Five things we learned from the Premier League
Manchester City maintained their march towards the Premier League title with a gripping win at Huddersfield, while Ashley ensured Manchester United remain their closest rivals.
Liverpool and Chelsea shared the spoils, but Alexis Sanchez lifted Arsenal.
Here AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:
Man City a team for all seasons
Trailing to a Nicolas Otamendi own goal on a rain-lashed, freezing afternoon at Huddersfield, for Manchester City this was an acid test. The cynics who greeted Pep Guardiola’s arrival in England with taunts about the Spaniard not knowing what it takes to win in the league’s most inhospitable venues were about to start crowing.
But City had the perfect response as Sergio Aguero equalised from the penalty spot before Raheem Sterling’s late winner moved the leaders eight points clear of second-placed Manchester United. Guardiola admitted he was delighted with the way City had coped with the test. “The Premier League is so tough, now winter has come, we knew they were so aggressive so strong, but we are so happy for the way we won,” Guardiola said. Can anyone stop them now?
Post-injury Eden Hazard is back to his best
An ankle injury sustained during the close season meant Eden Hazard did not make his first Premier League start until the last day in September, but having been gently eased back into action by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, he is now back to his devastating best.
He was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool, fully exploiting his licence to roam in support of lone striker Alvaro Morata by dropping deep to gather the ball before weaving past befuddled defenders, his touch so sure and precise as to be uncanny. Conte opted for a 3-5-1-1 system at Anfield, meaning an extra central midfielder played instead of a wide forward like Pedro and Willian, but thanks to the irrepressible Hazard, Chelsea’s counter-attacking play still brimmed with menace.
Tottenham Hotspur title bid is over
Tottenham won many admirers over the previous two seasons as they pushed for the Premier League title but this year’s challenge is all but over after a costly draw against managerless West Brom. Spurs’ record against the other members of the “Big Six” is poor but their inability to finish off less-exalted opponents has been equally costly this season.
They have garnered just three points in home matches against Burnley, Swansea and West Brom and are now realistically too far off the pace. Asked after the match if the gap to leaders Manchester City was too big to bridge, Pochettino conceded: “Yes it is true.” When City won on Sunday to make it a 13-point gap, Pochettino’s worst fears were confirmed.
Ashley Young reinvented
Ashley Young joined Manchester United from Aston Villa in 2011 as a flying winger but has reinvented himself as a left wing-back and has forced his way into Jose Mourinho’s starting line-up, keeping out more specialist defenders. While never a prolific goalscorer for United, Young gives the team an extra attacking dimension, shown on Saturday when his shot midway through the second half found its way into Brighton’s net via a cruel deflection. “That was a tough one today, big 3 points in the end! Come on @premierleague…my shot was going on target, I’ve waited long enough for a goal,” Young tweeted. But the plea fell on deaf ears — it was marked down as a Lewis Dunk own goal.
Alexis Sanchez ends away-day blues
Only seconds remained at Turf Moor as Arsenal contemplated the extension of their miserable away record this season. Arsenal had earned just four points away from home this season and, with Mesut Ozil absent due to illness, they were labouring to break down a well-drilled Burnley defence.
But Arsene Wenger’s side refused to accept their fate and Aaron Ramsey drew a needless shove from James Tarkowski deep into stoppage-time, earning a penalty that Alexis Sanchez slotted home. Arsenal are up to fourth place and encouragingly for Wenger, have now won all six league games in which both Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette have started.
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