10 things we learned from Week 24 of the 2023-24 Premier League season
It was the weekend before the return of the UEFA Champions League, and fittingly the big boys reminded the field why they’re the ones representing the Premier League in Europe’s top continental competition.
Arsenal pounded West Ham away from the Emirates Stadium, while Manchester City kept working away at Everton before collecting three straight-forward points at home and Liverpool turned a mediocre first half into a statement second frame.
Even the teams eliminated in December — Manchester United and Newcastle — collected deserved wins on their journeys to reclaim a spot in the UCL for next season.
There were other big results involving bottom-half sides, as Brentford looked more like Brentford to ease improbable but mathematical relegation worries. And Sheffield United broke free at Luton Town to instill some hope of a great escape to safety.
By the way, there’s still more to come in Week 24; Chelsea visit Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday (Watch at 3pm ET Monday on USA Network and online via NBC.com).
Let’s relive Week 24 with our writers Joe Prince-Wright, Nick Mendola, and Andy Edwards supplying analysis on the nine games played in England’s top flight.
10 things we learned from Week 24 of the 2023-24 Premier League season’
Narratives nice, but Manchester United’s win way more than McTominay
Scott McTominay’s heroics off the bench are a great part of Manchester United’s 2023-24 season. There are so many reasons to delight in the Scottish midfielder’s work, not the least of which is his journey from six-year-old academy player to first team hero. But this was a good game between two decent teams — even if Villa’s been out-of-whack lately — and what will be more celebrated by Erik ten Hag is the lack of passengers in this win. Andre Onana made eight saves, Casemiro and Kobbie Mainoo continued to do well as the midfield odd couple, all of the subs worked a treat, and Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire were part of a defensive unit that took Ollie Watkins out of his game. All this happened at Villa Park, giving United a notable away win to boot. We’ve learned better than to say the Red Devils are back but they at-worst remain on the road back to real contention. — Nicholas Mendola
Set-piece dominance helping Arsenal close the gap
If Arsenal set-piece coach Nicolas Jover has a ‘goals from set-piece’ bonus in his contract he’s going to be a very wealthy man by the end of this season. Arsenal scored their 15th and 16th goals from set pieces (excluding penalties) against West Ham and they lead the Premier League in this increasingly important area. Arsenal are closing the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City — established title challengers — by being better than anybody else at the small things. Arsenal scored from a well-worked corner and then a free kick in the first half and they tried the former several times before it came off. They highlight weaknesses in opponents and pummel it. And it’s working. Big time. Having giants like Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba attacking the ball helps too but this is more about precision than power. Arsenal are maximizing every area of their game from signing David Raya to help with build-up from the back, bringing in Declan Rice for extra midfield solidity, using Trossard and Havertz as false 9s to bamboozle defenses, having inverted full backs to keep the ball and trying new things from set-pieces. All of it is working superbly but their set-piece conversion is giving them an extra edge over their title rivals. Also, Declan Rice scoring a beauty and grabbing two assists on his first start back at West Ham summed up how important he is and how much he’s helped the Gunners improve this season.— Joe Prince-Wright
Haaland rusty no more, delivers hammer blows for marching champs
This is all feeling rather inevitable now. Manchester City had all of the ball but were left frustrated until the 71st minute. It looked like Everton may nick an unlikely point as they sat deep and were in two banks of four, making block after block. But then Haaland shook off the rust from his injury and scored for the first time in the Premier League since late November. That’s right. He still leads the scoring charts but has missed most of the last two months. Haaland hammered home the first and brushed Branthwaite off to set up his second as he curled home confidently. The way he finished those two chances reminded everyone of similar games last season where City huffed and puffed and opponents thought they had done enough to keep them at bay then Haaland arrived to power home. He is the x-factor and the main reason why City won the treble last season. There’s no surprise that City went through their worst spell of the season, results wise, when Haaland was out injured. City will hope to keep him fully fit from here on out as these two goals showcased why he’s the difference between near dominance and guaranteed trophies. — Joe Prince-Wright
Liverpool wake up at the break and catch a few, too
Dara O’Shea’s header gave Burnley a well-earned halftime deadlock, but Liverpool did plenty of helping in that opening frame. Jurgen Klopp made the right call to fix things, as Harvey Elliott entered for Trent Alexander-Arnold and cued up both of the Reds second half goals. The Reds were good enough that you can’t say the questionable VAR call to not take Diaz’s goal off the board after Alexis Mac Allister’s clumsy kick caught Aaron Ramsey on the shin would’ve been enough to keep a point on the board for Burnley. What if Ramsey hit the deck after the kick instead of playing on? Liverpool still seemed prepared to find more goals, and both Wilson Odobert and loan hero David Datro Fofana missed big chances to score for the visitors. Don’t give Liverpool breaks. It’s an awful idea. — Nicholas Mendola
Souza the key to Blades turning longshot into miracle
Vinicius Souza has played well almost the entire year, and that’s turned into... 13 points. That stings for the Blades, who have missed Sander Berge and Iliman Ndiaye but are getting a very good effort from Souza in the center of the park. The all-action Brazilian midfielder even chipped in a goal on Saturday, even though that’s the 24-year-old’s game. He conceded a hard-luck penalty that might keep his advanced stats down, but the Blades can pull off a great escape if Mason Holgate steadies the back line and their goalkeeping can step up. Still a huge long shot, but not impossible given Fulham, Burnley, and Forest still visit Bramall Lane and Bournemouth, Brentford, and Everton are also on the docket. — Nicholas Mendola
Spurs’ top four dreams alive but warning lights flashing
Tottenham were delirious at the final whistle as they won it in the 97th minute through a magnificent ball from Son. But they probably didn’t deserve to win it. Brighton had big chances throughout the game and looked the most likely to win it late on before a moment of quality from Son put the ball on a plate for Johnson to finish. Brighton caused Spurs big problems in midfield as they won it back time and time again and there was a real lack of control for Spurs. This felt like some of their wins early in the season where they scraped by rather than truly dominating and deserving the win. There are still key players shaking off rust after coming back from injury and Son and Bissouma are back from international duty which is a huge boost. Tottenham will get better as the season reaches its climax and the great news for them is they beat Brighton late on even when they weren’t at their best. But they must learn from the mistakes they made in this game and they can’t repeat them in a run of winnable games coming up. That is how you get to the top four. — Joe Prince-Wright
Efficiency, ruthlessness, steel on full display by Brentford
Despite being out-possessed nearly 3-1 (72-28) and out-shot nearly 2-1 (17-9), Brentford generated almost twice as much xG (1.94-1.13) at Wolves. If not for a handful of uncharacteristic mistakes at pivotal points in recent weeks, Brentford’s season — and the narrative around the club — might read drastically differently. Saturday’s performance saw them waste precious little of their limited possession in the first half (four of seven shots on target) before defending for their lives after the restart (43 passes completed in the second half, at an astonishing 43 percent). — Andy Edwards
There are reasons for both Cottagers and Cherries to be encouraged
Fulham will clearly be over the moon to score three goals and take three points in a highly efficient performance, but Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola will be encouraged by the whole of his side’s performance as well. The Cherries turned an equal-share 50 percent of possession into 25 shots (only four on target) and generated 2.38 xG on the back of taking the game’s final 13 shots. On the flip side, Bernd Leno only had to make two saves during that stretch, as his defenders blocked eight of the other 11 attempts. — Andy Edwards
Exceptional Guimaraes shows difference between class and world class
You don’t make the Premier League without being one of the best players in the world, but the best of the best is another story. Bruno Guimaraes continues to show not just where Newcastle is but where the club plans to be under new ownership. Guimaraes is the sort of finisher (and passer) who can defy xG. He doesn’t need a likely goal to put he ball home, as he did twice in this win (2 goals off a personal xG of 0.31). Guimaraes carries these heroics by getting under the skin of opponents like the best pests in the biz. See Forest’s Ryan Yates, now give him freakish vision and ability. Now should the Magpies miss out on Europe whether through the table or failing to win the FA Cup, then we may well see Guimaraes take his place with an established power. And that could be even scarier for the Premier League (or La Liga, etc). Guimaraes is why Newcastle won this game and why they made the Champions League next year. The Magpies could have one of his ilk at every level of their 11 if Sven Botman and Alexander Isak continue to grow, but just one is more than most clubs. — Nicholas Mendola
Villans shouldn’t overreact to loss
Aston Villa isn’t throwing away its shot to finish in the top four — no, not yet — and Villan supporters should be careful not to misconstrue what happened Sunday versus Manchester United. Yes, there should be questions about Villa at the back right now and they’re understandable now that Ezri Konsa and Lucas Digne have joined Tyrone Mings on the shelf. But Villa smashed Sheffield United and put up 2.65 xG vs Man Utd. They very much are performing and have improved against the same opponents, even as the results only did once. The 1-1 draw at home Sheffield United and 3-2 loss away to Man United around Christmas became a 5-0 win away to Sheffield United and a 2-1 loss at home to Man United that included an xG advantage and required eight saves from Andre Onana. Fulham, Forest, and Luton are next. The alarm bells can sound during that stretch, if necessary. — Nicholas Mendola