Jose Mourinho is losing his touch as a big-game Special One, Man United have NOT fixed their attacking problems and Crystal Palace’s win against West Brom was proof that not all games should be on TV: 10 THINGS WE LEARNED from the Premier League
- The Premier League brought about another weekend of dramatic on-field action
- Arsenal came from behind to beat Tottenham in Sunday’s north London derby
- Manchester United and Leicester City solidified their places in the top four
- Sportsmail takes a look at what we have learned from last weekend’s matches
Another Premier League weekend, another gameweek of controversial officiating, goals galore and more twists and turns in the relegation battle.
Arsenal came out victors in the north London derby after coming from behind to beat Tottenham 2-1, despite Erik Lamela’s ‘Goal of the Season’ contender.
It was a good week for Champions League-chasing Manchester United and Leicester City who picked up three points to solidify their spot in the top-four, while Chelsea dropped two points at Leeds.
At the bottom, Brighton picked up a valuable win at Southampton which was made sweeter by both Fulham and Newcastle failing to pick up points. In the final full round of games before the international break, Sportsmail looks at ten things we learned from this weekend’s top-flight action.
Arsenal came from behind to beat Tottenham in the pick of this weekend’s top-flight action
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City kept their 14-point lead at the top with a 3-0 win at Fulham
1) The Special One is losing his status as a big-game manager
Jose Mourinho has had several ups and downs in his managerial career. But one thing the iconic Portuguese manager could rely on is his perennial good record in big games.
This continued well into the start of this season: Mourinho’s Tottenham won 6-1 at Manchester United, beat Manchester City and Arsenal at home, while he has taken Spurs to the Carabao Cup final.
But an alarming recent set of results in huge encounters for Tottenham hints at an alarming decline for Mourinho on special occasions. After Sunday’s north London derby loss to Arsenal, Spurs have now lost their last four matches against ‘Big Six’ opposition.
Defeats to the Gunners, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool have dented their top-four chances, as did a loss to European qualification rivals West Ham – and a 5-4 defeat to Everton in the FA Cup last-16.
Jose Mourinho (third left) has now lost four ‘Big Six’ clashes in a row as Tottenham manager
Mourinho (right) has also lost his recent hold over Arsenal, who he had a good record against
Mourinho has also been able to rely on a very good record against Arsenal throughout his career, meaning Sunday’s loss to Mikel Arteta’s men is a shock. Before Sunday, Mourinho had only ever lost twice to the Gunners in 22 encounters.
The Portuguese manager was brought in by Daniel Levy to give Spurs a winning edge, with the Tottenham owner celebrating a recent 20-year anniversary with little trophy success to look back on.
Miles off the pace in the Premier League – with the Europa League run-in and Carabao Cup final to come – Mourinho needs to change the record quickly.
2) David Luiz is important for Arsenal at last… and Gabriel’s form shows it
On the happier side of north London, it’s been a very good week for Arsenal defender Gabriel.
The Brazilian centre back scored a crucial header for the Gunners in their 3-1 Europa League victory at Olympiakos on Thursday, before playing a crucial role in Arsenal’s derby win over Spurs.
Arsenal defender Gabriel was pivotal in the north London derby win over arch-rivals Spurs
The defender has had a good week at Arsenal following his Europa League goal at Olympiakos
Arteta’s men would not have come away with three points were it not for the 23-year-old defender. As well as a solid all-round defensive display, Gabriel came to Arsenal’s rescue on the 90-minute mark by blocking Davinson Sanchez’s goalbound shot after Harry Kane’s free-kick had come off the post.
It has been tricky start for the Gunners centre-back amid a difficult season for the Gunners, while Gabriel also struggled with coronavirus during the Christmas season.
Now back in the side, the young defender now deserves his recent plaudits but should also be thankful for the influence of experienced centre-back partner David Luiz, who is justifying his own inclusion through Gabriel’s rise.
Gabriel’s (right) form is testament to the leadership skills of fellow countryman David Luiz (left)
Gabriel revealed on social media earlier this season that he was ‘learning off Luiz every day’. Arsenal’s current defensive record shows exactly that and the two Brazilians are forming a solid partnership at the back.
Fellow defender Pablo Mari and Rob Holding have looked solid in defence as well, which is testament to the work Arteta has done to stop Arsenal leaking goals.
Sunday’s derby win over Spurs showed another gritty display in defence. The Gunners needed a bit of luck in the end, but were only really troubled by a glorious flick by Erik Lamela.
3) Man United’s open play woes continue despite back-to-back wins
Back-to-back victories in the Premier League should not deceive you – Manchester United are still struggling to fashion their own chances from open play.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men rounded off a satisfying week with a 1-0 victory over West Ham thanks to an own goal from Craig Dawson amid Bruno Fernandes’ corner.
Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s are still struggling in front of goal despite back-to-back league victories
But the Red Devils have just two goals from open play in their last six matches in all competitions – one from left-back Luke Shaw and the other by teenage winger Amad Diallo.
Too much reliance is put on Bruno Fernandes to create that major moment in front of goal. Marcus Rashford is now without a goal in four league games while Solskjaer’s men are missing Paul Pogba for quickfire inspiration.
It is important to remember that nearly every ‘Big Six’ team has gone through rough patches in front of goal this season.
Liverpool are feeling that pressure at the moment, Manchester City didn’t get going until the end of November, while Arsenal scored one goal from open play in seven matches between the end of October and the middle of December.
The Red Devils have scored just two open-play goals in their last six games in all competitions
But time is running out for Solskjaer to fix United’s woes in front of goal. This week sees them head to the San Siro for their Europa League last-16 tie with AC Milan – and the Red Devils must score to stand any chance of going through.
An FA Cup quarter-final with Leicester City follows that before the international break – and Solskjaer needs that trophy to appease those not completely satisfied with his Old Trafford reign so far.
4) Andreas Christensen’s all-round game key to Tuchel’s Chelsea Blueprint
ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN PASSING ACCURACY UNDER THOMAS TUCHEL AT CHELSEA
- Tottenham (A) – 92%
- Sheffield United (A) – 92%
- Newcastle (H) – 94%
- Atletico Madrid (A) – 96%
- Manchester United (H) – 100%
- Liverpool (A) – 92%
- Everton (H) – 94%
- Leeds (A) – 92%
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are now a record-equalling 12 games unbeaten at the start of the German’s reign, with five straight clean sheets going some way to fix the issues left behind by Frank Lampard.
One of the constants in the formidable Chelsea back line is Andreas Christensen. The Danish defender has found a new lease of life at Stamford Bridge after being inconsistently used by Lampard and has been flexible in both a back three and back four under Tuchel.
But it’s not just a defensive solidity where the 24-year-old is catching the eye. Christensen has an impressive passing accuracy since Tuchel has come in, notching over 90 per cent figures in every single match since the German’s appointment.
The statistic is particularly impressive given Tuchel’s west Londoners have played high-pressing sides of late including Tottenham, Liverpool and Saturday lunchtime’s opponents Leeds.
The Dane has been regularly around the Chelsea first-team for four years now, he is finally playing his best football in a Blues shirt.
Andreas Christensen (right) helped Chelsea to a fifth clean sheet in a goalless draw with Leeds
Christensen has 90 per cent passing accuracy rates in all of Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea games
5) Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus goals could be massive in quadruple hunt
Life has been hard as an out-and-out striker for Manchester City this season.
Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have shown over the years they are good enough but both have been overshadowed by attacking midfielders Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden adopting ‘false nine’ roles in their absence.
But both strikers were trusted from the off by Pep Guardiola for the trip to Fulham and the pair ended up on the scoresheet in what can be a massive confidence boost to both forwards.
Sergio Aguero (right) and Gabriel Jesus (left) both grabbed goals in Man City’s win at Fulham
Aguero and Jesus needed the lift too. The former netted his first Premier League goal of the season from the penalty spot after the latter had tapped home for just his third goal in nine league matches.
Should both forwards continue their goalscoring run, then City would have the options up front, including the likes of De Bruyne and Foden in a hybrid role, to mount a serious challenge for the quadruple.
6) Palace and West Brom show why 3pm matches should not be televised
With the Government’s roadmap now in place and fans set to return regularly from the middle of May, many have reflected on whether any parts of the Covid-19 football will carry on when matters come back to normal.
Five substitutes or back to three? Will FA Cup replays come back? Could neutral venues become a regular spectacle?
Crystal Palace’s slender win over West Brom shows why 3pm games should be in the blackout
Another area to discuss is whether all Premier League matches will be available to watch on TV, or if the 3pm TV blackout for the less exciting top-flight clashes will come back into play.
If Crystal Palace’s slender win over West Brom was anything to go by, we should be expecting the blackout to come back as both sides reminded everyone why some top-flight games are not worthy of any air time.
Sam Allardyce’s men offered little and Roy Hodgson’s Eagles failed to find the net from open play against the Premier League’s leakiest defence. Stick it at the back of Match of the Day and never speak of it again.
7) A pivotal weekend in Pickford vs Pope England battle
Burnley’s win against Everton saw two teams come together with different goals in mind.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men spurned the chance to close in on the top-four, Sean Dyche’s Clarets moved ever closer to yet another Premier League survival accomplishment.
Jordan Pickford picked up a hip injury in Everton’s defeat at home to Burnley on Saturday
But two players had eyes on the same goal as England goalkeeper rivals Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope faced off with Gareth Southgate keeping an eye on proceedings – and this weekend may signal the changing of the goalkeeper guard.
Pope produced some excellent saves to deny multiple Everton attacks, but Three Lions number one Jordan Pickford opened the door for the Burnley shot stopper even further by coming off injured.
If Pickford is set to miss England’s qualifiers later this month, it gives the impressive Pope even more of a case to take the goalkeeper gloves at this summer’s European Championships.
England rival Nick Pope (below) impressed at Goodison Park while Pickford was sitting out
Manchester United’s Dean Henderson may have something to say about that though…
8) Kelechi Iheanacho is a natural as Jamie Vardy link-up erases injury woes
A Europa League exit, slip-ups against Arsenal and Burnley plus injuries to the likes of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes threatened to derail Leicester’s season.
But back-to-back victories over Brighton and Sheffield United have put Brendan Rodgers’ men back on track as they look to right the wrongs of last season’s collapse out of the top four.
Behind this success has been the return to form of Kelechi Iheanacho, who is playing his best football since swapping Manchester City for the Foxes in 2017. Four goals in his last two matches means Rodgers is not totally thinking of the absence of key midfielders Barnes and Maddison.
Kelechi Iheanacho made it four goals in two games in Leicester’s 5-0 win over Sheffield United
Iheanacho’s on-pitch relationship with Jamie Vardy (right) is blossoming for the Foxes
Particularly impressive is the Nigerian’s partnership with Jamie Vardy, who made up up for just one goal in his last 15 matches with two assists for Iheanacho as he netted a hat-trick against the lowly Blades.
The pair look like they have been playing together for years. Foxes fans will be hoping the two can replicate Vardy’s partnership with Riyad Mahrez.
9) Brighton have firepower – much more than their relegation rivals do
Graham Potter’s Brighton found the goals they were desperately looking for at Southampton.
The Seagulls have been unfortunate in recent weeks regarding converting the many, many chances they have created but boosted their chances of survival with a 2-0 win at St Mary’s.
Brighton scored the goals and picked up the win their recent play deserves at Southampton
Potter’s side should be commended for not being a regular relegation candidate in the way they approach games. Since the end of January, Brighton have scored in all but two games. One of them saw them miss two penalties at West Brom.
With Danny Welbeck, Neal Maupay, Alexis MacAllister, Leandro Trossard and Adam Lallana as reliable attacking options, Brighton have the firepower that their relegation rivals, such as Newcastle and West Brom, certainly lack.
That could be crucial in the run-in as things hot up near the bottom.
10) Diogo Jota shows how much Wolves and Liverpool have missed him
Liverpool forward Diogo Jota was flying for his new side following his £43m move from Wolves in the summer.
Liverpool forward Diogo Jota scored the only goal against Wolves on Monday evening
But a knee injury in December curtailed his progression, and coincided with the Reds’ form plummeting.
But he scored the only goal against his former side on Monday night, who clearly miss his attacking threat, as well as Raul Jimenez up front who is still absent.
Yet for the champions, or soon-to-be dethroned champions, Jota’s return is a welcome boost to their top-four chances – and hopes and dreams in Europe.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article