Manchester City can win with 10 men — and without Erling Haaland to start — and Arsenal can make one goal hold up thanks to a complete performance.
These are our lessons at the top of the Premier League table, where the three-peat seeking Citizens got the job done despite playing down a man for an hour versus Fulham, and where Arsenal stayed first with a controlling, slim win over Chelsea.
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Meanwhile, former Arsenal boss Unai Emery started his Aston Villa journey with a terrific win over Manchester United, Tottenham slogged out of the gates and couldn’t come back versus Liverpool, and Newcastle keeps piling up the goals against bottom-half sides.
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Here’s a look at 10 things that stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Andy Edwards (AE), and Nicholas Mendola (NM) share their observations from across the most recent PL games.
10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 15
1. The Gunners are the real deal (Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal): This is the kind of game you win if you’re going to be in the title race. On a stormy, wet afternoon in west London, the Gunners showed up. Big time. In previous seasons they would have lost or drawn this game but they stuck to their task, kept the ball well, and played with the philosophy and style that Mikel Arteta demands of his Arsenal. Their belief never wavered and they’re playing with so much confidence right now. They still may not match Manchester City over the course of a 38-game season but the desire, passion and belief of this Arsenal side tells us they will be very close when all is said and done. The stat below sums up their improvement against the big boys this season and remember: they are the youngest team in the Premier League.
2. Liverpool feasts on open appetizer buffet (Spurs 1-2 Liverpool): Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah will have said, “Thank you” to Tottenham’s invitation to attack a set-back formation. Salah is playing so well these days and will only grow to enjoy Darwin Nunez’s continued understanding of the Premier League. Conte messed up and Liverpool wasn’t about to complain about it — although, it should be said, sometimes Jurgen Klopp does not enjoy teams who “don’t play football.” (NM).
3. Leeds’ defensive woes a mix of tactics and personnel (Leeds 4-3 Bournemouth): Both of the following points are true: 1) the Leeds defenders have made far too many needless, unforced mistakes this season, and did so again on Saturday; 2) Jesse Marsch’s tactics have left Leeds far too exposed when they transition from attacking to reform their defensive shape. There’s plenty of blame to go around for Saturday’s woeful defensive display, with both sides letting the other down. … This is the Premier League. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the worst or cheapest assembled side in the league, you simply cannot survive with such an imbalance. Leeds are much too talented to find themselves in another relegation battle this season, and they won’t if they sort out the defensive issues to any degree. (AE)
4. Julian Alvarez is an incredible back-up striker (Man City 2-1 Fulham): To have a player of Alvarez’s quality on call when Erling Haaland isn’t fully fit is incredible for Pep Guardiola’s Man City. The Argentine striker showed his class with a lovely run in-behind and he hammered home to give City an early lead. It was tough for him the rest of the game as City were soon reduced to 10 men but Alvarez is top-class and he will be to Haaland what Gabriel Jesus was to Sergio Aguero. Whenever he’s been called upon this season he’s looked ready and already has six goals in a City shirt. (JPW)
5. Emery’s Villa should dream big (Aston Villa 3-1 Man Utd): Let’s not scapegoat Steven Gerrard, who did great things in Glasgow and may well be a good manager, but is there any question that Unai Emery is a more accomplished manager to demand the respect of this team? Villa was already looking much improved just by regular use of Leander Dendoncker and Leon Bailey, but now they look complete. Emiliano Buendia’s also been unleashed and Lucas Digne’s return is no small addition (which Gerrard will note). With Emiliano Martinez between the sticks and a good but not deep core of defenders, Villa can dream of Europe sooner rather than later if the side stays healthy. (NM)
6. Newcastle’s vibes light as air (Southampton 1-4 Newcastle): It hardly mattered that Southampton was on the front foot even as Newcastle led 1-0 and couldn’t find chances for a second, as the atmosphere around Miguel Almiron and his teammates is the air of “We’ll be fine” even when under the gun as they were through much of Sunday’s visit to St. Mary’s. The Magpies are producing quality chances, defending well enough, and still awaiting the full returns of Allan Saint-Maximin and Alexander Isak. As we’ve said in this space before, Eddie Howe’s work in getting the best out of players who were in town before the big takeover is almost as important as the new additions. The vibes are nearly immaculate and a team that would’ve freaked out with an absence to a pivotal piece like Joelinton is just brushing it off this time around. (NM)
7. Kaoru Mitoma announces himself to Brighton, Premier League (Wolves 2-3 Brighton): The Japanese winger has shown Brighton plenty of flashes in his first season with the club but the 25-year-old Union Saint-Gilloise import had only an assist to his name through eight appearances. Mitoma drew a red card and scored on Saturday, showing the attacking flair that’s bagged him five goals in nine caps for Japan. (NM)
8. Foxes finally finding form (Everton 0-2 Leicester): There’s no guarantee that Leicester City will stay out of the bottom three but Brendan Rodgers has the team better organized and much more difficult to break down over 90 minutes. New center back Wout Faes has received a lot of love for that, and that’s understandable, but the side is strong up the middle with Boubakary Soumare, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, and Youri Tielemans joining James Maddison is controlling the central spaces. Throw in a more comfortable Danny Ward between the sticks and Leicester will be feeling hopeful and probably won’t want the World Cup break. (NM)
9. West Ham struggling to replicate energy (West Ham 1-2 Crystal Palace): Similar issues keep cropping up for the Hammers and David Moyes will be scratching his head. On paper they have a much stronger squad than last season but they keep making big mistakes and the way they were caught playing out of the back to concede the first goal summed that up. They are just two points above the relegation zone but they should be okay this season. Their European exploits have no doubt impacted their energy levels in the Premier League and West Ham’s success over the last few seasons is built on counter-attacking and snapping into tackles. (JPW)
10. Useful points for Trees and Bees (Nottingham Forest 2-2 Brentford): Morgan Gibbs-White put Nottingham Forest ahead after 20 minutes, but Bryan Mbeumo equalized from the penalty spot during first-half stoppage time and Yoane Wissa, who earlier won the penalty, made it 2-1 in the 75th. Brentford were so nearly over the line with the victory and three points, but the Bees failed to clear the ball inside their own penalty area, then inside their own six-yard box, and eventually the ball found its way over the goal line (by an inch or two) with under 60 seconds of stoppage time left to play. The point is still useful for each side, as Brentford remains 10th on the Premier League table and Forest moves level with 19th-place Wolves, just two back of safety in 17th. (AE)