Gabriel celebrates a goal in Arsenal's Premier League win against Newcastle
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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Premier League weekend: Five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.

Muniz making a case to be Fulham’s focal point

Spare a thought for Armando Broja. The forward signed on loan for Fulham in January to earn a regular run of games, having failed to convince Mauricio Pochettino despite a lack of alternatives at Chelsea.

Since swapping the blue half of west London for the white, Broja has found a sizeable, and unexpected, obstacle in his path to Premier League minutes. Rodrigo Muniz has come alive amid the competition from the on-loan Albanian, finding his feet at Fulham after a largely underwhelming two-and-a-half seasons in English football.

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After scoring his first Premier League goal against Burnley earlier this month, Muniz made it four goals in three games with further strikes against Bournemouth (2) and Aston Villa. Against Manchester United this weekend, the 22-year-old showed he does not need to be on the scoresheet to be effective, producing an arguably man-of-the-match performance at Old Trafford.

Muniz was the definition of a handful for the Manchester United backline, offering Fulham a focal point with strong play with his back to goal. He tested Andre Onana with a headed effort from a set-piece, before bullying Victor Lindelof off the ball and cracking another strike against the crossbar on the spin. A rough diamond beginning to shine in Marco Silva’s side.

Self-destructing Clarets hand Glasner a welcome gift

Oliver Glasner’s reign at Crystal Palace got off to a dream start as The Eagles beat Burnley to put breathing room between themselves and the bottom three. The new head coach could hardly have wished for a more accommodating opponent for his opening fixture and Burnley gift-wrapped the advantage to the South Londoners at Selhurst Park.

James Trafford’s poor pass out from the back put Josh Brownhill in trouble and the midfielder’s last-man challenge that followed earned him a first-half red card. A man up, Palace broke down Burnley’s resistance in the second half as goals from Chris Richards, Jordan Ayew and Jean-Philippe Mateta earned a precious three points.

Glasner deserves credit for his introduction of Matheus Franca with the game goalless. The Brazilian has had a tough start since signing from Flamengo for a €20 million fee last summer, starting just once in the Premier League.

However, the 19-year-old was bright off the bench, setting up one goal and winning a penalty for the third. In the absence of Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, he could provide some badly needed creativity.

Stones the key for City and England

John Stones is back and how club and country should celebrate his return.

The centre-back was the standout performer as Manchester City beat Bournemouth to close the gap on leaders Liverpool, showcasing the best of his tactical intelligence in a hybrid role between the backline and midfield. Stones is free to rove wherever he feels needed in Pep Guardiola’s side, opening up space for others with clever inversions into the engine room and lung-busting surges further forward.

Last season, Stones’ adaptation to Guardiola’s unique demands provided the platform for City to claim treble success and the 29-year-old will be key to the club’s chances of defending those titles. The Citizens are more fluid, more unpredictable and, crucially, more in control with Stones in the side.

Gareth Southgate will be keeping a close eye on Stones across the run-in and keeping everything crossed the defender can avoid further fitness issues. Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham might be the players England’s European Championship hopes are pinned on in the summer, but there’s arguably no player as irreplaceable as Stones to the side.

A message for Gareth Southgate: Fortune favours the brave

Speaking of the England manager…

Rightly or wrongly, Gareth Southgate has forged a reputation for caution. From favouring two defensive midfielders to siding with the tried and tested, regardless of form, Southgate in the eyes of many is an England manager who is safety first.

Next month’s international break represents the last chance for England to experiment ahead of Euro 2024. Fixtures with Brazil and Belgium provide top-tier opposition to finalise his plan and a last chance to look at potential fresh blood for the finals.

Kobbie Mainoo has been championed for inclusion of late, while Jarrad Branthwaite must surely be in contention for a maiden call. The Everton centre-back has had a fine season and was in outstanding form against Brighton at the weekend, scoring a brilliant goal and defending astutely under pressure. A natural left-sided option with presence, the 21-year-old looks sure to be part of the set-up at international level in seasons to come. But why not now?

Harry Maguire continues to be a favourite of the England manager and has done well in past tournaments, but can anyone suggest the Manchester United defender is in better form than Branthwaite this season? Maguire was beaten far too easily for Fulham’s winner at Old Trafford this weekend, just a week after being hooked at half-time after a rash performance at Luton.

Southgate is not a risk-taker, that much we know. But, in what looks likely to be his last tournament in charge, perhaps he should be.

Arsenal answer critics after Porto performance

Arsenal’s season suffered a setback with a defeat at Porto in midweek, a disappointing night that saw the Gunners fail to record a shot on target at The Estádio do Dragão.

The disappointing display was in contrast to their recent Premier League form and Arsenal ensured their performance in Portugal was forgotten with an emphatic win over Newcastle. The Gunners became the first team in Premier League history to score 2+ goals in seven consecutive halves of football, with no team in the division having scored more in 2024.

Mikel Arteta’s side are scoring goals freely and also boast the best defensive numbers in the Premier League since the turn of the calendar year, metrics which should offer optimism ahead of the club’s title challenge.

Arsenal have found form ahead of a run of games that could define their season. Sheffield United and Brentford come next before the return with Porto at the Emirates on March 12. Chelsea and Manchester City round out Arsenal’s next five fixtures and the north Londoners could hardly be entering this period in better form.

Read – Premier League Awards: Fantastic Fulham, electric Bailey

See more – Tweets of the Week: Tarkowski the charmer, disrespectful Messi, Champions League decline

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