10 THINGS WE LEARNED in the Premier League this weekend
It was another pulsating weekend of Premier League action with yet more twists and turns as the fight for the title, top four and relegation continues to enthral.
While only 14 of the 20 top flight sides were in action due to the FA Cup quarter-finals, there was no shortage of drama.
Arsenal reaffirmed their title credentials with a thumping 4-1 win over Crystal Palace that puts them eight points clear of Man City, while Newcastle seem to be back on track in their push for the Champions League after a mid-season wobble.
It was a disastrous afternoon, however, for Antonio Conte and Tottenham with the Italian unleashing his latest remarkable rant at the club, calling his players ‘selfish’ and ‘lacking fire’, among other things.
There was a crucial win for Leeds over fellow-strugglers Wolves, while Southampton, Leicester and Everton all picked up important points at the bottom.
Here, Sportsmail dissects the key talking points from another gripping weekend of action.
It was another action-packed weekend in the Premier League with yet more twists and turns
Arsenal secured an important win against Crystal Palace to open up an eight-point lead
Tottenham are better off WITHOUT Conte
In the seemingly inevitable parting of ways between Tottenham and Antonio Conte, the Italian took his latest shot at the club in the midst of a furious 10-minute tirade after watching his team surrender a 3-1 lead to take only a point from bottom of the table Southampton.
Over recent weeks and months Conte has slammed Tottenham fans, who he claimed are impatient and unappreciative of the size of the task after their Champions League defeat against AC Milan.
Now he’s taken aim at the players, who he labelled selfish and lacking fire, unable to perform when the pressure is on, without heart and going backwards. All the while he is shielding himself from blame by a litany of excuses.
It had actually been a much more positive display from Spurs at St Mary’s, as they raced into a 3-1 lead thanks to Pedro Porro, Harry Kane and Ivan Perisic.
But the manner of their collapse and the way they retreated further and further when 3-1 up was alarming, with Theo Walcott and then James Ward-Prowse scoring to secure a vital point for the Saints.
Having now criticised all aspects of the club with Spurs’ players unlikely to have taken too kindly to Conte’s latest rant, the situation has become toxic.
While Spurs have the tendency to produce performances out of nowhere and could still well reach the top four, it feels like an ending to the club’s increasingly bitter relationship with the Italian would be best for everyone.
Tottenham threw away a 3-1 lead to Southampton as they conceded late twice to draw 3-3
Antonio Conte unleashed a stunning rant at his players, who he labelled selfish and lacking fire
Chelsea in dire need of a No. 9 after Pulisic experiment
Christian Pulisic seemingly came in from the cold having been absent with injury over recent months to start his first Chelsea game in two months against Everton.
While the American put in a solid performance as he rotated with Joao Felix and Kai Havertz across the front-line, the Blues were again unable to make their dominance count and dropped points against the struggling Toffees.
Despite having 20 shots and 69 per cent of possession, a profligacy in front of goal coupled with switching off in key moments at the back, meant they were held 2-2.
The Blues are being hamstrung by their lack of a clinical No. 9, with Graham Potter’s side having scored just 29 league goals this season from an xG of 36.42.
An out-and-out forward has got to be at the top of Potter’s wishlist this summer.
The Christian Pulisic experiment up top for Chelsea reaffirmed their dire need for a goalscorer
Everton’s midfield three is key to their success
While Chelsea were wasteful, Everton deserve enormous credit for their performance as Sean Dyche’s side were resilient, before taking their chances at key moments of the game to peg the Blues back twice.
They now have 11 points in eight games under the former Burnley boss and a key part of this renaissance has been the midfield three of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Amadou Onana either side of the more defensive-minded Idrissa Gana Gueye.
Despite Dyche’s reputation for playing a 4-4-2 at Burnley, he has adapted and his midfield – which has seen the popular Alex Iwobi shifted out to the right and Dwight McNeil reinvigorated on the left – has made the Toffees much more defensively sound, while Onana and Doucoure have also added attacking impetus.
Doucore – who was frozen out under Frank Lampard – has scored two and added two assists in his last three games, while Onana has been a bright spark all season since his £33m move from Lille and Gueye, 33, continues to demonstrate his quality and experience.
There have been improvements all over the pitch, but the trio – who have started every one of Dyche’s games in charge – provide the foundation in their battle for safety.
Abdoulaye Doucoure has scored two goals and added two more assists in his last three games
Isak starting to repay his £63m price tag
Much was expected of Alexander Isak after his record-breaking £63m move from Real Sociedad in the summer and he started brightly – scoring twice in his first three games.
But he then badly struggled with injuries and failed to start a game between September and February.
However, since returning to the starting XI last month, Isak has begun to show all of his undoubted talent, with two superb displays against Wolves and Nottingham Forest in the past week.
The Swedish star caused all sorts of problems for Julen Lopetegui’s side with his skill and searing pace, and he did the same to Forest at the City Ground on Friday.
His first goal was extremely well-taken and after having a sublime assist unbelievably ruled out by VAR, he showed strong courage to slam home an injury time penalty.
Isak’s return to form has coincided with Callum Wilson’s struggles and after six goals in seven Premier League starts, he now looks like the man that could power an often wasteful Newcastle to the Champions League.
Alexander Isak put in another superb performance for Newcastle against Nottingham Forest
Saka is on the path to world class
Another Arsenal game, another Bukayo Saka masterclass and the Hale End academy product continues to drive Mikel Arteta’s side towards the title.
If his two goals and an assist against Crystal Palace weren’t enough, he now has 12 goals and 10 assists in just 28 Premier League games.
Saka’s goal contributions are only outshone by Harry Kane (21 goals and two assists) and Erling Haaland (28 goals and five assists), suggesting he could lay claim to being the most all-rounded attacker in the Premier League.
Still only 21 and having shone for England at the World Cup and with a tendency to turn up in big games, the sky’s the limit for the Arsenal winger, but he is already demonstrating his world class qualities.
Bukayo Saka has scored 12 Premier League goals and added 10 assists for Arsenal this season
Emery’s work at Villa is going under the radar
Perhaps due to the fact they are one of the few teams that don’t seem to be in a title push, a Champions League battle or in danger of relegation, it feels as if Unai Emery isn’t quite receiving the credit he deserves for his impact at Aston Villa.
Having been in real danger of relegation under his predecessor Steven Gerrard, the Spaniard has built a settled side and they secured another impressive win at the weekend against Bournemouth.
Under Emery, Villa have 26 points in 14 league games – and while they were dumped out of the FA Cup in embarrassing fashion to League Two side Stevenage – they are sixth in the Premier League table since he took charge.
After the 3-0 victory over the Cherries, despite being 11th, Villa are only four points off sixth place Liverpool and can firmly count themselves in the running for a Europa League and Europa Conference League spot.
Unai Emery has transformed Aston Villa from relegation strugglers into European candidates
Saints veterans could be vital in relegation dogfight
It was well-publicised in the summer that Southampton changed tact in their recruitment to an approach focused on youth, with eight players aged 20 or under arriving at the club this season.
Despite the success of many of these signings such as Romeo Lavia and Carlos Alcaraz, it has been poignant that since Ruben Selles took charge, the Spaniard has titled his focus towards experience.
In their dramatic fightback against Tottenham, it was Theo Walcott, Che Adams and James Ward-Prowse – three vastly experienced Premier League players – who stepped up and scored the crucial goals.
Elsewhere, Jan Bednarek has been reinstated since returning from an ill-fated loan at Aston Villa, while Kyle Walker-Peters, Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi have also featured heavily in recent weeks.
Selles hasn’t been afraid to lean on this experience and it could be what gets them out of trouble as the Saints head into a crucial run-in.
Ruben Selles has turned to his experienced players like Walcott in an attempt to keep them up
Barnes and Maddison are key to saving the Foxes
The old adage of ‘too good to go down’ applies perfectly to this experienced Leicester squad with significant experience of playing in Europe over recent years, but they are firmly in a relegation battle this season.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Brentford could prove to be a crucial point but it was fitting that their goal was assisted by talisman James Maddison who provided a sublime pass for Harvey Barnes to finish expertly.
If the Foxes are to secure their Premier League status for next season, Barnes and Maddison – who have a combined 72 goals and 55 assists in the top flight between them – are going to be key.
Leicester’s attack is badly lacking a goalscorer with Jamie Vardy having suffered a dramatic decline this year and Patson Daka and Kelechi Iheanacho flattering to deceive, meaning the onus is on goals to come from elsewhere.
If Barnes and Maddison can click and Brendan Rodgers can coax performances from his other experienced campaigners such as Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi and Jonny Evans, they should have enough to stay up, but the battle is likely to go down to the wire.
James Maddison and Harvey Barnes are going to be key if Leicester are to stay up this season
Jonny’s dreadful afternoon
A couple of defensive lapses for Leeds’ goals, a goal of the season contender and a red card for a horror challenge on Luke Ayling – Wolves’ Jonny had quite a game on Saturday during their 4-2 defeat to Javi Gracia’s side.
The defender has had a torrid luck with injuries in recent seasons, suffering two serious knee injuries in the past three years and it is credit to him that he is still playing in the Premier League.
However, he was at fault for Rasmus Kristensen’s goal as Wolves’ defence were badly exposed, before he later lobbed Ilan Meslier with an audacious volley from 40 yards.
Jonny was then sent for an early bath after a clumsy but dreadful lunge on Ayling, who was lucky to avoid serious injury.
Wolves defender Jonny endured a chaotic afternoon during their 4-2 defeat to Leeds United
A great moment for David Brooks
There was one huge positive for Bournemouth in Saturday’s disappointing 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa and that was the return of David Brooks after 536 days with the Welsh star battling back after being diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2021.
He received a brilliant reception from both Cherries and Villa supporters at Villa Park and every football fan was delighted to see such a talent back on the pitch after what must have been an incredibly difficult time.
Brooks is a top quality player who broke onto the scene in the 2018-19 season when he scored seven goals and added five assists in just 30 top flight appearances.
The 25-year-old insisted he was firmly looking forward after making his return when speaking post-match.
He said: ‘I always aspired to get back since the diagnosis. Watching from the sidelines last year to get back to the Premier League was a tough watch.
‘You want to be a part of these things and I want to do everything I can to help Bournemouth stay up.’
It was a great moment for Bournemouth when David Brooks made his long-awaited return
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