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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.

City send statement, Arsenal respond

It’s as you were in the Premier League title race, but this was not a weekend where little was learned. Manchester City entered their clash with old rivals Liverpool under pressure after Arsenal had extended their lead before the international break, but produced a performance of champions at the Etihad.

Mohamed Salah’s opener for Liverpool could have increased the nerves around Pep Guardiola’s side, but City kept their cool, continued their arrogant dominance of possession, and fought back into the contest. Julian Alvarez’s goal levelled the scores before the break, before a second-half statement was sent out as City cut through Liverpool with ease to record an emphatic 4-1 win.

City have perhaps not fired on all cylinders so far this season, but Guardiola’s team have previous when it comes to the home straight. A ruthless performance against Liverpool was the clearest indication yet that the champions will not give up their crown without a fight.

If City have been down this road before, then for Arsenal this is new territory. It’s been almost two decades since the Gunners last won the title and the progress of Mikel Areta’s team has exceeded all expectations this season.

City’s resounding win kick-started the Premier League weekend and upped the pressure on Arsenal ahead of their clash with Leeds. Not that it was apparent as the Gunners cruised to a 4-1 win of their own.

Gabriel Jesus marked his return to the starting side with two goals, while Leandro Trossard continued to emphasise why he has been one of the smartest signings of the season so far. Arteta could even afford to start Bukayo Saka from the bench, as Arsenal passed the latest test of their championship credentials with flying colours at the Emirates.

Ahead of a defining period that will see the Gunners face trips to Liverpool, West Ham, Manchester City and Newcastle before May 7th, it was vital that the league leaders retained their cushion at the top.

Brash Boehly has created Chelsea chaos

If Chelsea fans had hoped the arrival of owner Todd Boehly would bring stability to a club that had been rocked during the latter period of Roman Abramovich’s reign, then they have been sorely mistaken.

The American’s brash and bold entrance into English football continued with the sacking of Graham Potter this weekend, as Boehly brutally dismissed a head coach he had paid a world-record fee to appoint less than seven months ago.

Potter’s exit was much his own doing, with Chelsea 11th in the table after just seven wins from 22 league fixtures. It is difficult, however, not to sympathise with the 47-year-old who left a well-oiled machine at Brighton for chaos at Chelsea.

Potter had impressed at a Seagulls side with structure from top to bottom, a club in synchronisation from the boardroom down to the pitch. At Chelsea, he found anything but that stability.

Boehly’s bonanza of spending has left Chelsea with a bloated squad, a lack of cohesion and chemistry, and a project that requires patience. Despite the soundbites suggesting time would be granted to Potter and his coaching staff, he has paid the price for poor performances in the ruthless results business that is the Premier League.

Potter was the wrong man at the wrong time, an inexperienced coach who replaced a Champions League winner popular with the club’s support. Boehly’s next appointment must be the right one, with his brief time in English football having been reckless to date. It’s time that much needed strategy was put into place.

Bees’ set-piece expertise stings Seagulls

Brighton and Brentford have been two of the Premier League’s overachievers this season, with each pushing for a place in Europe and first ever taste of continental competition.

Their meeting this weekend was an engrossing game that ended in a 3-3 draw at the Amex Stadium, as contrasting styles showed their effectiveness. Brighton were dominant for much of the game, boasting 78% of the possession as Roberto De Zerbi’s side monopolised the ball and carved out chances. The Seagulls fired a staggering 33 shots at goal, the most any side has ever recorded in a Premier League game and not ended up on the winning side.

Brentford were no doubt second best, but utilised their attributes to earn a result. Thomas Frank’s team have thrived at set-pieces this season and undid the Seagulls with expertise from dead-balls to take the lead on three occasions.

A throw-in routine saw Mathias Jensen cross for Pontus Jansson to head home the opener, before Bryan Mbuemo’s free-kick found Ethan Pinnock at the back post for the visitor’s third.

Brentford average more aerial duels won per game (17.5) than any other side in the Premier League, while no team has scored more set-piece goals (13) than the Bees. It might not always be pretty, but it’s successful.

Ten Hag’s troubles on the road

Manchester United’s away form has tightened up the race for Champions League football, after another poor performance on the road this weekend.

Erik ten Hag’s team were badly beaten at Newcastle, a 2-0 defeat in which the host’s dominance was not fully reflected on the scoreline. It was the latest in a number of damaging defeats away from home for the Red Devils, whose record against the Premier League’s top teams is concerning.

United have played six of the Premier League’s top nine away from home this season and have lost on each occasion, conceding 25 goals in the process. Big defeats at Brentford (4-0), Manchester City (6-3) and Liverpool (7-0) have punctuated much of the good work of Ten Hag’s debut season and leaves the Red Devils facing a fight to secure Champions League football.

Tightening up defensively away from Old Trafford will be crucial during the run-in, with only four teams – Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Leicester – having conceded more away goals this season.

Another axe falls as relegation battle heats up

It’s been an unprecedented season of change in Premier League dugouts, as the pressure-cooker that is England’s top flight has seen boardrooms make bold decisions.

Sunday saw two more managers sacked, as Brendan Rodgers left Leicester and Graham Potter was dismissed at Chelsea. It took the count to 13 managers sacked in the Premier League this season, with more than half of the sides in the division no longer employing the same manager who began the season.

Rodgers’ exit from Leicester came after the Foxes extended their winless run to six games with a late defeat at Crystal Palace, a result which saw the club drop to 19th in the Premier League table. Will Leicester look for a long-term replacement? Or move for a coach experienced in firefighting down at the bottom?

In what looks set to be the tightest relegation battle in memory, don’t be surprised to see more managers move on before the season reaches its conclusion.

Read –Β Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 29

Read Also –Β Premier League Awards: Axes fall, ‘Super Jack’ inspires City

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