What we've learned from the weekend so far

By 5 Feb 2023
Wolves Liverpool

We pick out the key talking points from each of Friday and Saturday's matches

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From Enzo Fernandez's exciting debut on Friday to Saturday's twists and turns in the relegation fight and the battle for Europe, we look at the key lessons from the weekend so far.

Fernandez shows his worth

Despite his lack of time with his new team-mates, Fernandez showed why Chelsea worked so hard to sign him.

All the attributes to his game - interceptions, tackles, vertical passes – that required so much effort and money from the Blues to bring him to west London were on show.

His totals of five tackles, four won, were more than anybody else on the pitch, as were the nine times he won possession and the seven duels he won. 

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But after all their spending, Chelsea still don’t have a striker. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was not in the frame for the Fulham match after being omitted from the UEFA Champions League squad, and the Blues did not have a shot on target in the opening hour.

Graham Potter’s team have only 22 goals from 21 matches and the head coach knows this lack of penetration requires work.  

"I agree we didn't do enough in terms of attacking play to create more - which is something we need to do," Potter admitted, adding that there still is a way back for Aubameyang. 

“Absolutely he can [get back in], everything’s up for grabs. He’s got to keep working, training like he did today and be ready to play, because football changes quickly. That’s the nature of the game.” 

For Fulham, it was an ex-Chelsea player who stood out. Willian impressed with his energy as the Cottagers, also powered by Joao Palhinha’s endeavours, stood toe to toe with their more expensively assembled counterparts to earn a rare point at Stamford Bridge.  

Dyche makes immediate impact

Energy. Check. Aggression. Check. Disrupting their opponents’ attempts to play. Check. It was a typical Sean Dyche performance from Everton at a Goodison Park that roared their team to a revitalising victory in what could have become a febrile atmosphere.  

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Leaders Arsenal were not on song, but credit to Everton for never letting them find rhythm. Dyche had less than a week with his new players on the training ground, but they responded. The 116.4km they covered were three more than their previous best this season.  

Suddenly a trip to Anfield for the Merseyside derby a week on Monday contains less trepidation, especially in light of Liverpool’s woes.

Bad to worse for Liverpool

For the fifth time this season Jurgen Klopp saw his team concede the first goal in an “absolutely horrible” opening 12 minutes, and the manager admitted they struggled for confidence.  

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Of course, Wolverhampton Wanderers are a team transformed by Julen Lopetegui, and they scored three goals for the first time in the league this season, in their third victory under the Spaniard.

But the defensive woes of Liverpool are not something their fans want ahead of a derby.

Reds supporters can take comfort from the fact their duel against Everton is at Anfield, what with Liverpool’s away form of three defeats in a row, each after conceding three goals. Their next road trip? Newcastle United, on 18 February.

However, it may not be a bad time to face the Magpies.

Newcastle misfire again

Eddie Howe's side surrendered third place after being held by West Ham United.

It was Newcastle's fourth draw in five Premier League matches, and their league-leading 10th of the season.

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Saturday's match underlined their struggles in front of goal. They have scored only two goals in their last five matches and missed an ill Alexandar Isak and a suspended Bruno Guimaraes.

New boy Anthony Gordon came on and showed he can add creativity as well as pace to the Newcastle attack with a clever through-pass, but Callum Wilson could not convert.  

Old Trafford remains a fortress

Manchester United leapt above Newcastle thanks to a 13th successive home win in all competitions.

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Nearly two million Fantasy Premier League managers had shown prescience before Saturday to bring in goalscorers Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford ahead of two Old Trafford matches in a row.

That home advantage against Leeds United on Wednesday may be necessary in order to cope with the absence of Casemiro, who is banned for three matches after he decided to warm Will Hughes’ throat with his gloves.  

Man Utd have struggled without the Brazilian in their midfield and lost the last time he was absent, at Arsenal last month. Casemiro will also miss a trip to Leeds and a home match against Leicester City

Tete gives new life to Leicester

The Foxes looked a side revitalised in earning their first league win since the FIFA World Cup 2022.

They still struggle in defence. They have let in 25 goals in 11 away matches and, overall, have the third-worst defensive record in the division.  

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But James Maddison, who got his eighth goal this season in only his 15th match, is back from injury and firing an attack that has been enhanced by the arrival of Tete.

The Brazilian winger completed five dribbles on his debut at Villa Park, more than any of his new team-mates had achieved in a fixture. He is the type of player Brendan Rodgers has long coveted.  

“Tete was what I have been talking about for 18 months – a right-winger that can take the ball, pass the ball, look after it, make runs and work,” said Rodgers.  

With 69 goals in their matches this season - 32 scored and 37 conceded - Leicester are the league’s entertainers. 

Seagulls and Bees keep flying high

Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford quietly go about their business and hunt for a first foray into European competition.

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Kaoru Mitoma continued his hot form, netting his seventh goal in 11 matches in all competitions to become the club’s joint top-scorer, to crush a resolute AFC Bournemouth side late on.  

That goal kept Brighton above Brentford, who eased past Southampton, in sixth position, which will be worth at least the EFL Cup winners’ UEFA Europa League Conference spot.  

Race for Europe

Position Pos Club Played Pl GD Points Pts
4 Newcastle United NEW 38 +35 71
5 Liverpool LIV 38 +28 67
6 Brighton & Hove Albion BHA 38 +19 62
7 Aston Villa AVL 38 +5 61
8 Tottenham Hotspur TOT 38 +7 60
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AFC Bournemouth and Southampton are at risk of isolation in the bottom two.

Four of the six teams immediately above them picked up points on Saturday - and the other two, Leeds and Nottingham Forest, meet on Sunday so at least one of them will get a result.

AFC Bournemouth and Southampton have each claimed four points from a possible 30 and need their raft of new signings to inspire turnarounds in fortunes. Southampton have an immediate chance next up, with a home match against Wolves.  

The relegation fight

Position Pos Club Played Pl GD Points Pts
14 West Ham United WHU 38 -13 40
15 Bournemouth BOU 38 -34 39
16 Nottingham Forest NFO 38 -30 38
17 Everton EVE 38 -23 36
18 Leicester City LEI 38 -17 34
19 Leeds United LEE 38 -30 31
20 Southampton SOU 38 -37 25
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