So what if three of the Premier League’s top-half contenders were on FA Cup semifinal duty, leaving only eight matches on the weekend docket: Week 32 of the 2022-23 Premier League season delivered the goods.
Arsenal started off the weekend by further altering the dynamic of the Premier League title chase while also giving a modicum of hope to even the most hardened Southampton supporter.
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By the time the weekend was done, the Premier League had seen Newcastle embarrass Tottenham, Liverpool look prepared to get back into the top four fight, and not one but two season-long relegation scrappers surge nearer to safety.
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 32
1. More sloppiness sends Arsenal behind 8-ball (Arsenal 3-3 Southampton): After all of the talk about their collapses against Liverpool and West Ham in back-to-back games the last thing Arsenal needed was a sloppy, error-strewn start against bottom of the table Southampton. That is what they got. Aaron Ramsdale’s horrendous error after 29 seconds set the tone and a misplaced pass was then ruthlessly punished as they were 2-0 down after 14 minutes. They then allowed Southampton a free header from a corner to go 3-1 up. Arsenal’s attacking play was superb throughout and grabbed them a point late on, and there has never been a question about how good they are going forward. But there has now been a long trend (Bournemouth at home, Villa away, the last three games) of Arsenal making sloppy defensive errors and being their own worst enemies. Arsenal’s Achilles heel is clear and has been made even clearer in the absence of William Saliba. When all is said and done, the results over the last three games are probably going to be what costs Arsenal the title. They are still in the hunt but they’ve stuttered badly. (JPW)
2. What was that?!? Part I: Tottenham Hotspur (Newcastle 6-1 Spurs): Cristian Stellini lined Spurs up in a back four for the first time in ages and that certainly played a big role in this loss, but the absent heart is a massive concern as Tottenham’s players seemed intent on showing the world that Antonio Conte had a point with his memorable rant. It’s one thing to quit on a game or even a season when goals aren’t in reach, but Spurs are very much in a top-four fight and most of these players will, odds-on, be a part of their 2023-24 season. Judging by Sunday, Tottenham’s men are very cool with Europa League, Conference League, or even a less-busy schedule if two miserable back-to-back outings turn into four with Manchester United and Liverpool up next on the docket. (NM)
3. What was that?!? Part I: Newcastle United (Newcastle 6-1 Spurs): How would Eddie Howe’s overachieving Magpies respond to a surprise shellacking from in-form Aston Villa? How would it affect the framing of their top-four hopes inside that room, as setbacks for overachievers often cascade into slumps? All positives, my Geordie friends. Newcastle buzzed into this game with St. James’ Park ready to erupt and turned the magma into lava. The Magpies were first to almost every ball and eliminated whatever desire Tottenham might’ve had for a fight. Newcastle still has Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea, and four desperate relegation sides on its docket, but they right now look as fit to win a top-four spot as Manchester United or Liverpool, and certainly more fit than Spurs.. (NM)
4. Liverpool looks good going forward to keep hopes alive (Liverpool 3-2 Nottingham Forest): Consistency has not been the story of this Liverpool team, but if Jurgen Klopp’s free-scoring Reds have found their finishing footing they might just surprise with a top-four finish. Liverpool is outscoring teams again, even if consistent clean sheets are things of the past even with Alisson in charge. The Reds can directly affect two top-four rivals (Tottenham at Anfield on April 30 and Villa on May 20) while also looking to fixture list that is otherwise teams very much worrying about happenings down the table. If Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota can continue their lively play and Trent Alexander-Arnold can keep doing what so many figured he could do in the midfield, then the Reds may even hunt down a Champions League berth. Not that Jurgen Klopp wants to focus on that right now — see video below. (NM)
5. Leicester finds late heroics to kickstart safety push (Leicester 2-1 Wolves): It was starting to look like a 1-1 draw that would leave Wolves plenty satisfied and Leicester craving (and needing) so much more. Then came the 75th minute. Left back Victor Kristiansen overlapped down the left wing and cut a cross back toward the penalty spot, finding right back Timothy Castagne making the late-arriving run just in time to guide the ball home and send the locals into delirium. It was oh-so-needed, and Dean Smith’s got the experience to try to marshall that into something more meaningful, like another Premier League season. (AE)
6. West Ham’s inevitable safety run arrives at last (Bournemouth 0-4 West Ham): We’ve been saying it all season, and it’s probably why David Moyes is still in a job: West Ham’s squad has been super unlucky and is way-too-talented to be in a relegation fight. West Ham had been operating almost 11 goals below their expected goals total and more than one-third of those will accompany them home from the South Coast on Sunday. The midfield was spectacular as Declan Rice and Lucas Paqueta both scored while helping Tomas Soucek control proceedings, and the power and calm displayed inside the Bournemouth box will be something that Moyes recognizes from years of his best work. It’ll take a lot for West Ham to sink back into the bottom three now, and the club can shift more of its focus to Conference League silverware. (NM)
7. Two dropped points x2 for Bees, Villans (Brentford 1-1 Aston Villa): There were plenty of chances for both sides all game long, as Brentford and Aston Villa combined for 4.66 xG, but it remained scoreless until the 65th minute. Bryan Mbeumo served up a delicious cross from the right wing, somehow evading every light blue shirt as it made its way to the back post, just three yards out from goal, where Ivan Toney timed his arrival perfectly finished for his 19th PL goal of the season (3rd-most). For all of Aston Villa’s stellar build-up play on the day, it was a simple six-yard box scramble that brought about their equalizer in the 87th minute. The ball was crossed into the box, an initial shot was blocked and eventually it fell to Emiliano Buendia with just enough time and space to find Douglas Luiz in prime shooting position. Buendia laid it off and Luiz lifted a first-time finish over David Raya to make it 1-1. Both teams will have wanted a win for their European hopes. Neither got one. (AE)
8. Leeds discontent grows as Gracia’s men fail to show up for fight (Fulham 2-1 Leeds): It is now three defeats in a row for Leeds United and this was the worst of the bunch despite the heavy defeats they took over the last two weeks. Playing against a Fulham side who have their flip flops on, Leeds showed little aggression and played scared the entire game. Javi Gracia is a pragmatic coach by nature but this Leeds squad is not and it just isn’t working. Leeds fans chanted against the board and Victor Orta throughout and the discontent is growing as the Yorkshire side are once again fighting for their Premier League status in the final weeks of a season. There is no way this squad should be in this position, at least on paper. But they are and that is because of the muddled tactics, lack of direction from leadership, and a lack of confidence from the players. What do Leeds want to be? What is their style of play? Ever since Marcelo Bielsa was fired over a year ago nobody seems to know and it has been a mess. (JPW)
9. Toffees performance good for short-term but only that (Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton): Everton fought and scrapped and claimed a point from a difficult ground. In another season or part of the schedule, Sean Dyche probably highlights this as a point earned, a lesson learned, and a look forward. But Everton has to find its way out of the bottom three, and Saturday’s fixture would’ve been circled as a chance for three points, not one. Palace has been in good form and the draw may still stand to be the point that gets Everton over the line for another Premier League season. The Toffees also dodged a loss when red-hot Eberechi Eze’s goal was disallowed by VAR. But Everton still has Newcastle, Brighton, and Man City on their docket, and may need to count on results against Leicester City away (May 1) before finishing with Wolves and Bournemouth. At this point, Everton might be better served hoping those last two opponents are free and clear by then. (NM)
10. This goal, everybody (Bournemouth 0-4 West Ham): There’s a chance — and we wouldn’t blame most neutrals — that reading the score line of West Ham’s easy win at Bournemouth would lead anyone who isn’t a West Ham fan to figure they didn’t miss too much aside from a one-time leaky defense reverting to their worst. But what Pablo Fornals did with a cross well behind him was a thing of beauty. We’re not sure that this is quite a scorpion kick but it’s the closest we can come to accurately describing a spectacular bit of inventive finishing from a Spanish international who has struggled to reach his best at times this season. Nice one, Pablo.