7 Things We Learnt From Premier League GW27
21 Mar 2023
With the FA Cup causing a shortened round of fixtures this weekend, the Premier League still managed to serve up drama at both ends of the table. After a midweek managerial casualty, explosive post match outbursts, and late drama in the battle for relegation, here are our thoughts from the weekend’s action:
Arsenal Avenge Vieira As Palace Plummet
Arsenal entered the final stage of the season in effortless style, comfortably seeing off a managerless Crystal Palace side at home. Whilst the Gunners’ European dreams came to an end last week, they gave their domestic ambitions a massive boost with their 4-1 victory over Palace. In hindsight the result should never have been in question but the South Londoners’ have a surprisingly healthy record against the top of the table side who haven’t beaten them at home since 2018.
Both sides were suffering from injury setbacks but it was Arsenal who cruised into a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from the mercurial Gabriel Martinelli, star boy Bukayo Saka and the ever present Granit Xhaka. Saka’s second goal eased nerves following a Jeffrey Schlupp consolation and helped stretch Arsenal’s lead to 8 points ahead of Manchester City. The only negative to be found is that again set pieces seem to be the biggest flaw in the Gunners’ game right now. Despite that Mikel Arteta’s team becomes the first team ever to win 9/10 London derbies in a single season, in what is proving to be a historic campaign for the red side of North London.
As one group of Arsenal players look to make history, they helped avenge another in former Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira who lost his job at Palace on St Patrick’s day no less. Despite on the surface what seemed to be an untenable job, many have questioned his dismissal pointing out the top 10 bias in terms of fixtures post World Cup. Palace have won zero games since the restart but sit 12th and will face only one team currently above them in the next 10 games of the season. At the very least Vieira would have appreciated his name being sung by the Arsenal faithful as they humiliated his former side. As for Palace, with Roy Hodgson being dragged from his retirement home to somehow work his faded magic, the future looks very very bleak in Croydon.
Conte Cracks After Southampton Comeback
Antonio Conte’s time at Tottenham appears to be falling apart after yet another disappointing result. After a meek exit from Europe, they got back to winning ways against Nottingham Forest, but after Newcastle’s win on Friday they needed a positive result. Southampton had been in a real mixed bag of form, with a defeat at Brentford in mid-week following positive results against Leicester and Manchester United. Yet at St. Marys after the final whistle, one team had a smile on their face, while the other was feeling all sorts of negativity.
Both sides had created good early chances, with Stuart Armstrong and James Ward-Prowse in quick succession testing the Tottenham goal. A quick corner almost led to a goal the other way, as Dejan Kulusevski’s dangerous ball in was headed just wide by Eric Dier. Spurs then found the breakthrough just before half-time as a lovely ball through by Son Heung-min found Pedro Porro in acres of space. He smashed his effort in before the goalkeeper knew what hit him, for his first Tottenham goal.
Southampton came out ready for the second half, and a cutting ball through to Theo Walcott was laid across to Che Adams who couldn’t miss. The team from N17 then woke up, and Kulusevski continued to cause havoc on the Southampton defence. Another dangerous ball in from him this time was finished right into the top corner by an in-form Harry Kane on his 425th appearance for the club. Another ball from the Swede wasn’t dealt with properly, and Ivan Perišić smashed in his first goal of the season and should have secured victory. The Saints had different ideas, as poor defending allowed Ward-Prowse’s cross to be headed toward Walcott who finished easily. It was his first goal in two seasons, and five years after leaving Arsenal, was still haunting their North London rivals on his 600th appearance as a professional footballer. Another Arsenal man was an issue for Spurs, as the on-loan Ainsley Maitland-Niles won a penalty for a high boot from Pape Sarr. The man who started that move was Ward-Prowse from the corner, and he finished it in the top-right-hand corner from the penalty spot. After securing another crucial result for his team, many were left puzzled by his exclusion from the latest England squad.
Antonio Conte certainly let off some steam after the game, accusing his players of not having fight in them and the club in general of not having a winning mentality. After success at Juventus, Chelsea, and Inter Milan, it has been a very average spell for the Italian manager that is sure to come to an end after this outburst. They now find themselves just two points ahead of Newcastle who have two games in hand, so need a win away at Everton on the Monday evening kick-off. Southampton will be ecstatic after a vital point and despite looking down and out, have kept themselves in the fight. They are two points from safety and with teams above them having games in hand, they need a win in a big game away at West Ham. Southampton will continue fighting on, but has this latest setback taken the fight out of Tottenham’s European charge?
Toffees Turn Up Late To Burst Blues Bubble
Chelsea would have thought that a corner had been turned in their season after back to back Premier League wins sandwiched their advancement to the Champions League quarter finals. Graham Potter’s side have been markedly improved, finding a fluidity in the final third as Kai Havertz and Joao Felix build chemistry. Both of these men found themselves on the scoresheet at Stamford Bridge in what should have been a routine game for the Blues against their Merseyside counterparts, only for them to be pegged back in the dying embers.
Felix opened the scoring in the second half, before Everton equalised in scrappy circumstances through Abdoulaye Doucoure. It did not take long for the London side to retake the lead, as Havertz coolly slotted home his penalty after Reece James was fouled. In what was a largely dominant Chelsea performance, no one was ready for Ellis Simms to burst into the box and slam the ball past Kepa in the 90th minute as Everton held out for an improbable away result.
Graham Potter will be deeply frustrated that his side could not hold on for all three points, as this draw has dented the momentum that he has been building over the last few weeks. The Chelsea boss may not be entirely without blame however, as he took off some of his best offensive weapons in order to try and see out the fixture, which ultimately did not pay off. For Sean Dyche and Everton, this game is a testament to the mentality he has already instilled in his short time at Goodison Park, as the former Burnley boss looks set to keep the Toffees in the top flight.
Misfiring Foxes Left To Rue Missed Chances Against Brentford
A struggling Leicester City side visited Brentford on Saturday afternoon at the Gtech Community Stadium, in a tight knitted game that proved to be difficult to find disparity between the two teams.
Despite being just above the relegation zone, on paper, Leicester City had the better game. Having slightly less possession, Brendan Rodgers’ side also ended the game with double the xG. However, it was Brentford who took the lead in the first half; a 32nd minute strike from Mathias Jensen, who slammed a left foot finish home from a corner past Iversen in the Leicester net. The remainder of the half stayed relatively even, and bar a Norgaard yellow card in the 40th minute for a cynical foul, nothing else was to report from the first 45 minutes.
It was in fact the second half that proved to make the difference for Leicester; they weren’t going to let go without a fight. In the 52nd minute, James Maddison setup Harvey Barnes in the box, who placed a right footed shot past David Raya and into the back of the net, erupting the away end into a frenzy. However, the second half played out to a similar storyline – both teams creating chances but unable to finish their opportunities. Going into the international break and approaching the closing stage of the season, Leicester are going to have to put some extra work in on the training ground to make sure they don’t slip back into that relegation zone. Thomas Frank on the other hand can look to rest and further develop his Brentford side, in an attempt to achieve European football.
Incredible Isak Forces Forest To Feel Relegation Pressure
Friday evening provided an exciting clash at the City Ground between two sides needing a win. Newcastle United had finally got back to winning ways against Wolves the week before and needed another win to maintain their Champions League hopes. Nottingham Forest meanwhile had gone off the boil a bit, and were still very much in a relegation dogfight, having been comfortably swept aside by Tottenham the week prior. In a dominant display, the Magpies won just about in a tense game.
It was a great start to the game for the Northerners, with their best chance coming from a clever free kick by Kieran Trippier. With no man on the floor, he played the ball under the wall to Alexander Isak whose effort was deflected onto the crossbar by Renan Lodi’s block. The opener didn’t fit the script though, as Sven Botman’s poor pass back was picked up by Emmanuel Dennis who brought Nick Pope out of his goal and found the space to chip into the goal. Newcastle responded with Trippier once again playing great balls forward. Jacob Murphy found one of them, and his layoff to Sean Longstaff almost levelled the tie, but a deflection took it onto the crossbar once again. The team from Tyneside finally found their goal as Joe Willock’s cross found Isak who finished with an outside-the-ankle shot. It was a creative and unique finish that made the game all square at half-time.
Newcastle dominated the second half and almost made it 2-1 early on. After an initial effort looked like it was going out for a goal kick, Newcastle kept the ball in play and a looping cross by Isak was headed home by youngster Elliot Anderson. Sadly his joy at a first goal for the club was gone, as VAR ruled his great header out for offside. They would have to wait till late on, as a dangerous ball into the area hit the hand of Forest defender Moussa Niakhaté for a penalty. The replay showed that he was almost trying to punch the ball away and his naivety in dealing with Isak cost his side. Up stepped the Swede, who hit his penalty high and slightly to the right of Keylor Navas to win the day and secure a crucial victory. That’s now 6 goals in 10 league games for the new leading man on Tyneside. These were Newcastle’s first back-to-back victories since the final game before the World Cup break and the first game back after the tournament. This showed how important the result was as they moved within two points of 4th place Tottenham. With two games in hand, they stand in good stead to reclaim their Champions League spot. They return to action after the international break at home to Manchester United, hoping it goes differently from the last time these teams met. Forest meanwhile have lost games back-to-back and are without a win in 5. They fall to 16th and are just two points above a West Ham side with a game in hand on the relegation zone. After a bad patch of form, they will be hoping to get back on track at home to Wolves on the first day of April. While Forest will be looking over their shoulder, Newcastle will be looking upwards to a return to the European elite.
Villa Hit Three To Halt Cherries Charge
Since the departure of Steven Gerrard from Villa Park, Aston Villa have found a new lease of life under Unai Emery. The former Arsenal boss took over with many fearing the threat of relegation for the Birmingham based side, yet Emery has brought an assuredness to his side’s play, bringing out the best in his forward players and making them difficult to break down.
Villa faced a Bournemouth team who have shown their quality in recent weeks, upsetting Liverpool and pushing league leaders Arsenal all the way in a thriller at the Emirates. The home side found themselves in the ascendency early on after Douglas Luiz capped off a burst of pace from Leon Bailey. Bournemouth did not let the opposition have it all their way, as Dango Ouattara and Dom Solanke looked lively to opportunities in behind. The Cherries however will need to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to stay up, squandering opportunities at 1-0 that could have got them a foothold in the game.
Villa finished this one with a flourish, adding two goals that spoiled the remarkable return of David Brooks after his battle with cancer. The team in claret and blue now only sit four points back from the European places, and with their scintillating home form they could well go on to make a run at European football next season. Bournemouth on the other hand will need to address their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, as Gary O’Neil will be grateful that the international break gives him more time on the training pitch with his players before the final push.