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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend, featuring Newcastle’s Henry clone, Manchester United’s struggle to reach Europe, and slip-ups for Arsenal and Liverpool.

Isak adds va va voom to Newcastle

An ice-cool forward with the number fourteen on his back, we’ve seen this before, haven’t we? It’s a huge compliment, but it’s hard not to see a little Thierry Henry in Alexander Isak. There were certainly similarities between the Arsenal icon and Isak in terms of how he took a devastating double against Tottenham this weekend, netting twice as Newcastle thrashed the north Londoners 4-0 at St James’.

Isak has the poise, pace and balance to trouble any defender in the division and made a fool of the highly-rated Micky van de Ven as he stepped inside the Spurs centre-back to fire home the opener. His second was confidence personified as Isak raced away and rolled a finish past Guglielmo Vicario, and the 24-year-old has often had a tranquil temperament when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Languid and lethal, Newcastle should brace for bids for a player who still appears to have more gears to go through. It’s now 17 goals in 21 starts for the forward this season, who has entered the running for the Premier League’s Golden Boot.

Could Manchester United miss Europe entirely?

The last few weeks have seen Manchester United’s top-four challenge fall apart and the club’s hopes of reaching Europe’s elite appear over after a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth. It’s four without a win and one win in seven for Erik ten Hag’s team, who find themselves 13 points adrift of the Champions League places.

Should the Red Devils, however, be looking over their shoulder? European football of any sort appears no guarantee for a side struggling for form and results, with their openness against Bournemouth a recurring theme of their campaign.

As things stand, fifth spot earns Europa League football and sixth a Europa Conference League place. Things could change if England is allocated an additional coefficient place for the Champions League, though Ten Hag’s team are no certainties to finish inside the top seven. Chelsea, for all their faults this season, can climb above United with wins in their two games in hand.

Season over for lacklustre Liverpool?

Just four days ago, Liverpool were chasing a treble to end the Jurgen Klopp era on a high.

Consecutive defeats, however, have left the Reds in ruins. Thursday’s setback against Atalanta was a huge shock as Liverpool lost convincingly on home soil in the Europa League, while the response Klopp promised in his pre-match press conference failed to materialise in a dismal defeat to Crystal Palace.

Liverpool were lethargic and anxious at Anfield, lacking conviction in the final third in what has become a common sight in recent weeks. Only six games from the finish line, it looks difficult to see how Liverpool overhaul Manchester City on the evidence of what we have seen in recent games. Chances continue to go begging, while a defence which started the season strongly has become increasingly exploitable.

Barring a second-leg miracle against Atalanta this week, Liverpool’s campaign could already be over. Given the hope and optimism that surrounded Klopp’s farewell tour, an almost irrelevant end to the season would be tough to stomach.

Inconsistent Fulham frustrating for Silva

Fulham might just be the most unpredictable team in the entire Premier League. Sure, Manchester United and Chelsea have been up and down all season, but the difference between the Cottagers’ best and worst could be the most drastic.

Against West Ham this weekend, Marco Silva’s side were fantastic, securing a first away win at their London neighbours since 2001. Andreas Pereira scored both goals in a 2-0 success at the London Stadium, a result that keeps alive their faint hopes of European football and simultaneously dented those of West Ham.

The win completed a league double over West Ham for the first time since 1965/66, having thrashed David Moyes and his team 5-0 earlier in the campaign. That victory was one of back-to-back 5-0 wins in the Premier League, though Fulham have also looked poor on occasion, including dropped points to Burnley, Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest in recent weeks.

Bridging the gap between Fulham’s best level and their worst will be the task for Silva next season, with European football possible if the west Londoners can keep hold of their key personnel and kick on from here. There’s a solid foundation at Fulham to build upon.

Arteta tweaks backfire in costly loss

It could hardly have been a more perfect weekend for Manchester City. After a thumping win over Luton, the Citizens watched as title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal both slipped up in home defeats.

Arsenal’s defeat was the Gunners’ first of the calendar year as Mikel Arteta’s team conceded two late goals to lose to Aston Villa at the Emirates. The north Londoners started brightly but were unable to find a breakthrough before an impressive Villa team punished them with a devastating late double.

For Arsenal, there was a sense of déjà vu from last season. In the run-in, Arteta tweaked his midfield for a home fixture with struggling Southampton with the more attacking-minded Fabio Vieira in ahead of Granit Xhaka, out through illness, and Jorginho. Without that latter duo, Arsenal lacked control in a chaotic 3-3 draw and there were echoes of that clash against Villa this weekend.

Arteta shuffled his pack with Kai Havertz, so impressive at centre-forward in recent weeks, dropping into midfield and Jorginho left out. The Gunners failed to dominate the midfield battle with Youri Tielemans excellent in opposition at the Emirates, in a result that feels damaging to the club’s hopes of a first Premier League title in two decades. Manchester City move two points clear and, on the evidence of past run-ins, will be tough to stop from here.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 33

See more – Tweets of the Week: Boat party in Bilbao, Van de Ven nightmare, Bryan’s Gunn

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