10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 34

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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Let’s get to it.


1. Aguero rolls back the years (Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City): Seeing Sergio Aguero score just his second Premier League goal since January 2020 was comforting. The way he expertly controlled then fired home on the half-volley reminded us of his incredible quality and the Argentine striker, if fit, still has lots to offer. It won’t be at City, as he will leave at the end of this season and clubs will be lining up to sign the free agent, but Aguero’s sharpness in the box sparked this game into life. He will surely play a big role as they aim to win the Champions League, and if they reach the final that will be his final game in a City shirt. Everything is set up for a late Aguero winner to seal glory (we’ve seen that before) and injury issues aside, it would be a perfect way for him to go out. (JPW)

2. Speaking of rolling back the years… (Tottenham 4-0 Sheffield United): Longtime Tottenham fans will remember Gareth Bale first as the dynamic left winger who torched Maicon (and plenty of other right backs) with near-sprinter speed, as well as the right winger cutting in from the right side to curl and smash beauties and beasts home from the edge of the penalty area. On Sunday, nearly eight years after he left for Real Madrid, Bale fully showed how different he is as a player, operating as a de facto second striker who makes runs off Harry Kane, to his first stint at the club. It’s a similar role to how Son Heung-min has operated the last few seasons alongside Kane, only slightly more direct and a lot more powerful with a full head of steam. The truth about Bale is somewhere in between scoring a Premier League hat trick and not being good enough to play for long periods of the 2020-21 season. (AE)

3. Tuchel is working (Chelsea 2-0 Fulham): It would be over-simplifying to say that Thomas Tuchel has fixed everything, as perhaps this is just the case of players like Havertz and Werner getting used to the Premier League (as well as both Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech getting healthy). And, yes, Frank Lampard made it pretty easy to “fix” the defense by not playing Antonio Rudiger and under-deploying Cesar Azpilicueta. But Chelsea is a force at the back, with Man City the only team allowing fewer goals than the Blues. That’s incredible considering Chelsea had scored 33 goals and allowed 22 in PL play when Lampard was fired. Tuchel’s team has a 20-8 advantage since his hiring, and that includes a 5-2 loss with 10 men. (NM)

4. Iheanacho shows his set-up side (Southampton 1-1 Leicester): The Nigerian striker has collected a handful of assists each season but all anyone’s been talking about is his 14 goals in 14 matches coming into Friday’s match at St. Mary’s. But his cross to tie the score at 1 was very pretty and it’s notable that his assists-per-game is slightly higher at Leicester than it was at Manchester City. (NM)

5. Aston Villa depth steps up in Grealish’s absence (Everton 1-2 Aston Villa): Dean Smith surely wants another offseason to fortify his troop depth, because the Jack Grealish injury absence has definitely shown that the Villans attack is not driven by one man. Villa isn’t deep enough to snare a European place but El Ghazi’s show-stopping winner and Watkins’ industrious opener both showed that — along with John McGinn and the injured Trezeguet — there are pieces here. Yes, of course, Grealish drives the boat, chief. The 25-year-old is still tied for third in the PL for assists despite being out since Feb. 13, and Villa has 12 goals in that span… three of them coming against Fulham. Villa now has 48 goals this season. Grealish has the goal or assist for one-third of them and casts a big shadow, but Watkins’ 13 goals are more than all but six PL players this season. (NM)

6. Return to normalcy for Aubameyang (Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal): It’s very on-brand for this year in our world and Arsenal’s history that Aubameyang stop-start season featured three-straight PL absences with malaria. His assist was a lucky one on Sunday but his goal vintage Auba, and he’s perhaps quietly scored 10 goals in league play this season.

The Gunners are unbeaten across all competitions this season — seven wins, two draws — when Aubameyang gets a goal or an assist. (NM)

7. Europe a bit too far for Bielsa’s first PL voyage (Brighton 2-0 Leeds): Leeds will need to get to the summer for supplies (and health) after showing that Bielsaball can work in the Premier League. It took him some time to sort out his defense and injuries to Kalvin Phillips, Robin Koch, and Raphinha played big roles in what could’ve been a top seven finish. The continued growth of Illan Meslier and more comfort in England for Raphinha, Rodrigo, and Diego Llorente could make the club a force next season. (NM)

8. Everton too bad to be good, too good to be bad (Everton 1-2 Aston Villa): Carlo Ancelotti’s men must be tired or simply unable to operate at peak production without James Rodriguez, who was a late scratch from the lineup. There’s no other excuse for the misfiring Richarlison, sloppy Mason Holgate, or hung out to dry Jordan Pickford. Of course Calvert-Lewin found his goal and Lucas Digne was good as usual but this Everton team that showed so much promise early has thrown away Champions League hope as well as perhaps a Europa League place. The Toffees have taken just four of six points from Liverpool and Tottenham but just one point from Burnley and none from Newcastle. Infuriating.

And what could this have looked like had Ross Barkley not helped his old pals get on the scoreboard at his former home? (NM)

9. Fulham finished (Chelsea 2-0 Fulham): Scott Parker’s Cottagers continue to infuriate, boasting just four of their last 24 available points but getting that quartet against Liverpool and Arsenal. Fulham now maxes out at 39 points, which means that the Cottagers would have to win out while Brighton, Southampton, Burnley, and Newcastle would pretty much all have to fail to win another match (Fulham could, in theory, draw a match and find their way out since there are matches where that quartet face each other and could draw. It’s not a question of who returns to Craven Cottage. If Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Alphonse Areola, and Joachim Andersen are willing to play Championship football, this could be a force of a team. If not, many answers must arrive for the London set. (NM)

10. Quiet Magpies can’t muster more magic (Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal): The loss was Newcastle’s second in nine matches, joining two wins and five draws. The accumulation of results by hook and crook have helped the Magpies to a nine-point cushion over the bottom three, but safety is not assured yet because Leicester City and Man City are next on the fixture list and Fulham’s there on the final day. Fulham has Burnley and Southampton next before a meeting with Manchester United, who will have second-place sealed by then. Regardless of the unlikelihood of a Newcastle relegation, being thoroughly dominated by a substandard Arsenal should further underscore the need for a change in leadership. (NM)

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Chelsea – Everton, stream live! How to watch, odds, prediction

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Thomas Tuchel will look to continue his unbeaten start to life as Chelsea manager when the Blues host Everton at Stamford Bridge on Monday (Watch live at 1 pm ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

CHELSEA – EVERTON STREAM LIVE

Chelsea are 10 games (eight in the Premier League) without a defeat since Tuchel took over for Frank Lampard on Jan. 27, and they find themselves back in the top-four as a result. Signature victories over Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid (in the UEFA Champions League) and Liverpool perfectly encapsulate Tuchel’s vision and imprint on a side which sat 9th in the table when he was hired — the Blues have conceded all of two goals in 10 games and enter the weekend with clean sheets in three straight games, against the likes of Atleti, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Everton head into the weekend with a three-game clean sheet streak of their own, albeit against slightly lesser competition on the whole (Liverpool, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion). Carlo Ancelotti’s side experience a significant dip in January and early February (1W-2D-3L), but has since rebounded without conceding a goal in 283 minutes of action. A win for Everton would make Ancelotti the first former Chelsea boss to beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge following his departure in the Premier League era.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Chelsea – Everton this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Chelsea – Everton (INJURY REPORT)

Chelsea: OUT: Tammy Abraham (ankle)

Everton: OUT: James Rodriguez (calf), Robin Olsen (knock), Seamus Coleman (knock), Yerry Mina (calf), Fabian Delph (undisclosed), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf)


Odds and ends: Chelsea – Everton (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Chelsea (+300) | Everton (+100)| Draw (+220)

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

Very few chances between the two sides, but in a much more controlled and composed manner than you typically expect of low-output games. The utmost importance will be placed upon finishing the rare chance, and that fact might just favor the visitors given Chelsea’s general struggles in front of goal. Chelsea 0-1 Everton.


How to watch Tottenham – Crystal Palace: stream and start time

Kickoff: 1 pm ET Monday
TV: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Three things we learned from Manchester United – Everton

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Manchester United – Everton: This time, Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s late heroics versus Manchester United withstood the video cameras.

Everton came back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to draw Manchester United via Calvert-Lewin’s stoppage-time goal in a 3-3 split on Saturday, a little less than 11 months from the day VAR took the center forward’s stoppage-time winner off the board at Goodison Park against the same opponents.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes had helped United to a 2-0 lead before halftime before Abdoulaye Doucoure scored and set up James Rodriguez for another to make it 2-2.

Everton keeper Robin Olsen slipped on his way to catching Scott McTominay’s header toward the back post to put United ahead, but Calvert-Lewin settled a flicked Lucas Digne free kick and beat De Gea with the final kick of the game.

United only gains one point to move two points back of leaders Man City, who play one of two matches-in-hand on Sunday at Liverpool.

Everton’s 37th point moves them ahead of Chelsea and into sixth, three points back of fourth-place Liverpool with a match-in-hand on their hated rivals.

STREAM MANCHESTER UNITED – EVERTON FULL MATCH REPLAY


Three things we learned from Manchester United – Everton

1. Both sides undone by goalkeeper errors: Maybe there’s something in the water on Merseyside, where backup goalkeeper Robin Olsen made a number of good saves but slipped while trying to corral McTominay’s winner. He would’ve certainly had it, but instead will join incumbent Jordan Pickford as Toffees goalkeepers to cost their team at least one point this season. Earlier in the half, United keeper De Gea failed to clear a Calvert-Lewin cross and Doucoure poked home as part of Everton’s first comeback.

2. More Bruno beauty: There’s not much you can’t say about Bruno Fernandes’ goal before halftime, a swirling effort from distance. Given room to operate by Everton’s defense, the onrushing Tom Davies could only whip his head around to see Olsen clawing for air as the ball cruised over the keeper and inside the far post. It was a wonderful goal for the Portuguese, and we’ve seen plenty of those in his 13 months in Manchester. As Opta tweeted, only Mohamed Salah has more Premier League goals than Fernandes since the Portuguese star debuted for United.

3. Pogba injury looms: Paul Pogba needed to sit down twice before leaving the pitch in the 39th minute with an apparent groin injury. United has actually played quite well when he’s been absent this season but there’s no doubt that Pogba has been magnificent during their recent uptick in form.

Man of the Match: Dominic Calvert-Lewin

The English center forward was aghast when VAR took away his would-be winner last season, but left no doubt on Saturday. Calvert-Lewin scored with his only shot on target but made a menace of himself all day long, helping produce Doucoure’s goal with a great run and cross. With better service, he might’ve had a hat trick.


Manchester United – Everton recap

There were crucial center back interventions for both teams early, with Michael Keane tackling Edinson Cavani just inside the box and Victor Lindelof putting his head in the way of a Lucas Digne cross.

The opening 20 minutes featured hard tackles, efforts at good combination play, and some individual style but there were not a lot of true moments of danger until the 22nd minute.

That’s when United dealt with an Everton foray led by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Greenwood hit the other end with vigor but butchered his bid to put a ball on frame.

The threat became action when Rashford sent Cavani to the back post for a picture-perfect goal, headed down and across the line for 1-0 in the 24th.

It became 2-0 in first-half stoppage when Bruno Fernandes was given plenty of room and spun a long, curling ball over the reach of Olsen.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

United had a chance right out of halftime, Luke Shaw forcing a two-handed parry out of Olsen.

Everton was back within one in the 49th minute. Calvert-Lewin zipped past Harry Maguire to send a Tom Davies through-ball into the six, and David De Gea poked it to Everton’s Doucoure, who backheeled into the goal.

The United unraveling continued with Doucoure’s set up of James’ 53rd-minute striker to the left of De Gea. Nobody picked up the Colombian inside the 18 when Lindelof’s flicked clearance of a cross caught Maguire and Shaw packed in the six. 2-2. Game on.

Rashford was 1v1 with Olsen in the 63rd and the keeper did well to keep the damage to a corner.

Olsen made a big error in the 70th minute, tripping while tracking a looping McTominay header and seeing the ball fall through his hands and over the line.

But wait: A late free kick was sent toward the 18 by Lucas Digne and was nodded onto the path of Calvert-Lewin, who remained composed and slotted past De Gea.

Premier League player Power Rankings

Premier League
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Premier League player Power Rankings are here!

Our sixteenth player Power Rankings of the 2020-21 season have arrived, as there are contrasting fortunes for the 20 teams after another hectic period in the Premier League.

Simply put: once again it was incredibly tough to put 20 players in this list based on the crazy results across the Premier League in recent days.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Stars from Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester City and West Ham dominate our sixteenth player Power Rankings of the season and there are plenty of stars starting to find their best form.

Simply put: there are a few stars consistently in the top 20, but there is still plenty of movement as the topsy-turvy season continues.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t going to be in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the player Power Rankings.


1. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – Up 2
2. Ilkay Gunodgan (Man City) – Up 3
3. John Stones (Man City) – Down 2
4. James Maddison (Leicester) – Down 2
5. Nick Pope (Burnley) – New entry
6. Joao Cancelo (Man City) – Up 3
7. Tomas Soucek (West Ham) – Up 6
8. Youri Tielemans (Leicester) – New entry
9. Riyad Mahrez (Man City) – New entry
10. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Even
11. Harvey Barnes (Leicester) – Even
12. Declan Rice (West Ham) – Up 6
13. Jack Harrison (Leeds) – New entry
14. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – New entry
15. Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal) – Up 12
16. Michail Antonio (West Ham) – Even
17. James Rodriguez (Everton) – New entry
18. Chris Wood (Burnley) – New entry
19. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – New entry
20. Phil Jagileka (Sheffield United) – New entry

Premier League grades

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With the halfway point of the season here, it is time to reveal our mid-term Premier League grades for all 20 clubs.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Let’s get to it, as we analyze who has surpassed expectations and which clubs have struggled mightily in the opening half of the 2020-21 campaign.

It’s safe to say there are some big boys flunking and a few underdogs top of the class, so far, as there are just eight points between the first place and seventh place team in the Premier League table.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Below we dish out our grades for the first half of the 2020-21 Premier League.


Premier League mid-term grades for 2020-21

Arsenal: D-
Mikel Arteta’s side had a fine comeback over the festive period, but that doesn’t make up for an awful start to the season which had them in the relegation picture for most of it. The Gunners will be hoping 2021 is the year they kick on and prove their top four credentials.


Aston Villa: A+
What a start to the season for Villa! They are in the top four picture and have two games in-hand over most of their rivals, as Jack Grealish has pulled the strings, they’ve improved massively at the back and Ollie Watkins gives them an extra edge in attack. After just staying up last season, they’ve rode that wave of optimism spectacularly.


Burnley: C+
What you would expect, just about. Sean Dyche deserves credit as the club didn’t spend money in the transfer window due to the impending takeover, which is now complete, and he’s managed to steer Burnley just above the relegation zone despite a woeful start and they had a huge win against Liverpool. Still, they need to add key parts in January to kick on and away from the drop zone.


Brighton: D-
Pretty awful from a results perspective, as Graham Potter’s side continue to play lovely stuff but can’t get the job done as they’ve won just three times in 19 games so far this season. That isn’t good enough for this squad of players. A relegation scrap beckons.


Chelsea: C
For a few weeks it seemed like they were genuine title contenders, but the same few mistakes keep hitting Chelsea hard. They can’t finish chances off and they make silly defensive mistakes. Not a great combo. Big-money arrivals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have struggled in the Premier League and that means Frank Lampard was fired as a title bid has turned into a scrap to be in the top four picture. Not good enough considering the squad they have.


Crystal Palace: C+
Well, C+ is just about the most Roy Hodgson grade you can get. The Eagles continue to just exceed expectations, as Wilfried Zaha has been in great form and they have had a lot of injuries to deal with. Comfortably in midtable.


Everton: A-
After an amazing start to the season there was a lot of talk of a title push for the Toffees. That talk had dissipated, slightly, but a recent run of good form has them in the top four conversation. When Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and James Rodriguez are fit, they can beat anyone. Injuries haven’t been kind to them, but they’re finding a way to grind out wins.


Fulham: C
Poor start to life back in the Premier League but they’ve rebounded well. Scott Parker has found his preferred system of 3-4-3 which has shored up their defensive issues and still gives them a threat in attack. They need to score more goals, but their defensive additions late in the summer window were brilliant. Let’s see what January brings at the other end of the pitch.


Leeds United: B
This was what we expected from Leeds. Marcelo Bielsa’s side have gone for it in pretty much every game and the Premier League has been taken aback by how quickly they’ve settled with their high-press. Leeds are in midtable and primed for a top 10 push, at least. Patrick Bamford is scoring goals and if they didn’t have so many defensive injuries, maybe the great entertainers would be in the top six.


Leicester City: A+
You have to applaud Brendan Rodgers’ side for a wonderful season so far. After just missing out on the top four last season, they are right up there once again. Add in so many injuries, especially at the back, and the fact they’ve been in Europa League action, and it is quite remarkable. If Jamie Vardy and Wilfred Ndidi stay fit, they have a chance of pushing for the title. Seriously.


Liverpool: B+
Talking about a title push and injuries, the Reds have hung in there despite losing their two first-choice center backs in Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez but the last few weeks have been tough. Away from home, Liverpool have struggled and they have been lackluster in attack in recent weeks. Jurgen Klopp says he is focusing on a top four finish rather than winning the title. Surely that is lowering the expectations too much?


Manchester City: B+
Here. They. Come. After struggling through the opening months of the season — often without a striker as they struggled for goals without Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus — City have found their feet. Pep Guardiola’s side are more pragmatic this season and that is what they needed to do. Especially against the big teams. A different sort of City team, but still capable of dominating games as Kevin de Bruyne is running the show and John Stones is a man reborn. KDB is out injured, so they will have to deal with that in the next month.


Manchester United: A-
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Man United in the title race? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Man United in the title race. Whisper it, but United are in incredible form and they’ve finally found consistency. After a slow start, both in the season and during games, they have their top attacking talents firing on all cylinders. United are ahead of schedule and Bruno Fernandes is getting better and better, plus a shoutout to their much-maligned defenders Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw who have turned things around.


Newcastle United: C+
They’ve picked up more points than they deserved, and Steve Bruce is edging them closer to the 40 point marker. But that’s about it. Callum Wilson has been good for a squad hit hard by the long-term impacts of COVID-19. Not the most inspiring to watch, and the pressure is on Bruce after a wretched recent run.


Sheffield United: F
Just woeful. The Blades are playing well enough in games but in the key moments they aren’t good enough at the back and going forward they just can’t score. Five points and one win from their opening 19 games is historically bad, but they aren’t doing a lot different than last season. Perhaps they have been really, really unlucky? New signings Rhian Brewster and Aaron Ramsdale have struggled at either end of the pitch and they just have to score more goals.


Southampton: A+
The Saints are marching on. After a fine ‘Project Restart’ they improved after a shaky start and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side still high-press, but have shored things up at the back and are much better on the ball. As long as Danny Ings stays fit, Saints can push for the top six. James Ward-Prowse, Kyle Walker-Peters, Jannik Vestergaard, Oriol Romeu and Che Adams are all having fine seasons too.


Tottenham Hotspur: B+
A very good start to the season for Jose Mourinho’s side, and it needed to be after their big-spending summer. They’ve fallen away a little, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguilon have been great signings. They aren’t always the best to watch, but Harry Kane and Heung-min Son are on fire and make Spurs worth watching. They are still just about in the title race, and the League Cup final, and Mourinho is a master at getting teams over the line.


West Bromwich Albion: F
Slaven Bilic is a nice bloke, and a good coach, but he wasn’t backed in the transfer window after getting them promoted, and it showed. New boss Sam Allardyce needs to be backed in the window, or else they are going to get relegated very quickly. Going forward they are struggling for goals and the Baggies are really up against it at the back. Worrying.


West Ham United: B+
David Moyes has done a really good job and his two main signings, Coufal and Soucek, have been fine additions. West Ham aren’t always the best to watch but they’ve been economical and they’ve missed Michail Antonio badly. Defensively they are tough to break down and they can push for Europe if Antonio is fit and they bring in another forward in January.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: C+
The injury to Raul Jimenez hit them hard but Wolves have shown plenty of grit to hang in there. They may not challenge for the top six, but you get the sense they will kick on in 2021. Adama Traore, Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto have shown flashes of brilliance but they haven’t been consistent enough. Willian Jo