8 Things We Learnt From Premier League GW22
14 Feb 2023
This week in the Premier League saw another managerial casualty at the bottom of the table, while the gap at the top continues to narrow. Here is our round up of eight things we learnt from the weekend’s action:
City Steady Ship Ahead Of Huge Midweek Clash
This season has been a bit of a shellshock for Manchester City. Off the back of their sixth Premier League title the club finds itself in a weird transition period. Hosting a number of wantaway players fatigued by their abundant success, an impending verdict on 100 alleged financial breaches and a manager who seems more on edge than ever, the Citizen’s are no longer the bastions of stability we had become accustomed with.
To be clear, this is all relative to Manchester City’s ridiculous standards. The blue side of Manchester sit second, 3 points behind table leaders Arsenal who they play on Wednesday with a win putting them back on top of the league. This is by no means a crisis however but this City team does not feel reminiscent of the ones who ferociously fended off Jurgen Klopp’s relentless Liverpool sides these last couple of years.
For anyone keenly listening, Pep Guardiola has made a real effort to try and galvanise both players and supporters in the press, determined to arrest the spirit of complacency that has crept into both factions of the club. So on Sunday he must have felt vindicated when his side looked back to their imperious best walloping Unai Emery’s Aston Villa. City’s alleged financial breaches and the fall out of that seems to have finally given Pep the motivational tool he desperately needed. Rodri put the blues in front with a powerful header in just four minutes and the game looked done and dusted when Gundogan tapped in from an Erling haaland low driven cross, followed swiftly by a Mahrez penalty in first half added time.
However this was not a perfect performance. The defensive frailties they have displayed this season were still there and manifested in an Ollie Watkins goal, followed by a shaky 15 minute period where Villa were only denied a second by the woodwork. Should those same lapses in concentration surface against Arsenal you would expect harsher punishments than just the one conciliation goal.
The midweek clash at the Emirates now has an exciting new edge with both teams hoping to send a big message to the football world.
Salah Strike Sees A Return To Form For Liverpool
The Merseyside derby is one of the most historic fixtures this country has to offer, with much anticipation surrounding this game following disappointing seasons thus far for both teams. Everton sit in the relegation zone while Liverpool languish in mid table – a far cry from the heights they have reached under Jurgen Klopp over the last few years.
Everton would have come into Anfield buoyed by an excellent performance against league leaders Arsenal last week, giving Sean Dyche a win in his first outing as Everton manager. The former Burnley coach has simplified Everton’s style and made them a more difficult side to break down, whilst also increasing their threat from set pieces. The Toffees would have felt they had found a winning formula when James Tarkowski looped a header over Alisson in the Liverpool net, only for the ball to hit the post and spark a lightning counter-attack that Mo Salah capitalised on at the other end. England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford did not cover himself in glory, and was again partially at fault for the second, as a combination of Pickford and Connor Coady failed to clear a low cross that Cody Gakpo tapped in for his first Liverpool goal.
Liverpool fans will be pleased with the performance their side produced on Monday, as Klopp’s team played with an intensity we have become so accustomed to during his reign, despite it being lacking this season. Stefan Bajcetic was excellent in the midfield and Darwin Nunez caused havoc from the left wing. The Reds face a monumental trip to Newcastle on the weekend, where they will need to close the gap on Eddie Howe’s team if they wish to secure Champions League football this year. Everton on the other hand will not face as difficult a task as an away trip to Anfield every week, and Sean Dyche will be looking at turning Everton into a fortress if they have any chance of staying up.
Spurs Fail To Capitalise After Kelechi Masterclass
With Newcastle dropping points, Tottenham had the chance to move back into the top 4. Antonio Conte’s side continues to be inconsistent, but following a big win over Manchester City, it seemed they were returning to form. However, a rejuvenated Leicester side was fresh off a 4-2 win over Aston Villa and Brendan Rodgers’s men continued their revival to absolutely decimate the team in white.
Tottenham made a good start with Ivan Perišić forcing a great save from Danny Ward from a free kick before his dangerous corner wasn’t dealt with and it eventually deflected in off Rodrigo Bentancur. Despite a great start, Spurs completely collapsed, showing they were vulnerable at the back and needed a new goalkeeper. Initially, they failed to clear their lines and allowed Nampalys Mendy to score a sensational equaliser, which was a beautiful hit. Wout Faes then made a fantastic challenge which started a counter-attack, with Kelechi Iheanacho laying it off for James Maddison to finish. It was then three as Eric Dier allowed Iheanacho time to run into a good position and curl into the bottom left-hand corner. While initially he was denied Leicester’s fourth by VAR, Harvey Barnes grabbed number the final goal, again being allowed too much time on the ball, while Fraser Forster could have done better.
Tottenham looked woeful in defence and while Leicester played free-flowing football, they were given way too much time on the ball. It’s an opportunity missed by Conte’s side and following a trip to Milan, they host another side on the up in West Ham. However, Leicester continue their great form and moves further clear of the relegation zone but face a difficult trip to an in-form Manchester United. If Kelechi Iheanacho continues this great form, he could help them finish in the top half. Survival looks certain for Leicester, while Spurs continue to not show enough to secure Champions League football next season.
Rashford Rallies United To Win Over Leeds
Having played each other midweek in a well fought and exciting 2-2 draw, Manchester United this time hosted Leeds for the second Roses rivalry of the season. On Wednesday, Leeds took a 2-0 lead, before United had to work tirelessly to level up the game in the second half, with Marcus Rashford continuing his fine form in front of goal. This game however started a little differently.
A stalemate in the first half was unapologetically an incredibly exciting and interesting opening period. Tackles were flying in from both teams, and there was definitely a derby atmosphere parading around the Elland Road stands – the dynamic was completely different to that we had seen midweek. The second half followed moderate suit; this Leeds side were well organised and were very much up for the game, seeing the majority of big chances go their way throughout the first half and start of the second. Somerville had the best of the bunch for Leeds, and looked a real threat in the attacking third. However, with United pushing for that top spot, it was inevitable a surge towards the end was going to happen. In the 80th minute, a fantastic cross from Luke Shaw set up Marcus Rashford for a bullet header to put the Red Devils’ 1-0 up, before Garnacho doubled the lead a few minutes later on the counter attack. 5 minutes of mayhem for Leeds, 5 minutes lapse in concentration. That was enough to bag a victory past a well fought and organised Leeds side. It’s about time we start giving Marcus Rashford universal praise now however; the Englishman is on such fine form he is undoubtedly one of the best in the world right now, and certainly made the cutting edge difference in this game.
Erik Ten Haag’s men will have left the stadium ecstatic on Sunday afternoon, winning a game that very much could have gone either way. Leeds will feel hard done by to not get anything out of the game, however, it’s a good sign of the spirit and fight yet to come – with the side shaping up for a relegation battle currently.
Controversial Toney Goals Sees Arsenal Stutter
Arsenal seem to have finally hit their first real stumbling block this season. The north-London club sit top of the Premier League but have failed to register a win in their last 3 games in all competitions. Brentford came to the Emirates unbeaten in their last nine league games and showed exactly why, setting up in a compact 5-3-2 structure which frustrated the home side all game. Thomas Frank and his team certainly watched the tape of Arsenal’s matches against Everton and Newcastle as they employed similar tactics. They doubled up on Arsenal’s wingers, blocked the vertical passing lanes and played long balls into Ivan Toney avoiding Arsenal’s press with great success.
While Arsenal struggled to break down the Bees, up the other end Brentford posed a real threat. Coming close to taking the lead twice before the half, the first time a wayward shot by Rico Henry with the goal gaping after a wonderful Ivan Toney cross and the second a scorcher from Toney which rattled the woodwork.
But football is about taking your chances when they appear and that’s what Arsenal did. In probably the only time they were able to unlock the Brentford back 5, Martin Odegaard slipped in Bukayo Saka who teased a ball across David Raya’s goal line, which was easily finished by new-boy Leoandro Trossard. Arsenal normally remain firm after taking the lead but just eight minutes later the game was level again in controversial fashion. From a dubiously awarded freekick, Brentford were given the benefit of the doubt not once but twice by officials. In both phases leading up to Ivan Toney’s headed goal, Brentford players found themselves interfering with play from offside positions. While VAR checked one incident and concluded it inconclusive, the officials somehow managed to forget to check the other later officially issuing an apology to Arsenal confirming the goal would have been ruled out if not for the “human error”.
Arsenal have dropped points just four times this year with three now coming against sides who have played eerily similar. Admittedly Newcastle and Brentford are probably the two best teams in the league at that style of football and against Everton they faced Sean Dyche and the dreaded phenomenon of ‘new manager bounce’ so it would be wise to not read too much into it. Gooners will certainly hope that Arteta has a plan for what looks to be quickly becoming the blueprint to play his side.
Sorry Saints Sack Jones After Wolves Comeback
Southampton hosted Wolves on Saturday afternoon, a bottom of the table clash that was a must win for both sides. Nathan Jones’ Saints side have failed to play any kind of intricate football in recent weeks, and going into the game sat bottom of the table on 15 points, were looking to change their ways.
The first half was a close knit, highly contested performance, with Southampton going 1-0 up courtesy of Alvarez in the 24th minute, firing in a half volley into the bottom left corner after a scrappy set of rebounds on the edge of the box. Southampton saw way more opportunities and shots throughout the game, however couldn’t find that cutting edge under Nathan Jones which proved problematic again. Wolves equalised through an unfortunate Bednarek own goal in the 72nd minute, before a small burst of pressure saw Joao Gomez fire in a winner into the top right corner in the 87th minute at the death. A relatively even game, it was most certainly a case of poor game management again for Southampton.
Southampton fans will be extremely worried right now. 15 points with more than half the games played this season, firmly routed at the bottom and now without a manager for the second time this season. For Wolves on the other hand, these three points will be a major positive, with many hoping they can keep up the momentum going into the next few games.
London Derby Stalemate Keeps Pressure On Potter
The Graham Potter era continues to be a difficult one for Chelsea fans, as they were held by West Ham in the London derby. Without a win in three games, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely the Blues will get Champions League football next season. In an end-to-end game both sides had a go, but a controversial decision may have cost Chelsea the three points.
Following a crunching tackle in the midfield by Mykhailo Mudryk, Chelsea went on the offensive and a delicious ball was chipped in by Enzo Fernández and sliced home by João Félix. With the new signings clicking and a first goal for Félix, it was looking good for the away side. However, West Ham went on the offensive and bagged the equaliser. Vladimír Coufal was given way too much space and his whipped-in ball was flicked on by Jarrod Bowen’s head before Emerson Palmieri finished. The Chelsea defence were caught napping and it cost them.
Chelsea kept going, but Łukasz Fabiański saved a curling effort from Noni Madueke, before stopping Mason Mount’s cross-the-box pass from being slotted home. It was almost curtains for Chelsea, with old boy Emerson once again involved. His free kick was whipped in nicely onto the head of Declan Rice, whose header was saved before Tomáš Souček slotted home. VAR however came to Chelsea’s rescue and ruled it out correctly for offside. However, VAR was needed later when Conor Gallagher’s shot was blocked by the hand of a falling Souček. Despite the protest from the players’ nothing was done, with the lack of VAR to an obvious handball stopping Chelsea’s victory.
For once, Chelsea’s lack of winning was not down to them, with VAR stealing the show once again. West Ham were helped by VAR, but Fabiański put in a performance and Chelsea was caught out by sloppy defending. David Moyes now has West Ham looking semi-consistent but will need more wins to move away from the relegation zone. They face another London rival in the form of Tottenham on Sunday. Chelsea meanwhile also need to find a win being ten points from where their new owner wants them to be. They play in that competition this week, followed by a must-win game against a poor Southampton side. Chelsea continue to struggle, but today VAR cost them a needed victory.
Cherries Frustrate Howe On Bournemouth Return
Newcastle travelled to the south coast to take on a Bournemouth side in the midst of a disastrous slide down the table. The Cherries had scored just one goal since the return of the Premier League after the World Cup and suffered an agonising late defeat to Brighton last week, leaving them languishing in the drop zone.
There was a heightened atmosphere at Dean Court as Eddie Howe returned to his former club. The Newcastle boss was given a warm welcome back, but his team struggled to find any real foothold in the game. New Bournemouth signings Dango Outtara and Junior Traore looked impressive and stretched Newcastle’s back line throughout, while Southampton loanee Jack Stephens didn’t put a foot wrong in defence.
The Cherries took the lead from a corner as Marcos Senesi latched onto a flick-on at the back post for his first Bournemouth goal. Despite Bournemouth having the better of the opening period, the Magpies equalised on the stroke of half time, as Miguel Almiron poked home a rebound from a fine Neto save. The second half did not offer much quality as both sides cancelled each other out, but Bournemouth will feel unlucky not to have taken home all three points after Dom Solanke’s flick was cleared off the line late on by Kieran Trippier.
This result will be a frustrating one for Howe. Newcastle maintain a sensational unbeaten run but have struggled turning draws into wins. They will need to find more of a cutting edge if they want to finish this season in the top 4 spots. This was a much improved, positive performance from Bournemouth however, and this result may have granted Gary O’Neil a bit more time in the hot seat as he aims to climb up the table.