Talking points from the Premier League weekend
Manchester City beat Arsenal 3-1 to keep within two points of leaders Liverpool, who are at West Ham later on Monday. Tottenham beat Newcastle United to stay in the chase.
Here are five talking points from the weekend’s action:
SAME OLD ARSENAL
The 22-match unbeaten run in all competitions earlier in the season suggested that Spanish manager Unai Emery had succeeded in turning the Gunners into a team capable of a top-four finish and while a defeat at City is no disgrace, their performance was worrying.
There is quality in this Arsenal team — Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are a dangerous forward pairing and Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira are a promising central midfield pairing.
But the fundamental problem is the team still looks, as it did in the latter period of Arsene Wenger’s reign, lacking in the fight, passion and determination needed to compete with the very best.
Emery conceded after the match that his team’s mentality had been affected by the knowledge that they were not as good as their opponents.
“Our players have mentality but when we are worse than the opposition we feel that and it’s negative on the pitch,” he said.
Emery’s admission that the players struggled because they knew they were inferior is a damning one — but very revealing.
SOLSKJAER ENTERING TEST TIME
Another win for Manchester United’s caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a 1-0 victory at Leicester City, and inevitably the suggestions that he should be given the job full-time are increasing.
But there is no rush for United to make that decision — Solskjaer is going nowhere and a glance at the fixtures list shows that this month is going to be far more testing than the challenges the Norwegian has faced so far.
United have the home leg against Paris St Germain in the Champions League round-of-16 followed by a trip to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup and then the home game against league leaders Liverpool.
If Solskjaer can lead United to positive results in those games, the momentum for his appointment may become unstoppable.
SPURS HAVE COPED WITHOUT KANE
When Harry Kane damaged his ankle ligaments in the defeat to Manchester United last month, some were tempted to see the injury as marking the end of Tottenham’s title bid.
Going out of both domestic Cup competitions led to more talk of the season falling to pieces and yet Spurs have won all three league games without Kane. They are just two points behind Manchester City and only four off leaders Liverpool and have both those teams to play.
EVERTON’S ZONAL TROUBLE
Once again Everton’s weakness at set-pieces was shown up in a 3-1 home loss to Wolves with Raul Jimenez left unattended to simply head home a free kick — the 11th goal from a free kick or corner in the league this season.
Why does manager Marco Silva insist on using the questionable zonal marking system?
CROUCH BRINGS CHAOS
Burnley’s decision to let striker Sam Vokes move to Championship (second tier) Stoke City on deadline day and bring in 38-year-old Peter Crouch looks a smart move after Saturday.
Crouch was brought on with 14 minutes remaining against Southampton with Sean Dyche’s side trailing 1-0 and although he barely touched the ball, he caused panic in the Southampton defence.
The stoppage time penalty, to earn a draw, came from an aerial challenge between Crouch and defender Jack Stephens, who handled the ball.
REUTERS/Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar