This was not a vintage display by any stretch of the imagination, but Everton got the job done. After losing to Sheffield United at home last time out, the Toffees needed to get back on track at home. Their fans helped pushed them over the line (they’ve won all three home games with fans this season) as they were solid defensively, and Richarlison scored a fine header. Everton have run out of steam this season, badly, but they are in with a chance of European action next season. (JPW)
10. Bielsa’s boys growing up, even without key men (Southampton 0-2 Leeds): With Illan Meslier rested, plus Robin Koch and Mateusz Klich allowed time to prepare for their national teams this summer, Bielsa was without a few key players. Kalvin Phillips was taken off at half time too and with a top 10 finish secured, it is right for Bielsa to have a look at a few of his squad players as he makes decisions for next season. Leeds have shown a great knack of digging in to win games as the season has gone on. (JPW)