Last weekend in the Premier League we were treated to three derbies, a shock upset result and a last-minute comeback from a team that were down to ten men.
With things tight at the top of the table MW23 could prove pivotal come May when one team lifts the Premier League trophy.
It was also a big week for teams at the bottom of the table with a few teams able to move further away from the relegation zone and one team in the relegation fight sacking their manager after this weekends results.
Here is your roundup…
Game of the week
Manchester City 3-1 Aston Villa
With Manchester City seemingly not at their best in recent games and manager Pep Guardiola appearing frustrated and unable to find a system and starting XI he can really trust to get the job done. When they welcomed Aston Villa to the Etihad on Sunday afternoon Unai Emery’s men will have had belief that they could get something out of the game.
After a surprise defeat in gameweek 22 for Villa at the hands of Leicester City, Emery will have wanted to ensure complacency hadn’t set in after a few good results in the weeks prior. Villa’s only change to their starting XI was an enforced one with Tyrone Mings coming out of central defence due to an injury being replaced by Callum Chambers.
Whereas for City there were four changes from the team that lost to Spurs with the likes of Ruben Dias, Kevin De Bruyne, and Aymeric Laporte all being included.
It only took four minutes for the scoring to open and it came from Man City. Riyad Mahrez whipped a corner to the near post where Rodri was able to escape his marker and nod in a header. This immediately settled any nerves the Manchester City players may have had going into the game and set the tone for the remainder of the game.
City’s second goal came from a ball from deep that Chambers was unable to deal with allowing Erling Haaland to latch on to it and run wide before flashing the ball across the face of goal where Ilkay Gundogan was waiting on the back post to tap it in, scoring his first Premier League goal since August.
Just before half time Jack Grealish picked the ball up and managed to get the wrong side of Jacob Ramsey who clipped the ex-Villa midfielders’ heels prompting the referee to point to the spot. With Haaland picking up a knock just moments before, Mahrez was chosen to take the spot kick to reduce any risk of a miss. Mahrez sent Emi Martinez the wrong way and put City three up going into half time.
Things couldn’t have been going any better for Pep whereas Unai Emery will have been concerned with Villas defensive fragility having now conceded seven in their last two. With the game seemingly over Pep made the choice to take Haaland and Dias of at half time, most likely with a view to Wednesdays clash with Arsenal.
The second half was very quiet with City very comfortable just seeing the game out. However just past the hour mark Villa brought the game back to life when Douglas Luiz won the ball back high up the pitch and fed Ollie Watkins who’d found space to exploit behind the City backline. The English striker rolled the ball under Ederson and into the bottom left corner. This goal proved a real boost for Villa with Emery’s men putting City under pressure for the rest of the game and creating chances to get themselves back into the game.
Villa’s best chance fell to Jhon Duran, a January signing from the MLS, who struck a fierce volley on the turn that crashed against the crossbar with Ederson underneath it helpless. However, the game ended 3-1 with Villa not able to convert another chance.
After this result Villa sit a comfortable 11th in the table, but with two losses in a row and eight conceded in two games they might have to start looking down the table rather than up.
Manchester City close the gap to just three point to leaders Arsenal and with the two teams having to play twice before the end of the season it’s very much in City’s hands.
Arsenal 1-1 Brentford
With defeat last weekend against Everton being Arsenal’s second league defeat of the season, Mikel Arteta will have been not wanting to make a habit of dropping points particularly with Manchester City still in touching distance of them in second place.
The Gunners still must play City twice before the end of the season so every dropped point is massive in what will be a fascinating battle between seasoned winners Man City and Arsenal looking for their first title with Mikel Arteta at the helm with their last Premier League trophy being nearly 20 years ago.
Brentford carved out a few good opportunities in the first 45 with Rico Henry and Ivan Toney both coming close to putting the Bees ahead. With Brentford being the side closer to scoring in the first half, Arsenal fans will have been nervous desperately hoping to avoid a poor result like they were on the end of last week.
However, all of Arsenal’s worries faded when in the 66th minute Bukayo Saka shrugged off Mathias Jensen before crossing and teeing up Leandro Trossard for a simple tap in, the Belgians wingers first goal for the club since joining from Brighton in January.
It was just eight minutes later that Brentford pinned Arsenal back. A free kick was sent into the box and with Arsenal unable to clear their lines the ball eventually came to Toney who made no mistake in finding the back of the net scoring his 14th league goal of the season.
Mikel Arteta the Arsenal manager was furious that Brentford’s equaliser wasn’t disallowed as Christian Nørgaard was clearly in an offside position in the build-up. After the game PGMOL chief Howard Webb acknowledged and apologised for what he described as ‘human error’ in the use of VAR during the game, failing to spot the offside. Who knows what the outcome of the game would have been if VAR had correctly ruled out the equaliser, but for Arsenal that refereeing error could cost them in the long run in the title fight.
With the game ending a draw Arsenal are now winless in their last two matches and with a massive match against Man City midweek there couldn’t be many worst times to hit poor form. The table is now closer than ever with Arsenal just three points ahead of City but that could all change Wednesday night when the two sides meet.
Thomas Frank must be rubbing his hands together whenever his Brentford side come up against a traditional ‘big six’ side as the Bees now have only lost once against ‘big six’ sides in seven games. Brentford now sit eighth in the table and will be hoping to finish in a European spot come the end of the season with Chelsea and Liverpool both underperforming so far this season.
Leeds 0-2 Manchester United
Managerless Leeds faced United for the second time in the space of a week with the two sides drawing 2-2 on Wednesday night.
There was a surprise inclusion in Manchester United’s starting XI with club captain Harry Maguire recalled to the team in the place of Raphael Varane perhaps to gain match sharpness ahead of his expected inclusion in United’s Europa League side on Thursday night against Barcelona with Lisandro Martinez suspended.
The game was very cagey and fiercely contested with not much to separate the two teams. The pick of the chances came from Diogo Dalot when he struck the bar from outside the box just after the hour mark.
United finally found their opening ten minutes from time when Luke Shaw picked out an unmarked Marcus Rashford who guided the ball into the top right corner with his head. Two headers scored in two games against Leeds now and making it 8 goals in his last nine games, the winger really is having one of the best runs in his United career.
With Leeds having to push on to try and get themselves back into the game United found themselves getting space in behind Leeds’s advancing full backs. In the 85thminute United broke free of the Leeds backline after Wout Weghorst dropped deep and fed Alejandro Garnacho in the space between Luke Ayling and Robin Koch. The 18-year-old Argentinian dribbled into the box and fired precisely at the near post, hitting the post on its way in.
Despite the score line Leeds gave it a good go, kept David De Gea busy and defended well for large parts. If the right person comes in as their new manager you’d think with some of their quality players they will be able to steer clear of the drop.
As for Man United they’re ticking over nicely picking up points where they have to, keeping a comfortable gap to fifth place. By being only 5 points off top spot (with Arsenal having two games in hand) they could potentially be viewed as outsiders for the title. With the spotlight heavily on Arsenal and Manchester City, United could go under the radar and sneak into the mix at the end of the season.
Liverpool 2-0 Everton
Going into this game Liverpool hadn’t registered a Premier League win in 2023 and with Merseyside rivals Everton beating top of the table Arsenal under new manager Sean Dyche last weekend there was massive pressure on Jurgan Klopp and his Liverpool side to win the game.
Klopp opted to make changes in the Liverpool midfield reintroducing Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to the team perhaps to attempt to make the team more defensively solid. There was a notable return to the bench for Virgil van Dijk who hasn’t played since January 2nd due to injury. The first goal of the game came as a result of an Everton corner however it was Liverpool who scored.
Darwin Nunez picked the ball up outside his own penalty area before charging down the wing and crossing where both Mohammed Salah and Cody Gakpo were waiting for a tap in. Salah was the one to meet the cross, lifting the ball comfortably over Jordan Pickford.
It didn’t take Liverpool long to get back going after the halftime interval because in the 49th minute they doubled their lead making it 2-0. Another counterattack goal for the reds, this time started by Andy Robertson who drove up the pitch before picking out Salah. Trent Alexander-Arnold was overlapping Salah on the wing and once he picked up the ball, he picked out Gakpo brilliantly on the back post with a low cross. Gakpo was left just to tap the ball across the line, marking his first ever goal in Liverpool colours.
Everton gave Liverpool a fright when close to full time Tom Davies headed over from close range, a chance he at least needs to get on target.
With only one win in Everton’s last ten games, Sean Dyche is going to have quite a task on his hands trying to keep the toffees in the Premier League. However last week was a brilliant start for him beating Arsenal and a Merseyside derby away at Anfield was always going to be really tough despite Liverpool’s poor form of late. The bigger tests for Everton will be their next two games against relegation rivals Leeds and Aston Villa, a team who are currently having a bad spell. Everton sit 18th and in the relegation zone one point behind Leeds in 17th so despite poor results they have every chance to keep themselves up.
Leicester 4-1 Tottenham
With Spurs recording a shock victory last week against the Premier League champions Man City eyes were on them to see if they could build upon the win and hit a spell of good form at a good time with a few of their top four rivals dropping points in recent weeks.
However, it was Leicester who stole the show scoring four times. Brendan Rodgers seems to have finally got a tune out of his side, after being under pressure due to a poor first half of the season, with eight goals in the foxes last two Premier League games.
It was Spurs who took an early lead in the match with Rodrigo Bentancur being the fastest to react to a loose ball in the six-yard-box stabbing the ball home after a corner.
Spurs lead lasted the best part of ten minutes before Leicester turned the tie around with two goals in two minutes. The first an unlikely scorer, defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy, who thrashed the ball into the roof of the net from distance.
The second goal was scored by talisman James Maddison after Kelechi Iheanacho slid him in before he curled the ball around Fraser Forster in the Spurs goal.
Brendan Rodgers probably had to pinch himself when Leicester took a 3-1 lead just moments before halftime. The in-form Iheanacho precisely picked out the bottom left corner giving the foxes a two-goal cushion.
After a goal ruled out earlier in the second half, Harvey Barnes was even more delighted to get on the scoresheet when he curled an effort into the bottom corner after good linkup play with fellow Englishman Maddison to make it 4-1.
With last week’s win away at Aston Villa this was the first time since early November that Leicester had won back-to-back Premier League games, seemingly giving themselves breathing room, in 13th, away from the relegation fight below them.
In the days following the game it has been revealed that Spurs goal scorer Bentancur has been ruled out injured for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. The Uruguayan will be a major loss for Spurs in the heart of their midfield.
With two important games coming up for Spurs the loss of Cristian Romero in defence through suspension was obvious to see. Luckily for Spurs with only a one match ban he will be back in contention for their home game against London rivals West Ham next Sunday.
West Ham 1-1 Chelsea
Another London derby was one of Saturdays headline games and with Chelsea on poor form and West Ham on improving form coming into the game it was set to be a close game despite the difference in quality of the two sets of players.
After a really disappointing debut for January loanee Joao Felix when he was sent off, Felix officially made his stamp on the Premier League when he opened the scoring after 15 minutes. A delightful cross from 106-million-pound midfielder Enzo Fernández found Felix free in the box where he calmy volleyed passed a helpless Lukasz Fabianski.
Chelsea were visibly lifted by this goal and went on to create a few more chances with Kai Havertz thinking he had doubled the blues lead however the goal was chalked off due to a tight offside.
Not too long later West Ham got levelled things up when Vladimir Coufal’s cross was flicked toward the back post by Jarrod Bowen where Emerson was waiting to tuck the ball past Kepa. The former Chelsea player didn’t celebrate out of respect to the club he spent four years at.
The majority of the second half was quiet until Tomas Soucek thought he had won the game for the hammers however VAR judged him to be offside and the game continued. Soucek was again involved in drama when substitute Conor Gallagher’s strike hit Soucek’s hand inside the penalty area two minutes from time. Despite protests from the Chelsea players a penalty wasn’t given with many fans and pundits questioning the referee’s decision.
Crystal Palace 1-1 Brighton
The M23 derby is never short of drama and the latest instalment didn’t disappoint.
Eventually Brighton took the lead through Solly March who finished well on the half volley with Estupiñán providing the assist, proving to be a key attacking outlet down the left for the Seagulls.
Just six minutes after taking the lead, Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez gifted Palace an equaliser. The Spaniard came to claim a free kick and spilled the ball into the path of veteran defender James Tomkins who nodded the ball into the back of the net.
Brighton extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League to five games finding themselves sixth, perhaps with potential to pressure those in the positions ahead for a spot in the top four.
Whereas for Palace they’re slowly creeping closer to the relegation fight. With five of their next six games against teams in the top half, things aren’t going to get much easier for Patrick Vieira in the coming weeks.
Southampton 1-2 Wolves
One of Saturdays biggest stories was Wolves’ last minute comeback win being down to ten men. Southampton took the lead midway through the first half through January addition Carlos Alcaraz. The midfielder cost the Saints just under 14 million euros to bring to St. Mary’s from Racing Club in Argentina.
Things got even worse for Wolves just minutes later when Mario Lemina received a controversial second yellow card for dissent leaving his side down to ten men for the remainder of the game.
Ultimately Southampton where the conductors of their own downfall when Jan Bednarek got the ball stuck under his feet resulting in him accidently turning the ball into his own net.
Wolves snatched a winner in the 87th minute when the Saints failed to clear their lines allowing Joao Gomes, another January signing, to curl an effort into the top corner.
Southampton stay rooted to the bottom of the table now starting to float adrift. With only one league victory since his appointment in November, Southampton came to the decision to sack Nathan Jones on Sunday morning with the hope that it’s not too late for a new manager to come in and try and keep the Saints in the league.
Bournemouth 1-1 Newcastle
With three draws in a row now for Newcastle against teams in the bottom half, Saturday evenings result will have provided Eddie Howe with a frustrating return to the South coast.
On the half-hour mark Marcos Senesi put Bournemouth ahead as a result of a corner, however unfortunately for the Argentine his evening ended early when he went off injured early in the second half.
Injuries where the tale of the game for Newcastle with Miguel Almiron, Joe Willock and Allan Saint-Maximin all going off injured and Callum Wilson a surprise absentee in the matchday squad as a result of a hamstring injury.
Almiron was the player to get Newcastle back into the game when he pounced on a shot palmed away by Neto just before half-time.
Fulham 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Fulham got back to winning ways their first win in the premier league in just under a month.
Willian provided a spectacular finish early in the first half giving the cottagers the lead.
Manor Solomon was on hand to seal victory for Fulham when he netted his first goal for the club two minutes from time.
With the teams battling Fulham all dropping points they take a step closer to their dream of European football next season.