Soccer

10 talking points from Premier League weekend as Liverpool suffer Everton loss

The Premier League conjured up yet another weekend of drama, with crucial results achieved at both ends of the table.

Manchester City maintained their ten-point lead at the top of the table courtesy of a 1-0 win against Arsenal, though second-placed Manchester United responded with a 3-1 victory versus Newcastle United.

Liverpool's nightmare run of form continued as Merseyside rivals Everton achieved a first Anfield win since 1999, with goals from Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin earning Carlo Ancelotti's side a memorable three points.

Elsewhere, Fulham's survival bid was boosted by a critical home win over Sheffield United.

Here are Mirror Football’s 10 talking points from the weekend…

1. Guardiola delights in a 1-0 win

So much has been written about the flair with which Pep Guardiola's sides play football but their 1-0 win at Arsenal on Sunday was a masterclass in the art of keeping the opposition away from your own goal.

It was their 13th successive Premier League win, and 10th clean sheet in that run, and had Guardiola waxing lyrical about veteran defensive midfielder Fernandinho whose match craft helps to make City such a tough side to put under pressure.

"He knows exactly what he has to do and yeah what a game he played today in such a tough, tough game," the Spaniard said. "I am more than pleased to win 1-0."

2. Mourinho could save Bale as Europa League weapon

Jose Mourinho has a dilemma: Gareth Bale's second-half display in Sunday's 2-1 loss at West Ham United was at times majestic and showed why fans are demanding the Welshman should start Premier League games.

After a fifth defeat in six league games left Tottenham in ninth place, nine points off the top four, Mourinho suggested their best route into next season's Champions League might be via winning the Europa League.

Bale has featured regularly in that competition since his loan move from Real Madrid and with Mourinho saying he still struggles to play back-to-back games he might feel saving Bale for the Europa League would make more sense than flogging him in an increasingly hopeless Premier League cause.

3. Tuchel hopping mad at Chelsea's lack of bite

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel hopped about in frustration on the touchline during Saturday's 1-1 draw at Southampton as his team once again failed to turn their dominance of the ball into clear-cut chances.

Under the German, Chelsea have scored eight times in six league games, enough to win four and draw two, but not the return expected from a team bolstered by 200 million pounds ($280.28 million) in signings, including striker Timo Werner.

Of those six games, five were against teams who currently sit in the lower half of the table.

Tuchel has been unable to count on the creativity of playmakers Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech for much of his time at Stamford Bridge as they have struggled with injuries.

But he laid bare his frustrations on Saturday by replacing Callum Hudson-Odoi half an hour after bringing on the England winger as a substitute, proof that he will be a hard taskmaster.

4. Liverpool's defensive crisis threatens top-four hopes

Liverpool started the season with league-winning stalwarts Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez in central defence but Juergen Klopp now faces the prospect of playing relative unknowns in Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips for the foreseeable future.

Playing Fabinho and Jordan Henderson as makeshift defenders backfired, with Liverpool losing their midfield screen, and injuries to both mean the champions have now deployed 18 different centre-back pairings this season.

Schalke loanee Kabak has jumped from the frying pan that is the Bundesliga into the fire that is the hustle-bustle of the Premier League without any time to settle in, playing next to Phillips who has appeared only eight times for Liverpool.

As Everton ended a 22-year jinx and scored more goals at Anfield in a 2-0 win than Liverpool have in five games in 2021, January's league leaders dropped to sixth, five points off surprise package West Ham United in fourth.

5. Villa lack edge with Grealish out

Jack Grealish's value to Aston Villa was demonstrated when, without him, they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City.

Grealish was pulled from the squad before Sunday's clash after complaining of a leg injury in the week, and Villa struggled to find a creative spark in his absence.

Grealish's ability to wander between the lines and out to the wings to pick up the ball and cause havoc has seen him tightly marked in recent games, and manager Dean Smith will be hoping the injury is not serious.

6. Newcastle in serious relegation trouble

Fulham ’s win over Sheffield United has changed the dynamic of the Premier League relegation battle.

Victory for Scott Parker’s side moved them to within three points of Newcastle United, whose poor run of form continues under Steve Bruce.

The two sides meet on the final day of the season, in what could prove to be a match with severe consequences for the loser.

7. United given glimpse of the future

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed 17-year-old Shola Shoretire a first Premier League start on Sunday evening against Newcastle.

Shoretire has impressed when featuring for the Red Devils’ under-23s this season, resulting in a cameo appearance at Old Trafford for his efforts.

The United youngster, rather ironically, replaced Marcus Rashford- a man who knows all about making the first-team leap having progressed through the club’s academy.

8. VAR called into question again

VAR was at the centre of attention once again as Fulham earned a vital win over fellow strugglers Sheffield United.

The main point of discussion should have been the vitally important points claimed by Scott Parker’s side, but this another Premier League game where a questionable decision left a sour taste.

Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola wiped out Jayden Bogle late on in proceedings, in what appeared to be a certain penalty.

9. Minamino issues reminder to Liverpool

Takumi Minamino was on the scoresheet for Southampton for the second time in three Premier League outings, as he continued his impressive start on the south coast.

On a weekend where Liverpool slumped to a fourth successive home defeat and were out of ideas in the final third, Minamino proved to be the Saints’ bright spark once again.

Jurgen Klopp won’t regret his decision to loan the Japanese international if he returns to Anfield as an improved player, though the Reds continue to lack inspiration in attack while the 26-year-old thrives.

10. Barnes and Maddison prove England credentials

There’s no stopping Harvey Barnes and James Maddison this campaign.

The Leicester City duo were both on target for the Foxes as Brendan Rodgers’ side claimed a 2-1 away victory over Aston Villa.

Recent performances by Barnes and Maddison have prompted talk of the pair featuring for England at the Euros, with this now a deserved possibility.

Barnes has scored nine goals and provided four assists in the Premier League this season, while Maddison has scored one fewer but provided one more assist.

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