8 Things We Learnt From Premier League GW26
14 Mar 2023
In a weekend of football that was largely overshadowed by Gary Lineker’s absence from the Match Of The Day studio, the Premier League still managed to serve up dramatic results at both ends of the table. Here is our round up of the key talking points from the last round of fixtures:
Billing Blunts Liverpool Champions League Charge
Life, as they say, does indeed come at you fast. This has largely been a season to forget for Liverpool fans, but after their 7-0 demolition of Manchester United many would’ve felt like they had finally had their watershed moment. So surely a team which they managed to beat even worse than that with an outrageous 9-0 scoreline would see the Reds claim back to back W’s, yes? Well, such is the nature of the Premier League that in fact the answer to that is no. Liverpool did not leave the seaside all smiles and with 3 points to take home as a souvenir but instead left scratching their heads asking why it’s all going wrong for them.
Jurgen Klopp’s men did start the game in ferocious fashion in all fairness and if not for some heroic defending would’ve found themselves up by a few goals. But the game isn’t built on sympathy and even teams fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table can punish you if you are profligate. Mohammed Salah, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez lacked the required cutting edge but the same could not be said about Burkina Faso’s great hope Dango Outtara who tormented Liverpool’s defenders on the right flank before finding Phillip Billing to give the Cherries an unlikely lead.
Much like Arsenal found out last week, when Bournemouth go 1 up they are very hard to break down. It was either time for Liverpool to up their levels or for luck to kick in. Initially it looked like their luck was in when the visitors were awarded a penalty for handball by VAR. But it’s not hard to see why so many Liverpool fans have bought into the cursed kit myth when Mohammed Salah stepped up and completely missed the goal from the penalty spot. After suffering such heartbreak last week it was Bourenmouth who got a bit of good fortune this time around. While Liverpool remain unserious about claiming a spot in next year’s Champions League, Bournemouth look more than ready to fight for their place in the English top flight.
Haaland Keeps City In Touching Distance Of The Title
Many were expecting an easy win for the visitors at Selhurst Park. Crystal Place may have been 12th but without a win in 2023, found themselves in trouble. Manchester City meanwhile needed to keep the pressure on league leaders Arsenal, being 5 points off them beforehand. Yet, despite a dominant performance, it was a crucial, but difficult win for City.
Time after time, the Palace goal was threatened, but they survived the first half. City played pretty football and from a corner kept creating moves before Jeffrey Schlupp’s clearance was hit on the volley by Rodri. However, Vicente Guaita made the first of several key saves to deny his opponent. Jack Grealish then weaved his way through the defence before narrowly missing the bottom left corner. Erling Haaland then missed a golden opportunity, putting Nathan Aké’s pass over from close range.
It seemed like it wasn’t their day in the second half either as Phil Foden’s curling free kick was parried wide. Julián Álvarez then made himself space by turning the defender but blazed his effort over. The team from SE25 couldn’t survive in the end, as they reacted late to a short corner. İlkay Gündoğan was brought down in the box, and Haaland finished hard and low to score the winning penalty. Wins like this are what lead to league titles, and will keep the pressure up on their rivals. City have a break from the league with a European 2nd leg and an F.A. Cup tie to come. They next play in the league on April Fool’s Day, hoping the joke won’t be on them against rivals Liverpool. Patrick Viera must be very worried about his job as his side fall closer and closer to the drop zone. They are now just three points above the relegation places, with a strong Brighton team not who they want to play next. While the team from down south continues to fall, the team from up north will be hoping this helps them rise to the top.
Trossard Trickery Keeps Gunners At The Top
Flying high at the top of the league, Arsenal hosted Fulham on Sunday afternoon, who have had quite the strong season themselves under Marco Silva.
Having picked up new signing Leandro Trossard in the January transfer window from Brighton for less than 30 million, the Belgium international proved his worth as he shone in an emphatic 3-0 win against the Cottagers.
Finding themselves 3-0 up within the first half after goals from Gabriel, Martinelli and Odegaard in the 21st, 26th and 45th minute, Mikel Arteta’s team were cruising with ease against a previously well performing Fulham side. Highlighting his technical ability and vision, Trossard boasted all three assists for the goals scored in the game – a real bargain who is quickly becoming a fan favourite at the North London club.
Defensively, Arsenal were as strong as ever. Not conceding any big chances to Fulham, the West London side struggled to produce anything worthwhile – and eventually had to settle for damage limitation, with the game finishing 3-0. Now 5 points clear at the top of the table, the dream is really now on for Arsenal to see things out and win the league – every game is a must win however giving the fact you can’t rule Manchester City out of anything. A great performance, a great three points for Arsenal; in reality Marco Silva can’t be too majorly disheartened with the result given the Gunners’ form.
Kane Fires Spurs Past Falling Forest
In what has been a bitterly disappointing two weeks for Tottenham, the North London side finally steadied the ship with an emphatic performance against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Antonio Conte’s men have been dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League in a ten day span, once again leaving Spurs facing the reality of another trophyless season in the midst of Harry Kane’s prime.
Tottenham’s top four chances were however dealt a massive boost with Saturday’s victory. After a war of words in midweek between Richarlison and his manager, the Brazilian forward did not do himself any favours by shushing his boss in celebration of the opener, only for it to be ruled out for offside. This left it up to Harry Kane to open the scoring, guiding a deft header past Keylor Navas before doubling the lead from the spot. Heung Min-Son put the game out of reach for Forest in the second half, despite a spirited fightback that saw Fraser Forster save a penalty from Andre Ayew after Joe Worrall reduced the deficit.
Tottenham’s front three in this game played with the fluidity that we have become accustomed to in recent seasons. Harry Kane once again showed his class, while there were positives to take from Richarlison’s all round performance. They will however be concerned about the lack of concentration in the second half as Forest could have easily found a way back into the game. Steve Cooper’s men have come back down to earth quickly after a solid run of form in the New Year, and will be nervously looking over their shoulder as the relegation battle gets tighter and tighter.
Potter Pressure Eases After Foxes Falter
What a difference a week can make, huh? This time last week Chelsea were licking their wounds after a 2-0 defeat away to Spurs and looked destined for Champions League elimination. Despite the public vote of confidence there was still a precarious cloud hovering over Graham Potter and his job security. Now the west-Londoners are on a 3 game winning streak in all competitions having dispatched a relentlessly mediocre Leicester City side 3-1 on Saturday.
Maybe someone finally told the Chelsea boys just how much they were acquired for and they decided Leicester would be the game to pay back some of the huge financial faith shown in them. Ironically however, it wasn’t one of the Boehly bunch who opened the scoring but a literal blast from the past as former Foxes player Ben Chilwell connected deliciously with a Kalidou Koulibaly cross to fire the visitors in front. Goals have become a bit of a rare currency for Chelsea so when Patson Daka equalised with a powerful 25 yard drive Chelsea’s new found confidence was certainly tested.
But it was the visitors who grabbed the lead just before the break as Enzo Fernandez’s lofted ball in behind was matched by an equally deft dink from Kai Havertz. It took the Blues just shy of the 80th minute to wrap up the game which came courtesy of an acrobatic finish from Mateo Kovacic.
Whether this is the dawn of a new Chelsea remains to be seen but for now Potter has managed to stop the rot. As for Brendan Rodgers and his Leicester City side you never truly believe they are in danger of the drop but the table doesn’t lie. Four losses on the trot whilst avoiding being in the relegation zone by goal difference is reality these days for the former Premier League winners.
Almiron Keeps Newcastle European Dream Alive
Eddie Howe’s Newcastle have looked a real force this season, and battling for a solidified spot within European football, hosted Wolves at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon.
With the game remaining relatively even throughout, it was evident that the scoreline was bound to be a tight one. Newcastle managed to open the scoring in the 26th minute through Alexander Isak, who smashed a header past Jose Sa from an excellent delivery courtesy of Kieran Trippier. 1-0 Newcastle. Wolves contested the game greatly, and managed to have the majority share of possession by full time, coming in at 59% as opposed to Newcastle’s 39%; the close-fought first half came to an end with the Magpies still leading the game.
The second half shaped up to be Wolves chasing an equaliser, and Newcastle working to move swiftly on counter attacks and their wide attacking play when they dispossessed them. Wolves’ pressure and consistency was rewarded with an equaliser in the 70th minute, with Hwang finding the net with a smart left footed finish. However, this Newcastle team knows how to fight – and they know the importance of picking up maximum points in games like these. In the 79th minute, Newcastle regained the lead 9 minutes later through Almiron who celebrated emphatically. Full Time, 2-1.
It’s evident that Eddie Howe’s impact alongside major investment on this Newcastle team has started to reap its rewards. The rest of the season is due to be a major challenge for the Northern side, however it would be silly to think they aren’t in contention for a Champions League spot this season.
Shared Spoils Between Leeds and Seagulls
Leeds United faced Brighton on Saturday afternoon, with one side out of form and the other keeping themselves in decent stead. Leeds had made an ok start to life under Javi Gracia having beaten Southampton but losing to Chelsea in poor fashion. Before the game, they found themselves in 17th so needed something out of this game. Brighton meanwhile sat in 8th and chasing European football, having lost once in 2023. Off the back of a sensational 4-0 win at West Ham, they were the clear favourites but in a thrilling game, it was all square in the end.
Adam Webster’s ball forward started a move, finding Pascal Groß who showed some dazzling moves to put off the defenders. He crossed towards Kaoru Mitoma who flicked it across to Alexis Mac Allister who headed home. Leeds then hit back after Jack Harrison won the ball back. After finding Patrick Bamford, the injury-riddled main man scored a thrilling effort from outside the box. It was a sensational goal, taking a deflection and crashing in off the underside of the bar. Both sides created good chances in the second half, with Mitoma and Mac Allister continuing to combine and Brenden Aaronson’s effort almost sneaking into the corner, denied by the hand of Jason Steele.
Brighton then made a move with the dynamic duo once again combining, as Mitoma’s ball across the box caused all sorts of problems. Maximilian Wöber’s attempt to stop a goal was deflected off Illan Meslier, before an awful, attempted clearance by Harrison went into his own net. It was certainly a moment to forget. Danny Welbeck then had the chance to secure the win, bringing the keeper out, but narrowly hitting over. Harrison then made up for his major error with a stunning finish. After a quick corner, he was given too much space and somehow looped an effort over the keeper from the far left-hand side of the box. It was another great goal for Leeds and got them a crucial point. It was a vital moment in Leeds’ fight for survival, with Jack Harrison getting a goal, assist, and own goal in an interesting performance. However, after wins for Everton and Bournemouth, they dropped to 19th and will be hoping to win in a relegation six-pointer in Wolverhampton next weekend. Brighton will be disappointed to not finish off the game but climb to 7th place. With games in hand, they seem in a good position to be in Europe next season. They next host a very out-of-form Crystal Place on Wednesday. Both sides will be happy with a point but know a win would have had them in a better position.
Casemiro Card Sees United Drop Points At Home
Manchester United were humbled last week after a resounding 7-0 defeat to bitter rivals Liverpool. After going some way to steadying the ship in midweek by dispatching Real Betis in Europe, Erik Ten Hag would have hoped that they could get back to winning ways in the Premier League as relegation-threatened Southampton came to Old Trafford.
Any pre-match optimism for a comfortable win was quickly dashed after Casemiro was sent off for a high challenge on Carlos Alcaraz. The Brazilian has been a crucial part of United’s success this season, and his absence in the middle of the park left his side stretched and vulnerable to the Southampton counter. David De Gea had to be at his very best to deny the Saints, pulling off a string of good saves, while the woodwork behind him denied James Ward-Prowse another stunning free kick.
It is now clear that any talk of a title race for United was premature, as Ten Hag’s team are still very much in the middle of a rebuild. Losing Casemiro as their linchpin in midfield for four games will be a real test for the United boss, as they continue their quest for Champions League qualification. Southampton however will be buoyed by this performance, and will feel they have as good a chance as anyone to beat the drop under interim coach Ruben Selles.