MANCHESTER: Arsenal opened up a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League after Manchester City stumbled once more in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Tottenham. Liverpool looked as though they were also set for a rare slip-up at Anfield, until two late goals secured a 4-3 win against Fulham, which lifted Jurgen Klopp’s men into second place behind the Gunners, who were 2-1 winners over Wolves on Saturday. Manchester United’s recent Premier League revival came to a grinding halt at Newcastle, while Everton boosted their survival hopes despite a 10-point deduction.
AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend. Leaky Man City open door to challengers City have now won just three of their past eight Premier League games to give Arsenal and Liverpool hope their reign as English champions may finally come to an end. Defensive solidity was key to City’s run towards the treble in the second half of last season. But Pep Guardiola’s men have conceded eight times in their past three league matches.
City were also guilty of missing a host of glorious chances in the first half against a depleted Tottenham, who started without a recognized centre-back. Worse could be to come for Guardiola, with Rodri suspended for a daunting trip to Aston Villa on Wednesday. Villa have won 13 consecutive home Premier League games and City lost all three matches when the Spanish midfielder was banned earlier in the season.
United no match for the best
Manchester United had risen to sixth in the table ahead of the weekend on the back of five wins in six Premier League games. But all of their eight wins this season have come against sides in the bottom half and Erik ten Hag’s men were again found wanting against stronger opposition. An under-strength Newcastle, without 11 first team players due to injury or suspension, were dominant at St James’ Park and worthy of a more comprehensive victory than the 1-0 scoreline suggests. The visitors were toothless in attack, with Marcus Rashford’s performance attracting criticism for both a lack of quality and effort. Newcastle full-back Tino Livramento consistently ran off Rashford into dangerous positions before the England international was substituted by Ten Hag on the hour mark.
After producing his best-ever scoring season in Ten Hag’s first campaign in charge, Rashford has netted just twice this season. The 26-year-old’s only goal since September came after he was handed a penalty by Bruno Fernandes in last weekend’s win at Everton. “He works hard and he’s investing a lot,” said Ten Hag in defence of the forward. “He will get back, he will recover and he gets all our support.”
Everton bite back
A 10-point deduction would have been fatal for Everton’s Premier League status in either of the past two seasons as the Toffees escaped the drop by the finest of margins. An appeal against the harshest sporting sanction in Premier League history could yet give Everton back some or all of the 10 points deducted. But Sean Dyche’s men appear to have the strength to survive on their own merits, even if the club’s appeal fails.
A 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest on Saturday was Everton’s third consecutive victory on the road, already one more than they managed in each of the past two seasons. Without the points penalty, Everton would sit 12th, but as it stands they are just two points from safety. “A lot of people have been talking about that situation galvanizing us but the mentality has been there all season. I think the performance levels have been as well,” said Dyche. “There’s a battle on our hands, we know that, but it’s a big step today to get that first win after the recent news and a very good away performance.”— AFP