This Premier League weekend was about as predictably unpredictable as any other, excepting Manchester City cruising to yet another formidable home victory to further extend their lead at the top of the table. The North London Derby proved a surprisingly one-sided affair, Manchester United unexpectedly fell short against Newcastle at St. James’ Park and Everton bounced back from a 5-1 thumping to Arsenal with an impressive win over Crystal Palace.
Whenever there’s Premier League action unfolding, it inevitably produces winners and losers. So here’s a recap of the weekend in the top flight with a look back at those who triumphed and who toiled…
Manchester City no doubt impressed during their 5-1 win over Leicester City on Saturday, but it was undoubtedly helped by an absolutely atrocious performance from Kasper Schmeichel.
Seemingly determined to impersonate Ederson at the opposite end of the pitch, the Danish international’s relentless attempts to play out of the back directly lead to several of City’s goals – in one instance even kicking the ball to Sergio Aguero inside his own penalty area.
Schmeichel’s often been mooted as a potential recruit for the Big Six, but if any of the Premier League’s top clubs were interested in signing him during the summer, Saturday’s performance may have given them second thoughts.
Reserved a few minutes on Match of the Day to publicly question why people don’t like him when he ‘has a good heart’, the world seemed to revolve around Marko Arnautovic a little bit this weekend. That’s not least because the Austrian international, making his first start since mid-January, was nothing short of majestic against Watford on Saturday; inspiring a West Ham win with one goal, two created chances and a whopping eight successful dribbles.
Manuel Lanzini returns from his own injury layoff in the next few weeks and with both operating in attacking tandem, West Ham could be in for a thrilling end to the campaign.
A 1-0 scoreline undoubtedly flattered Arsenal as they suffered a humbling defeat to Tottenham in Saturday’s North London Derby. The Gunners did create a few late chances that substitute Alexandre Lacazette failed to convert, but Spurs’ dominance of the match only grew as the ninety minutes went on. Speaking of the French striker though, Saturday was his opportunity to outshine January signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and really make an argument for himself to still be a regular in Arsenal’s starting XI.
But two glorious chances passed him by and the experiment of playing him up front alongside Aubameyang backfired completely, opening up the Gunners’ midfield and creating one-way traffic for much of the second half. Seemingly already on borrowed time at the Emirates Stadium, he won’t get many more opportunities to have such an impact in the big games.
The football may be a far cry from what made Newcastle so iconic under Kevin Keegan when they battled Manchester United for the title, but it’s only results that truly matter when you’re in a relegation battle and the Magpies picked up their first home win in the Premier League since October on Sunday.
It was a similar case for Huddersfield, albeit facing much lesser opposition in the form of Bournemouth, claiming only their second home win since November with a 4-1 victory over Eddie Howe’s side that has breathed vital life into their survival hopes.
And an honourable mention for Swansea City, who have now won four of their last seven Premier League games and moved up to 16th in the Premier League table. There’s still plenty of work to be done but Carlos Carvalhal has given them a huge chance of staying up.
Stoke may have picked up a point on Saturday but they desperately needed a home win against relegation rivals Brighton, and it’s not as if they didn’t have the quality on the pitch and the opportunities to do so. During one of the rare moments Xherdan Shaqiri was actually given the ball in a central area, he sidestepped one defender before curling the ball in the bottom corner.
The Potters had the chance to take the lead as well, but Charlie Adam’s spot kick – following an incredibly embarrassing penalty spat with loan signing Jese – was saved by Mat Ryan and the Scotland international failed to latch onto the rebound, although he was quite clearly fouled by Lewis Dunk.
With two away games followed by a run against Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City now on the horizon, Paul Lambert missed a huge chance to pick up three points and move his side out of the relegation zone.
After Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero, is Roberto Firmino the third-best striker in the Premier League? That’s a difficult question to answer when the player involved arguably isn’t a striker at all, but the Brazilian certainly made a case for himself on Sunday as Liverpool strolled to a simple 2-0 win over Southampton.
It must be said that Saints didn’t put up too much of a fight barring a spate of chances in the first half. But by that point Firmino had already applied a composed and controlled finish to a Mohamed Salah setup, while the duo switched roles just before half time – Liverpool’s unorthodox centre-forward backheeling the ball into the Egyptian’s path.
Once again though, it was the other aspects of Firmino’s game that truly stood out. He created the joint-most chances of any Liverpool player while recording the most tackles – a whopping seven – and playing a pivotal had in both goals. It’s hard to miss Philippe Coutinho when Liverpool have another Brazilian in such devastating form.
For the second time in three games, Paul Pogba found himself hooked off by Jose Mourinho halfway through an abject midfield performance – this time against Newcastle United. There’s clearly an underlying friction between the Frenchman and his manager, who subbed off Manchester United’s club-record signing after failing to win an aerial duel that directly lead to Matt Ritchie’s winning goal.
That being said, it was an equally disparaging weekend for Mourinho as well. He was once again out-Mourinhoed by a manager prepared to be even more pragmatic than he is against high-quality opposition, and his winless record at St. James’ Park now extends to seven games, losing four and drawing three.
Facing Manchester United, Liverpool at Anfield and then bitter rivals Arsenal, last week marked a make-or-break seven days for Tottenham Hotspur. But the Lilywhites have come out of their test with flying colours, comfortably beating Manchester United, partaking in a thrilling draw at Anfield and claiming a 1-0 win in Saturday’s North London Derby.
Spurs’ control of the match steadily grew as the game went on and barring a hectic final few minutes, there was a huge chasm between both sides in terms of performance. It does indeed feel like Tottenham are the kings of north London these days and although they’re currently four points off, Spurs will fancy their chances of finishing the campaign in second place.
More pertinently, Tottenham now enter their Champions League clash against Juventus on Tuesday night with their confidence at an emphatic high.