10 things we learned in the Premier League - Matchweek 31
What did we learn in the Premier League over the weekend?
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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. City punished for rotation (Manchester City 1-2 Leeds):After they struggled to beat Borussia Dortmund in midweek at home in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg, Guardiola made plenty of changes to the starting lineup and it showed. Even so, the team City put out should have still got past Leeds. City were sluggish from the off, John Stones and Cancelo were pushing too far forward and they paid the price for prioritizing the second leg in Dortmund in a few days. Kevin de Bruyne didn’t come off the bench and even though Gundogan and Foden made a difference when they did, City still missed that clinical edge in attack. They will still win the league, and that means Pep was correct to focus on Dortmund. Let’s see if his plan pays off. (JPW)
2. Pulisic has a big day (Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea): Boy, did he need this. Two goals and he was a threat throughout, as he looked sharp and fit. He had a big impact off the bench against Porto in midweek and after his hamstring scare last weekend he showed no signs of injury. Tuchel believes he will be a key player late in the season and Pulisic is playing with confidence and is in fine form. The USMNT star now needs to stay fit and is pushing to be a regular starter after three-straight stars in the PL. (JPW)
3. Liverpool have renewed energy (Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa): Last weekend against Arsenal and this weekend against Villa they looked the real deal. The energy and zip is back for Klopp’s side, at least in the league. Will it return against Real Madrid in midweek? They looked jaded in their 3-1 loss at Real, and that can happen, but their push for the top four seems to be on track as they have a very favorable schedule coming up. (JPW)
4. Same old story for Spurs (Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United): We’ve seen this before, many times. Spurs were 1-0 up and then sat back and had no control on the game. That allowed United to surge to victory and Jose Mourinho will have a serious case of deja vu as they have now dropped the second-highest number of points (18) from winning positions in the PL this season. This has happened so many times this season and as he keeps lambasting his players, you can see they have no confidence in their own defensive ability. If he’s in charge next season he basically needs a whole new defensive unit, or a different style of play. They cannot keep sitting back after going ahead. They have to fight fire with fire, for once. (JPW)
5. Quick-starting West Ham believe in top-4 (West Ham 3-2 Leicester): They have lost Declan Rice and Michail Antonio to injury, two of their stars, but they still found a way to win. You feel like West Ham believe they can finish in the top four and their fast starts are keeping their Champions League dreams alive. They have now gone 3-0 up before the 48th minute in each of their last three PL games and drawn 3-3, and won 3-2 back-to-back. That run has been a rollercoaster and if West Ham can settle down late in games, they will be right up there at the end of the season. Six of their last seven games are very, very winnable. They can do this. (JPW)
6. Saint-Maximin turns game, season on its head (Burnley 1-2 Newcastle): This was a huge moment in Newcastle’s season. ASM jumped off the bench to inspire this win, as Steve Bruce got his gameplan spot on. Saint-Maximin isn’t fully fit, but he and Wilson (their top goalscorer returned from injury) came off the bench and Burnley couldn’t handle their movement. A lovely assist on the first and then scoring a great solo goal for the winner summed up how important ASM is to Newcastle. He created other chances too and as long as he stays fit and Newcastle are solid at the back, they always have a chance of winning games. (JPW)
7. Fulham fight fading away (Fulham 0-1 Wolves): It’s not that Fulham don’t have the will or desire to battle their way to Premier League safety, but the same can not be said for the requisite attacking talent to reach safety. Scott Parker learned and grew by leaps and bounds during his first season in the PL, but he simply didn’t have the stars ready to make a difference in the crucial moments. Friday was another agonizingly solid display by a good footballing side simply lacking top-end talent. (AE)
8. Arsenal comfortable without Aubameyang (Sheffield United 0-3 Arsenal): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unavailable this weekend due to having the flu, but Arsenal looked virtually the same side they’ve been all season with him, without him. That is to say: rigid in their midfield setup, comfortable on the ball but rarely crafty in the final third, and making the most of their low volume of scoring chances. As the game got stretched following the second goal. Lacazette was a constant threat to run in behind, which ultimately resulted in goal no. 3. Just as the script reads. (AE)
9. Southampton sloppy ahead of FA Cup semis (West Brom 3-0 Southampton): This was a very, very poor display from Southampton. They should have been 5-0 down at half time. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side looked disinterested and were clearly thinking about their FA Cup semifinal against Leicester City on Sunday. On this form, not many of this starting lineup will play at Wembley this weekend. Defensively they were all over the place, the midfield was slow and the attack fed off scraps. This was a really, really bad display from Saints. (JPW)
10. Tanks on empty, legs on the millionth mile (Brighton 0-0 Everton): The matchweek 31 finale was the latest fixture marred by the ever-increasing wear and tear experienced by players amid the season’s unique, calendar-condensing schedule. Neither Brighton nor Everton want to play the fastest, most intense pressing football for 90 minutes, but they have their moments — usually. Monday’s game was notably lacking in intensity, as two sides with very little left to play for this season appeared happy to go through the motions and each secure a point for their efforts. (AE)