When it comes to the Premier League title race, knowing that Arsenal losing to Manchester City in a few weeks isn’t enough to derail the Gunners, there’s a question we need to ask yet again given their beatdown of Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Can Arsenal be stopped?
The Gunners oozed class again against the Eagles, at times looking like they were playing a stylish rondo more than manipulating a Premier League rival all over the pitch.
[ MORE: FA Cup draw – Potential derby final ]
So while Man City was showcasing its power elsewhere (read on for more), Arsenal was asking the two-time champs how they felt about an eight-point table gap with two months to play.
And how about Everton and Southampton?! The Toffees and Saints rallied to get helpful points for the relegation plights, and they did it against Chelsea and Tottenham, respectfully. In Southampton’s case, their point drew one of the most instantly memorable manager rants in history out of Antonio Conte.
The FA Cup weekend meant there were extra curricular chances for Premier League teams to spread their league nuttiness around the country (and the world).
So head to thing we learned No. 5 and learn a bit about how Manchester United, Man City, Fulham, and Brighton and Hove Albion got on in the quarterfinals.
10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 28
1. Arsenal’s first-half blitz continues to be too much for Premier League (Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace): Most teams are beaten by Arsenal before they know what happened. That was the case for Crystal Palace on Sunday. A near-miss by Wilfried Zaha woke Arsenal up — perhaps their Europa League exit delayed their usual early blitz a little? — and normal service resumed about 20 minutes into the first half. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Leandro Trossard were too quick for Palace and Gabriel Jesus came on to help them close it out in the second half. Arsenal’s intensity is too much for teams they play against and that hunger combined with pace, skill and understanding is so tough to stop. Eight points clear with 10 games to go, which includes that trip to Manchester City in April. Arsenal’s fans are so close to ending their two-decade wait for Premier League title. (NM)
2. Antonio Conte unleashes fury at Tottenham players; Exit close? (Southampton 3-3 Spurs): We can tell you what we learned from Antonio Conte’s blistering press conference following Spurs’ big blown lead to Saints at St. Mary’s, but you don’t need an interpreter. Is Conte leaving London quite soon?
“The problem is that for another time we showed that we are not a team. We are 11 players that go into the pitch. I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart. Before today I prefer to hide this situation and to try to speak, to try to improve the spirit, the situation, with the words, with a lot of situations. Because about tactical or technical aspect, this is one situation. The most important thing if you want to become a strong team, if you want to become competitive, if you want to fight to win, is the desire, the fire that you need to have in your eyes , in your heart, and you have to show this in every moment. In every moment. If I have to compare last season and this season, we have to improve, but now we are worse in this aspect. When you are not a team, anything can happen, in any moment. Today is the last situation.” (JPW)
3. Dyche’s disagreeable Toffees expose Chelsea naivete (Chelsea 2-2 Everton): It’s not that Chelsea’s men didn’t work, or that Graham Potter didn’t tell them to fight for their points at Stamford Bridge. Rather, this is all about Sean Dyche’s men showing up ready to work harder than their foes even when trailing, and to never say die on the occasion. And that would’ve been apparent to anyone even if Everton didn’t manage their second equalizer, which was as feel-good as it gets considering it was (mostly) homegrown Ellis Simms just taking a world-class defender in Kalidou Koulibaly to the mat. If there’s anything more Sean Dyche than coming back from down twice thanks to two big, ornery scorers bulling their way to goals, we’re not sure what it is. As for Chelsea, Graham Potter now has a couple of weeks to make sure there’s nothing less Graham Potter than throwing up two leads at home. (NM)
4. Chaos continues as Leeds embrace it vs fiery Wolves (Wolves 2-4 Leeds): This season Leeds have tried to be something they’re not. Jesse Marsch tried to tone down his full throttle, high-pressing tactics which seemed to end in six-goal thrillers on a weekly basis for the first half of his reign. That switch cost him his job. By nature, Javi Gracia is a more composed and defensive coach, but even he has said ‘Screw it, do what comes naturally lads.’ That is why Leeds won at Wolves. They gave up big chances galore and needed Illan Meslier and his defenders to make big blocks but they created so many chances in attack and it just makes sense for them to play this way. This relegation scrap is chaotic and Leeds are ready for the fight. Wolves tried to embrace the chaos but it was all a bit too much for them. That may not bode well for them for the rest of the relegation scrap, while Leeds seem to be perfectly fine with bonkers games between now and May 28. (JPW)
5. FA Cup weekend: Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez, Cole Palmer flex youth for City, while Man United scoops up Fulham’s lost plot
With so many Premier League teams off this weekend so the FA Cup could determine its final four contenders for the 2022-23 trophy, it’s fair play to take a break from our 10 things to discuss what’s become of the competition for this season.
Manchester United and Manchester City are now on opposite sides of a draw that could put a Manchester derby into the FA Cup final.
United is set to meet Brighton and Hove Albion in the semifinal thanks to a heaping helping of meltdown from Fulham. The Cottagers led the Red Devils at Old Trafford with 20 minutes to play in the quarterfinal round but then disintegrated in two moments of madness as both Aleksandar Mitrovic and boss Marco Silva reacted in shameful fashion and joined handball-disguising Willian in collecting red cards. It was crazy. Read about it here.
Man City will tangle with high-flying Championship side Sheffield United a round after having zero trouble with an even higher-flying one in Burnley.
But it’s the manner in which Man City absolutely cooked Burnley that had people shaking their heads. Vincent Kompany, the City legend who manages the Clarets, could barely offer more than a shrug in response to his very good side allowing a half-dozen goals to Haaland (3), Alvarez (2), and Palmer.
6. Alexander Isak, Newcastle fight long and hard for deserved payout (Nottingham Forest 1-2 Newcastle): It was all Newcastle early, with Renan Lodi nearly putting the ball into his own net as the Magpies nearly flawlessly executed a clever set-piece routine in the 12th minute, but they failed to break through and were made to pay for it just before the half-hour mark. And then they wen’t down on a rare error from Sven Botman. It would take nearly 47 minutes, but Newcastle persevered and finally got their just reward for all of their attacking intent. Isak somehow got a foot to Joe Willock’s cross, which was a bit behind the Swede yet still angled off the inside of the far post as the final seconds of first-half stoppage time ticked away. VAR took a goal away from Elliot Anderson off a brilliant Isak assist, but Sean Longstaff was ruled in an offside position as the ball pinballed around the penalty are prior to the cross. Stoppage-time Isak struck once again in the second half after his header came off the arm of Moussa Niakhate inside the penalty area. Newcastle’s club-record signing stepped to the penalty spot, sent Keylor Navas one way and hammered the ball the other. (AE)
7. Unai Emery’s Villa makes jam from sour Cherries (Aston Villa 3-0 AFC Bournemouth): Bournemouth is not dead in the water but Villa sure made them look like a team not fit for the level. Villa’s expected goals of 3.20 really piled up late but that’s a big figure, and Tyrone Mings led a defense that only allowed Bournemouth nine shot attempts and an 0.59 xG total over 90 minutes. Villa literally looked like a European candidate on Saturday, and only some of that has to do with Bournemouth. The Villans were in the ascendancy from Moment No. 1 and probably could’ve scored five on another day (Mings had a late in-tight shot saved by Neto, in fact). This all happened with Boubacar Kamara, Leander Dendoncker, and Philippe Coutinho injured and Diego Carlos and Lucas Digne as unused subs. Watch out for Villa, who has a lot of reasonable points ahead of them on the fixture list. (NM)
8. David Brooks’ return a feel-good moment (Aston Villa 3-0 AFC Bournemouth): The vibes didn’t last too long, and that’s why we want to make sure we acknowledge David Brooks’ return to Bournemouth following a lengthy and scary absence. Brooks, 25, announced his diagnosis with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2021 and missed the rest of last season, then missing most of this season with a dreadful hamstring injury. His entrance to this game was greeted with very warm applause around Villa Park. Welcome back, David. (NM)
9. Will Arsenal end Kevin De Bruyne’s run atop the assist leaders? (Premier League assist list): Kevin De Bruyne is a two-time Premier League Playmaker of the Season and no one is creating as many chances as the Belgian (though Kieran Trippier and Bruno Fernandes are close). But KDB’s 12 assists are suddenly just two more than Bukayo Saka and four clear of Leandro Trossard. De Bruyne’s expected assists dominate the field but Erling Haaland’s 20 misses have kept both from destroying the PL record book. Arsenal is fit and firing, and either Saka, Trossard, or both could theoretically pass DE Bruyne before the end of the season. To have the Nos. 2, 3, and 7 (Martin Odegaard) assist leaders in the Premier League says a lot about the Gunners, doesn’t it? (NM)
10. Set Piece FC strikes again (Brentford 1-1 Leicester): With their opening goal, Brentford moved level with Arsenal and Tottenham for most set piece goals in this Premier League season. Just watch it, it’s brilliant for its simplicity of design, yet the difficult and complexity of its execution (even when it doesn’t go exactly to plan). So many moving parts, so many movements to be timed perfectly, and a sea of blue shirts standing around just watching.