8 Things We Learnt From Premier League GW25
7 Mar 2023
The weekend’s action in the Premier League saw unprecedented drama at both ends of the table. With an embarrassment at Anfield and a whirlwind turnaround at the Emirates, here are our key takeaways from the latest round of fixtures:
Ten Hag Hit For Seven As Salah Leads Liverpool To Statement Win
There might be no greater duo than Anfield and historic football moments. It’s a venue that revels in being the backdrop for some of football’s biggest occasions and Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Manchester United might be its biggest one yet. United came into the game with their confidence sky high. Ten Hag’s men had just knocked out Barcelona in the Europa League and secured a win against Newcastle at Wembley to claim the Carabao Cup. Liverpool on the other hand were still reeling from the ignominy of a 5-2 defeat to Real Madrid, unable to redeem themselves in a goalless draw away to Palace.
The first half was fraught with tension, with neither side really throwing their full weight into any attacks. United as they do under Ten Hag were happy to sit back and hope to spring counters, which they occasionally did only to minimal effect. Klopp’s men couldn’t really get into their rhythm and the first half looked to be petering out into the break before Cody Gakpo exploded into life. Receiving the line splitting ball from Andrew Robertson, Gakpo sold Raphael Varane with a drop of the shoulder before curling the ball into the bottom right corner.
You would expect United to return from half time with some fighting spirit but instead within five minutes of the restart it was all over as a contest. After some comical defending Darwin made it 2-0 with a close range header. The next goal was vintage Klopp Liverpool, a lightning quick counter-attack led by Salah ended with Gakpo dinking De Gea for his second.
By this point United had completely lost their heads and not one to shy away from goals against the Red Devils, Salah finally got in on the act to rifle in his side’s fourth in the 66th minute and
Nunez added a fifth with another in the 75th minute before Salah rubbed salt into United wounds with a close-range effort to score a record 129th Premier League goal for the club, taking him past Robbie Fowler’s record and Roberto Firmino then came off the bench to inflict a seventh on United.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s demise and United’s resurgence this campaign, but Sunday night may have given the footballing world pause for thought. Maybe rushing to hail United as a force once again wasn’t the smartest thing to do and perhaps Liverpool still have some left in the tank.
Nelson Seals Sensational Arsenal Comeback
Arsenal secured a comeback for the ages on Saturday afternoon, battling back against Bournemouth to overturn a two goal lead right at the death. Cherries fans could not have dreamt of a better start, with Phil Billing firing home a cross from Dango Outtara after just nine seconds. Gary O’Neil’s side defended excellently in the first half, frustrating their opponents and limiting them to few clear cut opportunities despite the Gunners having the lion’s share of possession.
The second half looked to be following a similar storyline when Marcos Senesi powered a header past Ramsdale in the Arsenal net. As the old cliché goes however, two-nil is a dangerous scoreline, and when Arsenal pulled one back through Thomas Partey the momentum shifted to put Arsenal in the ascendency. A goal from Ben White drew Arsenal level before a sensational Reiss Nelson strike sealed the comeback in the 97th minute.
If Arsenal go on to win the title, they will look back on this fixture as a pivotal three points in their campaign. Their wins against Bournemouth and Aston Villa in recent weeks prove that Mikel Arteta’s side have the winning mentality of potential champions. For Bournemouth, this is the third time they have squandered a two goal lead this season, and Gary O’Neil’s game management will rightly be called into question.
Fofana Fires Chelsea To Victory As Potter Survives Pressure
The Graham Potter era has been a rough one for Chelsea and they were really struggling before this game. Having won just two league games since the World Cup break, the pressure was on the Blues who found themselves in an unacceptable 10th place. Leeds meanwhile were fresh off an important win over Southampton in their fight to stay in the division. With Chelsea bang out of form, new manager Javi Gracia would have seen this as an opportunity to grab all three points. Chelsea however took the day and the win, in a fairly dominant performance.
The first half was all theirs, as they won the midfield battles and hit Leeds on the counter. Raheem Sterling sliced the ball through to Kai Havertz who should have scored, but Illan Meslier got a hand to his chip. Sterling then laid it off to João Félix who started the move, only for him to hit the underside of the crossbar. After Ben Chilwell and Sterling missed good chances, the goal finally came in the second half. A lovely corner was whipped in by Chilwell and Wesley Fofana headed it over the reach of the goalkeeper and into the net. Leeds then seemed to give it a go, but all their chances, including a late effort from Meslier, were defended well and fell into the arms of Kepa Arizzabalaga. This was a much-needed win for Chelsea, in what has been an awful season. Graham Potter can breathe a sigh of relief and hope his team has found some confidence. They face a tricky European 2nd leg against Borussia Dortmund, before taking a trip up to Leicester. Gracia will be disappointed in the lacklustre performance from his side who are now level on points with 18th-place Everton. They next host an in-form Brighton side in their fight to avoid second-season syndrome. Graham Potter remains in the dugout for now, but with fans still unimpressed, how much longer will this be the case?
Spurs Slide To Defeat Against Resurgent Wolves
Chasing some solidity within the top five and looking to strengthen their bid for Champions League football this season, Tottenham made the trip to Wolves, who hosted another close, close game on Saturday afternoon.
Not much could be drawn between the two sides throughout; Tottenham remained just dominant in possession and in turn found themselves in very good goal scoring positions throughout, reflected by their 21 shots to Wolves’ 8 in the whole 90 minutes. However, it’s about converting those chances when it matters the most, which proved costly after missing multiple ‘big chances throughout the match. After 82 minutes, the deadlock was finally broken, but by Wolves’ arguably against the run of play. Adama Traore silenced the doubters by firing in a powerful finish into the top left hand corner from close to the edge of the box, sending Molineux into raptures. No Spurs reply could be found in the closing ten minutes, and subsequently saw the North London side lose 1-0, undoubtably regretting their missed chances throughout the game.
A huge three points for Wolves, as the win saw them travel up to 13th in the table, however still just five points clear of the relegation zone. Tottenham remain in 4th, but with Newcastle and Brighton having 2 and 3 games in hand respectively, that position could easily be compromised depending on results elsewhere in the coming weeks. All in all, we a certainly set for a great race for European football during the closing stages of the season.
Foden Keeps City In Touch With The Top
Manchester City continued to keep up with the pace at the top of the table with a comfortable win over Newcastle in the early kick off on Saturday. After drawing criticism for his performances after the World Cup break, Phil Foden has regained his scintillating form and put Pep Guardiola’s side into the ascendency early on. Bernardo Silva then came off the bench to wrap up all three points, slotting home past the returning Nick Pope.
The game was not all completely one sided however, as Newcastle managed to create some good chances at the Etihad but were wasteful in front of goal. Nathan Aké, who is having arguably his best season in a City shirt, pulled off a stunning block against Sean Longstaff before Callum Wilson fluffed his lines from close range soon after. Eddie Howe’s men have been goal-shy in recent weeks, and they will need to address their slump in form if they wish to find themselves back in the top four spots.
City on the other hand can only continue to win in order to keep the pressure on Arsenal at the top. The blue side of Manchester have the advantage of experience as we edge closer to the end of the season, and they will need the temperament of champions if they are to knock the Gunners off their perch.
Brighton Dispatch Hammers To Pile Pressure On Moyes
Blessed with amazing recruitment staff, a progressive manager and burgeoning young talent, Brighton this season have affirmed themselves as everyone’s favourite second team. Whilst never being everyone’s cup of tea and perhaps not possessing the same eye for recruitment or dazzling football, West Ham of twelve months ago were exactly where Brighton are striving so hard to get to. It must be heartbreaking for Hammers all over to see this rapid role reversal.
With the broader context out of the way the match itself went just as anyone watching both sides this year would have expected. The last time West Ham claimed a win against the Seagulls both teams were still in the championship, an 11 year winless run. Just like the head to head, the game was a non contest. Alexis Mac Allister dispatched a spot kick earned by star winger Mitoma after he was fouled by Jarrod Bowen in the 17th minute. Brighton stayed on the front foot thereafter with the second goal coming from a corner as Mac Allister flicked on for an unmarked Veltman at the back post to use his chest to steer the ball home. Mitoma raced to the back post to finish off Pascal Gross’ pass before Danny Welbeck made it 4-0 with a shot from just inside the penalty area.
All the goodwill David Moyes has built up in his second stint at the club has vanished. West Ham are now deeply entrenched in a relegation battle despite having essentially the same squad that earned back to back top 7 finishes.
Last season it was West Ham rubbing shoulders with some of the continent’s biggest teams and Brighton were the ones trying to cement their top flight status. The two look to be trading places and it’s clear to see that West Ham and Brighton are on two very different trajectories.
Emery Outwits Vieira As Palace Plummet Down The Table
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace was set to be an interesting clash between two sides that can play exciting football yet have somewhat underperformed this season. Villa found themselves in 11th, but considering the money they had spent, had expected to challenge for some form of European football. Even under new man Unai Emery, they have been inconsistent and needed a good performance. Palace meanwhile had been very poor of late and while in 12th, were without a win in 2023. Patrick Viera’s men were dangerously close to the drop zone, and that was still the case after 90 minutes.
The Londoners made a positive start, with a good counter-attacking move, as Eberechi Eze played a nice ball through to Wilfried Zaha who went around the goalkeeper and finished into the net. Unfortunately for him, VAR intervened, and Palace’s best move was given offside. The rest of the game was dominated by the Brummies’, with Matty Cash played through and his low cross put in by Joachim Andersen. That awful own goal was followed by chances for Ollie Watkins who hit the post and John McGinn, whose effort went straight at Vicente Guaita, the only part of the goal where it wouldn’t have doubled the lead. To make matters worse for Palace, Cheick Doucouré was sent off for two yellow cards for two poor challenges within five minutes. For the team from Croydon, it was a day to forget.
After four straight defeats, it was two wins in a row for Aston Villa, in what has been a topsy-turvy season. Ollie Watkins’ goal-scoring run ended at five games, but his change in form is a welcome one. While Villa still have a chance of making Europe next season, they will have to continue their upward trend at Upton Park next Sunday. Palace meanwhile cannot find a win from anywhere at the moment and are now just five points above the relegation zone. They have plenty of talent, but nothing seems to be clicking currently and with Manchester City at home next Saturday, things look grim. While both teams remain in the same spot as before the game, one is on an upward trend and the other is on a continuing downward spiral.
Stalemate Keeps Forest And Everton In Relegation Battle
A huge fixture in terms of the race to escape the threat of relegation, Nottingham Forest hosted Everton on Sunday afternoon; an exciting game from start to finish on all terms.
The game was always going to be tight knit and the first half proved only that.
Everton took the lead through a Demarai Gray penalty in the 10th minute. After winter signing Jonjo Shelvey brought down McNeil in the box, Gray converted past Navas into the right hand side of the goal. This proved to be a short lived lead however, with Brennan Johnson equalising 9 minutes later to level the game up. Another 10 minutes passed and Everton found themselves ahead yet again; this time through the unlikely scorer of Doucoure, who smashed a header past the Forest keeper to lead 2-1.
The second half shaped up nicely – Forest chased the game contesting against a well structured Sean Dyche side – something you’d expect now with the experienced new manager in charge. However, Nottingham were rewarded for their surge in intensity, with Brennan Johnson firing into the top left corner in the 77th minute to level the game. By 90 minutes, little could be separated between the two sides – and both had to settle for the draw which in turn, seemed a fair result for both. Forest are now up to 14th, with Everton still stuck in the relegation zone in 18th…