8 Things We Learnt From Premier League GW35
9 May 2023
An enthralling weekend of Premier League action took place over the bank holiday, with a glut of goals and repercussions at both ends of the table setting up drama which could go down to the final day. Here is our round up of some of the key talking points from the latest round of fixtures:
Gunners Dig Deep To Keep Title Hopes Alive
This time last year Mikel Arteta and Arsenal made the near 5 hour trip to Newcastle with the increasingly unlikely hopes of a top 4 finish in their minds. Injuries to key players, a loss in momentum and having just had 3 put past them by fierce rivals Spurs, who sat in the driving seat for the coveted fourth spot, their motivation was clear. Their performance however was not. Newcastle having finally secured new ownership were desperate to make a statement heading into the new season. In simple terms Newcastle smashed Arsenal in a dizzying display in what has become one of the seminal moments in both clubs recent history.
The context for the game this weekend posed even higher stakes. 12 months on and both teams find themselves enjoying historic seasons with Newcastle closing in on a surprise top 4 finish and Arsenal themselves embroiled in a surprise title charge.
The Magpies have become known for their super aggressive pressing style that puts visiting teams in a whirlwind and that’s exactly how the game started. Arsenal were forced back with wave after wave of attacks and if not for the post and VAR would have had to chase the game at a raucous St James’ Park. But instead they rode out the early pressure and took the lead thanks to a delicious long range effort from captain Martin Odegaard. In a role reversal Newcastle were the ones who became overawed by the occasion and when Martinelli’s left footed cross was prodded in by Fabian Schar, the game was effectively over. Arsenal showed a resilience many thought they lacked, while Newcastle showed the inexperience of a team not used to playing with something on the line.
The game was a fantastic watch for the neutral, perhaps this serves as a preview to the league’s latest blockbuster rivalry, with two teams clearly fighting for something trading blow after blow. Both teams have become emblematic of trusting the process and based on this weekend’s display will be at the top of the game for a very long time.
Gundogan Brace Gives City Edge Over Lacklustre Leeds
Looking to finally overtake Arsenal at the top of the league, Manchester City hosted Leeds on Saturday afternoon at the Etihad, narrowly winning the fixture 2-1 to go one point above Arsenal in the league.
A first half brace from midfield maestro Ilkay Gundogan saw Manchester City go into the half time break 2-0 up – with the Northern side running riot in the first half. Striking one goal from just inside the box and another from outside the box, the German international ran the show and every City player followed in his confident play throughout the first half. In Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge for Leeds, they struggled to get into the game throughout the first half, and City’s defence proved a little too strong for them.
The second half was very much the same, with City cruising in possession just controlling the game searching for any potential openings. The game flipped on a sixpence however when Strujk brought down Phil Foden in the box giving away a penalty – despite Haaland being the penalty taker for City and much to Pep Guardiola’s frustration, Gundogan took the resulting penalty and missed. Just 58 seconds after the penalty, Leeds managed to pull one back through Rodrigo, who capitalised off a very poor show of display from the City defence. A mad two minutes of football, Manchester City managed to see the game out to get all three points, despite a late lifeline for Leeds.
City proved too strong yet again, and it seems hard to think they will slip up in the league with Arsenal chasing their tail in second place. Sam Allardyce now has three games to save Leeds from relegation, will it be too little too late?
8 Goal Thriller Leaves Foxes Floundering
Leicester’s hopes of Premier League survival were dealt another blow on Monday after a frantic 8 goal encounter at Craven Cottage. The Foxes found themselves three goals down at half time before Harvey Barnes reduced the deficit and Jamie Vardy missed a penalty that could have offered a potential lifeline for the strugglers.
Leicester however kept pushing and managed to make the game somewhat of a close contest thanks to late goals from Barnes and James Maddison. The home team however possessed too much quality and eventually ran out as 5-3 winners. James Maddison, Leicester’s star man this season, criticised his teammates in his post match interview saying that the squad wasn’t hungry enough. With three crucial games left and their rivals picking up points around them, Dean Smith needs to work his magic and help his team regain their appetite if they want to ensure their place in the top division next season.
For Fulham, Marco Silva’s side look set to finish the highest out of those promoted last season. Many thought that their season would fade away after the suspension of Mitrovic, but Fulham have found a way to keep picking up points and they should be commended for going about their business so professionally. With Leicester on the brink of collapse, the West London side are building something special at Craven Cottage.
Hammer Blow For United As Moyes Gets Revenge
West Ham United v Manchester United has brought some classic encounters over the years including that famous win for the Hammers in their final game at Upton Park back in 2016. Both sides needed a result at what is a crucial time in the fixture list. The team from East London looked relatively safe, but after a few defeats needed another result to secure their Premier League status. The Red Devils meanwhile had cruelly lost in stoppage time to Brighton in mid-week and needed to finish the season strongly to secure Champions League football next season. Despite a dominant performance, it was not the team from up north’s day.
The first half provided chance after chance for the team in red, but they couldn’t break through. After a run by Antony was blocked by the West Ham defence, Bruno Fernandes hit a very good effort low and just wide of the far left post. Antony would also narrowly miss that part of the goal after Wout Weghorst brought the ball down for him to try and finish. Marcus Rashford would then hit that post after coming in from the left-hand side, while Antony was found by Fernandes, with his deflected effort hitting the right post. West Ham against the run of play would open the scoring. Poor defending allowed Saïd Benrahma to run at the United backline and his tame effort was poorly blocked by David De Gea’s hand and trickled over the line. It was another embarrassing moment for De Gea, who despite having the most clean sheets in the league this season, has made some poor errors. Many are now accepting that it may be time for one of the club’s best goalkeeper to move on in the summer. It could have been worse when after Benrahma’s initial effort was saved his cross that followed hit the arm of Victor Lindelöf. VAR and the referee said no penalty, but it appeared that the Swede’s arm was in a natural position and obstructing a good move for West Ham.
The second half gave the away side plenty more opportunities to win that they did not take. Wout Weghorst’s powerful-curling effort was parried down by Łukasz Fabiański, who also tipped over Marcus Rashford’s shot after he showed great strength to get onto a through ball. A 1-2 at the end between Rashford and Anthony Martial also saw Fabiański come out on top as Martial’s direct shot was saved easily. Tomáš Souček would have the home side’s best effort as Lucas Paquetá’s cross would be drilled into the side netting by the Czech. In the end, the London United would seal the win against the United from Manchester.
After a few negative results, it was a crucial win for the Hammers as David Moyes came back to haunt his former team. With Premier League survival all but sewn up, they can now concentrate on a European semi-final before a London derby away at Brentford on Sunday. After back-to-back losses, Manchester United have made things hard for themselves again. They now are just a point above Liverpool, admittedly with a game in hand, and need to start taking their chances and get back to the form fans have seen throughout most of the season. That famous last game at Upton Park cost them a top 4 place in 2016 and they hope it won’t be a similar story this year. They next host a tricky Wolves side, hoping their good home form will secure the result. While one side looks ahead to next season, the other will be very much fixated on the here and now.
Dwight Dominates As Everton Hit 5 Against Brighton
Roberto De Zerbi’s soaring Seagulls hosted Sean Dyche’s struggling Everton side on Monday evening, in a fixture that didn’t quite turn out as most people expected – with the Merseyside team thrashing Brighton in a perfectly executed tactical masterclass.
Brighton got off to the worst possible start, with Everton capitalising off a tantalising counter attack resulting in Doucoure putting the Merseyside team up 1-0 after just 33 seconds. It’s safe to say that this rocked Brighton, who aren’t too used to conceding early or going behind many times in games as of late. Although De Zerbi’s men then controlled possession, the way Sean Dyche had set up his team tactically was constructed perfectly. Everton let Brighton take the game to them, and having fallen out of possession in the 29th minute, Everton launched a rapid counter attack again, which saw a cross find Doucoure completely unmarked at the back post volley home to go 2-0 up. This spurred on Dyche’s men, who rinse and repeated the same tactic for the third team, with Dwight Mcneil plucking back a cross from the byline which was turned into the net by Jason Steele (OG). Deflated Brighton, emphatic Everton. 0-3 at half time, with no response from De Zerbi’s men.
Despite making four substitutions at half time, Brighton couldn’t capitalise on their chances. 78% possession and a 3.26xg as supposed to Everton’s 2.28xg showed the extensive push to get back into the game in the second half. However, for a fourth time, Brighton were caught lacking at the back, and McNeil bagged a fourth dancing around the defence and keeping and eventually tapping into an empty net. A subsequent consolation goal from Alexis Mac Allister in the 79th minute was made somewhat irrelevant, with McNeil bagging yet again in the 96th minute – a shocking end to a horrifically poor Brighton performance, but an impeccable, tactically perfect Everton performance.
Brighton will still be challenging for a European spot should they be able to re-find their good form, however you get the feeling this result could massively impact them. Everton have a lifeline again and have one foot in the door of staying up in the Premier League this season, with just three games to go and two points off the drop zone.
Saints Sunk As Forest Find Form
Nottingham Forest took the glory in a relegation clash for the ages, besting Southampton in a seven goal bank holiday thriller. Nottingham Forest take a giant leap to safety putting four past Southampton who look down and out, set for a return to the second tier of English football after 11 years in the Premier League.
Taiwo Awoniyi put Forest 2-0 up with two quickfire goals in the first half but Carlos Alcaraz got one back for a spirited Southampton side. Morgan Gibbs-White’s penalty saw the two goal cushion restored before Lyanco made it 3-2 early in the second half before a Danilo dagger to make it 4-2 73rd minute. James Ward-Prowse made it 4-3 in stoppage time via a penalty kick but it was a case of too little too late as the Saints suffering their 23rd loss of the season.
Much was made of Forest’s abundant player recruitment this season but it looks to have paid off with the experienced professionals getting the job done. Southampton on the other hand flooded their club with a lot of young talent which has yet to realise itself, the wrong approach for a team in a relegation dogfight.
Southampton look set for an almighty rebuild and look primed to be raided for their most promising prospects. As for Nottingham Forest stability is the aim, whether by hook or crook they look to be on the doorstep of safety but without a clearer long term vision the Championship beckons.
Sublime Salah Keeps Champions League Dream Within Reach
Liverpool v Brentford was in the headlines for many reasons this week, but in terms of football, it was a big game for the team from Merseyside. After 5 wins on the bounce (4 by one goal) including against Fulham in mid-week, Jürgen Klopp’s men had kept the top-four race going. Another win would put pressure on those above them. The awesome form that had made Brentford European challengers had slipped somewhat, but back-to-back wins had given them some hope. However, for the Bees, it wasn’t their day, and it was another narrow win for the home side.
The goal was a move of pure brilliance. Mo Salah laid it off to Fabinho, who chipped the ball into the area, with Virgil van Dijk heading into the path of Salah who almost stumbled it over the line. It was his 100th goal at Anfield and his 30th in all competitions for the Reds this season, showing how important Salah still is to this team. It was another brilliant chip, this time from Trent Alexander-Arnold that should have been finished. Unfortunately, Darwin Núñez put it high and wide. Ivan Toney showed why he has been brilliant this season for the Bees, finishing just wide from a low-drilled free-kick. He then thought he set up the equaliser playing in Bryan Mbeumo who showed great strength and skill to hold off the Liverpool defence and finish into the net. Sadly, for him, it was just offside.
The second half was all Liverpool, and they should have won the game by a larger margin. Diogo Jota’s ball across the box bounced off Cody Gakpo and away from the goal in an unfortunate miss for the Dutchman. Trent Alexander-Arnold would then force a good save from David Raya, while Gakpo would again miss the target from a lovely, looped ball into the area by Van Dijk. In the end, Liverpool won once again by the margin of one goal.
With better finishing, the home team could be comfortably putting teams to the sword, but that is the only thing they need to work on. With 6 wins on the bounce, they are now back in top 4 contention after defeats for both Newcastle and their big rivals, Manchester United. With one point separating the two teams in red, they will be hoping to continue this fine form against an out-of-sorts Leicester side on Monday. The West Londoners meanwhile will find it difficult to finish in the European spots now and will hope to end the season strongly starting with an all-London affair against West Ham. Liverpool march on, but could they finish in the top 4 after a difficult season?
Chelsea Late Show Enough To Bruise Bournemouth
Frank Lampard secured his first win in his second stint as head coach of Chelsea at Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon. The Blues got off to a good start thanks to an early goal from Connor Gallagher, before Uruguayan full back Mathias Vina equalised in superb fashion later on in the first half, curling beautifully past Kepa in the Chelsea net.
The Cherries had the better of proceedings early in the second period before Chelsea gained control late on. Goals from Benoit Badiashile and Joao Felix inside the last ten minutes wrapped up all three points for the Blues, giving Lampard his first victory at the seventh time of asking. Chelsea’s season has been catastrophic, as Todd Boehly has proven his inexperience at running a football club, getting key managerial appointments wrong and signing a glut of players without much foresight. All Lampard can do now is hope to end the season on a high as he gets ready to hand the reigns to Mauricio Pochettino.
Bournemouth all but secured their safety in the Premier League last week, so it is perhaps no surprise that they fell apart late on given their comfortable position ahead of the pack in the relegation battle. Gary O’Neil will be hoping for at least one more positive result before the end of this campaign, but Bournemouth will be delighted at the prospect of more Premier League football nonetheless.