As we entered the final stages of what has been an excellent season of Premier League football, there was still a lot left open and unresolved at either end of the table.
Here’s a look at five things we learned from a hectic and emotional weekend of football.
Huddersfield allow Liverpool an exhibition display as Reds turn on the style
Liverpool fans may have hoped to be coming into their Friday night clash with Huddersfield with a bit more reason for cheer in their title charge. With Man City playing Spurs and Manchester United, the hope was that one of their opponents would take something from them and hand Liverpool the advantage. It wasn’t to be though and as the Anfield faithful took to the stands for their clash with the league’s bottom side, they were coming to terms with City’s strengthened hand at the top of the Premier League.
Any pessimism was duly eradicated early on, as Naby Keita handed the home side the lead within one minute. The goal set the tone as Huddersfield were far too open and inviting for their hosts. Liverpool romped forward at will scoring five, hitting a post, and seeing one goal rubbed out for offside.
Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were rampant on the night, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his long-awaited return from injury. Liverpool were helped by their opponent’s approach, but this was one hell of an impressive warm-up act for their Champions League clash on Wednesday night.
Mobile West Ham have too much for Spurs
Spurs suffered another setback as their league form continues to stutter, recording a first home defeat at their new stadium. West Ham, to a man, were excellent as they took the game to their city rivals. The Hammers set up to hurt Spurs, with speed and mobility on the counter. Michail Antonio got plenty of joy against the home side’s high line as Declan Rice, Mark Noble, and Issa Diop closed ranks and snuffed out much of Spurs build up play.
This was another leggy and unconvincing display by Spurs, who have now lost six of their last 10 matches in all competitions. Son and Moura offered plenty of threat and they did have chances to get something from this game, as you’d expect. But space opened up more frequently for West Ham to exploit as the game wore on and the hosts tired. With one of the biggest games in their history on the horizon this week, Pochettino will be hoping fatigue doesn’t strike down his team at such a crucial stage in the season.
Wasteful Cardiff suffer huge setback
Going into this weekend, Cardiff still had a massive chance of survival. With Brighton in freefall, an away day at Fulham was a must win for the Bluebirds if they were to apply some real pressure in this relegation dogfight. Therefore, Neil Warnock would have been furious with his side’s performance as they went down to a 1-0 defeat to Fulham on Saturday afternoon.
With so much riding on this match, the Cardiff players were lethargic, even causal in their attacking endeavours at Craven Cottage. Morrison had a good shout for a penalty waved away, despite Mitrovic manhandling the Cardiff skipper right in front of the referee.
However, it took a wonder strike on 79 minutes from Ryan Babel, for the away side to actually come to life. In fairness, it was a decent response, as they peppered Sergio Rico’s goal with 10 attempts in the final stages, only to be denied time and time again by the Spaniard. Morrison, Bacuna, Bennett, and Hoillett all wasted reasonable chances as Cardiff’s hopes for survival floundered in West London.
Pressure already building on Emery after another big loss
Firstly, credit where it’s due, Leicester City were excellent in their 3-0 victory over Arsenal on Sunday. Yes, they were playing ten men for a large part of the match, but they deserve praise for the way in which they went at their opponents and showed so much more intent throughout. By contrast, Arsenal were shockingly bad on the road once again. The old problems just won’t go away for them, as their defence crumbled to the probing and movement of the home side.
There was plenty of noise on social media after the game as to whether Emery is actually the right man to lead them to a more solid, well-rounded level of competency. You can see why there is frustration at The Emirates after this latest heavy defeat, and whatever happens in the dugout, there is a huge amount of work to be done to bring that defence up to the required standard of a club looking to seriously compete for titles.
City pass another test amid growing tension
Turf Moor is never an easy place to go, and when there is a league title on the line, it is an even more foreboding destination for a chilly spring afternoon. Man City were put through a stern test of their resolve and know-how on Sunday afternoon as they battled Burnley’s stubborn rearguard. The home side held their own for just over an hour, until Sergio Aguero broke the deadlock. The floodgates were not forced open though, as City played just below their usual high standards once again.
However, this was a massive test of their title credentials and they passed with the experience and nous of a team that has been here and done it before. Yes, Burnley offered next to nothing going forward, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see Guardiola’s side slipping up in their last two games.