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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend, featuring ‘entertaining’ Manchester United and Arsenal’s in-form enigma.

Ten Hag is right, Manchester United are entertaining but not how he would like

“We are one of the most dynamic and entertaining teams in the league at this moment. We are creating loads of chances by playing good football,” Erik ten Hag said after his Manchester United side drew at home to relegation-threatened Burnley.

Zeki Amdouni’s late penalty, following some inexplicable defending, earned Burnley a point and extended United’s run to one win in six games. Their top-four hopes are mathematically gone, and Ten Hag’s comments are not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. United lack style and substance, which after two seasons and considerable investment leads back to the manager.

Some of the biggest and most underwhelming signings have been his, with Antony and Andre Onana brought in for large fees, and the latter was guilty of a rash moment to concede the 87th-minute spot-kick this weekend.

Manchester United have been entertaining, no doubt. But largely for the neutrals. Goals at either end, some slapstick defending, and complete unpredictability. Ingredients for a good watch, though not one for trophies.

Dyche deserves huge credit for Everton turnaround

Sean Dyche might not be the fanciest football manager in the Premier League. Dyche, with his gravelly voice, no-nonsense demeanour and occasionally unfair managerial stereotypes, inherited an Everton side in the relegation places last season and led the Toffees to safety. This season, he’s preserved their top-flight status again despite financial restraints and considerable off-field issues.

Three consecutive league wins, including a first Merseyside Derby win over Liverpool at Goodison Park for 14 years, have confirmed survival for Everton, whose 1-0 win over Brentford this weekend secured safety.

Dyche has gone back to basics, with Everton difficult to beat. Only Arsenal have kept more clean sheets than Everton (12), while only the top three have conceded fewer goals. It might not always be sexy football for the Blues, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Dyche knows that better than most.

Relegation battle tightens up

Everton’s confirmed survival, and Sheffield United’s relegation, means it’s now two from three for who else will drop into the Championship. There are just two points between Nottingham Forest, Luton and Burnley, with the former hovering a point outside the drop zone after defeat this weekend.

Burnley, in 19th, are the form team from those battling to stay up, having lost just one of their last eight in the Premier League, though face tough tests against Newcastle and Spurs in their next two.

For Forest, next week shapes as pivotal as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side travel to already-relegated Sheffield United. Forest will want to avoid a potentially dramatic final day when they travel to face Burnley in what could be a survival shootout at Turf Moor.

Sandwiched between them, Luton have won just one of their last 14 games and appear to have lost some of their early-season punch. However, the Hatters host an Everton side who could ease up after securing survival next, while a final-day clash with poor travellers Fulham also appears winnable. This one looks set to go down to the wire.

Could Havertz change Arsenal’s transfer plan?

Who would have thought it? Across the opening months of the season, Kai Havertz was questioned more times than we care to count. His fourth season in England, first at Arsenal, and still there were question marks. What exactly is he? Neither midfielder nor out-and-out forward, an audition in the former role failed to work as Mikel Arteta had hoped.

Fast forward and Havertz is leading Arsenal’s title challenge. In the absence of a reliable number nine, he has excelled in leading the line. He has eight goals and five assists in his last 11 league appearances for the Gunners, after one of each in a decisive derby performance this week.

Havertz produced a centre-forward masterclass for Arsenal, running relentlessly, winning duels, dropping deep to influence the game, and providing decisive contributions. The best move of the game saw the German spread a long ball into Bukayo Saka as Arsenal scored on the counter-attack before Havertz headed in the third for Arteta’s side.

There was a hint of Roberto Firmino in his game against Spurs, a forward not known for his goals, but who was called the ‘engine’ of Liverpool’s title-winning side. The expectation is that Arsenal will sign a penalty-box ‘killer’ this summer, though that need might not be as desperate as first thought.

Will Levy loosen the purse strings?

Tottenham’s North London derby defeat will be painful for their fans, though perhaps not unexpected given the recent form of the two teams. For Spurs, it was a reminder of the gap that sits between them and the elite of the division, delivered to them by their biggest rivals.

There’s been plenty of reason for optimism during Ange Postecoglou’s first campaign, though investment is required if Spurs are to close in on the teams above them. The North London club have not won a major trophy since 2008, while their last league triumph came 63 years ago.

Spurs are in a healthy financial position and this season the club set a new record with around €272.1m spent on new signings, though a considerable portion of that was brought in from the sale of Harry Kane, and to a lesser extent, Harry Winks and Davinson Sanchez.

Levy is a notoriously shrewd businessman, but with a popular manager and solid core, now could be the time to loosen up. Recent signings, Guglielmo Vicario, Micky van de Ven and James Maddison, have been good, though Spurs are perhaps three or four short from truly challenging those above them. A long-term replacement for Kane, a winger, and specialist defensive midfielder should be top of the list.

Read – Premier League Awards: Unbelievable, Jeffrey!

See more – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 35

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