Premier League weekend Five Things we learned - Michail Antonio West Ham
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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend, featuring the importance of Micky van de Ven, Luton’s late goals and West Ham’s all-action outlet.

Van de Ven a massive miss for Spurs

Tottenham produced their worst performance of the season to lose 3-0 at Fulham, a huge setback following the high of last season’s big win at top-four rivals Aston Villa. Ange Postecoglou’s side were second-best at Craven Cottage, wasteful in attacking areas and exposed defensively.

The absence of Micky van de Ven, out with a hamstring problem, was felt. The Dutch defender has emerged as one of the signings of the season since arriving from Wolfsburg in the summer, forming an excellent defensive axis alongside Cristian Romero.

Van de Ven’s remarkable recovery pace and dominance in duels are integral to Postecoglou’s plan and the uniqueness of his skillset makes him almost impossible to replace. Spurs have lost just twice in the 18 games Van de Ven has played this season (11%), a figure which rises to 50% (5/10) in his absence. The numbers continue to paint the picture, with Spurs conceding more goals, more shots, and more shots on target per game when Van de Ven is out.

Postecoglou will hope Van de Ven’s hamstring issues are not repetitive.

Luton leave it late, again

The never-say-die approach from Luton this season has been commendable and Rob Edwards’ side found a way once again this weekend. Trailing to Nottingham Forest in a huge six-pointer, Luke Berry scored an 89th-minute equaliser to keep The Hatters within three points of safety.

Luton have now scored a third of their Premier League goals (14/42) in the final 10 minutes of games, with their late leveller against Forest following Cauley Woodrow’s 96th-minute equaliser against Crystal Palace earlier this month.

Luton have been a brilliant addition to the league this season, bringing a combination of energy, entertaining naivety on occasion, and the set-piece threat to trouble any team. Whether it will be enough to stay up remains to be seen, but The Hatters will certainly continue fighting until the season’s end.

 

Brentford dragged into the dogfight

Burnley improved their slim survival hopes with a 2-1 win over Brentford, a result which might just have greater consequences for the losing side. The Clarets still need a remarkable turnaround to escape the bottom three, though defeat for Brentford means the Bees will be nervous about joining them in the drop zone.

Sergio Reguilon’s early red card left Brentford with an uphill task and defeat at Turf Moor will be a bitter blow. With relegation rivals Luton and Nottingham Forest edging a point closer and Everton boasting a game in hand, Brentford are hovering just four points above the bottom three. It’s now 14 defeats in 18 league games for Brentford, who return from the international break with home games against Manchester United and Brighton.

Their season could hinge on a run of three straight ‘six-pointers’ in April, as the Bees face Sheffield United, Luton and Everton in successive weeks.

Antonio offers an outlet for improved West Ham

It’s been a tough season for Michail Antonio. The forward had not been on the scoresheet in the Premier League since August before this weekend, with West Ham’s home clash with Aston Villa his first league start of 2024.

A knee issue has prevented the 33-year-old from featuring regularly this season and David Moyes has been forced to adapt, using Jarrod Bowen in a centre-forward role for much of the campaign. Bowen’s goal return has been impressive, but Antonio has shown over the past week the benefit of having a number nine in the more traditional sense.

After impressing in the record-breaking rout of SC Freiburg in the Europa League on Thursday, Antonio was in the thick of the action as top-four chasing Villa arrived at the London Stadium.

He opened the scoring with a stunning stooping header from Vladimir Coufal’s cross and was unfortunate not to have another. An appreciative ovation from the home crowd for his effort arrived when Antonio was substituted in the second half, after proving he can still add value for the Irons when fit and available.

Villa miss chance to take top-four initiative

Aston Villa missed the chance to regain control of the Champions League chase, failing to take advantage of Tottenham’s defeat at Fulham the previous day.

Unai Emery’s side battled to a 1-1 draw at West Ham, though struggled during a disappointing first-half performance. In the absence of John McGinn, Villa lacked their usual spark and required a second-half equaliser from Nicolo Zaniolo to rescue a result.

It could hardly be tighter in the race for the top four and Villa will feel a sense of regret at not upping the pressure after a slip from Spurs. Should Spurs win 1-0 in their game in hand, the teams will have identical records, level on wins, points, goals scored and goals conceded.

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