Can anyone stop Manchester City? Can Fulham really come back from the brink? The latest Premier League fixtures left us all with plenty more questions following a round of results that could yet prove crucial.
Everton celebrated a long-awaited derby day success after beating Liverpool for the first time in more than a decade, whilst it was the Toffees first victory at Anfield this century and a result which inflicted more misery on the struggling champions.
West Ham are in the top four after piling further pressure on Jose Mourinho and Spurs, whilst there were important wins for Manchester United, Leicester and Wolves, the latter continuing a quiet mini-revival in recent weeks.
Following the latest round of action we’ve picked out some of the Premier League’s top performers, here are seven players who shone this weekend:
At long last the blue half of Merseyside are celebrating following a drought-breaking derby day win, Everton producing a complete performance to win 2-0 at Liverpool and snatch local bragging rights.
Everton had a number of strong performers from back to front but it was arguably Michael Keane who was the club’s stand out, leading a determined defensive display as the visitors secured a clean sheet and three points.
Keane made a huge 13 clearances throughout the contest, the most by any Everton player in a Premier League fixtures this season, whilst he dominated in the air with four aerials won and a 100% success rate in defensive duels.
The 28-year-old has been superb since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti as manager and has become a key figure in an improving side, his challenge to deny Sadio Mane outstanding as an outstretched leg prevented a certain goal for the home side.
Keane had his critics during his early career on Merseyside but there is no disputing his importance now, the England international excellent alongside Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey as Everton secured the win their fans have been waiting for for more than a decade.
Jesse Lingard has spent much of the past two seasons as the butt of several jokes, a regular target for social media vultures and a player cast out into the wilderness at Manchester United.
How refreshing it is then to see the midfielder produce a timely reminder of his qualities, having been given a new lease of life following a loan move to West Ham during the January transfer window.
Lingard may never be the most popular figure amongst the masses, due to an extroverted demeanour and exuberance that bizarrely seems to ruffle the feathers of football fans demanding a return to the ‘good old days’, becoming an often maligned poster-boy for the modern footballer.
The 28-year-old is, however, an excellent footballer and given an opportunity to shine at West Ham has seized it with both hands, his endless energy and ability to make things happen having added a new dimension to David Moyes’ top four hopefuls.
Three goals, one assist.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 21, 2021
Lingard was again at the centre of an impressive Hammers’ victory as West Ham inflicted a derby defeat on Tottenham this weekend, scoring his third goal in just four fixtures with a fabulous finish to double the home side’s advantage.
The midfielder’s performances in recent weeks have provided a reminder of just why he was so highly regarded by both club and country only a few years ago, with West Ham’s winter window recruit back enjoying his football once more.
Pep Guardiola’s wealth of options at Manchester City is the envy of the Premier League and perhaps even further afield, the club securing an 18th successive victory this weekend with a 1-0 win at Arsenal.
There appears no side capable of stopping what seems a procession towards the league title, City maintaining their 10-point lead at the summit courtesy of Raheem Sterling’s early goal at the Emirates.
Guardiola’s side continue to pick up points and a look at his substitutes’ bench was a vivid reminder of the quality and depth in the club’s ranks, names such as Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and Rodri all restricted to just watching briefs.
The latter was afforded a well-earned rest after playing a key role in the club’s title charge and it was the midfielder’s replacement who produced a stand-out showing, Fernandinho rolling back the years in an anchor role at the base of the midfield
The 35-year-old was tenacious in the challenge and made a series of vital interceptions, using his experience to nullify a youthful Arsenal attack as he continually picked up possession and kept the ball moving.
Guardiola’s ability to keep a talent-stacked squad motivated and content is a key reason behind City’s continued success, with further major silverware approaching ever closer on the horizon.
Just a few weeks ago and Fulham were beginning to look dead and buried, a substantial gap opening up between the Cottagers and safety following a run of 11 games without a win.
As we’ve seen already this season the narrative of the campaign can change quickly and two wins within the space of a week – alongside an injury-hit Newcastle side dropping like a lead weight – have breathed new life into the west London outfit.
Fulham are now unbeaten in their past four and have won two of their past three, including edging fellow strugglers Sheffield United this weekend after securing a narrow 1-0 win at Craven Cottage.
Scott Parker has used a comparatively modest budget well this season with a number of loanees having played a crucial role in Fulham’s bid for survival, the likes of Joachim Andersen and Alphonse Areola having played a key role in the club’s defensive improvement.
Scoring goals at the opposite end has been Fulham’s major downfall but in Ademola Lookman they have a player capable of making things happen, the winger impressive once more as Parker’s side edged past the Blades.
⭐️ Man of the Match, @FulhamFC’s Ademola Lookman
69 touches, 4 in opposition box
Completed 33/39 passes
Won 8/16 duels
3 chances created
3 shots, 2 on target
Scored 1-0 winner, 4th PL goal this season pic.twitter.com/n123cv1HdN
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 20, 2021
Lookman has been bright and busy throughout the season and took his tally to seven goal involvements in 20 starts this weekend, scoring after working his way past Ethan Ampadu before firing low under Aaron Ramsdale.
Lookman has often looked the spark for Fulham this season and they will need more match-winning contributions from the on loan RB Leipzig star, though this weekend’s win has now moved the club within just three points of 17th-placed Newcastle.
Those who suggested that Mason Mount was once a fixture in the Chelsea side due to favouritism are beginning to look more and more foolish with each passing performance, the midfielder undeniably amongst the club’s most important and influential players.
Former Blues’ favourite Joe Cole eulogised about the 22-year-old following his latest showing at Southampton this weekend, insisting Mount has the talent to become one of the ‘top player’s in Chelsea’s history’.
That praise may be premature but there are few questioning his role for the west Londoners following another impressive outing, starting in an advanced midfield role before showing his intelligence and flourishing in a false nine position during the second period.
Mason Mount 🤤🤤🤤 pic.twitter.com/adTpV2ftrA
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 20, 2021
Mount showed for possession throughout as he looked to carve out shooting chances and goalscoring opportunities, and it was the midfielder’s smart turn that saw him brought down by Danny Ings for a penalty.
The England international stepped up confidently to score his first Premier League penalty, his fourth league goal of an impressive individual campaign for the academy graduate.
Harvey Barnes faces a real fight to make the England squad for this summer’s European Championships given the wealth of competition for places in wide areas, the 23-year-old competing alongside the likes of Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish for a place in the Three Lions’ side.
Barnes could barely be doing more than he is right now, however, with the winger in superb form on the left side of the Leicester attack, taking his tally to 13 goals in all competitions this season with the decisive goal against Aston Villa this weekend.
The academy graduate approaches each game with a fearless style and his positivity is infectious on those around him, always willing to run at players and cutting inside dangerously onto his stronger right foot.
Harvey Barnes game by numbers vs. Aston Villa:
91% pass accuracy
7 ball recoveries
5 touches in opp. box
4 chances created
4 duels won
2 fouls won
Superb again. pic.twitter.com/M0UD3BSRkT
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 21, 2021
Barnes is playing the best football of his fledgeling career and has provided 17 goal involvements in 33 appearances in all competitions, both he and James Maddison having stated their case for an international call-up ahead of March’s fixtures.
There is an intelligence to Barnes’ movement as he starts outside before drifting in and he appears to be getting better and better, the progress of both the winger and Maddison having provided Leicester with an additional goal threat that could yet secure Champions League football.
Manchester United remain in pursuit of the league leaders after a 3-1 win over Newcastle this weekend, moving back above Leicester and into second on goal difference.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side endured a slow start to the contest before Rashford fired his side ahead, producing a sublime nutmeg on Emil Krafth before beating the full-back once more and shooting beyond Karl Darlow at his near post.
It was the forward’s 40th goal in all competitions since the start of last season, the fourth-highest total of any Premier League player behind only Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah.
Rashford gave the aforementioned Krafth a torrid evening as the Swedish defender struggled to live with the forward’s speed and skill, the 23-year-old menacing throughout and looking the Red Devils’ most likely avenue to goal.
The England international’s clever turn later saw him brought down inside the penalty area for United’s third goal, Rashford the bright spark in a display that saw Solskjaer’s side get the job done despite being below their best.