Funny what a week, a day, and hour can do to the vibes of a Premier League season.
Seven days ago, Manchester United was crowned a tournament champion days after eliminating a fellow European giant from European competition. Today, it’s a team that folded like cheap gift wrap and allowed one of its all-time rivals to hang a historic result on its locker room door.
[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]
That result left us almost forgetting what happened 24 hours ago, when Arsenal demanded every last eye in the Premier League both witness the 2-0 advantage they allowed to one of the league’s most moribund sides and then watch how they ripped that side’s cherry-red heart from its chest in front of the entire table.
And, oh yeah, did we mention that any of six teams could be in the bottom three at any given point of a matchweek moving forward — live-table style — because the relegation scrap demands as many competitors as possible.
Did we? Huh?
[ MORE: Liverpool humiliates high-flying rivals Man United 7-0 ]
So what did we learn from the Premier League this weekend? Here’s where our writers are living, as 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 26
1. Destiny heavy in the air as Arsenal secures incredible comeback win (Arsenal 3-2 AFC Bournemouth): The way Arsenal’s players, fans and staff celebrated when Reiss Nelson’s thunderbolt flew in feels like a moment title-winning teams have along the way to title town. Down 2-0 with 28 minutes to go against relegation-haunted Bournemouth, all signs pointed to this not being Arsenal’s day. But with 12 games to go there’s a feeling of destiny about this Gunners team. They fought back to win late on at Aston Villa recently and they have scored more winning goals (three) in the 90th minute than any other Premier League team this season. Even though this was cruel on Bournemouth they can have no complaints about losing. Mikel Arteta’s substitutions worked with Ben White and Reiss Nelson both scoring, as everyone is chipping in (They have 14 different goal scorers which is more than any other PL team this season) and the reaction to losing to Man City in February has been incredible with four-straight wins in all coming in very different ways. Mikel Arteta and this young Arsenal side are both developing into a hungry, nasty, winning machine and the Gunners have an aura of destiny swirling around them right now. (JPW)
2. What can 7-0 mean to Liverpool? Almost everything (Liverpool 7-0 Man Utd): The Reds rifled home goals Sunday with a frequency we’ve only seen them reserve for excuses this season, and it was fitting that Mohamed Salah — who’s had a very, very good and quite under-the-radar season — was able to put together a “look-at-me” day because his teammates were able to make good on their danger. Don’t be surprised if Roberto Firmino, who came off the bench to join the scoring, enjoys a fitting end to his Liverpool career over the final few months of the season. He’s been quite good, too — 8 goals and 4 assists in 1,008 minutes. Moreover, if Liverpool’s going to pounce on mistakes this way, maybe it’s not crazy to imagine the Reds reversing that 5-2 deficit to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. The win means Liverpool boasts a place in the Manchester United record book, the place that says “Worst loss ever.” Bet that feels good, too. (NM)
3. Chelsea refuses to make it easy, but gets that needed ‘W’ (Chelsea 1-0 Leeds): What a time it must be for Graham Potter, who is looking at his team’s defending, shape, and fight, and saying, ‘Yep. Yep. Yep.’ right til he gets to the final ball. It’s funny and fitting that Wesley Fofana, not only not a forward but also not even the likeliest to score Fofana on Chelsea’s books, got the goal to give Chelsea a lead. We mentioned last week how poor Chelsea has been when it comes to getting goals. Well, today let’s talk about how part of that is making terrible decisions even before getting into to shooting positions. Teams like Chelsea shouldn’t be letting defensive midfielders easily close down odd-numbered breaks as easily as opponents are doing it against the Blues this year. Then there’s a Kai Havertz break down the right where the German was played brilliant through to goal by Raheem Sterling but instead carried the ball closer and closer to goal until he was at the distance where it would’ve been more odd if Illan Meslier didn’t get a piece of his bid toward goal. It was a weird one for Chelsea, who deserved the win but not as much as their supporters will feel they deserve the ability to watch a game against Leeds without hyperventilating through the final whistle. (NM)
4. Goal-starved Newcastle eaten up by hungry Man City (Man City 2-0 Newcastle): “This game summed up where both Newcastle and Manchester City are right now. Newcastle have run out of steam — and most importantly goals — at a key part of the season while Man City are just cranking things up a few notches as they love to do in the spring. Newcastle created big chances but Sean Longstaff, Callum Wilson, and Joelinton couldn’t convert and they’ve now scored just three goals in their last eight PL games. That isn’t good enough if you want to qualify for Europe. Man City wasn’t at its best but snapped into tackles and were full of energy as Phil Foden wriggled around like an electric eel to sum up the champions’ desire. Pep Guardiola raved about City’s mindset in midweek and said he loved what he’s seen from them in training. This team knows what to do at this stage of the season to get the wins they need. Newcastle still have to learn how to do that. (JPW)
5. Lopetegui’s Wolves take advantage of familiar Spurs story (Wolves 1-0 Spurs): (Giant inhale) From the opening whistle, it was evident to anyone who has watched Spurs for more than 30 minutes this season that they would toil away with possession and half-hearted entries into the final third without ever truly threatening Jose Sa’s goal before giving up one or two big chances the other way against the run of play, and one just so happens to find its way over the line. And so it was. Adama Traore smashed the ball off the underside of the crossbar in the 82nd minute, and not a single Tottenham fan was surprised (or even disappointed, hardly) at the outcome as Tottenham wasted a chance to better its top-four stock and bowing out of the FA Cup while (mostly) resting Harry Kane at midweek. (AE)
6. What should 7-0 mean to Manchester United? Well… (Liverpool 7-0 Man Utd): Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United has been resilient, solid, and exceptional over the last month, beating Barcelona, Newcastle United, and West Ham in elimination games and cueing up talk that the Red Devils may, finally, be back. Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United was neither resilient, solid, nor exceptional in any positive way on Sunday, obliterated by a recently woebegone Liverpool side who gladly pounced on myriad Man Utd mistakes to rebuild its top-four hopes at Anfield. Now the Dutch boss has to react in the right manner, because even the star men he hailed for their mentality after winning the League Cup — Raphael Varane, Casemiro, David De Gea — looked disinterested by the time the game hit 3-0. Perhaps Ten Hag’s obvious decision to call it a day with his 58th minute subs of Scott McTominay and Alejandro Garnacho for Wout Weghorst and Fred just wheezed its way through the squad. He’d better hope his week-long decisions have a similar, albeit positive effect. The loss means Liverpool boasts a place in the Manchester United record book, the place that says “Worst loss ever.” Bet that will feel really, really bad. And it can last forever. Oooooof. (NM)
7. Going for the win pays off for Saints in what could become the Premier League’s all-time relegation scrap (Southampton 1-0 Leicester): No, the Premier League’s expansive and more applicable wealth has not let to a season where literally anyone could be relegated — not yet — but take a look at the bottom of the table this year. Saints are three points back of 15th-place Spurs. Literally any team in the bottom five could find themselves in a relegation place by the virtue of one bad week, bad call, or bad tackle. And this is why Carlos Alcaraz’s goal may have been worth the expense even if the striker, who appeared to get hurt in his goal celebration, misses quite a bit of time. Draws aren’t going to get the job done. Winning boosts you clear. This could’ve been a mega moment for the St. Mary’s set. (NM)
8. When should we start to worry about Palace? (Aston Villa 1-0 Crystal Palace): Having Wilfried Zaha back was a big boost and the Ivorian gives them real quality and a threat in attack. But there’s just something about this Palace team which makes you worry about them. It’s an old saying but every single season there’s one team which slides down the Premier League table late in the campaign and almost sleepwalks into a relegation scrap. It looks like Palace could be that team this season as they face Man City, Brighton, and Arsenal in their next three games. They’re making defensive errors and don’t carve out many clear opportunities — Palace have failed to have a shot on target in four PL games this season, a league-high — and Patrick Vieira’s side last won in the Premier League back on December 31 at Bournemouth. They have a drawn a lot of games and they can be solid at the back so Palace’s main hope is that Zaha is back up and running quickly and can lead a surge away from the relegation zone. (JPW)
9. Everton lets huge chance slip away at the City Ground (Nottingham Forest 2-2 Everton): Up 2-1 away from home and looking pretty comfortable, Everton switched off and were made to pay. Would Sean Dyche have taken a draw at Forest before this game? Probably, but not after it. Dyche set his team up really well to be dangerous with midfield runners and Abdoulaye Doucoure, Alex Iwobi, and Amadou Onana all had a big impact on the game as Demarai Gray gave them an outlet up top. Forest didn’t really have to push hard for either equalizer, though, as Brennan Johnson’s extra quality in attack saw them score twice. Both teams showed why they can stay out of the relegation zone at the end of the season but we also saw plenty of reasons why they might be in it. Dyche is getting Everton back to where they should be but there’s still a lack of confidence as they had this win within their grasp but let it slip. (JPW)
10. Seagulls dominate Hammers in every single way (Brighton 4-0 West Ham):
Expected goals: 3.51-0.38
Passes completed: 633 (91%)-259 (78%)
Shots (on target): 20 (7)-3 (0)
You won’t see many (any?) more lopsided games than this one all season. Down 1-0 at halftime, West Ham “chased” an equalizer to the tune of 0.0 xG (on zero shots) in the second half. Putrid. Abject. Relegation form. (AE)