What did we learn during matchweek 14 of the 2021-22 Premier League?
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
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.
[ VIDEO: PL highlights ]
Let’s get to it.
1. Salah chasing repeat of Kane achievement one year on (Everton 1-4 Liverpool): A season ago, Harry Kane scored 23 goals and assisted 14 more. Both tallies were tops in the Premier League, making him the first player in PL history to claim both the goals and assists crowns in the same season. One year on, Mohamed Salah has 13 goals (four more than anyone else) and eight assists (one more) just before the halfway point. His participation at the Africa Cup of Nations in January is perhaps the only thing that can stand in Salah’s way, as it becomes increasingly clear that the Premier League’s defenders are no longer qualified. (AE)
2. When they look like Barcelona (Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City): Every few games, Manchester City will do something — it can be as small as a single passage of play, or as large as a suffocatingly dominant possession performance where you ask yourself, half-seriously, “Have they perfected football?” — to trick you into thinking you’re watching Pep Guardiola’s peak Barcelona side from early last decade. There’s an effortlessness to the way they operate, when they’re in full flow, it’s a sight to be hold. Anyway, one of those flash-in-the-pan moments occurred on Wednesday. (AE)
3. Team spirit drags Man United over the line (Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal): There wasn’t much to love about that performance — from either side, but especially the winners — other than the fact that Manchester United battled in a way they haven’t often done in recent years. Sure, it came against similarly floundering opposition closer to mid-table than title contention, but this was a game that very recent iterations of Manchester United would have lost in agonizing fashion. There are, in fact, some positive signs coming out of Old Trafford. There is something for Ralf Rangnick to work with when he assumes first-team control later this week. (AE)
4. Winning while not at its best is championship stuff (Chelsea 2-1 Watford): Chelsea wasn’t great on Wednesday, neither clinical nor too inventive. But it truly didn’t feel like Thomas Tuchel’s men were really in danger of losing to the hosts, even if some big chances were missed by the Hornets. If you told Tuchel that he wouldn’t have to start Romelu Lukaku and use Timo Werner without having access to N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, he probably would’ve taken a win however it arrived in the W column. (NM)
5. Tottenham tempo increasing under Conte (Tottenham 2-0 Brentford): If the first three games (2W-1D-0L) of the Antonio Conte era have taught us anything, it’s that Nuno Espirito Santo’s Spurs were a painfully slow, plodding and ponderous team — on both sides of the ball. No side in the Premier League has covered less ground this season that Tottenham, and that’s including three games of Conte pushing the tempo steady higher. Given that Spurs’ best moments a season ago came as a result of quick counter-attacks between two and three players, Thursday game was just another reminder of just how poor Nuno’s ideas were for this team, and why he lasted all of 10 Premier League games. (AE)
6. Magpies, home crowd band together (Newcastle 1-1 Norwich): Down a man for 81 minutes, Newcastle’s players kept pushing for a goal and the St. James’ Park faithful rewarded their men’s effort with plenty of support. That Norwich City managed just two shots on target with their 11 men while the Magpies turned that defense into attack so readily is impressive, even in a points split. (NM)
7. Both teams below par (Southampton 2-2 Leicester): These two teams both have higher aspirations than their current place in the table and sloppy defensive mistakes, poor finishing and general jitters was on show at St Mary’s. Leicester are among the worst defensive teams in the PL, while Saints’ attack is among the worst. That was on show in abundance as both teams are struggling to kick their campaigns into life with Leicester in mid-table as they want to be in the top four hunt, while Saints are ensconced in the bottom half when they dream of a top 10 finish. (JPW)
8. What fitness levels? (Leeds 1-0 Crystal Palace): It’s often been mentioned that Leeds United’s system demands a lot out of players, and that Marcelo Bielsa’s requirements often find his teams looking haggard late in the season and sometimes in games. There was no such issue Tuesday, as Leeds was the better team early and that surged into superiority around the hour mark at Elland Road. A Palace run of chances with 20 minutes left wasn’t the end for Leeds either, as they fought to the death for their win. (NM)
9. Wolves’ slow build-up predictable (Wolves 0-0 Burnley): Early in the season they created plenty of chances but didn’t put them away after dominating games. but now Wolves are struggling to create chances. Aside from Adama Traore’s counter-attack threat, Wolves kept the ball but did very little with out. They played into Burnley’s hands. (JPW)
10. Brighton doesn’t always score, but when they do… (West Ham 1-1 Brighton): Neal Maupay’s goal was absolutely electric and came off of a tremendous Tariq Lamptey cross. The ex-Chelsea man stood up a cross into the heart of the 18 and Maupay measured his overhead kick effort with a laser-guide, and that’s what it was going to take to beat Lukasz Fabianski. (NM)