What we learned from the weekend

20 Feb 2023
Haaland anguish

From Man City's need for a winning run to Palace's added-time woes, here are key talking points

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The battle at both ends of the Premier League table is intensifying following a weekend in which Manchester City misfired, allowing Arsenal to return to the top, while all three bottom clubs won. We look at the key lessons learned from the most recent matches.

Man City lacking title-defining run

A Man City title is usually preceded by a lengthy run of victories but, once more this season, the champions have been unable to string together a victorious sequence.

After beating Aston Villa and then Arsenal to go top, a third victory in a row seemed inevitable as they dominated at the City Ground. But, from an Expected Goals (xG) score of 2.54 they managed only one goal, and Chris Wood punished their profligacy with a late equaliser from Nottingham Forest's only shot on target.

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"In the first half, it should already be two or three-zero, we conceded one shot on target and we dropped points," lamented Pep Guardiola. "It was a brilliant performance, we played really good but we didn't score. We have to score."

Man City fans are awaiting the customary run of victories that ushers in a title triumph. They had one such sequence of 12 last season, 16 in 2020/22, 13 in 2018/19 and 18 in 2017/18. But this season, the champions' longest string of successive wins is three, which they have managed only twice.

This inconsistency is reminiscent of their 2019/20 form when their best five-match winning streak only came at the end of the season after the Premier League Trophy had already gone to Liverpool

Man City's longest winning runs
Season Longest winning run Final pos.
2016/17 6 3rd
2017/18 18 1st
2018/19 14 1st
2019/20 5 2nd
2020/21 15 1st
2021/22 12 1st
2022/23 3 ?

Former City goalkeeper Shay Given says Guardiola's side must go on another double-digit streak of wins if they are to regain the title. 

"They won at Arsenal in midweek, but again they haven't backed it up at Forest," he said.

Palace drop late points again

Since the start of last season, no team has conceded more result-altering goals in the 90th minute or later in more different Premier League matches than Crystal Palace's five. 

"We managed those situations really well until the last minute of the game," said Palace manager Patrick Vieira. "This is the frustration I have at the minute: a lot of games we have played lately, all we are missing is three points. 

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"The performance, the organisation was good but in the end we are missing something to allow ourselves to take the three points."

The Eagles are now without a win in their last seven matches and sit only six points above the relegation zone.

They also face a testing run of fixtures, with four of their next five matches against sides currently in the top half, starting with a home meeting versus a rejuvenated Liverpool on Saturday.

Selles throws hat into the ring

Eight days after dismissing Nathan JonesSouthampton are still without a manager. Could the answer be under the Southampton executives' noses? 

Ruben Selles was hired last summer as an assistant to Ralph Hasenhuttl. The 39-year-old has seen the Austrian and his successor Jones come and go and wants to be the next cab off the rank.  

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"I have been feeling ready to be No 1 for the last four years," he said. Selles certainly dressed the part at Stamford Bridge, cutting a dash in his roll-neck jumper and blazer, and he backed it up with a vibrant display from a Saints team who put their bodies on the line, quite literally on the goalline in the case of Romain Perraud’s terrific block to deny Raheem Sterling 

See: Ward-Prowse goes one short of Beckham's free-kick record

Selles has coaching experience in Greece, Azerbaijan and Denmark, but always as an assistant. His words after a first victory since 14 January perhaps showed a path for the future.   

"To come to Stamford Bridge and set the standards that we set today, together as a unit, playing together, playing the game – not only defending but being aggressive in our pressure, playing with the ball in the moments that we needed to play, showing that we can do it together… the feeling was unbelievable," Selles said. 

"If you want to win at Stamford Bridge you need to have a couple of moments that are going to be on your side, and I think we had it, but I think we also deserve it because it was a really good Southampton that we saw today, unbelievable work from the boys."

Lucky charm Coleman strikes again

When Seamus Coleman scores for Everton, his goals are important and perhaps none have been as significant as the one he converted from a narrow angle against Leeds United 

The right-back signed from Irish side Sligo Rovers in 2009 and has played for nine different managers at Goodison Park. The 34-year-old registered his first goal since coincidentally scoring against Leeds a year ago. More importantly, in the 28 matches the Irishman has struck, Everton have never lost.  

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When Coleman caught out Illan Meslier with a shot from the narrowest of angles it helped to restore belief to Sean Dyche's men and to Everton fans, whose euphoria after their win over Arsenal a fortnight ago had been dampened by a Merseyside derby defeat.  

"I don't need to say too much about Seamus," said Dyche. "But he has had a lot of managers here and every one has played him. They know what a great player he is. I'm not worried about age as long as you've got an edge - and he has. It was a fantastic finish and a fantastic win."

Coleman knows that getting the Goodison fans onside will be key in their battle to stay up. 

"We want to show we are all together and all fighting and we have to give our fans something to support and when we do you saw them at the end there," he said. "Throughout the match they were massive." 

Son lives up to 'supersub' tag

An eyebrow or two were raised when Tottenham Hotspur's team was announced ahead of their derby with West Ham United and Son Heung-min was dropped from the starting XI.

Last season Son was joint-winner of the Castrol Golden Boot, sharing the award with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who also scored 23 goals.

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But goals have been in short supply for the Spurs star this season, and he has found more joy as an impact substitute.

Son's strike in Sunday's 2-0 win over West Ham was his fourth goal from two appearances stepping off the bench, compared to his one goal from 20 Premier League starts.

Cristian Stellini, again stepping in for Antonio Conte, who continues his recovery from gallbladder surgery, as Spurs head coach, was quick to confirm the reasons behind Son's absence.

"It's really difficult to drop Sonny or put him on the bench," he said. "It's a strange season, difficult after the World Cup, and there arrives a moment when you have to take care of them.

"It means sometimes to stay on the bench, then they come on to the pitch, change the game, score, do their best. We wait for Sonny to play from the first minute. I'm happy to work all the week with Sonny to bring him to 100 per cent again."

Former Spurs striker Darren Bent believes Son was fired up to make an impression after his surprise omission from the team.

"When he got his opportunity, he was ready for it," Bent said. "Maybe a little bit of frustration, a little bit of anger, which you'd expect because he's used to starting every week."

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