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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.

North London rivals give Arsenal reprieve

Arsenal’s title hopes suffered a setback after defeat at Everton this weekend, as a fired-up home crowd helped inject some new-manager bounce into Sean Dyche’s side.

Everton deserved their win and unnerved the league leaders with energy and tenacious hard-yards, with Arsenal – perhaps for the first time this season – poor in possession as the Gunners wilted under the pressure. The winning goal arrived from a set-piece, as James Tarkowski won his mismatch with Martin Odegaard at the back post to meet Dwight McNeil’s corner and earn Dyche a debut win.

It was a first defeat in 13 league games for Arsenal and while there will be concerns over the manner of their loss, a blip is to be expected from a side who have been almost flawless so far this season.

Mikel Arteta’s side were then handed an almighty reprieve, after Manchester City missed the chance to close the gap on the Gunners after losing 1-0 at Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola’s side were ponderous in possession as Erling Haaland cut a frustrated figure upfront, continuing a wretched record at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that now reads five defeats from five without a goal scored.

That result means Arsenal’s lead at the top remains five points with a game-in-hand on their nearest challengers, ahead of a huge meeting between the teams on February 15. It is a fixture that you won’t want to miss.

Brilliant Brentford flying under the radar

Even in a division in which every incident is scrutinised a thousand times over, Brentford continue to fly somewhat under the radar. Thomas Frank’s side thrashed a sorry Southampton this weekend to make it nine games unbeaten, a run which includes wins over Manchester City, West Ham and Liverpool and four victories in their last five games.

Brentford are seventh and beginning to dream optimistically of a place in Europe. The Bees are above Chelsea and Liverpool, a point outside the top six, and in better form that most of the sides around them. Perhaps Frank’s greatest trick has been keeping Brentford’s reputation somewhat modest outside of west London.

His side are set-piece experts and efficient, a team who from the outside are viewed as greater than the sum of their individual parts. Rarely does transfer speculation surround the Bees, despite their continued upward curve. Ivan Toney and David Raya each have admirers, but rarely do that duo dominate headlines in the manner that, for example, Brighton’s best are linked routinely with the ‘Big Six’.

Brentford are just a point behind the Seagulls, a side continually applauded for their work in the transfer market. Perhaps it’s time that Thomas Frank and his side, the lowest spenders among current Premier League clubs since promotion, shed their plucky underdog status and receive their rightful dues.

Dyche’s Everton set blueprint for survival

Sean Dyche’s first interview as Everton manager was telling as the new head coach laid down his non-negotiables.

“I know about Everton’s passionate fanbase and how precious this club is to them, ” Dyche told the club’s official website.

“We’re ready to work and ready to give them what they want. That starts with sweat on the shirt, effort and getting back to some of the basic principles of what Everton Football Club has stood for for a long time.”

Hard work. Effort. Desire. Each were evident as Everton provided Dyche with a dream debut this weekend, upsetting the Premier League leaders at Goodison Park.

Dyche began his first week at Everton by putting the side through punishing running drills. He wants his side fit and he wants his side organised. In a matter of days he appears to have got that message across. Against Arsenal, Everton ran more than in any other game so far this season, hounding the visitors in possession and forcing uncharacteristic mistakes.

The Gunners struggled with the intensity of the hosts, while the home crowd took a break from waging war on the owners to roar on the Toffees to an upset. Everton have the tools to develop into an effective outfit in Dyche’s image, with their threat from crosses and set-pieces evident this weekend. The blueprint for survival has been set.

Wolves maul Liverpool’s lambs

Liverpool’s nightmare season reached a new nadir after a 3-0 thrashing at Wolves this weekend. Memories from the club’s capitulation at Brighton last month were still fresh, when Wolves delivered another damning indictment of Jurgen Klopp’s troubled team at Molineux.

Liverpool appeared a side lethargic and uninterested, falling two goals down inside 14 minutes as Joel Matip turned into his own goal to set the tone. Klopp’s side have conceded more Premier League goals in the opening five minutes of matches than any side this season and Matip’s mistake placed another dagger into a team bereft of confidence.

A shambles at the back, meek in midfield and floundering further forward, this is a team that looks broken and Wolves punished their visitors. Ruben Neves was outstanding in midfield, thriving on the freedom Mario Lemina’s arrival has provided him with the January addition doing the dirty work alongside the club captain. How Liverpool could do with a midfield operating with such intensity and cohesion.

At full-time Klopp looked dejected. The current version of his side failing in almost all of the fundamentals which once made them great. Is this the end of Klopp’s Liverpool as we knew them? Or can the German, somehow, find a way to reset the Reds?

Are goals an issue for Newcastle?

Perhaps we’re nitpicking with Newcastle, but is a lack of goals an issue for Eddie Howe’s side?

Newcastle have performed above all expectations this season, a campaign which has seen the Magpies reach a first cup final in 24 years and place themselves in a strong position to secure Champions League qualification.

The success of Howe’s side has been built on a resolute defence, boasting the Premier League’s best defensive record this season. However, the goals have dried up at the opposite end of late and Newcastle have now scored just two goals in their last five fixtures.

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It’s worth pointing out that none of those games have ended in defeat (Newcastle have lost just once in the Premier League season and are 16 games unbeaten) but a run of four draws from five has provided hope to the chasing pack.

Spurs moved within a point of Newcastle after beating Manchester City on Sunday, as Harry Kane scored his 17th league goal of the season in north London. Newcastle lack a goalscorer of such calibre, with Miguel Almiron (9) the club’s top scorer after an unprecedented purple patch pre-World Cup.

The Paraguayan has not scored in his last five appearances, while Callum Wilson (7) is the only other player with more than three league goals this season. Other avenues to goal might be required if Howe’s team are to join the top table of European football next season.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 22

Read Also – Premier League Awards: Dyche’s reunion, Kane’s record, and Liverpool’s defensive horror show

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