THINGS WE LEARNED from the Premier League
Ilkay Gundogan shows why Man City should do everything to extend his stay, Patrick Bamford buckles at a key moment for Leeds and Brighton ruthlessly expose Arsenal’s shortcomings… EIGHT THINGS WE LEARNED from the Premier League
- Man City moved to the brink of the title after rivals Arsenal lost to Brighton
- Southampton suffered relegation following their home defeat against Fulham
- Leicester and Leeds are running out of time in their battle to avoid the drop
Manchester City moved to the brink of a fifth Premier League title in six years on the weekend, after their 3-0 win against Everton was followed by challengers Arsenal losing by the same scoreline at home to Brighton.
Liverpool maintained the pressure on Newcastle and Manchester United in the race for the Champions League spots with a dominant 3-0 win at Leicester.
The Foxes remain in the bottom three alongside Leeds, despite the latter’s 2-2 draw against Newcastle.
The two sides are increasingly running out of time to avoid joining Southampton in the Championship next season, with the Saints’ relegation confirmed by a 2-0 home defeat against Fulham.
With the season entering its final weeks, Mail Sport looks at some of the key talking points raised by a pivotal weekend at both ends of the table.
Ilkay Gundogan scored twice against Everton as Man City moved to the brink of the title
Southampton were the first team to be relegated following their home defeat against Fulham
Ilkay Gundogan shows why City should be keen to extend his stay
The Manchester City captain’s opening goal against Everton was lauded by Jamie Carragher. The pundit claimed Gundogan’s flicked effort past Jordan Pickford should be considered as the best goal in the Premier League this season.
Gundogan’s four goals against Leeds and Everton in recent weeks eased any nerves the defending campaigns may have had heading into the final weeks, as well as being a typically influential presence in the centre of the team.
The midfielder is close to completing his seventh season at Manchester City and while Pep Guardiola has been known for his rotation, Gundogan has remained a vital cog in the team.
Gundogan has almost been an ever present for City in the Premier League since his debut campaign in 2016-17, when a cruciate ligament injury restricted him to just 10 appearances.
Sunday’s win over Everton saw the 32-year-old chalk up his 30th appearance in the Premier League this season, marking the fourth time he has done so in a campaign. The reliable midfielder had played 27 and 28 matches in the other two seasons.
His goalscoring output has also increased in recent years, with Gundogan having scored 29 goals in his last 85 Premier League games.
Gundogan now looks set to lift the Premier League as City captain for the first time, after being voted into the role at the start of the season following the departure of Fernandinho.
The question is whether Gundogan could soon follow Fernandinho in leaving the club after hoisting the trophy aloft – And in the German’s case leading the team to a potential Treble.
Barcelona are keen on signing the midfielder on a free transfer this summer, as the newly crowned LaLiga champions aim to strengthen their squad on a budget. City would surely want the Gundogan to sign fresh terms, even if his game time becomes more limited in the coming years.
Pep Guardiola will surely be keen for Ilkay Gundogan to sign a new contract at Man City
Arsenal’s defence is exposed at home
If City’s win over Everton failed to set the seal on the title race, Arsenal’s 3-0 home defeat to Brighton certainly did.
Mikel Arteta’s side will now be looking back to where the title was lost as pundits and rival fans pick through the bones.
A lack of squad depth and experience have been highlighted among the reasons, as well as the relentless nature of Guardiola’s Man City side.
One area the Gunners will have to address next season will be their defensive record at home. Arteta’s men have shipped 25 goals in 18 matches at the Emirates this season.
Fulham, Bournemouth, Leeds, Everton, Leicester and Southampton are the only teams to have conceded more in front of their home fans, with five having spent much of the season battling against the drop.
By contrast, Arsenal’s defensive record on the road ranks only second to Man City, with the Gunners conceding 17 goals to their rival’s 14 on their travels. This is further highlighted by 10 of the 13 clean sheets kept by Aaron Ramsdale coming away from the Emirates.
Those statistics could provide Arteta with something to ponder in the summer as he looks to launch another title challenge next season.
Only six teams have conceded more goals in front of their home fans than Arsenal this season
Brighton stun Arsenal at the Emirates again
Unfortunately for Arsenal, Brighton do not plan on going anywhere.
The Seagulls continued their superb season with the fine 3-0 win at the Emirates surely confirming their place in the Europa League.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side also maintained Brighton’s fine record against Arsenal since their promotion to the top flight back in 2017.
Brighton have won five, drawn three and lost four against the Gunners since becoming members of the Premier League.
Only West Ham have suffered more at the hands of Albion – with the Hammers losing six and drawing six of their 12 matches. Man United have also lost five meetings against Brighton.
The Seagulls have particularly enjoyed their trips to the Emirates, recording three wins, one draw and a defeat at the venue in their last five Premier League visits.
Sunday’s win also marked Brighton’s third successive triumph at the Emirates. The result followed a 3-1 Carabao Cup success back in November and a 2-1 win last season.
Brighton have triumphed on their last three visits to the Emirates in all competitions
Southampton gamble on youth backfires
Saints were put out of their misery on Saturday with Fulham’s comfortable 2-0 win at St Mary’s confirming their relegation to the Championship.
Southampton’s 11-season stay in the Premier League had only been surpassed by the ‘Big Six’ and Everton, with the Toffees still facing their own battle to preserve their status.
Having established themselves as part of the Premier League’s furniture, questions have unsurprisingly been aimed at Southampton’s ownership over where the season went awry.
The managerial chaos will be a central focus when their dismal campaign is assessed, with Ralph Hasenhuttl, Nathan Jones and Ruben Selles all having sat in the dugout.
However, the club’s approach in the transfer market has backfired with the Premier League’s youngest starting eleven ultimately left propping up the table.
Saints have undoubtedly identified and added some talented players to their squad, with the likes of Romeo Lavia, Armel Bella-Kotchap and more recently Carlos Alcaraz having caught the eye.
But the promise those players offered would clearly having with the view to maintaining their Premier League status.
Southampton now face their prospect of life in the second tier, with vultures potentially circling to snap up those that have shone in an otherwise forgettable season.
Southampton’s 11-year stay in the Premier League came to an end after losing to Fulham
Bamford buckles at a crucial moment for Leeds
Sam Allardyce name checked Patrick Bamford on his first day in the job as Leeds United manager earlier this month, suggesting the forward could be decisive in keeping the Whites in the top flight.
‘I want Patrick Bamford to be on top form,’ Allardyce said. ‘I think he’s a key player in terms of holding the ball up and us being able to get up the pitch and him scoring goals and getting him the opportunity to score goals.
‘Hopefully he stays fit and he becomes a key player.’
Allardyce rode to Bamford’s defence with the Leeds boss praising his work for the team in the 2-2 draw against Newcastle on Saturday. He instead instead bemoaned the failings of his defence and the concession of two needless penalties.
Yet, it could have been very different had Bamford not seen his penalty saved by Nick Pope, which would have given Leeds a 2-0 lead in front of a raucous home crowd.
As it was, Callum Wilson levelled from the spot moments later to change the momentum of the match.
Bamford has now missed both of his penalties this season, with Rodrigo having converted Leeds other spot kick in the Premier League.
The striker, who was touted for England only two seasons ago, could find himself as the scapegoat should Leeds fail to lift themselves out of the bottom three in their remaining two matches.
A crucial late miss against Leicester and the missed penalty against Newcastle will likely be replayed in such an event, despite issues across the pitch.
Leeds could rue Patrick Bamford’s missed penalty against Newcastle if they are relegated
Brentford cope without Toney against West Ham
Brentford sealed their first top half finish in the top flight since 1938 with their 2-0 victory against West Ham, with Thomas Frank hailing his side’s convincing display.
The Brentford boss will have been boosted by the result having been achieved without Ivan Toney, who was absent due to a hamstring injury.
Toney has scored 20 of Brentford’s 54 goals in the Premier League this season, placing him only behind Erling Haaland and Harry Kane in the scoring charts.
The Bees were still effective without their talisman against West Ham. Albeit the Hammers had one eye on their Europa Conference League semi-final second leg.
Bryan Mbeumo and Yoan Wissa struck in Toney’s absence, with the forward line also including Kevin Schade – who is set to become the club’s record signing in the summer.
Brentford proving their ability to cope without Toney will be a relief moving forwards, as the striker faces a potential ban after being charged with 232 cases of breaking betting rules in November, as well as rumours of a move away from the club.
Brentford earned a 2-0 win against West Ham on Sunday without their top scorer Ivan Toney
Leicester concede first at home AGAIN
The 2016 Premier League winners are now staring at the prospect of relegation after being brushed aside by Liverpool at the King Power Stadium.
Liverpool’s 3-0 victory on Monday night keeps Leicester two points behind 17th placed Everton with only two matches remaining.
The Foxes will need help from elsewhere, as well as securing a result against either Newcastle or West Ham.
Leicester will likely have to score multiple goals in those matches to earn points given their defensive fragility.
Remarkably, Leicester remain the only side in Europe’s top five leagues without a clean sheet since the World Cup.
Opta confirmed that the strugglers also hold an unwanted record of having the longest run in Premier League history of conceding the first goal in home matches.
Curtis Jones opening goal extended that run to 12 consecutive matches. The Foxes last scored the first goal at the King Power in a 2-0 win against Leeds back in October.
Leicester have conceded the first goal in 12 consecutive home matches in the Premier League
Eberechi Eze thrives under Hodgson
Eze’s two goals against Bournemouth maintained Crystal Palace’s ascent under Roy Hodgson.
The Eagles 2-0 win marked their fifth victory in eight games since Hodgson returned to the club in late March.
The decision to reappoint Hodgson has arguably benefited Eze more than any other player at Palace.
Eze had increasingly been used as a substitute in the latter part of Patrick Vieira’s reign, with the midfielder completing the full 90 minutes just once between November and March in the league.
Hodgson immediately restored the 24-year-old to the starting 11 on his return, with Eze having played every minute since.
Eze has scored six goals across Hodgson’s eight matches, three of which have proved to be the winner.
The Eagles are now soaring 12 points above the relegation zone, while Eze has been tipped for a call-up to the next England squad following his recent resurgence.
Eberechi Eze has played every minute under Roy Hodgson and has scored six in eight matches
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