Feature

What we learned from the weekend

13 Feb 2023
Fred-MUN

From Fred ably deputising for Casemiro to how to stop Arsenal, here are the key takeaways

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Following another thrilling weekend of Premier League action, we look at the key lessons learned from the latest matches.

Chelsea’s goalscoring problems solved? 

With Joao Felix remarkably becoming Chelsea’s 12th different goalscorer this season, a joint-league-high, after opening his Premier League account in the 1-1 draw at West Ham United, could he be the answer to the Blues’ struggles in front of goal? 

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Chelsea have only netted 23 times in the top flight this term, but at times in the opening 45 minutes, it appeared as if the January loan signing from Atletico Madrid was single-handedly taking the fight to the Hammers. 

Of the Blues’ nine shots in that period, Joao Felix took three and created two chances for his team-mates. 

While it was a third successive draw for Chelsea, who have won just three of their last 13 matches in all competitions, head coach Graham Potter was encouraged with what he saw from the Portuguese star. 

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“You can see his quality,” Potter explained. “He receives the ball well, he brings others into the game. He can score and he can assist. Then it’s just about the more we understand him, the more he understands us. The more he gets into situations, the more he can show his quality.” 

A visit from bottom-club and managerless Southampton on Saturday can provide the perfect platform for Joao Felix and Chelsea to build on the attacking promise shown at the weekend. 

Predictable Gunners 

Stop Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, stop Arsenal

That appeared to be the message from Brentford head coach Thomas Frank as the leaders dropped points for a second successive match. 

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"Clearly [Gabriel] Martinelli and [Bukayo] Saka, we're very aware of doubling up on them. One moment where we didn't have everything bang on, that was the moment where they scored [through Saka]," Frank said.

"They're the two most in-form wingers in the Premier League right now."

Mikel Arteta’s reluctance to rotate his squad is perhaps beginning to have an impact, having named the same starting XI for the last six matches in a row. 

But the Spaniard does have options. 

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Leandro Trossard scored his first goal for the club on Saturday. Could the Belgian be handed a first Premier League start for the Gunners in Wednesday's showdown with title-rivals Manchester City

The former Brighton & Hove Albion winger is looking to become only the third player to score against Man City for two different clubs in a PL season. 

Palace losing their way? 

Lauded for helping to change the footballing philosophy at Crystal Palace last season, it appears that Patrick Vieira’s side are struggling to the recreate the magic of 2021/22. 

Taking over an Eagles team who managed only 39.9 per cent possession during Roy Hodgson’s final season in charge, Vieira brought in ball-playing centre-backs in Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen, helping to increase that figure to 50.8 per cent last term. 

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But in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton, the Seagulls had 74.7 per cent of possession, their highest share in any of their 211 matches in the competition. 

This ceding of possession by Palace wasn’t a one-off. 

Vieira’s men are only averaging 44.4 per cent possession this season. 

Palace are without a win in their last six matches (D3), and with five of their next six fixtures against sides currently sat in the top 10, they will be nervously looking over their shoulder, sitting only seven points above the relegation zone. 

Travel sickness continues for Forest 

It remains just one away win in the Premier League for Nottingham Forest this season, as their struggles on the road continue. 

Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Fulham means they have triumphed in just one of their 11 league matches away from home.

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Steve Cooper’s side have just six points on the road in 2022/23, with only AFC Bournemouth earning fewer, with five. 

While they may be 14th in the table, Forest’s away form could drag them back towards the relegation zone. 

Their next away match is at relegation rivals West Ham, while five of their subsequent six road trips are at clubs currently in the top 10. 

Maddison shines with extra responsibility 

Named as captain against Tottenham Hotspur, James Maddison turned in one of his most impressive displays in a Leicester City shirt.  

Scoring one goal and creating another from the No 10 position, Maddison’s maturity was praised by Brendan Rodgers

“He’s in his best position now," Rodgers said. "He’s done great for me in the last 12-14 months playing on the right. You see his qualities; he’s one of the best players in the league. 

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“He’s grown as a leader too. He hasn’t trained a lot this week, managing an issue.” 

In his last 10 league starts, Maddison has been involved in 11 goals for the Foxes, with seven goals and four assists, while he has netted in his last three Premier League matches against Spurs. 

The addition of Tete, a left-footed winger who likes to cut inside from the right wing, has allowed Maddison to return to his favoured No 10 role. 

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Unbeaten in their last three, scoring 10 times across those matches, the buoyant Foxes will head into Sunday’s trip to third-placed Manchester United full of confidence. 

Home woes continue for Saints 

Whoever replaces Nathan Jones as Southampton manager knows the club’s dismal home form must be addressed if they are to have any chance of preserving their Premier League status. 

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Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers meant it was the first time since 1998 that Southampton have lost five consecutive Premier League home matches. 

Saints can look to relegation rivals Everton for inspiration. 

Sean Dyche masterminded a 1-0 victory over Arsenal at a raucous Goodison Park in his first match in charge of the Toffees, ending a run of four straight home defeats and providing an instant feel-good factor. 

A growing concern for Newcastle?  

After conceding yet another goal from a corner, could Newcastle United’s top-four hopes be dashed by their weakness defending set-pieces? 

Four of the last eight Premier League goals conceded by Eddie Howe’s side have been from corners, including three of the last four. 

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This vulnerability is a surprise given the physical stature of Dan Burn, Sven Botman and Fabian Schar at the back for the Magpies. 

It is something that will need to be addressed in training this week, given only Fulham and Spurs (both 10) have scored more goals directly from corners this season than Saturday’s opponents, Liverpool (nine). 

Fred filling Casemiro void 

Man Utd didn’t feel the absence of the suspended Casemiro as they kept a first clean sheet in six attempts in the 2-0 win at Leeds United

Key to keeping the home side out was the influence of Fred

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The Brazilian regained possession with eight tackles, the most by any player since Boxing Day 2020. 

With injuries and suspensions hitting the Man Utd midfield hard, Fred’s performances are a huge plus for Erik ten Hag

The midfielder has started in some of United’s most impressive victories this season, the 2-0 home success over Spurs and the 2-1 win against Man City last month. 

While he isn’t necessarily a sure starter in Ten Hag’s favoured XI, Fred’s ability to step in and produce when required is critical over the course of a 38-match season.

No mistakes from Man City

Clinical, dominant, purposeful, the adjectives are aplenty for Manchester City’s display against Aston Villa on Sunday.

If you thought the reigning champions would fail to capitalise on more Arsenal dropped points for a second week running, you had your answer within four minutes, as Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and a Riyad Mahrez penalty secured their win.

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A 3-1 victory over Villa should not have come as a surprise as, after all, this was their 13th home success in a row against them.

Pep Guardiola was even able to take off the Premier League’s top scorer, Erling Haaland, as a precaution ahead of Wednesday’s huge head-to-head meeting at Arsenal.

Suddenly a trip to north London will have far greater implications on the destiny of the title than it looked like it would just a couple of weeks ago.

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