In the Premier League this weekend, we saw Frank Lampard double his former mentor Jose Mourinho, Manchester United returned to the Champions League mix and turned into a break or break for Aston Villa on the other part of the table.
Here are the main talking points of the weekend …
Watch LIVE coverage of La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and EFL Championship with beIN SPORTS on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial and start streaming right away>
Irreplaceable Aubameyang for Arsenal
There was more than a hint of Thierry Henry on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first goal in Arsenal’s 3-2 win against Everton on Sunday. In fact, the milestone, clinically deployed in the opposite corner from David Luiz’s net, came directly from the playbook of the Arsenal legend.
It was the 16th goal of the season in Aubameyang’s Premier League and raised his count to 17 with what turned out to be the winner only 22 seconds after the break at Emirates Stadium. He is now level with Jamie Vardy at the top of the charts this season. Since arriving in the Premier League in January 2018, no player has scored more goals.
Mikel Arteta described Aubameyang as Arsenal’s “most important player” in his post-game interview with Sky Sports, before the interrogation inevitably turned into his future. Aubameyang is expected to enter the final year of his contract this summer, but the thought of losing him is not one that anyone at Arsenal will be eager to entertain.
“As for statistics, there is no question about the impact it has on this team,” added Arteta, who also praised the 30-year-old’s defensive work rate and expressed his “commitment” to the club and its teammates. “As far as I can and as far as the club can, we will try to convince him to stay with us.”
LIVERPOOL’S BIG TRANSFER OBJECTIVE TALKS ABOUT THE “BEST IN THE WORLD” KLOPP AMONG THE REDS LINKS
SOLSKJAER COMPARING MAN THE NEWEST HERO OF TWO EX-PLAYERS. Oddly enough, one was a flop
MAN UTD’S 96 M $ MAN STARTS TO PAY HIS FEE; GUNNERS EDGE THRILLER: EVERY OBJECTIVE PL
Lampard does double
Frank Lampard has done double. Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Tottenham means his Chelsea boys are the first team to beat a team managed by Jose Mourinho at home and away in the same season.
Thrown in last season’s Carabao Cup victory, when Lampard’s Derby knocked out Mourinho’s Manchester United from competition at Old Trafford and the managers’ head-to-head record is three out of three for the apprentice against the master.
Lampard was humble and eager to downplay the tactical battle between himself and his former Chelsea boss in his post-match press conference, but this was a significant victory. While Chelsea’s set-up may not have caught Tottenham by surprise as in December, their quick and aggressive approach was too much for their conservative and injury-affected opponents.
This victory was also timely, after a worrying series of results.
Four unsuccessful Premier League games and a longer streak of just four in 14, had seen Lampard Chelsea’s young team – hit by inconsistencies and injuries themselves – squander what had been a dominant lead in the race for a fourth place.
Lampard’s reaction was to change formation. It was a move that could easily have been undermined when Mourinho revealed on Friday that he had been told of Lampard’s plans to move to a three-way defense – “don’t tell the sources.” But it had worked for Chelsea earlier this season – particularly at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – and had forced Mourinho to change his set-up.
Lampard’s other reaction was to change personnel. There have been four changes since the defeat at Manchester United, with Olivier Giroud, Marcos Alonso, Mason Mount and Ross Barkley.
The result was emphatic – although, as Lampard said later, a VAR error, a late goal and some missed chances from Chelsea have influenced the appearance of the standings. Mourinho may have known what was going to happen, but he couldn’t find a way to stop it.
Man Utd returns to the mix
It has been a good week for Manchester United. A first league victory at Stamford Bridge since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season at the club was followed by a decent, if not exciting, move to Bruges in the Europa League.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team left the best until the end, with January signing Bruno Fernandes leading United over Watford and the league’s only consecutive wins for the third time this season to rekindle a Champions League qualifying challenge League that has vanished far too many times this season.
With the gap in the top four now only three points, Solskjaer challenged his players to continue in a series of games that define the season. “Sometimes we have given ourselves a mountain to climb, win games and then lose and not be consistent,” said the United manager after Sunday’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford. “So to get six points, two clean sheets in six days great.
“We want to be in the Champions League. We have four big games coming up in the league – Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham, Sheffield United – all the teams at the top of the table. It’s an important month for us.”
United’s inconsistencies have undermined their cause over and over again, if they can’t cope with their Achilles heel this time, you can’t imagine many other opportunities coming up to save something from this season.
Mahrez climbs over the whistles of Leicester
Riyad Mahrez was booed by fans who used to cheer at King Power Stadium on Saturday. The Algerian is probably the most gifted player in the history of Leicester. Nobody was more important to their historic Premier League triumph in 2016. But the way it started didn’t suit the locals well and they let them know.
To his credit, however, Mahrez ended up rising above the pranks and setting the decisive goal when, with only 10 minutes remaining, he took possession and led the defense of Leicester before passing a flawless pass to Gabriel Jesus to apply the end. It was a moment of inspiration exactly when his part needed it.
He also passed another excellent all-round performance by a player who has been enjoying his best season since moving to the Etihad stadium. So far, there have been seven goals and eight assists in 22 Premier League appearances. He is on average showing an involvement on goal for every 90 minutes played.
It’s the type of production that made it so precious to Leicester, but now it’s Manchester City to feel the benefits. Pep Guardiola hopes to be back to his maximum inspiration when they face Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Bournemouth mistreated and bruised by VAR
“This can’t happen to us again in the same game …”
You can live with a goal excluded from VAR. The same can probably be said, almost, for a second. But having two goals scored at the crucial moments of a crucial game in offering a club to avoid relegation, and to match one of those goals reversed by assigning a penalty to the opposition, is now really testing a club’s resolution.
Bournemouth seemed to have secured the advantage that their positive start to the Turf Moor deserved when Joshua King got wrapped up in Philip Billing’s almost post-hit film, only to be excluded for a controversial handball call. And when Jay Rodriguez doubled Burnley’s lead with a penalty awarded by the VAR seconds after Harry Wilson seemed to have dragged the level of Cherries, it was no surprise that Bournemouth’s capitulation followed.
With 11 games of the season left and with only a two-point buffer in the relegation zone, Howe will hope that this bruising encounter with VAR will not leave lasting psychological damage to a group of players fighting to avoid the fall.
Create or break for Aston Villa
Aston Villa showed almost no threat of attack against Southampton – while the Saints cut their defense at will.
More troubling for Villa, however, is that the wheels seem to fall exactly when the club is pulling in the right direction.
Dean Smith’s team will face what should be the exciting prospect of Manchester City’s next game in the Carabao Cup final, their first final piece after the England Cup in 2015.
But the manager has publicly drawn the spirit of his players and fought following their poor demonstration against the saints, a bold move that will undoubtedly test his team’s tender ego involved in a relegation battle.
After the 2-0 defeat, Smith said, “Certainly many players have played out of the team for the next week,” before adding, “I just wanted to see more fights in the players – just show me that you care, show a little. of passion for what you are doing. “
This seems like a decisive moment for Villa. On the one hand, the opportunity for silverware offers an exciting new dawn – on the other, it fits the cracks on one side withered into the desperate need for inspiration.
Villa has the team to break free from the Premier League struggles – perhaps even with a trophy in hand – but they must begin to show their strength as a collective unit, rather than a collection of talented people.
Wolves performing at both ends of the field
The titles after the Wolves’ 3-0 victory over Norwich focused on the performance of the first two: Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez. The first hit a purple patch with five goals in just four days: a hat-trick against Espanyol followed by a double against Norwich. The most impressive thing about its display was its determination to lift its teammates after a 15-minute lethargic opening.
A mummy run had already set the crowd up before opening the scoring with an orderly curve and ending. Jota was Molineux’s talisman and it seems he is taking his game to the next level. He came so close to notching his first Premier League hat-trick, only to hit the post and see strike partner Jimenez hit in the rebound. That duo will continue to scare the defenses.
But the fact that the Wolves have kept their third consecutive clean sheet cannot be overlooked. That race coincides with Willy Boly’s return to the side after an injury and is the best defensive race in the top flight since 1981! Despite Norwich’s position at the table, their movement and offensive play have caused problems for many teams this season. Wolves did not allow this to happen.
Although Nuno Espirito Santo’s team only went from ninth to eighth, the gap in fifth place is now only two points and only one to sixth. The wolves got in the right mix for another European spot and supported credible draws against Leicester and Manchester United with an amazing victory on a weaker side.
On Sunday after a trip to Tottenham, the Wolves have four games against teams at risk of relegation, and it would be a brave person to bet against them in one of the European competitions next season. On Sunday they did not reach the best gear and this should worry Spurs, Manchester United, Sheffield United and even Chelsea in fourth place.
Blades’ frustration tells a true story
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has admitted that he may consider hitting 40 points with 11 games left of the season as a bigger achievement once the adrenaline of a frustrating day has run out.
And he had a good reason.
The commendable style of Brighton’s flowing football has been sacrificed for an impressive five who has come to defend – and has demonstrated the lengths that the Blades have come with the respect that visiting teams now pay on Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United have been frustrated at home, not for the first time this season, as they have struggled to bring down visitors but they should have nevertheless won a good chance that Oli McBurnie missed after half-time.
Wilder was full of praise for his team’s perseverance, despite the full-time whistle, regardless, knowing that it is exactly that relentless ethic that forced opposition teams to put men behind the ball and that he could still conceivably see the Blades play soccer in the Champions League next season.
The eagles eclipse the magpies but the frustration for Zaha again
Crystal Palace and Wilfried Zaha often repeated claims of dirt can often fall on deaf or unpleasant ears, but both Miguel Almiron and Jamaal Lascelles received yellow cards for rough challenges on the wing and Allan Saint-Maximin was lucky not to receive the same punishment for sliding the equipment from behind.
However, the Eagles showed their multifaceted attacking skills, with many attacks resulting from Zaha’s strikemates Jordan Ayew and Christian Benteke as Zaha fought his double mark to make room and feed the players around him.
Roy Hodgson’s hitherto shy team scored with his sixth shot on goal, overcoming in five minutes the five attempts on goal that they had managed to overcome in the last two games. They also reached the level with Newcastle as their lowest Premier League top scorer with 24, having been the worst in the league.
Hodgson knows, and has admitted, that the Eagles could and should have converted more clinically and made the game safe long before the last few minutes, but in terms of the possibilities created they had greatly improved.
On the other hand, the less Newcastle is said to go on, the better. Their threat of attack was less straightforward than nonexistent and a disconsolate Steve Bruce admitted that he may eventually have to change things – perhaps signifying a move to the wing for the infamous frontman Joelinton and giving Dwight Gayle more play time, Yoshinori Muto or Andy Carroll as the lone striker.
Joelinton tested Vicente Guaita with a powerful long-range effort – Newcastle’s only two shots on target came from outside the area – but the 23-year-old Brazilian is certainly more suitable outside the shooting line, given Toon’s heavy expectations on the Newcastle jersey number nine.
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.