Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Arsenal face nervous wait on Rice
Arsenal returned to winning ways in style after thrashing Crystal Palace 5-0 at the Emirates, a win that moved the Gunners above Aston Villa and into third in the table.
It was a good afternoon for the Gabriels as Arsenal’s Brazilian trio all impressed in the rout of the Eagles, but a performance packed full of positives contained a glaring negative, as Declan Rice was substituted in the second half with a hamstring issue.
Mikel Arteta described the complaint as a ‘sensation in his hamstring’ post-match and said Arsenal were keen not to take any risk with the influential midfielder. The Gunners now face a nervous wait to discover the extent of Rice’s problem, with some huge games on the horizon.
The North Londoners take on Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on January 30, before a crucial clash with title rivals Liverpool at the Emirates the following weekend.
Rice’s absence would be a monumental blow for Arsenal given his impact on the side this season and with Thomas Partey also sidelined, Arteta faces taking on Liverpool – victors at the Emirates in the FA Cup already this month – without a specialist defensive midfielder in his ranks.
Time for change at Palace?
Crystal Palace face a conundrum after the club’s latest meek defeat. Last season, the Eagles brought back Roy Hodgson as an experienced figure to lead the side to safety, but the veteran manager is now struggling to get a tune from his team.
Palace have won once in the Premier League since November 4 and have failed to score in three games in all competitions since the turn of the year. Their dismal league form continued with a 5-0 hammering at Arsenal this weekend, a result which leaves the South Londoners 15th and just five points above the drop zone. Luton, in 18th, also have a game in hand.
Crystal Palace at Arsenal #CPFC
Protest against owners pic.twitter.com/LgCpBRb6Qk
— FootballAwaydays (@Awaydays23) January 21, 2024
Of the sides around them, Palace have one of the most exciting cores to build around. Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise and the injured Cheick Doucouré all had admirers from the ‘Big Six’ in the summer, while Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen are arguably the best centre-back pairing in the bottom half.
A fresh, longer-term, coach with new ideas is needed.
Brentford cannot afford to lose Toney
It had to be him, didn’t it?
Ivan Toney’s return from suspension was greeted with pre-game music and montage, akin to a boxer preparing for a ring walk, and he delivered on that billing with a crucial equaliser in Brentford’s come-from-behind win over Nottingham Forest.
Nuno Espirito Santo was unhappy with Toney’s goal, as he craftily moved the placement of the ball before bending a free-kick around the out-of-position Forest wall, but it was a big goal at a big moment for Brentford. More than just that goal, however, Toney’s return made Brentford appear more threatening. His hold-up play is excellent, and he adds aerial threat to a Bees team who often prefer to go direct.
🎬 Ivan Toney has returned pic.twitter.com/uZW7iDceAp
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 21, 2024
Brentford had lost seven of their last eight and sat just three points clear of the relegation places before Saturday’s game. Toney’s return has given them a lifeline, which makes recent comments on his desire to ‘play for a top club’ unnerving.
The financial situation of several suitors might ensure Toney remains in West London until the end of the campaign at least. Having waited eight months for his return, Brentford cannot afford to lose their talisman now.
Ings impresses in new role
Danny Ings has endured a tough time since signing for West Ham last January. Having arrived from Aston Villa as an experienced Premier League option, the forward has failed to make the desired impact at the London Stadium.
Ings made just his second start of the season as West Ham faced Sheffield United on Sunday, with the club’s attacking absences handing the 31-year-old a chance at Bramall Lane. The forward started the game in an unfamiliar deeper role, operating off Jarrod Bowen who led the line.
Ings impressed in the new position and was West Ham’s highlight in an otherwise drab display. Involved throughout, he registered a fortunate assist for Maxwel Cornet’s opener, before a brilliant turn and run won the Irons a second-half penalty.
West Ham continue to be linked with signing a striker before the January transfer window deadline, though Ings will hope he has done enough to convince Moyes he can contribute more moving forward.
No Salah, no problem for Liverpool
Liverpool’s trip to Bournemouth shaped as a banana skin for Jurgen Klopp’s depleted side, with the in-form Cherries having won six of their previous eight Premier League games. The league leaders were without a host of key figures, including Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold, but produced a brilliant second-half performance to move five points clear at the top of the table.
Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez each scored twice as the striking duo took the baton in Salah’s absence, while Conor Bradley assisted the third goal as he replaced Alexander-Arnold for a Premier League debut at right-back. Elsewhere, Ibrahima Konate continued his outstanding recent form in central defence.
Liverpool have yet to lose a Premier League game without Mo Salah 👊 pic.twitter.com/bD5vAohU12
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 21, 2024
This was a big win for Liverpool, ahead of a pivotal period in the club’s season. Klopp’s side faces Fulham in their EFL Cup semi-final second leg in midweek, before hosting Norwich in the FA Cup fourth round.
A Premier League midweek schedule follows as the Reds host Chelsea on January 31, before a trip to face title rivals Arsenal. A fifth straight win in all competitions has sent a statement regarding their title credentials.