8 Things We Learnt From Premier League GW29
11 Apr 2023
As the season begins to draw to a close, the race for the title is heating up between Manchester City and Arsenal, while at the bottom of the table it has never been tighter. Here are our key takeaways from the latest round of Premier League fixtures:
Liverpool Comeback Halts Arsenal Progress
League leaders Arsenal travelled to Anfield on Sunday in what was undoubtedly the most anticipated game of the weekend. The Gunners have been in scintillating form in the league, winning their last 7 on the bounce going in to Sunday afternoon, while Liverpool have had a season to forget following their imperious form last year.
The game started the way the form book would have dictated, with Arsenal dominating the early proceedings and finding themselves up two goals to the good thanks to the Brazilian flair of Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus. Mikel Arteta’s team were tearing apart the Liverpool defence with ease thanks to the link up play between their front three, and could have put the game to bed if they managed to be more clinical in the final third.
The game was turned on its head however just before the half time whistle when Granit Xhaka had an altercation with Trent Alexander-Arnold. This woke up the sleeping giant of the Anfield crowd, causing the momentum to shift as Mo Salah halved the deficit. The second period was far more of an even contest as the home team asked questions of the Arsenal back line. Salah could have drawn his team level from the penalty spot but could only manage to drag his effort wide of the post, but Liverpool did find parity through a late Roberto Firmino header.
Arsenal on balance will be happy to escape from Merseyside with a point, given the fact that they relied on some heroics from Aaron Ramsdale at the death to keep the scores level. Liverpool will be buoyed by this performance, but their home form has not been the issue for them this season and they must improve on the road to have any semblance of European football next season. Arsenal now have let Manchester City back into this title race, which looks set to go down to the wire.
City Rampant Against Sorry Saints
In an important weekend of the season, Manchester City kept up their fight for the title as they blew away Southampton. It was a fight between two sides at opposing ends of the table, and as expected, the game only went one way. Rooted to the bottom of the table and without a win in 4, the Saints were desperate for a shock victory. City, meanwhile, had won four on the bounce in the league and were looking to make that five. While no one was shocked by the final result, it was too easy for the team in blue.
The first half saw complete dominance from the Northerners. After an effort from Jack Grealish was parried away and Erling Haaland narrowly headed wide, they got their breakthrough. Kevin De Bruyne whipped in an in-swinging cross which Haaland headed home. It was a milestone moment for the Belgian as it was his 100th Premier League assist. He joins Ryan Giggs, Cesc Fàbregas, Wayne Rooney, and Frank Lampard as the five players to have achieved this, cementing his status as one of the league’s finest players. At the age of 31, is there still time for him to beat Giggs’ record of 162?
In the second half City hit top gear, starting again with De Bruyne’s silky through ball to Grealish who scored his 50th professional goal after his initial effort was saved. It was soon three with De Bruyne playing through Grealish again, who dribbled into the box and chipped the ball to Haaland, who finished with a stunning overhead kick. Not only was it a sensational effort, but his 30th Premier League goal; the first City player to reach that in a single season. The golden boot seems destined to be his at the end of the season, as does the League record of 34 in a single season which was achieved by Andy Cole and Alan Shearer. Southampton grabbed one back when Moussa Djenepo weaved his way through the City defence and laid it off for Sékou Mara to finish. The Cityzens finished on a high after De Bruyne was brought down in the box, and Julián Álvarez came off the bench to score the penalty
It was a classic Manchester City performance, with Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, and Erling Haaland all shining on the pitch. After Arsenal dropped points, the gap at the top was reduced to six points. With a game in hand and a game against the Gunners to come, the title race is very much alive. Following a difficult European tie against Bayern Munich, they host an out-of-form Leicester City. Southampton were pretty poor, and this young side looks destined for the drop. With 2 wins in 10, it hasn’t been a great time for Rubén Sellés. Next up is Crystal Palace who seem rejuvenated under Roy Hodgson. As Southampton look resigned to their fate, City are ready for a fight to the end.
Magpies Turn It Around After Toney Error
As one team’s European ambitions get a major boost, the other’s hit a stumbling block. Both Brentford and Newcastle find themselves in conversations that would have seemed more like fantasy 18 months ago. Their joint pursuit of European football next season gave this game a nice edge and for the first 45 minutes Brentford were comfortably winning the battle. After having a goal ruled out for a marginal offside, Ivan Toney was gifted an opportunity from the spot after the normally composed Sven Botman clumsily wiped out Kevin Schade in the box. Known for his infallible penalty record, Toney produced the tamest of strikes which was comfortably saved by Nick Pope. Toney had failed to convert a penalty attempt for the first time since October 2018 for Peterborough vs Barnsley, having scored 24 successive penalties before. But just before the half ended the now England international was given a chance at redemption, this time arrowing his spot kick just above Pope’s hands giving his side a deserved lead at the break.
Newcastle came out in the second half with a renewed conviction. Eddie Howe flexed his squad depth and tactical muscle introducing Anthony Gordon and Callum Wilson in place of Sean Longstaff and Jacob Murphy, who made an immediate improvement. A seven-minute second half salvo saw the Magpies stage an impressive comeback win, thanks to goals from Joelinton and the in-form Alexander Isak. It wouldn’t be hard to think a Newcastle fall off the deeper we got into the season was likely but they are proving they have the will to really challenge for Champions League football.
Lacklustre Chelsea Lose On Lampard’s Return
Although many were not surprised by the inevitable sacking of Graham Potter just more than a week ago, the reappointment of Frank Lampard on an interim basis until the end of the season may have raised a few eyebrows. His first game in charge of the Blues again saw Chelsea travel to Molineux for a tough fixture against Wolves.
To pile on the misery for Chelsea fans, this was another game that didn’t go their way. Despite dominance and creating the better chances, Wolves took a 1-0 lead in the first half, courtesy of an incredible goal from Matheus Nunes – the goal itself I feel has been overshadowed by the actual result of the game – the technical ability to hit it on a half volley with such pace and direction is nothing short of incredible. Familiarly, Chelsea found themselves going into half time trailing the game, with nothing to show for their attacking threat and more to show for the lacklustre defending.
The second half didn’t get much better for the Blues either. Throughout the full 90 minutes, Lampard’s side only managed one shot on target from 13 shots, as supposed to Wolves’ 4 from 9. Despite having more of the possession at 62%, Chelsea seem lifeless and deflated around the pitch, and there has been a rapid decline in most aspects since American owner Todd Boehly took over the club. An incredibly important 3 points for Wolves, the win saw them move up to 13th on 31 points, 4 points clear of the relegation zone. Chelsea remain in 11th with only 39 points, comfortably one of their worst seasons in recent history.
United Back To Winning Ways Against Erratic Everton
Following their ego-bruising loss to Newcastle last weekend, Manchester United bounced back regaining their momentum with a 2-0 win at home to Everton. The Red Devils took Sean Dyche and his men to task from minute one, creating chance after chance. In fact, the 2-0 scoreline is beyond flattering, and if not for some serious profligacy in front of goal the match would’ve ended as a thrashing.
After his exploits for Scotland it seems Scott McTominay has picked up a bit of a goal getting habit, opening the scoring with a rasping low driven effort following a sublime slipped pass by Jadon Sancho. Despite not finding his name on any of the goals or assisting the star of the match was Bruno Fernandes. Deployed deeper than normal he delivered a flawless performance, linking play, recycling the ball and creating chances with impressive efficiency.
Ten Hag has done a brilliant job at stabilising United and they are well worth their current top 4 positioning. However, for the most keen of football watchers it’s clear to see that other teams are yet to give them their due respect on the pitch. Dyche, a notoriously pragmatic and cautious coach, felt compelled to not only deploy a highline at Old Trafford but refused to change it despite United constantly getting in behind and exposing the flaw in his plan. That will come at some point with teams setting up in deeper and more compact blocks and it will be interesting to see how the red side of Manchester adapts.
Watkins Gives Emery’s European Charge Hope
Unai Emery continues to work wonders at Villa Park, as his Aston Villa side comfortably beat Nottingham Forest. This match saw two former European Cup winners from the Midlands face off, who found themselves in very different situations. The Birmingham side had been the third-best team in the league since their new manager had taken over and had won three games on the bounce after a victory against Leicester on Tuesday. Forest, meanwhile, were in a rut, having not won in 8 games, including a mid-week defeat at Elland Road. Both sides needed a win here, but the home side was very comfortably on top.
The first half was fairly quiet, with Ollie Watkins narrowly hitting wide a few times, including from a move started by Ashley Young. When the Villains finally scored, it was that man involved again as he whipped the ball forward to find Bertrand Traoré. Traoré made the most of the space testing Keylor Navas from out wide, who saved easily. Unfortunately for the former Real Madrid no. 1, his team wasn’t up to scratch and Jonjo Shelvey played an unfortunate pass to Traoré who easily finished. You could see the frustration on Navas’ face at what was an embarrassing defensive display by the Forest players. Having scored the winner in the week, it was back-to-back goals for the Burkina Faso international and his 10th for the club.
The two-time European champions then seemed to wake up but couldn’t cause the Brummies’ many issues. Morgan Gibbs-White created an effort all by himself, moving from the left channel to the middle but putting it well over. Danilo also ran into space, but his tame effort fell into the gloves of Emiliano Martínez. After a lovely move, which saw Emiliano Buendía narrowly hit wide, Ollie Watkins finished off the game. Once again, the veteran Young found Traoré, who laid it off to Watkins, and he was given the freedom of the Forest box. He passed it to Jacob Ramsey, who finished off a 1-2, and Watkins put the ball into the net. Watkins had the last laugh, unlike in the week when he opened Villa’s account, scoring his 125th goal in club football. He has been a revelation under Emery and showed he has a bright future in Aston. It was a great victory for the team in claret and blue, absolutely dominating their opponents and being clinical in front of goal. This Villa side look lethal and hungry for more after rising to 6th in the table. With European football very much in their grasp, they have some tough fixtures ahead and start against Newcastle on Saturday. Forest are really in trouble now and have dropped back into the relegation zone. Steve Cooper’s side looked out of sorts and need to find some form and defensive stability. They face a real challenge to survive the drop with Manchester United, their next opponent. But, for Aston Villa and Unai Emery, the good times keep rolling on.
Palace Compound Leeds Misery At Elland Road
Leeds hosted Crystal Palace this weekend for another huge fixture that is to be ever crucial in the goal of Premier League survival this season. A must win for both teams, Roy Hodgson looked to make it two wins from two since his reappointment a couple of weeks ago.
It was Leeds that broke the deadlock in the first half, with Patrick Bamford heading in from a corner in the 21st minute to capitalise on Crystal Palace’s sloppy start. The remainder of the first half was consistent with poor passes, lack of attacking intent and any real quality in all honesty, but Palace got lucky with an equaliser courtesy of Marc Guehi in the added minutes of the first half.
Half time team talks can make or break a football game; whatever Roy Hodgson said to his team at half time did exactly the trick. Accuracy, precision, attacking intent – The Eagles came bursting out from the block and managed to put another four past Meslier in the second half. Strikes in the 53rd and 77th minute from Ayew, Eze in the 55th and Edouard in the 69th minute put Hodgson’s plan into vision; leaving Leeds just two points clear of the relegation zone. Palace fans will be thrilled at the sight of strong attacking football again, and it’s safe to say Roy Hodgson’s reappointment has gone to plan swiftly thus far.
Bournemouth And Billing Leave Leicester Languishing
Leicester’s sacking of Brendan Rodgers looked like a desperate attempt to rescue their season, as the former champions have slipped into the depths of a relegation battle. With no one at the helm for Bournemouth’s visit, the Foxes looked rudderless and devoid of any ideas throughout Saturday’s fixture.
After a sustained spell of pressure, Philip Billing continued his strong form by capitalising from a wayward James Maddison pass. The Cherries found themselves in the ascendancy for the majority of the game, and any Leicester pressure late on was not converted into any real clear opportunities.
Bournemouth now find themselves out of the drop zone, while Leicester’s situation looks bleak as they sit in the bottom three. Gary O’Neil’s side have some huge fixtures coming up against their relegation rivals in what is a pivotal few weeks for the south coast team. Leicester meanwhile need to steady the ship quickly, otherwise they could be cut adrift and destined for Championship football next season.