What did we learn from the Premier League? (video)

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What a day in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Saturday saw eight games take place with two seven-goal thrillers, narrow wins for Manchester United and Liverpool, plus 27 goals in what proved to be a seismic day in the relegation battle and top four race.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Below is a look at the key takeaways from an intense, enthralling day across the league.


Arsenal’s hunger breaths new life into their season
Unai Emery‘s Arsenal showed incredible desire from the first whistle to beat a lackluster Chelsea side and the way Alexander Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set the tone in attack was superb. The duo hunted down Chelsea’s defense and stopped Jorginho getting on the ball to set up attacks. Even when Chelsea did penetrate the Arsenal midfield, their defense stood tall with Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis solid in the shutout victory. With Arsenal now just four points behind Chelsea, you have to say that Emery has shown more progression with his Arsenal side than Maurizio Sarri has with Chelsea over the past few months. It has been a big call from Emery to leave Mesut Ozil out, but the way his players have defended as a group suggest that he got it spot on and Arsenal’s philosophy as a team is now clear. Between now and the end of the season, if Arsenal’s defenders stay fit then you’d expect them to overtake Chelsea and be right in the top four race alongside Manchester United and Tottenham. Arsenal simply had to beat Chelsea, and after a few disappointing defeats they showed the hunger and desire required to win a massive London derby.


Sarri under pressure at Chelsea already as false nine falters again
“It would appear that this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate.” Those were the words of Maurizio Sarri after Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal which left them in fourth place but just four points ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United. The Italian coach only arrived in the summer but he is already under pressure at Chelsea and stayed in the locker room for a long time talking to his players after the game, then used a translator (something he doesn’t always do) to answer questions from the media as he wanted to get his message across loud and clear. He certainly did that. Sarri’s persistence to play Eden Hazard as a false nine just isn’t working and Chelsea didn’t have a focal point in attack and were way too easy to defend against for Arsenal. That has become a running theme in recent weeks and with Olivier Giroud on the bench, Alvaro Morata on his way out and Gonzalo Higuain said to be arriving soon, Sarri is pinning all his hopes on Higuain and Hazard to rescue this season. Jorginho has ever ran out of steam or other teams have worked out how to get at the deep-lying playmaker (probably a combo of both) and right now there is no Plan B to Sarri-ball. Maybe Christian Pulisic will have a different manager by the time he arrives at Chelsea in the summer…


Cracks appearing in Liverpool’s makeshift defense
There is no two ways about it, Jurgen Klopp was a relieved man after Liverpool’s thrilling 4-3 victory against Crystal Palace at Anfield. In the end Liverpool came away with the victory to extend their lead atop the Premier League table to seven points, but they rode their luck and fell behind in the first half against Palace. Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend pulled their full backs all over the place and Liverpool’s makeshift defense were pushed to its limits. Before Saturday they had conceded just three PL goals at home all season long. Palace scored three and could have had more with James Milner — playing out of position at right back due to injuries — sent off after a difficult time trying to lock down Zaha in particular. Mohamed Salah dragged Liverpool over the line again, but there’s no doubt that with Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold out injured Klopp will have to get creative with his defensive lineups in the coming weeks. The saving grace for Liverpool is that they are out of both of the domestic cup competitions and that could be key in the title race with Man City.


Solskjaer can do no more as United edge towards top four
Seven wins from seven games in all competitions, what more can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer do as Manchester United’s caretaker boss? They’re back in the top four race and now face Burnley, Leicester and Fulham before a crunch clash with Liverpool next month. United sit just three points off the UEFA Champions League places and if Solskjaer can get them in the top four and go deep in the UCL and FA Cup this season, his chances of getting this job on a permanent basis will increase significantly. The two players who have shone brightest since he replaced Jose Mourinho are two who became the biggest enigmas under the Portuguese coach: Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford. The former has scored five goals and has four assists in the PL since Solskjaer arrived, while Rashford has now scored in five of his six PL games in charge. The latter looks sharp, confident and Solskjaer revealed how he is helping him calm his finishing down in front of goal. At 21 years of age Rashford has the world at his feet and right now he, and Solskjaer, can do no wrong.


Southampton’s resurgence continues
Ralph Hasenhuttl has won more Premier League points than Pep Guardiola since he arrived at Southampton on Dec. 8. Think about that. He took over a team which had won just once in 15 games to start the season and they’ve now beaten Arsenal, Huddersfield, Leicester and Everton in his first eight outings in England. The Austrian coach is fired up on the touchlines and that passion has translated to his players in a very Jurgen Klopp-esque way. Saints beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday and they should have won by four or five goals after hitting the post twice and totally dominating the Toffees. In their next three games they have Crystal Palace, Burnley and Cardiff City and a chance to push themselves up into midtable and away from the relegation battle for the first time this season. It is hard not to believe Hasenhuttl when he says “we have built something up here and I hope we can carry on like this.” Right now, Saints have a clear plan on how they want to play, they’re fitter, hungrier and are full of talented youngsters who are being given the chance to shine. Hasenhuttl’s revolution is built on high-pressing and speed in attack. Defensively Saints are improving and right now they are finally, after two years of standing still, reaching their potential.


Classic PL encounter as Wolves, Leicester slug it out

Wolves and Leicester just went at it at Molineux and the 4-3 win for Wolves will go down as a classic Premier League game. Wolves raced into a 2-0 lead, Leicester fought back to 2-2, they traded another goal each and neither team had control throughout. Wolves’ stoppage time win, which saw Diogo Jota complete his hat trick, left Claude Puel clutching his face in despair and Nuno Espirito Santo running onto the pitch to celebrate with his players. The true end-to-end nature of the Premier League was on display in this Midlands derby which was aided by two teams chasing seventh place and with little to lose. The result was an absorbing clash which was summed up perfectly by Man of the Match Jota: “This is the Premier League.”

Puel furious after ‘naive’ Leicester wastes brave comeback effort

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Claude Puel is a considered almost too cool of a customer, but his composure went out the window after Leicester City conceded at the death of a 4-3 thriller on Saturday at the Molineux.

[ RECAP: Wolves 4-3 Leicester ]

Diogo Jota completed his Wolves hat trick on a day Leicester could’ve claimed seventh place in the Premier League, sending the Foxes to a loss despite overcoming 2-0 and 3-2 deficits away from home.

Puel covered his hands in the immediate aftermath of the goal before getting into a heated touchline argument with his staff about it. It’s fair to say the team room wasn’t a fun place after the match. From the BBC:

“We lacked quality in our play but we came back with fantastic spirit in the second half. We came back with desire, aggression and put Wolves under pressure. We made good pressing, continued our intensity but conceded a third goal after a fantastic feeling to come back but to finish 4-3, we need to waste some time. We didn’t manage the game at the end, we were naive in our goals and our management at the end of the game.

“This game is finished [at 3-3] – we needed to keep our position without trying to score another goal because there was a lot of tiredness. It was a fantastic feeling [to come back] and of course it is a big disappointment at the end.”

He’s right, and sadly there’s a chance he may lose his job because his team lost its brain in the final few minutes. Managers are responsible for results, but what is Puel supposed to do when everyone in the building knew a point away to Wolves would’ve been completely acceptable and kept the visitors ahead of their hosts on the table.

Wolves edge Leicester, win seven-goal thriller (video)

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  • Jota, Bennett score early, Wolves led 2-0
  • Leicester fought back to make it 2-2
  • Jota made it 3-2, then Morgan equalized late on
  • Jota seals hat trick in stoppage time
  • Leicester suffer fourth-straight defeat in all competitions

Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Leicester City 4-3 in a classic Premier League encounter Saturday, as the game flowed back and forth in a thrilling encounter at Molinuex.

Diogo Jota and Ryan Bennett scored to put Wolves 2-0 up early, but Leicester fought back at the start of the second half with a Demarai Gray striker and an own goal from Conor Coady. Jota popped up to make it 3-2 in a pulsating, end-to-end clash which both teams couldn’t control. Wes Morgan popped up to head home a late equalizer for Leicester, but then Jota struck in stoppage time to seal an incredible win.

With the win Wolves move up to eighth place on 32 points and leapfrog Leicester, who remain on 31 points. Foxes boss Claude Puel is certainly under pressure as his team suffered their fourth-straight defeat in all competitions.

Nuno Espirito Santo was sent off in stoppage time for running on the pitch and celebrating with his players, but the Portuguese coach will not care as Wolves’ European dreams remain alive.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wolves came flying out of the traps as Nampalys Mendy picked up an early booking and the Foxes couldn’t recover. First Kasper Schmeichel denied Ruben Neves with a fantastic save, then Jota gave Wolves the lead as he prodded home Joao Moutinho‘s perfect cross. 1-0.

At the other end Leicester almost hit back right away as Rui Patricio dallied on the ball and Jamie Vardy nipped in to steal it, but Wolves’ goalkeeper recovered to save and the hosts eventually cleared.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The game failed to calm down as Wolves then scored a second from a corner. Moutinho whipped in the set piece to the back post and Bennett towered above Harry Maguire to nod home a second for Wolves and leave Puel fuming on the sidelines.

Leicester tried to battle their way back into the game as Patricio pushed away Demarai Gray’s effort, saved another from Gray and Ricardo Pereira dragged as shot wide. At the other end Jota came close to finishing off Jimenez’s superb cross but Schmeichel saved, and Jimenez was then denied as Wolves ended the first half as they started it. Well on top.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Right at the start of the second half Leicester were back in the game as Gray dances through the Wolves defense and finished to make it 2-1, and moments later Barnes smashed an effort on goal which Patricio pushed over.

Barnes played a big hand in making it 2-2, as a mix-up in the box saw the ball drop kindly to him and the 21-year-old smashed home, via a deflection off Coady, what he thought was his first Premier League goal on his first start (the goal later went down as a Coady own goal) to spark wild celebrations among the Leicester fans. Game on.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Wolves went back ahead midway through the second half as Neves played a beautiful ball over the top and Jota drilled a low shot home to make it 3-2.

Substitute James Maddison missed a glorious chance to level things, but he then whipped in a wonderful cross for Morgan to head home an equalizer late on. But the drama wasn’t done. A mistake from Leicester allowed Jimenez to tee up Jota and he completed his hat trick to make it 4-3 and hand Wolves a dramatic late victory as Nuno Espirito Santo ran on the pitch in jubilation.

That goal capped off an instant Premier League classic rather nicely.

Premier League Preview: Wolves v. Leicester City

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  • Foxes beat Wolves 2-0 in August
  • Both teams within a win of 7th
  • Wolves lead all-time 41W-33D-37L

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City are both capable of the sublime and the miserable, and meet Saturday at the Molineux with Top Seven positioning on the line (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Wolves have lost to Crystal Palace and Man City since their controlling 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur to close out 2018. They also boast a win over Chelsea and a draw with Arsenal… and a loss at Cardiff.

Leicester has lost to both Saints and Cardiff at home, but those disappointments are sandwiched around an away win over Everton.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

And to boot: Wolves are a lower half team in terms of home performance, while Leicester is a Top Six side away from King Power Stadium.

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What they’re saying

Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santo on the season: “What gives us the heart is that we are trying to build something together, not just from now. Last season we didn’t look at the table and we were in the Championship. Now we are in the Premier League why would we change?”

Leicester City boss Claude Puel on Jamie Vardy dressing as Spiderman at training“We need a super-hero I think. We all know about Jamie – I am not surprised it was him. He dressed up and it was a good laugh and freshness. … I appreciate it a lot, it is good – Spider-man was a great feeling. It’s important like Spider-man we keep concentration and focus, and keep a good atmosphere between us and around us. It is important to find a smile. Football is a game and we need to enjoy training sessions and games.”

Prediction

After all that, you want us to predict two very unpredictable sides? Fine. 1-1, with Raul Jimenez and Jamie Vardy trading strikes. So go ahead and bet on 4-2, Wolves.

What we learned in the Premier League

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Seven games took place in the Premier League on Saturday and we learned plenty at both ends of the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Huddersfield and Fulham will both be frustrated as their bad luck continued, while Liverpool and Chelsea held their nerve and there were big wins for Watford, Southampton, Burnley and West Ham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here’s a look at the key takeaways from Saturday’s PL action.


Liverpool respond with gritty away win
It wasn’t pretty but Liverpool regained a seven-point lead atop the Premier League table as Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty kick to beat Brighton 1-0. This was the kind of test Liverpool had to pass if they’re going to win the Premier League this season. After back-to-back defeats against Man City (in the Premier League) and Wolves (in the FA Cup), this was a big statement from Liverpool. Playing at a well-organized Brighton is always tough but Jurgen Klopp‘s side made relatively light work of it as their defensive injuries didn’t hamper their charge towards the Premier League title. Of course, there are bigger tests ahead but they don’t arrive for a while. The next time they play a top six side is the trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United on Feb. 24. Between now and then there are plenty of tricky tests against teams they are supposed to beat sandwiched between their UEFA Champions League last 16 clashes against Bayern Munich. Liverpool were far from their best at Brighton, but they got the job done with minimal fuss as they were back to being ruthlessly efficient, and solid, just as they were at the start of the campaign. That is a very good sign for Klopp after the disappointment of the last week.


Emery’s Ozil problem not going away
Arsenal lost 1-0 at West Ham on Saturday and Unai Emery‘s post-game press conference was dominated by one person: Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker was not in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for the London derby and Emery said that was because “the players who were here are the players who deserved to be in this match.” That is yet another ominous statement from Emery for Ozil, as the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history is the biggest headache Arsenal’s new manager has. The defending wasn’t as bad as it has been at times this season in the defeat at West Ham, but you could say that Ozil’s creativity would have been handy as Arsenal had plenty of the ball but couldn’t break down a stubborn West Ham defense. They are now six points off fourth-place Chelsea and could be overtaken by Manchester United in the next few weeks, and all of the momentum Emery had from that 22-game unbeaten run has evaporated with away defeats at Southampton, Liverpool and now West Ham, as they’ve had no victories in their last four PL away games. This poor away form is all getting very similar to Arsene Wenger‘s final season in charge…

Talking of Wenger, he oversaw Ozil, 30, signing a new bumper contract in January and he is guaranteed huge sums of cash. Ozil has only appeared in 16 games in all competitions this season and Emery clearly doesn’t trust him, as he’s said before, in away games against feisty, dedicated opponents. Ozil is a luxury player who is excellent, when given the chance, against lesser opponents at home but it doesn’t appear that the high-pressing, more defensive style Emery prefers can carry any passengers against more aggressive opponents. If Arsenal aren’t going to use Ozil, they have to loan him out or sell him in January. With his huge wages that will be tough and an argument can be made that Arsenal needed him at West Ham to unlock a defense and create chances in only the way he can. Emery’s issue with Ozil, on or off the pitch, has to be resolved one way or another as it threatens to derail their season.


Puel’s time at Leicester coming to an end
The boos rang out at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City lost 2-1 to Southampton, with Claude Puel‘s time in charge of the Foxes surely coming to an end soon. After their big wins against Chelsea, Man City and Everton over the festive period, all was well. But three-straight defeats to Cardiff, fourth-tier Newport County in the FA Cup and now an injury-hit Saints (who played over 55 minutes with 10-men) have cemented what many Leicester fans have been saying: Puel is not getting the best out of this team consistently. His decision to play three defensive midfielders against Saints was baffling, as the likes of Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes sat on the bench and made a big difference in the second half. Leicester play extremely well against the big boys as they have less of the ball and their squad of players have perfected the art of counter-attacking. Against the teams they are supposed to beat they just aren’t able to break them down, as Puel’s belief in ball rotation, slow build-up and keeping possession doesn’t play to the strengths of this squad. After a testing year off the pitch for Leicester, Puel has brought some stability. He is a good, honest man who has brought plenty of Leicester’s young players to another level but it looks like he may get the hook soon. There is no chance of Leicester being relegated this season, so now is a good time to bring in a manager who can get the best out of this group and kick them on in their pursuit of Europa League qualification.


Huddersfield, Fulham in danger of being cut adrift
The bad luck continued for two relegation battlers as Fulham scored two own goals to lose at Burnley and Huddersfield had a penalty kick awarded, then overturned at Cardiff. In two six-pointers they both came up short and all of a sudden Huddersfield are eight points from safety and Fulham are five points (basically six points, given their goal difference) from staying up. Given their respective schedules in the next few weeks as they play plenty of the big boys, they are likely to be cut adrift. David Wagner is doing all he can with limited resources at Huddersfield, while the jury is out as to whether Claudio Ranieri was ever the right hire for Fulham. Both teams have shown they can hang in games but the little things are going against them as Saturday proved. Their fortunes will have to change quickly if they’re going to drag themselves out of the relegation zone with 16 games to go. There is almost a resignation among the Huddersfield fans that they are doing down, while Fulham will be at that stage very quickly.