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Friday, November 11, 2022

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

1) Ings shows Gerrard what he can offer next season

Steven Gerrard prefers to vary his attacking shape to keep opponents guessing and has switched from using a midfield diamond to 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 in his first six months in charge at Aston Villa. The manager was in full agreement that his team looked better once Danny Ings came on as a substitute to join Ollie Watkins as split strikers, with Philippe Coutinho then playing between them, as a false 9 or as the attacking tip of a diamond depending on your interpretation. Both strikers scored in the victory that relegated Norwich and were also instrumental when Villa went on a three-game winning run in February and March, though Ings, with six goals and several niggly injuries in his first season at the club, admitted: “Overall this season for me has been a little underwhelming. I am happy to come on today and help. It is hard to get a rhythm.” Peter Lansley

2) Pickford’s stops point path to survival

Ahead of kick-off against Chelsea there were a few raised eyebrows when the Gwladys Street End unfurled a banner dedicated to Jordan Pickford. After all, Pickford has long been one of the most ridiculed players in the Everton squad, with his outsized personality and hair-raising hot and cold streaks. Nobody was laughing at full time, after Pickford pulled off perhaps the save of the season to deny César Azpilicueta. Normally it’s not great news if your goalkeeper is grabbing the plaudits, but with Everton scrapping for their Premier League survival, their influential and talismanic goalkeeper may just be warming up to the task. Jonathan Liew

Jordan Pickford made a string of saves to keep Everton 1-0 up against Chelsea.
Jordan Pickford made a string of saves to keep Everton 1-0 up against Chelsea. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

3) Foden proves a valuable deputy

After watching his side ease past Leeds, albeit with some initial difficulty, Pep Guardiola was grateful for the deliveries by Phil Foden – one a free-kick, the other a corner – that created Manchester City’s first two goals. “I’m going to give you a secret: the set piece is about the taker,” he said. “The taker is the most important thing and Phil, especially with the first goal, was fantastic.” City did not really flow until going two up but showed they can be hugely effective from dead-ball routines when more aesthetically pleasing means are out of reach. Foden found Rodri for the opener and then saw Rúben Dias nod down for Nathan Aké to convert a crucial second, but it still will not earn him the gig permanently. “When Kevin [De Bruyne] is there, Kevin is the taker,” Guardiola said. Nick Ames

Phil Foden had a heavy influence on City’s win at Leeds.
Phil Foden had a heavy influence on City’s win at Leeds. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images

4) Milner sets the standards for Newcastle to reach

It is no coincidence that the richly gifted Bruno Guimarães had his most disappointing game for Newcastle on the day he found himself up against James Milner. The latter played a key role alongside the excellent Naby Keïta and Jordan Henderson, helping ensure Guimarães, Joe Willock and Jonjo Shelvey were thoroughly upstaged as, courtesy of Keïta’s 19th-minute goal, Liverpool won 1-0 on Tyneside. At 36, Milner – who made his debut for Leeds 20 years ago – made the very most of a rare start, emphasising precisely why his manager trusts him. “Milly’s a role model,” said Jürgen Klopp as his side maintained the pressure on Manchester City. “He’s a role model. Nothing we’ve achieved in the last few years would have happened without James Milner. He sets standards in a way not a lot of people can; it’s educated all of us.” Louise Taylor

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5) Broja learns tough Premier League lesson

After a fine start to his time on the south coast, Armando Broja has failed to score in his past 13 Premier League appearances for Southampton. The forward is 20 years old, so few can criticise a striker in his first full season as a Premier League footballer for struggling to maintain his form. The Albania international has scored six times in 30 appearances. In recent months he has not been aided by the team’s collective poor form that has seen them win a solitary match in nine league outings. Against Palace, Broja was left on the bench, coming on the 65th minute with Southampton looking for a winner in a match they would go on to eventually lose. Broja failed to have any noticeable impact – he will be looking to reach the end of the season after learning about the rigours of a long season but he has proved over the campaign that he has plenty more to show. Will Unwin

Armando Broja (right) failed to make his presence felt in a substitute appearance for out-of-form Southampton.
Armando Broja (right) failed to make his presence felt in a substitute appearance for out-of-form Southampton. Photograph: Micah Crook/PPAUK/Shutterstock

6) Foxes focus on Italian job after loss

Brendan Rodgers admitted he has a delicate balancing act as Leicester
attempt to overturn their 2-1 deficit from the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final against Roma on Thursday. He made eight changes for the trip to Tottenham, with only Kasper Schmeichel, Timothy Castagne and Marc Albrighton keeping their places as Son Heung-min and Harry Kane proved the difference. For Rodgers, however, the focus is already on their trip to the Italian capital. “It’s the nature of our season – we have been riddled with injuries and I can’t afford to risk playing those coming back three times a week,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to do that and still be competitive. If we can add one or two then we might be able to be up there challenging again next season.” Ed Aarons

Marc Albrighton (right) was one of only three Leicester players to keep their place after last Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final first leg against Roma.
Marc Albrighton (right) was one of only three Leicester players to keep their place after last Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final first leg against Roma. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

7) Clarets show what Hornets are missing

Mike Jackson insists he has not waved a magic wand, during his inspired stint as caretaker manager, but he has conjured up a remarkable turnaround to move Burnley clear of the relegation zone. Sean Dyche’s dismissal provoked plenty of raised eyebrows but Jackson has been a revelation, with three successive wins lifting them out of the bottom three. The belief and momentum garnered from their late turnaround for the victory at Watford will surely carry them a long way towards safety. For Watford, a record-breaking 11th successive defeat at home leaves them on the brink of relegation. Watford could learn some lessons from Burnley’s history of coaching continuity although ironically their recent upheaval, with Jackson taking temporary charge, appears to have been the catalyst in getting out of trouble. Simon Mail

Mike Jackson and his backroom staff have revitalised Burnley.
Mike Jackson and his backroom staff have revitalised Burnley. Photograph: Javier García/Shutterstock

8) Gunners show importance of squad depth

It was a tale of two sets of centre-backs at the London Stadium where Rob Holding and Gabriel scored the goals that clinched Arsenal’s victory over West Ham. Former Bolton defender Holding was called into the side due to Ben White’s absence and proved himself a valuable back-up with some fine blocks and a vital header. West Ham’s back four was stitched together due to injuries and suspensions. Aaron Cresswell was moved inside to play alongside Kurt Zouma, while Ryan Fredericks was selected at left-back. The loss of a second genuine centre-back was shown at set pieces; Arsenal’s two goals came from corners thanks to a Holding header and Gabriel finding space at the back post. If the Hammers had an experienced centre-back available, they are likely to have avoided one of those goals. West Ham are paying the price of success, which brings more games, leaving a tired squad at the start of May. Will Unwin

9) Soaring Seagulls primed for summer bids

Regardless of what happens in Brighton’s remaining three games, this is a season that will be fondly remembered after the club achieved its best points tally in the Premier League following victory at Wolves. For Graham Potter, whose quiet leadership and possession-based style has given them a sniff of a top-half finish, the challenge of building on such a strong campaign lies around the corner. Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard, Adam Webster and Tariq Lamptey are among those linked with bigger fish but Potter is relaxed about the prospect of his key players attracting bids, adamant Brighton will only sell at the right time and for the right price. “At the end of last season we sold Ben White for £50m [to Arsenal] and we managed to improve,” Potter said, citing Saturday’s opponents as a source of inspiration. “Wolves have sold players and carried on trying to develop.” Ben Fisher

Leandro Trossard may attract wandering eyes during the summer transfer window.
Leandro Trossard may attract wandering eyes during the summer transfer window. Photograph: Tony Obrien/Reuters

10) Retiring refs will be missed – like it or not

We are reaching that time of the season when player departures and retirements are announced with glee, allowing those moving on to pastures new a send-off. The Premier League will be losing, at least, three experienced referees after the news that Jon Moss, Martin Atkinson and Mike Dean will all be hanging up their whistles in May. As with any match officials, fans will have their varying views based on individual decisions that have caused pain to their clubs down the years but it is hard to argue that they are all high-quality referees. Replacing three of a team’s most experienced players in one go is hard enough and it will be no different for the Professional Game Match Officials Limited. Between the three of them, 50 years of Premier League experience will be lost on the pitch. It was plain to see Paul Tierney’s struggles at the weekend when refereeing a high-profile match, so the loss of three of the best in England will be felt by players and fans alike. Will Unwin

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