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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Premier League weekend: Five things we learned, featuring Arsenal’s latest shutout, Liverpool’s wastefulness around goal, and the Toffees’ luck turning.

Arsenal shutout Seagulls to maintain title charge

Another game, another clean sheet for the division’s meanest defence. Arsenal have made a habit of shutting out opposition sides and passed the acid test of a trip to Brighton this weekend.

The Seagulls have not quite been at the levels of last season, but pose a real threat in the final third and are among the best chance-creators in the division. Roberto De Zerbi’s side dominated the possession (55%) but clear chances proved to be at a premium as the Gunners stifled the South Coast side.

William Saliba and Gabriel were again imperious in central defence, with the latter wildly celebrating a crucial block from Joao Pedro. That desire to defend, which culminated in a 14th clean sheet of the season, is propelling a title challenge that is building in momentum.

Grealish performance encouraging ahead of Real Madrid showdown

Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliant brace was the headline of a 4-2 win for Manchester City at Crystal Palace, though the performance of Jack Grealish will be another that hugely encourages his manager.

Grealish has struggled to replicate the performances from City’s treble-winning season, struggling with fitness issues in a frustrating campaign.

Here, he was back to his best, positive and purposeful in possession. He hugged the touchline when needed, drifted inwards on occasion, and dovetailed with his City teammates to devastating effect. Involved in the build-up to all four goals, the 28-year-old was immaculate in possession, completing 95.1% of his passes and recording two key passes.

Pep Guardiola has often preferred Grealish in big European fixtures, where his ability to carry City up the pitch and retention of the ball are appreciated. With a seismic showdown with Real Madrid on Tuesday night, this was a welcome return to form.

Everton luck in to end winless run ahead of huge week

Everton avoided equalling an unwanted club record of 14 league games without a win this weekend, as Sean Dyche’s side edged Burnley in a crucial six-pointer at Goodison Park. On an afternoon of nerves and tension, the Toffees were gift-wrapped their first Premier League win since beating the same opposition in December.

Arijanet Muric, a cornerstone of Burnley’s recent improvement, made a calamitous error as he dallied over a clearance, only to rebound it against Dominic Calvert-Lewin for the only goal of the game.

When your luck is in, it’s in, and Dara O’Shea’s red card for hauling down Dwight McNeil extinguished hopes of a Clarets comeback. Everton, marshalled by the excellent Jarrad Branthwaite, held on for a huge result given Luton’s late win over Bournemouth.

Vital breathing room for the Blues, ahead of a verdict on the club’s second breach of the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules – and a potential second points deduction – which is expected this week.

Liverpool’s lack of ruthless touch could cost title

Virgil van Dijk said this weekend’s draw at Manchester United felt like defeat for Liverpool, and it’s hard to disagree with the Dutchman on the evidence of this game. The Reds fired 28 shots on goal but were unable to kill the tie off as a contest and were punished for their wastefulness.

A forward line of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz all had off-days in front of goal, in a clash that had echoes of the FA Cup exit at Old Trafford last month. Jurgen Klopp’s side have averaged more shots per game (20.3) than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues, though recent bad decisions in the final third have crept into their game.

Of the front three at Manchester United this weekend, each has underperformed their xG this season with Salah (-0.71), Nunez (-5.45) and Diaz (-3.26) all performing below expectations in terms of chance conversion.

How crucial, then, could the return of Diogo Jota be? The Portugal international has exceeded his xG this season (+3.23) and is perhaps the most natural finisher in the squad. Had he been in the side for their recent fixtures at Old Trafford, the outcomes might just have been different.

Manchester United’s goal lives a charmed life – again

For all of Liverpool’s wastefulness in the final third at the weekend, this was another example of the porous performances this Manchester United team continue to deliver. No opposition side has ever had more shots in a Premier League game at Old Trafford (28) since the data was first collected two decades ago, but this was far from an anomaly for Erik ten Hag and his team.

The result followed a 4-3 defeat at Chelsea in midweek when the Red Devils conceded twice in stoppage time and a fortunate draw at Brentford that saw the home side fire 31 shots on goal. Manchester United have conceded an average of 22 shots per game across their last 14 fixtures, while no side in Europe’s top five leagues has allowed more efforts on goal. For a team with ambitions of challenging for Champions League football, it is a staggering statistic.

United, somehow, have lost just three of those games but statistics and logic suggest this can not continue for much longer. The lack of organisation and team shape is worrying for a team who are close to completing their second season under the head coach, with defensive discipline an issue.

Read – Premier League Awards: Title race twist, dazzling De Bruyne

See more – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 32

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