Five things learned from Premier League GW21
(Photo by Victoria Haydn/Man City via Getty Images)

Five things learned from Premier League GW21

It was arguably the biggest day at the top of the Premier League table this week, whilst there was movement down at the bottom again.

grantmcquillan
Grant McQuillan

Manchester City beating Liverpool in the biggest Premier League game of the season understandably caught all the headlines this gameweek. However, there was plenty going on elsewhere within the English top flight.

There were two battles in the middle of the table, as Bournemouth and Watford played out a 3-3 draw, and West Ham United were held at home to Brighton & Hove Albion in a 2-2 draw. Both these games proved just how tight it is between relegation and the UEFA Europa League spots.

Tottenham Hotspur showed why, when on their day, are one of the best around, as they bounced back from their defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, by thrashing Cardiff City 3-0.

Arsenal also bounced back from their hammering at Anfield, with a stylish 4-1 victory over relegation-fighters Fulham.

Also in the relegation battle, Crystal Palace have given themselves more breathing space, after their 2-0 victory over Wolves leaves them six points clear from the drop, whilst Southampton earned a huge point against Chelsea.

Huddersfield's form is beginning to look unquestionably worrying, after losing a 'six-pointer' against Burnley. Whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's eye-catching start continues but has thrown Newcastle United into further trouble, with the Magpies falling to a 2-0 defeat at St James Park to Manchester United

Manchester City win the Premier League 'final'

Despite what went on in the world of football this week, this was the game where all eyes were glued, and where back pages were to be written.

Manchester City and Liverpool played out a thrilling game at the Etihad Stadium, with the champions winning 2-1, thanks to Leroy Sane's 72nd-minute winner.

City became the first team to score in at least two games against Liverpool in the Premier League since West Brom last April, and, as a result, Pep Guardiola's men are just four points adrift from the leaders.

The game was played to its complete potential. Back and forth play, great goals, close from start to finish and only separated by one piece of brilliance from the German, Sane, and despite Liverpool falling to their first defeat of the season, they still looked like a top side throughout.

As for City, if they are going to become only the third team to ever consecutively win the Premier League title, no more slip-ups can happen, as Liverpool play Brighton, Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham and Bournemouth in their next five games. So, justifiably so, 15 points from 15 are expected from Jurgen Klopp's side.

It is still Liverpool's to lose, but, with Kevin De Bruyne back and only two games against top-six opposition (Arsenal and Chelsea) in their next nine games, both of which are at the Etihad, maybe City are the favourites again after snatching three points.

FACT: As a result of Liverpool's loss, only City (17/18), and Arsenal (03/04) have been unbeaten at this point in a Premier League season now.

There are problems at Everton again

It seems to be a recurring problem over on Merseyside since the departure of David Moyes. Get a new manager, a few big signings, a decent Premier League finish, but, then follows a poor season next campaign, so they sack the manager and repeat the process.

Since 2013/14, where Everton finished fifth (their joint second highest ever Premier League finish), problems such as poor managerial takeovers and equally poor player signings, have snowballed causing serious tension between fans and the club.

First, it was Roberto Martinez. His first year was that fifth-placed finish in the immediate post-Moyes era, but, then a year later, Everton finished 12th, just nine points from safety.

Then it was Ronald Koeman's turn. The ex-Southampton manager had a fantastic first year in charge at Goodison Park, but after falling into the relegation zone midway through next season, he was sacked and in came Sam Allardyce to steady the ship.

So what is the problem with the club? Historically speaking, there can be no doubt that they have not been backed financially, so when they have finished close to the top four, it's been a job well done, when all considered.

However, with Farhad Moshiri taking over in February of 2016, the Toffees have spent more than £250m in just the last two seasons, and now, in 2019, they are mid-table again, stuck in 11th place, with no real attempt at challenging for a top six finish, which their fans so continuously demand.

Everton is a huge club, and should always be testing the top four, just like they did under Moyes. Although, in today's landscape, it's a near impossible task for them to get inside the top four, considering even the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United struggle to do so.

But still, with the money they have spent, the size of the club, Everton should be doing an awful lot better, and currently, Marco Silva has to answer for.

FACT: Only Manchester City (£-581.33m) and Manchester United (£-495.08m) have a more expensive net spend than Everton over the last five years (£-228.58m).

Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea are slowing down a little

It must be said, first and foremost, that Chelsea have still achieved six wins in their last ten games. However, there can be no doubt that Maurizio Sarri has hit a bit of a wall after his stunning start to life in London.

Chelsea were unbeaten in their first 12 Premier League games, but this came to an end when the Blues lost at Wembley to Spurs, and since that defeat at the end of November, losses to Wolves and Leicester and a draw at home to Southampton have hampered the Italian's tremendous winning start.

Although they are still in fourth, all three of Chelsea's victories in the Premier League around Christmas were won by the single goal, two of which were won single handily by their Belgium superstar, Eden Hazard, as he scored three out of Chelsea five goals in that period.

There is a current lack of goals from the Blues, and it's just six wins in the last 10 games, and, after not losing in the first 12, there just seems to be an ever-growing worry that Chelsea's purple patch at the start was a misrepresentation in how far this team can go.

Are they over-dependent on Hazard? Is Sarri struggling to adapt? There are a few questions being asked of Chelsea right now, and although they are not in terrible form, with United on the charge and Arsenal still there, these questions need to be answered soon.

FACT: Only Leicester have scored fewer (5) than Chelsea (6) inside the top 10 over the last six games.

Top four is still on for Manchester United

It's another win for Solskjaer at United, after their convincing 2-0 victory at St. James Park over Newcastle. It's now 14 goals in four games for the Red Devils, and now there is even a first clean sheet to add to their wonderful goal-scoring form.

What has put Man United in this position again is not just their rejuvenated form, but the lack of form from teams above them.

For example, Chelsea dropped points again, not long after losing to Leicester, whilst Arsenal lost to leaders Liverpool, three days after drawing against Brighton.

As a result, United are now three points behind the Gunners, who are in fifth, and six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and just like that, United are now back in the race. 

This is also because, the Norwegian has brought the team together like a winning squad, and for the first time in a few years, there is a togetherness at the club. Isn't it amazing what players can do for a club with a little freedom?

Post-match at St. James Park, we saw all the players embracing with each other and with the fans. This was something Jose Mourinho failed to do in miserable fashion, but Solskjaer's beaming smile and charm has created a new, free spirit at United.

The real test for this new-looking United team will be next gameweek, as they visit Wembley to face Spurs. If they lose, they will look like a team still off the pace of the top four, but, with a victory, why can't they finish at high as third come May?

FACT: Solskjaer has won all four of his first league games in charge of the club. Only Sir Matt Busby has done the same.

Huddersfield need a miracle now

They really do.

Not many of us predicted incredible things from Huddersfield upon coming into the first division for their first time, and, in all honesty, most of us thought they'd be straight back down.

However, they survived by four points last season, with a defensive record only seven goals worse than the then sixth-placed Arsenal - not bad for a first time.

But, in their second season, after 21 games they have lost 15 and won just twice. The Terriers have also scored just 13 goals - only four teams have ever scored less after 21 games in Premier League history (Man City 95/96 - 11, Chelsea 93/94 -12, Wimbledon 97/98 - 12, Derby 07/08 - 10).

After last week's 'six-pointer' against Fulham ended in defeat, this week's battle of the relegation-fighters against Burnley turned into a must not lose.

Now, after the defeat to Sean Dyche's side at the John Smith's stadium, it has left David Wagner's side stuck to the bottom, eight points from safety, leaving the Huddersfield faithful banking on a Premier League miracle in the last 17 games.

It is, of course, far from over for the West Yorkshire side with so long left to go, and, in truth, losing back-to-back games isn't the worst thing in the world. But when those two teams are your closest, relegation-fighting rivals, consecutive losses as such can ruin your top-flight status.

FACT: Only Portsmouth in 09/10 (5 points), Derby County in 07/08 (7 points) and Sunderland in 05/06 (6 points) have had less points than Huddersfield's current 10 points, after 21 games in Premier League history.

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