Quite a weekend, Premier League. Neutrals appreciated it.
The big boys? Well, that depends on the club.
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Arsenal and Manchester United are preening after derby wins.
Chelsea is feeling signs of life, and Newcastle is feeling like it belongs in any mention of the big boys.
Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur need to find a way to give themselves some hope.
And Man City has to wonder how it can start to look like the team that most analysts refuse to rule out of the title conversation, even after an away loss in the Manchester derby.
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10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 20
1. Offside drama as Red Devils surge back to win derby (Man Utd 1-2 Man City): Look, by the letter of the law Marcus Rashford may have technically been onside but there is no way he didn’t impact the positioning of Manuel Akanji and City goalkeeper Ederson for United’s equalizer. The fact Rashford ran toward goal with the ball basically under his feet is surely interference with play and impacted the positions of others. Still, United’s game plan was excellent against City and totally bamboozled the reigning champs. Fred was superb as the extra man in midfield as he and Casemiro shut down Kevin De Bruyne, and Bruno Fernandes clipped long balls over the top for Rashford’s runs. United’s entire team stuck with the plan and Erik ten Hag got his subs right with Antony and Ajenadro Garnacho adding extra trickery on the counter in the second half. United is solid defensively and in incredible form. Surely they are in this title race now. (JPW)
2. Story of the seasons for Arsenal, Tottenham (Spurs 0-2 Arsenal): “This game summed up exactly where Arsenal and Tottenham are at this season. For the Gunners it was all about scoring early, then setting traps for the opponents who had to take risks. Then in control, the Gunners no longer make silly mistakes. It is the blueprint for their success and this performance was eerily similar to so many of their wins this season. Arsenal are top of the table at the halfway point and the only thing that will stop them from winning the league is injuries and themselves. Tottenham also played as they have all season. Sloppy in the first half and much better in the second half. Antonio Conte’s side cannot keep starting games like this but the only thing that can really change is the manager. Their squad is good enough to be challenging for the top four but their recent run has undone all of their good work at the start of the season and finishing above Manchester United and Newcastle seems very unlikely at this point. (JPW)
3. Sluggish Liverpool run off pitch by Seagulls (Brighton 3-0 Liverpool): There are excuses for the Reds with injuries and fixture congestion but they weren’t excuses Jurgen Klopp would accept in previous years (and certainly not against non-traditional powers). Given Liverpool’s spending, losing to Brentford by two, drawing Wolves, and losing to Brighton by three consecutively just shouldn’t happen to this club. This, frankly, wasn’t close and it looked absolutely uninspired. Given Jurgen Klopp’s reputation and acumen, the only reason worth proffering is that the Reds are just finally empty after years of endless competition. Manchester City, at the moment, may want a piece of that conversation as well (See Thing No.1). But Liverpool has now allowed eight goals in its last three matches across all competitions and all three could arguably be losses given the legislation of Mohamed Salah’s offside non-offside goal in the 2-2 cup draw with Wolves. (NM)
4. Chelsea players give Graham Potter some relief (Chelsea 1-0 Crystal Palace): This win was more about grit, belief, and showing a reaction than anything else. There was an extra intensity about Chelsea’s play, especially when they got the ball wide. Potter seemed happy enough with the chances the Blues created going forward, but he will be very relieved his goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was in sensational form. Chelsea still has a lot of injuries to work through and still look suspect defensively but they at least pressed high, took risks in attack and looked likely to score throughout this game. Their attacking display was much better and with the addition of Mudryk and Felix (when is back from suspension) they have some really dynamic players in the final third about to come into this lineup. (AE)
5. Newcastle tops Fulham, but Bruno Guimaraes injury darkens day (Newcastle 1-0 Fulham): The third-place Magpies got a deserved win — albeit with penalty drama — but Newcastle’s most important player left the field in tears in a move that Magpies supporters will be hoping is just an abundance of emotion. The Brazilian spoke with trainers on the pitch midway through the first half but soon returned to the pitch and made it to halftime. Relief? Hold on. It was then that cameras spotted Guimaraes in tears, still limping a bit, and Allan Saint-Maximin took Guimaraes’ spot for the second half. There’s a riddle here, and it involved Guimaraes finishing the half. Surely the trainers wouldn’t have let him risk long-term injury, but the emotional reaction certainly delivers a fair bit of anxiety to the Toon. (NM)
6. Nathan Jones get lift off at momentum-less Frank Lampard’s expense (Everton 1-2 Southampton): These are two teams, and clubs, heading in different directions right now. Southampton’s reached the League Cup semifinals and now new boss Nathan Jones finally has his first win as a Premier League boss. Saints’ new owners have invested in the squad already in January and one year into their reign have a plan. Saints are trying to drag themselves out of the bottom three with a brave strategy of signing talented youngsters. Everything is opposite for Everton, in freefall with nine defeats in-a -ow in all competitions. This comes amid fan protests, the board being told to stay home amid safety fears, and Everton now only off the bottom of the table due to goal difference. Everything is going wrong. They don’t have funds to invest and it seems that unless a new owner arrives, they will be destined for relegation battles. Will Frank Lampard be in charge to try to steer them clear this season? Right now he’s not being blamed too much for this mess but after a four-straight defeat at home, this time to the only team below them in the table, Lampard can have no complaints if Everton’s board pull the plug on him and go into full safety mode. (JPW)
7. Foxes can’t get through Trees, who now loom above (Nottingham Forest 2-0 Leicester): “The victory sees Forest climb from 16th to 13th in the Premier League table, now four points clear over the relegation zone. Steve Cooper’s side has lost just two of their last nine PL fixtures (4W-3D-2L) after managing to not lose just three times in their first 10 games. And this is four-straight defeats for Leicester (17 points), who now find themselves just two points above the relegation zone. (AE)
8. Wolves climb out of bottom three, leaving Irons there (Wolves 1-0 West Ham): Daniel Podence capped a quick Wolves counter-attack in the 48th minute, scoring the game’s only goal with a smashing strike from the top of the penalty area. The Portuguese winger leads the way for Wolves with five PL goals this season, including three in the last four games. The win is just Wolves’ second in nine Premier League outings (2W-2D-5L), but puts them on 17 points as they climb from 19th to 16th with a single victory. Such is life at the heavily congested bottom of the table these days. Going the other way across the relegation line is West Ham (15 points), who have now taken all of one point from their last seven PL games. David Moyes’ side sits 18th at the halfway point of their season. (AE)
9. Gulf in class apparent between Bees, Cherries (Brentford 2-0 AFC Bournemouth): Ben Mee proved himself as a stubborn, win-at-all-costs leader during his time with the stifling Clarets of Burnley, but he now looks very much like the descriptor “ex-Manchester City man” as a top defender and passer with Brentford. This is what happens when Thomas Frank gets a hold of talent: He unlocks it, and it’s easy to trust the Danish manager who has a new contract at Brentford. Bournemouth was without key addition Marcus Tavernier and a couple of other decent talents, but It is glaring that their best players Saturday were the same names purchased during the side’s last Premier League run. Captain Lloyd Kelly, midfielder Jefferson Lerma, and hard man Philip Billing were all in the fold when Bournemouth was relegated to the Championship and were the club’s best hopes of getting something out of the team. (NM)
10. Emery, Emi driving Aston Villa forward (Aston Villa 2-1 Leeds): Leon Bailey opened the scoring in the 3rd minute, when Boubacar Kamara went on a long dribble through the center of the field before finding the Jamaican international cutting in from the right wing. Bailey uncorked a curler just inside the far post. It was all Leeds for the remainder of the first half, which unfortunately for them meant it was Emiliano Martinez’s time to shine. The recent World Cup Golden Glove winner made a pair of stellar, point-blank saves to deny Jack Harrison on two occasions, first in the 23rd minute and then again in the 45th. (AE)