Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend's action – The Guardian

Joe Willock turns on the style, tactical issues for Frank Lampard and Spurs lay bare Manchester City’s weaknesses
Last modified on Tue 22 Feb 2022 14.08 GMT
There is a blueprint for how to beat Pep Guardiola’s ball-hoggers and it is publicly available: Crystal Palace employed it in October’s 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium and Tottenham did the same on Saturday: adopt a low block, stay patient while possession is maintained by the blue shirts and when the moment arrives, pounce by racing in behind the sluggish centre-backs. For Palace, Wilfried Zaha’s pace terrorised City; for Spurs it was Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. Why don’t more teams try this? Perhaps because executing lightning counter-attacks in the one or two opportunities allowed by City’s supreme passing machine is tough. But in an era of attack coaches, forensic video analysis, speedy forwards and training-ground drills there should be no excuse for more teams not attempting to exploit the glaring vulnerability. It may not always work, but this is currently the only realistic way to dismantle the league’s dominant side. Jamie Jackson
Match report: Manchester City 2-3 Tottenham
It is often Sadio Mané’s fate to take second billing to Mohamed Salah and, even on a day when he scored one of his greatest goals and drew level with one of Liverpool’s favourite players, he was eclipsed again. Salah’s 150th goal overshadowed Mane’s 108th, but the latter meant the Senegal international had matched John Barnes’ total and in 160 fewer games. If comparisons between wingers feel inexact as the game has evolved – Barnes spent more time on the touchline, Mané loiters in the penalty area – it is worth noting that none of the younger man’s 108 are penalties. “Sadio’s goal record is definitely insane as well,” said Jürgen Klopp and while Salah should soon overhaul Michael Owen and then set off in pursuit of Kenny Dalglish, Mané could become Liverpool’s 11th highest scorer some time next season. Though, just outside the top 10, that could leave him obscured again. Richard Jolly
Match report: Liverpool 3-1 Norwich
Thomas Frank has been clear in marking next Saturday’s match against Newcastle as the day when Christian Eriksen, joyfully for anyone who loves football, is due to make his return to competitive action for Brentford. No pressure should be put on Eriksen to bounce straight back to his old levels; it is simply a marvel that we will be able to enjoy his talents again. But Brentford would benefit from even a fraction of his best form: they are not offering enough going forward and, until an undeserved Christian Norgaard consolation, failed to fashion a chance of note at the Emirates. Against a vastly improved Arsenal that is no disgrace, but they are noticeably short of someone who can roam between the lines and pick a pass. “Physically he is in a fine place, he looks better and better,” Frank said of Eriksen. Brentford’s season looks in need of the stimulus he could offer. Nick Ames
Match report: Arsenal 2-1 Brentford
Head injuries proved something of a theme as Manchester United won at Elland Road. Mercifully, Anthony Elanga was not badly hurt after a coin hurled from the crowd struck him on the head but it rather took the shine off an otherwise wonderful match. And that coin was far from the only missile aimed at Ralf Rangnick’s players; what if one had hit someone in an eye? Earlier Robin Koch, went off looking dazed and confused after initially attempting to play on with a head injury following a collision with Scott McTominay. Marcelo Bielsa afterwards said blood from a cut forced his replacement by Junior Firpo but Koch was only taken off after he sat down, clearly unable to continue. Bielsa may be correct but, from the stands, Koch looked like someone with a potential concussion. So why weren’t the protocols followed? Louise Taylor
Match report: Leeds 2-4 Manchester United
When Aaron Lennon returned to Burnley on a free transfer following a year in Turkey with Kayserispor, it almost passed without notice. Many will have anticipated the winger rarely being seen in a starting XI. His first league start of the season came on 2 October, his second on 30 December when he impressed at Old Trafford, scoring in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United. Since then the veteran has proved himself worthy of a regular place in Sean Dyche’s team. At Brighton the 34-year-old was a constant threat against a fearful defence who became just the second team to concede three times to Burnley. Lennon played a key pass in the buildup to the first goal and was clinical when adding an emphatic third to seal the victory. Burnley’s squad lacks depth but the reigniting of Lennon’s career has improved Dyche’s options and created a rare battle for starting berths. Will Unwin
Match report: Brighton 0-3 Burnley
Joe Willock provided the decisive touch to secure a point at West Ham and the midfielder’s performance suggests he can be instrumental in keeping Newcastle in the Premier League. Willock’s instinctive finish was his first goal of the season and Eddie Howe eulogised his contribution. His permanent move to St James’ Park came after a successful loan spell from Arsenal in which he scored in six of Newcastle’s final seven matches last season. Willock’s energy and athleticism caused West Ham plenty of problems on Saturday and justified the decision to keep him in the team ahead of the new signing Bruno Guimarães. The 22-year-old’s dynamism was a major outlet for Newcastle as the team extended their unbeaten league run to six games. With Kieran Trippier and Allan Saint-Maximin injured, Willock’s attacking threat will be a significant asset in the coming weeks and, in this form, he should be able to help steer the team clear of trouble. Simon Mail
Match report: West Ham 1-1 Newcastle
‘Graig Catchart’ may sound like an unlicensed video game alias but that was the name etched on to Manchester United’s honours board when Craig Cathcart was named the club’s young player of the year in 2007. With hindsight, it could be considered symbolic of the underappreciated career Cathcart has carved out for himself away from Old Trafford. Quietly excellent in Watford’s vital victory at Aston Villa on Saturday, Cathcart was consistently in the right place at the right time. His efforts ensured Ben Foster’s post-match YouTube recording was more labour-intensive than the 90 minutes that came before it. In the wider football world, Cathcart’s talents may go largely unrecognised. But not at Vicarage Road. Sam Dalling
Match report: Aston Villa 0-1 Watford
There was no shortage of underperformers for Everton in defeat at Southampton but the way they failed to service Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be of concern to Frank Lampard. The striker has not scored since returning from a four-month absence in January and Everton, who have not won away since August, failed to register a shot on target at St Mary’s. Calvert-Lewin is unlikely to be in the thick of the action against Manchester City on Saturday but Everton must offer some kind of thrust. “We can’t use Dominic as a battering ram,” Lampard said. “He has too much quality for that and I don’t want to play that way. It’s two-fold. Give Dominic time and make sure we give him the service and play around him as much as we can to get the benefit out of him and all the forward-end players.” Ben Fisher
Match report: Southampton 2-0 Everton
Given the number of air miles his players clocked up last week in becoming world champions, it was no surprise that Thomas Tuchel welcomed the prospect of Chelsea’s next two fixtures being played in London after the late victory at Selhurst Park. The Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on Sunday at Wembley will be an opportunity for Tuchel to win his fourth trophy in less than 13 months at the helm but he must first face Lille in the first leg of Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. The French club have the advantage of an extra day’s rest having played their Ligue 1 fixture against Metz on Friday night, although Tuchel is confident his players can handle the quick turnaround. “Playing Saturday-Tuesday should not be a problem for us, we are staying in London,” he said. “Sometimes it can cause an advantage when there is a tight schedule, but this time we should arrive home quite early, catch some good sleep and be ready to fight on a good level.” Ed Aarons
Match report: Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
Adama Traoré was never the most productive attacker but when he was dispatched to Barcelona, the fear was that Wolves had lost a huge part of the counterattacking threat on which they so rely. Not so on the evidence of the last two games, which have seen Wolves amass six valuable points in two displays of undiluted efficiency. Key to both has been Daniel Podence, a tireless attacker whose scampering energy gives his side the perfect outlet. On Sunday, Podence often found himself the lone ranger in hopeful breaks, but time and again he showed the value of touch, pace and hardened know-how. Where Traoré might have run down a cul-de-sac, Podence drew a foul. Where Traoré might have crossed into an empty box, Podence played it simple. Traoré was one of the most exciting players in the league but Wolves are not in the business of exciting anyone. Efficiency may not be sexy, but it might just get Wolves into the Champions League. Guardian sport
Match report: Wolves 2-1 Leicester


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