What did we learn during matchweek 18 of the 2021-22 Premier League season?
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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. Spurs need to find ruthless streak in finishing (Tottenham 2-2 Liverpool): As my high school coach Dick White used to yell during practice when we missed the goal, “EIGHT FEET HIGH! TWENTY-FOUR FEET WIDE! It’s the BIGGEST GOAL IN SPORTS!” Rhetoric and good goalkeeping aside, Tottenham should’ve had three goals before Jota scored, let alone what happened after the break. Dele’s shot was well-saved but Heung-min Son also made a meal of multiple chances and passes (Kane was not immune either). Make no mistake about it: Spurs kept Liverpool in this (NM).
2. Blues slipping out of title race (Wolves 0-0 Chelsea): In a matter of weeks Chelsea have gone from title favorites to being third in a three-horse race. Injury and illness issues have hit them hard, but so too have sloppy defensive errors coupled with sluggish attacking displays. Chelsea are controlling the tempo of games and having a lot of the ball but they aren’t doing enough with it. In the blink of an eye they have now fallen six points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City. That is a lot of ground to make up and all eyes will be on their clash at City on January 15, and their home game against Liverpool on Jan. 2. If they’re able to get four points from those two games they are back in the title race. Anything less and their title bid could be over (JPW).
3. Cancelo set for Premier League Team of the Season, as City looks historically-good (Newcastle 0-4 Man City): Pep Guardiola’s Portuguese defender has taken his time to become a fixture in the lineup after City’s swap deal that send cash and Danilo to Juventus. He’s been sensational this season, as important to City as Trent Alexander-Arnold to Liverpool in a league with more than its fair share of star fullbacks. Even considering Reece James, TAA, and a host of center backs, Cancelo would have to fall off a proverbial cliff to not make the PL Team of the Season.
City didn’t hit its expected goals numbers last year but right now it’s another story. It’s to the point where any dropped points from Liverpool and Chelsea puts even more focus on matches between City and their nearest rivals. And Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United, and Tottenham all have to come to the Etihad Stadium. Arsenal is City’s only remaining away meeting in the “Big Six” (NM).
4. Martinelli, Lacazette ease Aubameyang blow (Leeds 1-4 Arsenal): Since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was disciplined and dropped (and stripped of the captaincy), Alexandre Lacazette and Martinelli have combined for three goals and two assists in three games. Given that Aubameyang’s production have already begun to slip before his banishment, it’s not absurd to say that Arsenal are better off now than two weeks ago, with the team (and forward places specifically) picked solely based on merit and form. Right now, both Lacazette and Martinelli are in fine form (AE).
5. Uncertainly challenging minds of refs, players (Six matches postponed): Jurgen Klopp’s post-match tirade included a part questioning the rest periods for each Premier League club given that some teams will have to play twice in three days while others will not have played for a week or longer due to COVID-19 positives. The Premier League has a big meeting Monday morning to sort out what’s best for players, staffs, and England — and, of course, the league — as positive tests surge upward and some clubs dodge positive tests and others are waylaid by them. There are not easy answers here, although there may be simple ones, and the race for safety as well as the top four could easily be wobbled by the precarious period in the pandemic (NM).
6. Kane a lucky boy, Robertson not (Tottenham 2-2 Liverpool): Harry Kane’s sliding challenge into the leg of Andy Robertson was certainly of the orange card variety if not an easy red (Most would say the latter). If he was sent off, very few arguments would’ve been made on his behalf. But he wasn’t, and perhaps the challenge lived in just enough grey area for Kane’s yellow not to turn color to red. That said, Andrew Robertson looked to have got a similar break shortly after the match went to 2-2, but VAR stepped in this time. Throw in a non-called penalty against Diogo Jota, and Liverpool is not pleased. Tottenham will point to an uncalled handball on Mohamed Salah in the run-up to a Liverpool goal, but that did seem to meet the letter of the new law (NM).
7. Solid Wolves fail to create (Wolves 0-0 Chelsea): The have conceded just 14 goals in 18 games this season, which is remarkable. That is the positive. Scoring goals is a huge issue, though, as they are the second lowest scorers in the PL with just 13 in 18 games. Now that they are sitting pretty in midtable almost at the midway point of the season, Wolves have to take more risks in the second half of the season if they want to finish in the European spots. They can definitely challenge for Europe if they can find a way to create and score just a few more chances (JPW).
8. Newcastle does exactly what it shouldn’t (Newcastle 0-4 Man City): Our preview was prophetic but was far from some sort of galaxy-brained new theory. Newcastle can’t make mistakes against Man City, and especially can’t go behind early. Whoops. Martin Dubravka conceded a cheap corner kick under the press of Gabriel Jesus, and Ciaran Clark made a gaffe within moments as Dubravka failed to stop the corner kick and City took a 1-0 lead. Newcastle was stung by officiating controversy early against Leicester City and Liverpool, but this was all Newcastle including a disorganized midfield press as the Magpies got took excited by their first chance at a counter attack and left themselves open for Ederson’s long pass. Shambles, as they say (NM).
9. Arsenal impress, but Leeds make it easy (Leeds 1-4 Arsenal): Simply put, tis is not the 2020-21 version of Leeds, a side that chased and harried, defended doggedly and gave not a single inch. Sure, having five regular starters out injured (and just eight players available with at least one game played at Elland Road prior to Saturday) isn’t helping matters, but that has been the tone and tenor of their performances since matchweek 1. The quality of Arsenal’s goals was hardly spectacular, as mistake after mistake compounded and resulted in the 4-1 scoreline.
10. Liverpool, Chelsea draws further underline fixtures with Man City: Hey, we had to get 10 things and we definitely think it’s worth considering how Man City’s hot streak — which won’t last forever (probably) — has come just went Chelsea and Liverpool have failed to collect every point available to them. This is especially true for the Blues, but consider that Man City’s five remaining fixtures against the traditional Big Six include four home matches including that of their two nearest competitors and the Manchester derby. With Liverpool visiting Chelsea on Jan. 2 — a day after Man City goes to Arsenal — one will likely slip multiple results off City ahead of away matches on Jan. 15 (Man City vs Chelsea) and April 9 (Man City vs Liverpool). That January date at Stamford Bridge is absolutely massive (NM).