What did we learn during Matchweek 27 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) 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. Conte’s words had an impact (Leeds 0-4 Tottenham): In midweek Antonio Conte looked like he was going to walk away from Tottenham after their defeat at Burnley. His words were harsh and he blamed the players for consistent underachievement. His harsh words worked to motivate Spurs who were clinical and ruthless. Yes, they gave up chances at the back but Leeds couldn’t take them and Tottenham were out of sight inside the first 30 minutes of this game. Let’s see what Conte says next to try and rally Spurs to a top four finish.
2. Man City’s cloak of invincibility gone (Everton 0-1 Manchester City): It’s a strange thing to say of a side that has won 13 of its last 15 games in all competitions (13W-1D-1L), but Everton entered Saturday’s game believing the could take something from the defending champions, and they played like it early on. Manchester City eventually took control and dictated terms to Everton in the second half, but the result remained in serious doubt until the final whistle. Inversely, the confidence that Everton will draw from this game, even in defeat, could prove invaluable in their battle against relegation (AE).
3. Newcastle begins brighter future away from bottom (Brentford 0-2 Newcastle): Now that relegation fears seem a distant memory, Newcastle fans can begin dreaming about a rapid climb up the Premier League table to be facilitated by the club’s new ownership. They’ll almost certainly sign three or four superstar talents in the summer, and the last three seasons will become a distant memory (AE).
4. Man United creating from crosses, nothing else:(Manchester United 0-0 Watford): Here’s the thing about Cristiano Ronaldo’s comments regarding his desire to play alongside a second striker: Given 1) his age and waning mobility, and 2) the way Manchester United only appear capable of entering the final third on either wing, he’s 100 percent correct in his assessment. Ronaldo has been a supreme aerial threat for more than a decade, but he’s 37 years old and playing in the most physical league in the world for the first time since 2009. It’s not that he can’t still get to every ball, but he can no longer do it every time down the field, which means far too many crosses are either hopeless as soon as they’re played or bound for Bruno Fernandes. The Red Devils crossed the ball 32 times on Saturday. Marcus Rashford was the only striker on the bench, with Edinson Cavani injured and Mason Greenwood suspended indefinitely (AE).
5. Clinical Villa continue fine away form (Brighton 0-2 Aston Villa): They are very much an away team and Gerrard has them set up to soak up pressure and hit teams on the counter. That is how they got both of their goals with direct play out wide and getting players forward quickly. Villa have a style of play which works better when the onus isn’t on them to dictate the tempo of games (JPW).
6. Time to give Antonio a hand up top (West Ham 1-0 Wolves): For all the goals and special moments that Michail Antonio has provided West Ham in recent years — and there have been plenty of each — it’s becoming increasingly clear that the big man could use a helping hand up top. Antonio himself is hardly a natural fit at the position, but he’s fantastic in combination play anytime someone pushes forward to join him in attack (his assist on Soucek’s goal was a prime example). The problem is: West Ham don’t often get numbers forward to support Antonio (Soucek’s goal an example again), and he’s not one to create chances for himself. Something of a system change would be required, but giving Antonio additional support up top is what’s required for West Ham to take the step from top-four hopefuls/outsiders, to top-four contenders (AE).
7. Kane, Son set new record (Leeds 0-4 Tottenham): A record-breaking goal summed up their connection perfectly. Harry Kane dropped deep, looked up, and sent a long ball right onto Heung-min Son’s foot as he finished with ease. That set a new record for the most goals from a duo in Premier League history (37) as Kane and Son overtook Drogba and Lampard. This partnership is the most prolific in PL history and we will look back at this duo with delight in decades to come (JPW).
8. Relegation a real worry for Brentford (Brentford 0-2 Newcastle): The gap between Brentford, in 14th, and Burnley, in 18th, is currently three points, with the Bees having played a whopping three games more at this point (same for 16th-place Everton); Newcastle, who are now above them in the table, have two games in hand themselves; Leeds, just one point behind in 17th, have one in hand as well. August and September were full of fantastic memories, when the Bees took the Premier League by storm and picked up points in six of their first seven games (3W-3D-1L) but these are the games they need to be winning (AE).
9. Saints showing control, focus (Southampton 2-0 Norwich City): They dominated this game from start to finish and Saints are now showing great composure and patience to go with their trademark high-press under Ralph Hasenhuttl. There is a different feel to this team this season. They have experience in Romeu, Ward-Prowse and Armstrong to keep the ball in tight areas and calm things down and they look more solid defensively. When we think about Saints the first things we associate with them are risk-taking and high-pressing. They still have that in them but now they have more control, balance, and solidity. That is why they’re on a great run and with winnable games coming up, they could push to finish in seventh or eighth (JPW).
10. Battling Burnley enjoying themselves (Crystal Palace 1-1 Burnley): The Clarets weathered the storm in the first half and they dug deep to grab a point. In a week that saw them pick up seven points from three very tough games, Burnley have given themselves a real chance of staying up. The likes of Tarkowski and Mee had a smile on their face for most of the game as you can tell Burnley’s players are up for the fight against relegation and are strangely enjoying it. They’ve been here before and know what it takes to pull away from the bottom three late in the season (JPW).