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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend, featuring Arsenal’s defensive record, Crystal Palace’s future, and Nottingham Forest opening a can of worms.

Arsenal defence keeping title dream alive

Arsenal moved back to the top of the Premier League table with a 2-0 win at Wolves, a fixture that saw the Gunners keep a sixth successive clean sheet on the road. Only two teams have ever had a longer sequence of clean sheets in away games in the Premier League, while their latest shutout was the 15th of the campaign for Arsenal – five more than any other side in the division.

William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães have been arguably the league’s best centre-back pairing, Jakub Kiwior has been an unexpected key figure at left-back, and David Raya has grown in confidence since his shaky start in north London.

Great defences win you titles, we’re often old, and Arsenal have the finest backline in England’s top tier this season. Mikel Arteta will be hoping his resolute rearguard can be the cornerstone of a championship-winning campaign.

Furious Forest open Premier League can of worms

It’s a statement that stunned the Premier League on Sunday. Nottingham Forest, furious at having three penalty appeals turned down at Everton, took aim at the PGMOL and the VAR at Goodison Park, Stuart Attwell.

“Three extremely poor decisions – three penalties not given – which we simply cannot accept,” Forest said on their official X account.

“We warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him. Our patience has been tested multiple times. NFFC will now consider its options.”

An astonishing statement from Forest, one which has been lambasted in the time since it was posted. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are right to be unhappy with the decisions and performance of on-field referee Anthony Taylor, though to question the integrity of the officials, so publicly, is entering dangerous territory.

Forest slammed for ’embarrassing’ social media post after Everton defeat

Crystal Palace set for future – or fortune

Crystal Palace produced a scintillating first-half performance to thrash West Ham this weekend with the Eagles scoring four times inside the opening 31 minutes. Oliver Glasner’s side built on last weekend’s upset of Liverpool with a brilliant display at Selhurst Park, as Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise starred.

That duo has struggled with fitness problems this season but when fit and available have often been at the centre of positive Palace performances. Eze was outstanding in the win over West Ham, scoring the second with an acrobatic effort, before setting up Jean-Philippe Mateta with an audacious nutmeg of Kurt Zouma.

The 25-year-old has now been involved in eight goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances, while Olise has been equally influential when available. The Frenchman has 11 goal involvements in 10 league starts this season after a goal and assist against the Hammers.

Elsewhere, Adam Wharton continues to impress after his arrival from Blackburn in January and a trio of talents signed from Championship clubs offer hope for Palace moving forward. Either through big sales or further development in South London, the Eagles look set for the future.

Great centre-forwards don’t always need to score goals…

Every team wants the mythical 20-goal-a-season striker, the player who converts chances and turns games on their own. Sometimes, however, the focal point does not always need to grab the goals, as Ollie Watkins proved this weekend.

The Aston Villa forward is having some season and was at his bustling best against Bournemouth. Illia Zabarnyi sought to combat the threat of Villa’s leading scorer with a man-marking job on Watkins, taking an aggressive approach in his bid to stop the striker in his tracks. It did not work.

While Watkins failed to add to the 26 goals he has scored in all competitions this season, he was still supremely effective. Selfless, industrious and strong, he dragged Zabarnyi into areas of the pitch he did not feel comfortable in and often got the better of his marker physically.

He unselfishly set up Moussa Diaby for the second goal with a driving run and threaded pass, before assisting the third for Leon Bailey after starting his run towards goal in the centre circle. All action, effective, and unplayable. Even without being on the scoresheet.

Reds back on track but no margin for error

Liverpool got their title chase back on track with a 3-1 win at Fulham, as Jurgen Klopp’s gamble on team selection paid off in the capital. Six changes, including the omission of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Ibrahima Konate and Alexis Mac Allister, caused surprise when revealed, at a venue Liverpool have not traditionally impressed at.

The Reds returned from Craven Cottage with three points and reasons for encouragement, as their rotated side did enough to claim an important win. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s return and goal were welcome sights, as was Diogo Jota scoring his 100th goal in English football.

The first of three consecutive away games navigated and attention now turns to a midweek Merseyside Derby. Sunday’s win at Fulham has moved Liverpool level on point with Arsenal at the summit, though a significantly inferior goal difference – and Manchester City’s game in hand behind them – leaves Liverpool as the outsiders in the three-horse race, before form has even been accounted for.

There’s no room for error across the run-in if Liverpool are to end the Klopp era perfectly. Even that might not be enough.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 34

See more – Premier League Awards: Forest fume, audacious Eze

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