Boo birds are loud, but team spirit’s much louder.
That’s one of the things we can take away from Week 14 in the Premier League, as Jesse Marsch’s men of Leeds United stood tall for their embattled manager and scooped up a huge win over Liverpool at Anfield.
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The Leeds faithful got loud with negativity after the club’s loss to Fulham, though neutral eyes would’ve hoped the boos were frustration with results and not ignorance of performances.
They got both away to Liverpool on Sunday, and the players reaction at the final whistle showed they were with their bright American boss (for now).
Here’s a look at that, and nine other things that stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Andy Edwards (AE), and Nicholas Mendola (NM) shared their observations from across the most recent PL games.
10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 14
1. Jesse Marsch unequivocally the right man for Leeds right now (Liverpool 1-2 Leeds): Past is prologue and Jack Harrison spoke out this week in full support of embattled manager Jesse Marsch on behalf of his Leeds teammates, as calls for a change in manager grew loud enough to be heard. Harrison made it clear that the players still believed in Marsch and that they were still working hard for him. On Saturday, every Leeds player, to a man, backed up those words with actions. For 90 minutes they were every bit Liverpool’s equals, as they matched the Reds every step of the way. A draw was the least they deserved, and the victory long overdue. Comparing Leeds today and Leeds of exactly one year ago, it’s night and day the difference in terms of the consistent quality of performances and the steady improvement of the side from the point at which Marsch took over last season, and again from the start of the current campaign. Making a change now would only be making a change for change’s sake. Leeds are one of the toughest teams in the PL to beat, and typically those teams see losses turn to draws and draws turn to losses with a bit of patience*.
*Or, Patrick Bamford finishing a golden scoring chance. Even just one. (AE)
2. Feel-good Nelson flexes depth after Saka injury (Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest): Wrestling fans know about the full nelson and the half-nelson, now football fans can have the feel-good Nelson. Arsenal academy boyhood prodigy Reiss Nelson would’ve felt his growth slowed by loan stints to Hoffenheim and Feyenoord, and boy will he — and the rest of the world outside of Nottingham — feel good with his brace off the bench. Bukayo Saka’s injury is a major concern should it be anything more than a precautionary sub, but Nelson’s scoring joins previous shows from Eddie Nketiah and a soon-to-return Emile Smith-Rowe as a real flex for Arsenal. (NM)
3. Tottenham overcomes self-defeating ways in unsustainable ways (AFC Bournemouth 2-3 Spurs): Two things currently ail Tottenham. One is Antonio Conte’s continued insistence on playing out of the back and defending far too deep in Spurs’ own half of the field (discussed here and here). The other? The squad is missing a midfield creator (here and here), though Bryan Gil has shown flashes in recent substitute appearances in the Champions League and did so again on Saturday. Yet Conte previously refused to even play him in the Premier League, as he got his first six minutes of the season. When one of the above changes, maybe Spurs’ performances and results will, too. (AE)
4. Chelsea needs a break, Seagulls quite comfortable (Brighton 4-1 Chelsea): Brighton still needs a center forward to achieve its potential, but everything else looks as it did under Graham Potter and that’s a good thing. Sure, Roberto De Zerbi has added a wrinkle or two, but the Seagulls weren’t broken when Potter left for London and the Italian coach is just making sure the gears are clicking and the fluids are topped off (so to speak). It’s working. Brighton’s further along in its project than Chelsea, and perhaps the result shouldn’t be such a surprise considering the architect of both is the same man. Potter needs time to really train his team and maybe the World Cup break will provide a chance for some of his players to grow into their roles. (NM)
5. Harry Maguire a big part of Man Utd’s brave finish vs West Ham (Man Utd 1-0 West Ham): Erik ten Hag has changed the attitude at Old Trafford. No, the club is decidedly not reminding anyone of the SIr Alex Ferguson era in terms of quality, but the pride and strength of will sure look something closer to what we remember from the Red Devils when they were one of the finest teams in the world (and one of most dreaded to compete against over 90 minutes). As for Harry Maguire, you can’t say enough about the much-maligned English centerback’s performance in the place of sick Victor Lindelof and without Raphael Varane to lean on. (NM)
6. Man City without Haaland in 2022-23 looks unsurprisingly like Man City 2021-22 (Leicester 0-1 Man City): With all due respect to Man City’s monstrous team and the huge potential of Julian Alvarez, Saturday was a throwback to Man City’s title-winning 2021-22 season. Jack Grealish was good on one side and Manuel Akanji was in the Ruben Dias role, but City was all about Rodri holding down the middle of the park and Kevin De Bruyne delivering a moment of genius. That was more than enough. (NM)
7. ‘Old boys’ light up Newcastle’s top-four push (Newcastle 4-0 Aston Villa): Newcastle’s splashed a fair deal of cash on new players since its ownership change, and Magpies fans would be right to adore the play of Sven Botman, Kieran Trippier, Nick Pope, and Bruno Guimares. But Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron, Joe Willock, Fabian Schar, and Joelinton are among the many stars putting in shifts for the Magpies, and three of them scored on Saturday. An argument can be made that Newcastle’s quick table ascension is equal parts new blood and old, as it is the new pieces doing what was expected of them. And keep-in-mind Alexander Isak is still injured while Allan Saint-Maximin is just coming back to full fitness and came off the bench as an 87th-minute sub. (NM)
8. Palace goes to Plan B when Plan Z is off (Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton): Odsonne Edouard has scored all three of his goals this season in Crystal Palace’s last six games, during which time he also has a game-winning assist, as the Eagles work out an alternate plan to “give the ball to Wilfried Zaha, hope he can beat four defenders and put the ball in the top corner.” It’s hardly revolutionary or genius stuff from Patrick Vieira, but Palace has found lots of joy in simply crossing the ball into the box, with Edouard crashing through the middle and Eberechi Eze arriving late for cut-backs while Zaha and Andre Ayew/Michael Olise head for the back post. When Tyrick Mitchell gets far enough forward to be the crosser, as he was on Edouard’s goal, the service is typically fantastic and dangerous. (AE).
9. Stunning goals lead to split between Bees, Wolves (Brentford 1-1 Wolves): Quality scoring chances were largely few and far between at the Gtech Community Stadium, but a pair of stunning goals made up for the dearth of danger, as the Bees and Wolves settled on a 1-1 draw in west London on Saturday. Two beauties two minutes apart very early in the second half supplied the fun, when Ben Mee put Brentford ahead with an acrobatic overhead finish followed by a fantastic curler from Ruben Neves (outside the box, of course) less than two minutes later. (AE)
10. Left-sided beauty leads to intriguing off-kilter viewing (Fulham 0-0 Everton): Rarely do you see a contest featuring such a stark contrast between where attacks are finding their joy. Antonee Robinson and Willian surged down Fulham’s left flank to ask questions of the Toffees. Meanwhile, Everton’s best stuff came from Demarai Gray and the rising star Vitaliy Mykolenko on its left. (NM)