Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Luton leave it late, again
Luton’s promotion was one of the stories of last season, as The Hatters completed a fairytale 10-year rise from the fifth tier to the Premier League. The odds were stacked against Rob Edwards’ side before a ball had been kicked, but Luton are at least giving it a real go.
Luton are in the Premier League’s relegation places, though remain in touching distance of survival due to their spirited showings this season. Carlton Morris scored a stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a point at Burnley on Friday evening, the latest late goal Luton have struck this season.
The Hatters have now scored 10 goals in the final 10 minutes of Premier League games this season, a total only leaders Liverpool (13) can better. The club’s never-say-die approach has given them a chance of surviving this season, and Edwards deserves credit for the underdog spirit he has instilled in the squad.
10 – Luton Town have scored 10 goals in the final 10 minutes of Premier League games this season; only Liverpool have netted more (13). Unwavering. pic.twitter.com/fdrA81DcO8
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2024
Chelsea (unconvincingly) climbing
Chelsea are up to eighth after continuing their West London domination of Fulham, extending their unbeaten home run against the Cottagers to 17 Premier League games. Mauricio Pochettino’s side dominated the contest but required a Cole Palmer penalty to edge past their capital neighbours.
Their inability to find the target (three shots on target from 17 efforts) was a continuation of recent problems, with Chelsea unable to kill off games against Crystal Palace, Luton, and Middlesbrough in recent weeks.
Armando Broja was brought back in but lacked sharpness in the final third, while greater goal threat is needed from other areas of the team. Conor Gallagher has failed to score in 20 league appearances, while just four players have scored more than twice in the Premier League this season.
Despite obvious issues in the final third, it’s now four wins from five league games for Pochettino’s side. Chelsea have won 15 points in the Premier League since the start of December, with only Liverpool (17) having won more across that period.
Is it time to change offside instructions?
Manchester City earned an important win at Newcastle on Saturday evening, as the champions came from behind in a gripping game at St James’ Park. There were plenty of positives for Pep Guardiola, most noticeably the match-winning cameo from the returning Kevin De Bruyne, but Ederson’s early withdrawal through injury was a blow.
Frustratingly for the Citizens, it was an incident which could have been avoided. Officials were told at the beginning of the 2020/21 season to delay raising the flag during goalscoring opportunities, even if they think it is offside. The change was designed to prevent on-side goalscoring chances from being mistakenly halted, though the flip side is unnecessary passages of play which could have a detrimental impact on the game.
Ederson was injured as he denied Sean Longstaff from close range, despite Alexander Isak – who provided the cross – clearly being offside in the build-up. The delay to the flag saw Ederson called into unneeded action and City now face a nervous wait on the extent of the Brazilian’s injury. It follows a similar incident earlier in the campaign, where City’s John Stones was injured against Everton. The defender was injured when making a last-ditch challenge on Beto, only for the flag to belatedly go up.
Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the instructions for officials.
Devastating De Bruyne makes City title favourites
Kevin De Bruyne is back and how Manchester City have missed him.
The Belgian made his return to Premier League action for the first time in five months this weekend and provided a timely reminder of his importance to Pep Guardiola’s side. Introduced with the champions trailing at Newcastle, it took five minutes for the 32-year-old to bring the teams level.
De Bruyne passed the ball perfectly into the bottom corner for City’s equaliser at St James’ Park, a goal of immense quality that the Belgian made straightforward. There was nothing simplistic about his pass for the winner, however, as De Bruyne arced an assist into the path of Oscar Bobb who finished in style.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 13, 2024
City move within two points of leader Liverpool and have done so without the service of De Bruyne for much of the campaign. With the game’s best creator now back in their ranks, the title-chasing Citizens are firm favourites for a record-breaking four in a row this season.
Do Spurs have the best full-back pairing in the Premier League?
Tottenham failed to earn the win their performance perhaps deserved at Manchester United, but it was a positive afternoon for Ange Postecoglou. Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven were reunited at centre-back, Richarlison continued his goalscoring form, and Timo Werner impressed on his debut.
Spurs have been a breath of fresh air to watch this season and Postecoglou’s plan has been executed perfectly by his full-back pair. Pedro Porro has been a revelation in his first full season in North London and recorded his seventh Premier League assist of the campaign at Old Trafford. The Spaniard now has more Premier League assists than any Spurs defender has ever managed in a single campaign.
Pedro Porro has now provided more assists in 2023/24 than any Tottenham defender has ever managed in a single Premier League campaign (7).
Ange has created a monster. 🧪 pic.twitter.com/N4sfwnEy87
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 14, 2024
Porro led the contest for crosses (20), penalty area entries (18), and chances created (5), while his creativity this season has come alongside strong defensive work. He ranks second in the Premier League for tackles won and the number of dribblers tackled this season.
On the opposite flank, Destiny Udogie is having a breakout campaign. Loaned back to former club Udinese last season, the 21-year-old has been handed a chance this time around and hasn’t looked back.
Whether overlapping with intent or inverting into central areas, the Italian has excelled. Across the last 12 months, Udogie ranks in the top 10% of full-backs in Europe’s top five leagues for non-penalty xG, progressive carries, successful take-ons and attacking penalty area touches. In an era where full-backs are more important than ever, Spurs have arguably the best pairing in the league.