What have we learned (so far) during matchweek 21 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. Sluggish City edge to victory (Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City): This was not a vintage City display at all, but after a quick turnaround from their win at Brentford on Wednesday it was a performance of champions. They edged to victory and did what they had to do, but their forward line was sluggish as Sterling, Jesus and Mahrez didn’t click at all. Pep Guardiola didn’t look best pleased despite the late win and he will admit that this was far from City’s best display. But they got the win, their 11th straight, as they continue to pull away at the top of the table. (JPW)
2. Pulisic has electrifying moments but will rue most of day (Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool): USMNT star Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz had more than enough chances to back up Thomas Tuchel’s benching of Romelu Lukaku but only Pulisic got his goal and the American’s two or three brilliant moments fail to make up for some bad giveaways and muffed opportunities. Havertz could get his own section, so let’s stick with Pulisic. The 23-year-old had two tremendous opportunities to score fairly-straightforward goals but only converted on a much more difficult question. (NM)
3. Spurs creating more chances (Watford 0-1 Tottenham): Through seven Premier League games under Antonio Conte, Tottenham were defensively solid without setting the opposition’s penalty area alight with high-percentage scoring chances. Watford, with their 35 goals conceded in 17 games, appeared on the fixture list at exactly the right time. The chances were there, as Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura combined to create a few high-quality chances while Watford sunk deeper and deeper into their own half, only to steal the three points very late on from a set piece. (AE)
4. Fortunate Mane finds opener (Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool): Sadio Mane’s forearm to the face of Cesar Azpilicueta inside of the game’s first 10 seconds would’ve likely been enough to get him sent off of any other game (or, perhaps, this one in any other minute). Anthony Taylor nor the VAR were ready to sanction a first-minute dismissal, and Mane made the most of his reprieve by putting the Reds up 1-0 when he stayed patient to beat Edouard Mendy. (NM)
5. Gutsy Gunners deserved more (Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City): They imploded but they deserved more. This was a very good display from Arsenal. Especially the first 55 minutes before all hell broke loose. They were incisive on the break as Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette and Odegaard were on the same page and ripped City apart. Arsenal should have been at least two goals up when City won their penalty kick. They continue to struggle to get points against the big boys and that is the final step for this young side to seriously push for a top four finish. Xhaka and Gabriel were at fault for rash decisions and Arsenal’s youngsters deserved more. Perhaps if Mikel Arteta was on the sidelines (he tested positive for COVID-19) he could have helped them get over the line, but he will still be proud of their display and they’re heading in the right direction. (JPW)
6. Brentford never stop fighting (Brentford 2-1 Aston Villa): They are absolutely brilliant to watch and never give up. Thomas Frank is a very proud man and despite injuries which have hit them hard in recent weeks, Brentford keep on fighting and they are digging deep to win games at home. That will keep them in the Premier League this season and with 23 points after 19 games they are well on their way to the magic 40-point marker. What a season they are having. What an atmosphere their fans are creating at home. Brentford is a tough place to go. (JPW)
7. Back-to-back blowouts (nearly) (Crystal Palace 2-3 West Ham): After starting the season brilliantly and establishing themselves as top-four contenders once again, West Ham hit a rough patch from mid-November to Boxing Day as they won just one of seven in the Premier League and slipped to 6th in the table. The 4-1 win over Watford midweek raised a few eyebrows, but that was against one of the Premier League’s worst defenses. What would they do against a rigorously drilled side like Crystal Palace? Turns out, much of the same (for a half, at least). Antonio is catching fire once again, the defense
is tightening was tightening back up for 80 minutes, and David Moyes will be feeling hopeful for what 2022 brings to east London. (AE)
8. Slick Brighton finally finish chances, but can score even more (Everton 2-3 Brighton): They create so many chances in every single game and this was the first time this season that Brighton scored three in a game. Graham Potter’s side were so slick on the ball and even though they were a little lapse in defense, it seems like they’re playing with more freedom in attack now. This is how Brighton can kick on in the second half of the season and they even let Everton off the hook in the first half as they could have scored even more. Putting chances away consistently is the next step for Brighton. (JPW)
9. Calvert-Lewin rusty, but will be huge for Toffees (Everton 2-3 Brighton): He missed a penalty kick and missed a few chances but this was his first appearance since August and his hold-up play and movement will be key for Everton. They looked better in attack with DCL up top and Gordon supporting him and when Richarlison is back fit that gives Everton a totally different dimension. This was a tough loss but the main positive is that Calvert-Lewin is back fit. (JPW)
10. Bamford absence, off-kilter Raphinha still loom (Leeds 3-1 Burnley): Patrick Bamford is almost ready to return to the pitch for Leeds and Brazilian playmaker Raphinha just hasn’t been at his clinical best. That’s likely why Leeds was incapable of capitalizing on a brilliant 20-minute period in the first half, and Raphinha added insult to insult when he couldn’t snap home from close range in the second. Leeds got its winner, of course, but it could’ve been settled much sooner. (NM)