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Monday, June 27, 2022

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Premier League

1) Toffees can take heart from derby defeat

There is a reason Everton are third-bottom in the league: they’ve been the league’s third-worst team. With just six games remaining, they are in serious danger of breaking the English game’s second-longest run of top-flight football – only Arsenal have stuck it out longer than their 78 years. Despite a difficult run-in, Frank Lampard can take heart from how his team played at Anfield: organised and doughty in defence, enterprising and swift in attack – a spirit encapsulated by a contretemps towards the end of the first half when, after Abdoulaye Doucouré fouled Fabinho to get play stopped so Richarlison could receive treatment, almost the entire team piled into the kerfuffle, including Jordan Pickford, the goalkeeper. Obviously there is more to football than aggression and if , over the course of the season, Everton had shown as much as they didon Sunday, they’d not be in the mess they are. But similarly, if they can maintain it, they might yet save themselves. Daniel Harris

2) Conte needs a new plan for Spurs

As Tottenham stiffed at Brentford, fortunate to come away with a draw in the eyes of Thomas Frank, there was a sense that they had been found out. Like Brighton’s Graham Potter, Frank set traps to stifle Spurs’s midfield and asked repeated questions of defenders uncertain at set pieces. Christian Eriksen meanwhile embodied the idea that the best players can always find time on the ball, though no such luxury was allowed to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, his former attacking accomplices. High energy and muscle appear to cause sincere problems for Spurs, who are unable to emulate the accelerated tempo of Antonio Conte’s most effective teams. “We have to try to increase and go 150% to try to reach this target,” said the Italian, reminding reporters of the team he inherited in November: eighth in the table and shipping goals. He has certainly revived Tottenham since – only for opponents to perhaps work out how he did so. John Brewin

Harry Kane could not find the net at Brentford.
Harry Kane could not find the net at Brentford. Photograph: Matt Impey/REX/Shutterstock

3) Guardiola unfazed by mounting injuries

John Stones, Kyle Walker and Nathan Aké are all injury doubts for Manchester City ahead of Tuesday’s visit of Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg. But with a maximum of eight matches left this season Pep Guardiola is not concerned he may struggle to field enough senior players in the campaign’s defining phase. “If it was November or December, it’s a problem but if Gabriel [Jesus] has to play right-back, he’d play right-back. So it’s not a problem, when the players feel we are in real trouble, the players do extra. You saw from minute one how they want to win games, the next one and next one. When this happens, we know we can trust each other. Less than one month until the end of the season and we are going to do it.” Jamie Jackson

4) Gerrard expecting an explosion from Coutinho

Steven Gerrard expects Philippe Coutinho, quiet in recent games, to rediscover his creative best in Aston Villa’s forthcoming games against Norwich and Burnley. The Brazil playmaker, on a six-month loan from Barcelona with an option to buy for £33m, has been involved in only one goal in seven away games and spent much of Saturday’s goalless draw at Leicester diligently tracking opponents, never his strength. “Phil will be fine,” the Villa manager said. “We can’t expect Phil to be man of the match, creator and goalscorer every time he plays. I don’t have to stand here and defend Philippe Coutinho; he defends himself with the level that he’s at. We’re playing against two teams now, with all due respect, that we should be able to create chances and have good territorial opportunities.” Peter Lansley

5) United can learn from ruthless Arteta

Factor in a missed penalty, various squandered chances and couple of borderline VAR decisions, and it’s fair to say that Arsenal’s seesawing win was not a result from which to draw big conclusions. Yet the outcome nonetheless felt like a fitting one: a club with a clear sense of direction triumphing over one with none. And Arsenal’s recent rejuvenation could hold some lessons for anyone at Old Trafford willing to learn them. Since his appointment, Mikel Arteta has ridded the club of high-earning, high-profile albatrosses – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Özil, Willian, David Luiz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all shown the door – and rebuilt the side around a core of young, hungry, un-starry players. There is no shortage of celebrity deadwood at Old Trafford of course, but there’s plenty of youthful quality too. Jadon Sancho, for instance, will have been watching the electric Bukayo Saka on Saturday with rightful envy. Oh, to be at a club with a semblance of good sense. Alex Hess

Match report: Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United

6) Joelinton’s rebirth comes full circle

“He’s Brazilian, he only cost £40 million … and we think he’s effing brilliant” rang out from the Carrow Road away end long after Saturday’s final whistle. Joelinton, who marked his 100th Premier League appearance with a first-half brace, walked away slowly, not wanting to break their gaze. From laughing stock to cult hero – and much of it due to two games against Norwich. In the reverse fixture, Ciaran Clark’s brainless dismissal forced Eddie Howe to move Joelinton into a deeper role. He has barely skipped a samba beat there since. But with Chris Wood owed a rest, the Brazilian made a rare start across a fluid front three. He finished with the confidence of a man enjoying life. As well he might. Sam Dalling

7) Ward-Prowse proves himself once again

It’s been a miserable few weeks for Southampton, their past eight games consisting of six defeats, one draw and one win. Their supporters will have feared the worst when Mohammed Salisu’s own-goal a minute before the break left them 2-0 down. Enter James Ward-Prowse, who, though he’s originally from Portsmouth, has come to symbolise all that’s good about his club. Although it seems like he has been around a lifetime, at 27 he still has plenty of room for improvement. So when his team were given a free-kick deep in first-half injury-time, it was inevitable that Ward-Prowse would take it and felt almost inevitable that he’d score, which he did – via a clever, low, whipped effort that was too good for Robert Sánchez. Then, just nine minutes after the restart, he drove a superb low equaliser into the corner to save Southampton yet again. Daniel Harris

Robert Sánchez fails to prevent a James Ward-Prowse goal.
Robert Sánchez fails to prevent a James Ward-Prowse goal. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

8) Liverpool’s flaws not capitalised upon

Gary Player famously quipped that the more he practised, the luckier he got, and similar can be said of Liverpool. They work terrifyingly hard and compete with ferocious intensity which, allied to the extent of their ability, allows them to willpower their way to all the goals and wins we’ve seen over the past few years – with Jürgen Klopp’s formidable football brain also playing its part. But his team are not infallible. Though it would be easy to say – as Graeme Souness did – that Everton simply sat back and hoped, there was more to it than that. Because Liverpool rely on their full-backs to make the play, they necessarily leave space behind them which Anthony Gordon exploited time and again. Ultimately – and like most teams in the world – Everton weren’t able to make anything of it, but we can be sure that the joy they found won’t have escaped the attention of Unai Emery, whose Villarreal team visit Anfield on Wednesday. Daniel Harris

9) Hammers left short at the back

A red-carded defender as man of the match? Well, yes. Craig Dawson was excellent, a one-man central defensive wall flanked by a pair of full-backs in a makeshift back three. Block after block, he kept Chelsea at bay – until his late red card. Still, not bad for a man who started his working life as a glass collector at the Dog and Partridge pub in Rochdale before eventually signing for his home town club in League Two. He arrived on loan at West Ham in 2020 after Watford’s relegation and since that move was made permanent last summer he has flourished. Injuries to Angelo Ogbonna, Kurt Zouma and most recently Issa Diop meant his appearance on Sunday was his 45th of the campaign, his most since 2010-11. A suspected broken nose obtained in Lyon could not keep Dawson sidelined, but his dismissal will – though if anyone has earned a rest, it’s him. Sam Dalling

10) Burnley gain some vital momentum

There has been a change in Burnley’s results since Sean Dyche’s surprise dismissal but plenty of the hallmarks of the style that made his stint at Turf Moor so successful are still present. How that was evident on Sunday as Mike Jackson’s side scrapped and battled their way to a potentially priceless 1-0 win against Wolves, moving out of the relegation zone for the first time since October. The one thing that is different about Burnley is the momentum they now possess, and it could be crucial. Hope may now be turning into expectation that Jackson can pull off the greatest of escapes. Win at Watford next – and with Everton and Leeds United facing far tougher run-ins than Burnley – what seemed improbable when Dyche was relieved of his duties could become a distinct possibility as Jackson’s side continue to ride on the crest of this surprise wave. Aaron Bower

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