What did we learn during Matchweek 28 of the 2021-22 Premier League season? Plenty, even with one more match to go (Spurs vs Everton).
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Here’s a look at 10 things that stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW) and Andy Edwards (AE) are rejoined by Nicholas Mendola (NM) to share their observations from the most recent Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. Man City’s message sent (Man City 4-1 Man United): While many have been salivating at the idea of Man City allowing Liverpool back into the Premier League title race by — checks notes: dropping four points in 2022 — City just keeps operating their clinic. Yes, Liverpool has a match-In-hand and plays City, but do you suspect that Liverpool will go unbeaten and City will lose twice? There’s a race, yes, but the Reds still have an incredible amount of work to do against a team that’s lost the xG battle in a game… twice in 28 matches this season. (NM)
2. Lacazette’s playmaking, hold up play making the difference (Watford 2-3 Arsenal): The French striker hasn’t been Mikel Arteta’s cup of tea from time-to-time but he’s showing that he’s up to the task of hassling back lines, finding the open man, and being a pest in so many different ways. Lacazette may not be a title-contending striker, but it would also be interesting to see how he’d do with, I don’t know, Man City? (NM)
3a. Liverpool’s defending not title worthy:(Liverpool 1-0 West Ham): The Reds have gotten to their place in this season’s Premier League title race largely by manufacturing loads of chances and finishing a whole lot of them, but both the midfield and back line were not near title caliber in defense as Fornals, Lanzini, and Michail Antonio has enviable chances to give not just one but three points to the visitors from London. Yes, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and others contributing big defensive plays — Naby Keita, too — but it’s necessary to note they also opened the door to other chances by switching off or making silly mistakes (NM).
3b. Liverpool’s defenders plenty good going forward: (Liverpool 1-0 West Ham): Trent Alexander-Arnold is a maestro with the ball at his feet and he had five key passes on the day including the set-up of Mane. Robertson had three key passes during his 90 minutes and Konate completed 5-of-8 long passes while Virgil van Dijk pushed a shot toward the West Ham goal. So even if the Reds were punished for a mistake, their defenders provided plenty of chances to have that mistake be in a 4-1 win rather than a 2-1 loss (NM).
5. Refreshed Kai Havertz shines with Pulisic (Burnley 0-4 Chelsea): Unused in three matches after scoring against Lille in the UCL, Havertz delivered a pair of goals at Turf Moor and showed that his growing chemistry with the American playmaker. There was a certain connection between Pulisic and former Chelsea big man Olivier Giroud, and the fits and starts of Havertz’s early days — with huge European highs and some serious lows — can find consistency, the Blues are going to find a new gear (NM).
6. Jesse Marsch brings solidity, organization to high-press (Leicester 1-0 Leeds ): This was much better from Leeds as they looked balanced in Marsch’s first game in charge. They had defensive solidity and were better organized and they were hardly opened up on the counter. They still pressed Leicester high but it was as a group instead of individually. The tweaks made by Marsch to the team Marcelo Bielsa built were instantly recognizable and the American coach will be pleased with pretty much everything he saw from his side. However, they have to be more clinical when they do get chances as they won’t get as many as they did under Bielsa. With 11 games to go, Leeds need points and not positive performances (JPW).
7. Fraser, Joelinton reclamation projects complete (Newcastle 2-1 Brighton): It’s actually bonkers to consider that Joelinton isn’t just functioning as a center midfielder but looking like he’s played there his entire life. Eddie Howe’s decision to play him there is a stroke of genius and the crazy price tag that made him look like a bust at center forward now looks like an appropriate fee for a havoc-wreaking midfielder who is outright dominating the middle of the park. Ryan Fraser has been much, much better after a near three-season drought following an outburst at Bournemouth that had him targeted by Arsenal and others. Howe rode through some poor performances early in their shared tenure up north but his patience is being rewarded (NM).
8. Coutinho destroys Saints’ press (Aston Villa 4-0 Southampton): Villa used a midfield diamond to thwart Saints’ high-press and it worked a treat. Luiz, McGinn and Ramsey did plenty of running and pressing to shut Saints down, while Coutinho floated in the gaps and caused havoc when he got on the ball. He’s only on loan from Barcelona but this was an example of the old Coutinho at work and he used to love picking Southampton apart during his time at Liverpool. It seems very likely that Villa will try to buy Coutinho permanently this summer and he looks at home as Gerrard has found the perfect role for him (JPW).
9. Aaaaaaaand the Bees exhale (Norwich 1-3 Brentford): The beekeeper can relax for a moment, though Thomas Frank will be forced to quickly put this slump-ender in his rearview mirror. Brentford was good money for the win despite a distinct lack of possession, but Toney was near his best and Kristoffer Ajer a difference-maker at both ends (NM).
10. Wolves in a rut (Wolves 0-2 Crystal Palace): At some point Wolves’ defensive solidity was going to break down and it has in dramatic fashion in the last week. Three-straight defeats to Arsenal, West Ham, and Palace have seen Wolves go from top four contenders to Europa League hopefuls. Their amazing form to get them in a great position to qualify for Europe was built on a solid defensive unit but they started this game slowly and their confidence seemed to be hit by losing late on at Arsenal last week (JPW).