Complete Kane stuns Man City
With one swing of his weaker left foot, Harry Kane sliced Manchester City’s defence wide open.
Pep Guardiola’s side had kept seven clean sheets in their previous 10 Premier League games but Kane ensured they were breached only four minutes into this one.
It was Dejan Kulusevski who put the ball in the net for the opening goal, of course, the Swede converting from Heung-Min Son’s square pass, but the chance only came about thanks to Kane’s brilliance and the result that followed was mostly his work too.
City dominated the ball but they could not get near Kane.
The pass for Kulusevski’s opener prompted Jamie Carragher to call him “one of the best passers of the ball in the Premier League” and it is a line the Sky Sports pundit would find himself repeating.
His goals won it – the first brilliantly taken following an impeccably-timed run into the box to meet Son’s cross; the second a header into the corner to spark wild celebrations among the travelling fans – but it was his distribution that showed his completeness.
Kane is much more than just a goalscorer and, against the side who tried to sign him “four times” in the summer, according to Guardiola, he chose a good time to show it.
His movement, dropping into pockets of space between City’s defence and midfield, showed his intelligence, while his masterful use of the ball showed the full extent of his ability.
“He’s got the vision to see things and the technique to deliver on what he sees,” said Graeme Souness afterwards.
It is a lethal combination – and that’s before you even consider his goals. For Manchester City, this was a painful reminder that Kane can do it all.
Here we go, Saka and Emile Smith Rowe…
At full-time, Status Quo’s hit Rockin all over the World sounded out and it meant one thing, Smith Rowe and Saka had done the business again for Arsenal.
It’s a song that has become synonymous with Arsenal’s season with the Gunners fans fitting the names of Smith Rowe and Saka into the song, and it’s the first time it has been heard at the Emirates after a game. However, it’s not the first time that it has been heard coming from the stands this season, highlighting the importance of both the English youngsters to the Gunners’ campaign.
It was starting to look like a frustrating afternoon for Arsenal as Brentford held firm amid an onslaught from Mikel Arteta’s side. The Gunners had 16 efforts on goal in the first half, but just two on target as their wastefulness threatened to derail their top-four hopes once again.
With the 0-0 draw with Burnley at the end of January still fresh in the mind, the nerves were starting to build at the Emirates Stadium.
Arteta praises ‘impressive’ Smith Rowe and Saka
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta on Smith Rowe and Saka:
“I understand the supporters love that song [Rockin all over the world].
“Everybody loves that song because they are players that have been raised in our system. I am really happy that we have players that take the responsibility and they manage to win games for us. It is really impressive at that age.”
You could sense the anxiety from the stands as the fans knew how big a game this could be, especially as West Ham dropped points earlier in the day and with Spurs and Man Utd facing Man City and Leeds respectively this weekend.
However, Smith Rowe and Saka stepped up for the Gunners once again, grabbing the goals which ultimately sealed a massive three points.
Smith Rowe has now netted nine Premier League goals this season and the only player to score more in a single campaign in the competition for Arsenal when aged 21 or younger was Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99 (17). Raheem Sterling (10) is the only English player with more Premier League goals this season than Smith Rowe.
Saka registered his 11th goal involvement in the Premier League this season (seven goals, four assists), the most of any U21 player and a haul bettered only by Jarrod Bowen (16), Mason Mount (13) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (12) among English players.
Their importance to Arsenal cannot be emphasised any more.
No need for Man City panic
It is only a week since Manchester City’s 4-0 win over Norwich stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 12 points. After their 3-2 defeat to Tottenham, however, that lead could be cut to three when Liverpool face Leeds on Wednesday.
The picture of the Premier League title race has changed dramatically but City supporters should resist the temptation to panic. In Spurs, they met a ruthless opponent with a striker whose killer touch they would dearly love to have themselves.
City lacked the same ruthlessness, creating better chances than Spurs but failing to take them, and there were also uncharacteristic defensive errors, such as Ruben Dias’ decision to try and catch Heung-Min Son offside for Tottenham’s opening goal, and Kyle Walker’s weak aerial challenge for the third.
It should be remembered, though, that this was City’s first Premier League defeat since late October. In fact, since that 2-0 reverse against Crystal Palace, Guardiola’s side have taken 44 points from a possible 48, the only prior slip-up being the 1-1 draw with Southampton in January.
City have a habit of bouncing back from setbacks such as Saturday’s and that should serve them well in the remaining months of the campaign. Their last defeat prompted a 12-game winning run. Coincidentally, they have 12 games left to play this season.
Klopp’s tactical tweak does the job
Scoring three goals against Norwich is something that Liverpool fans have been accustomed to over the years, with Saturday’s win the 10th occasion in the last 12 games when they have put at least three past the Canaries.
But it was harder work for Jurgen Klopp’s men than the 3-1 scoreline suggested, with Milot Rashica putting the ball in the back of the net early in the first half – only to see it flagged for offside – before giving Norwich a shock lead just after half-time.
It needed a double substitution and a tactical tweak just after the hour mark for Liverpool to really get going, with the introduction of Thiago Alcantara and Divock Origi sparking the turnaround at Anfield.
Man-of the-match Kostas Tsimikas was the architect of Liverpool’s equaliser, with the Greek international’s cross converted by Sadio Mane with an improvised acrobatic volley.
Then came a landmark strike for Mohamed Salah, who showed remarkable composure to prod home his 150th goal for the club, before an expert finish from January signing Luis Diaz ensured Klopp’s men piled the pressure on leaders Manchester City ahead of their game against Spurs.
Salah has now scored 25 in 30 appearances this season including 17 in 23 Premier League matches. His 150th goal for the club has come in 233 matches, making him the second-fastest Liverpool player to reach the milestone behind Roger Hunt (226)
“It feels great. I’m always proud to score for this club and the most important thing is to win games which is what we did today,” Salah said after the win.
“What we can do is focus on each game and that’s the most important thing.
“We know when you fight with City, City most of the time they win games so all we can do is focus on ourselves and see what happens at the end of the season.”
Lukaku breaking the wrong kind of records
Romelu Lukaku had just seven touches – one of which was from the kick-off in the first half – as Chelsea snatched a late win at Crystal Palace.
7 – Romelu Lukaku had just seven touches against Crystal Palace, the fewest in a single Premier League game for a player with 90+ minutes played since this data is available in full for the competition (2003-04). One of those touches was from kick-off in the first half. Quiet.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 19, 2022
It is the fewest touches in a single Premier League game for a player who has played the full 90 minutes since this data became available in 2003/04.
Another dismal display in a blue shirt for the £97.5m striker, who now has just one goal in his last eight matches domestically.
It was a lethargic Chelsea performance – Thomas Tuchel says they are exhausted – which did leave Lukaku short on supply, but he showed very little in any area on the pitch. He failed to register a single shot, won none of his four duels and lost the ball two out of the six times he had possession.
Tuchel called for patience regarding Lukaku’s form at Chelsea on Friday, but it will be interesting to see whether the German can practice what he preaches as his star striker continues to struggle.
When Antonio struggles, West Ham struggle
When a player is in such a crisis of confidence, it becomes difficult to watch sometimes. That is the case with Michail Antonio at the moment.
Everything he tries doesn’t come off. Simple passes go astray, crosses are easily cleared. His lack of zest in the final third is an explanation for West Ham’s lack of guile and creativity. You’d expect more from a team chasing the top four than just an expected goals figure of 0.81 against a relegation-threatened side. West Ham failed to have a shot on target in the second half, either.
Antonio is the platform West Ham build from. He takes defenders all over the pitch with his running – to the extent it’s like having two strikers in one when Antonio is at his best. He is miles off it at the moment, not through a lack of endeavour but perhaps the busy schedule is catching up with him. Even David Moyes looked to the heavens when Antonio skied a speculative effort from 25 yards into the stands behind the goal. It was one of many poor decisions made by West Ham’s focal point.
The Hammers striker is on a run of just two goals and three assists in his last 17 Premier League games. Thankfully for Moyes, Jarrod Bowen has managed seven goals and six assists in that time to help West Ham keep in and around the top four.
Antonio needs taking out of the heat of this battle – but Moyes can’t. He just doesn’t have the replacement at his disposal, which begs the question yet again of why did they not look to strengthen in the January transfer window?
Newcastle show they can cope without Saint-Maximin
For much of the Steve Bruce-era at Newcastle there was an over reliance on Allan Saint-Maximin. Those days are gone under Eddie Howe. The Toon can’t afford to be a one-man team if they are serious about challenging towards the top end of the Premier League over the next few seasons. Yes, they missed his flair and creativity at times in their deserved 1-1 draw at West Ham but Newcastle coped just fine without the Frenchman. It was a day for Joe Willock to shine.
Bruno Guimaraes cost Newcastle £40m yet he’s only played six minutes since joining from Lyon. There is an obvious reason for that: the form of Willock.
He has taken his game to another level since Newcastle splashed the cash on their star midfielder. Willock has the shirt and in this form, he can’t be dropped. Playing in a free role just off Chris Wood is exactly what gets the best out of the former Arsenal man. His strengths are his decisive runs into the box and with Jonjo Shelvey and Joelinton mopping up in behind him, he is thriving – as shown by his cleverly taken goal.
Write off Burnley at your peril
Graham Potter was under no illusions of the task placed in front of his Brighton team. Many have written off Burnley’s survival chances, but not Potter – and after Saturday’s 3-0 victory at the Amex, the Clarets’ relegation rivals would be wise not to fail into that trap.
Burnley have been here before, their track record of surviving the drop has underpinned this season’s bid for safety amid mid a run of promising yet fruitless performances against the division’s elite.
Rooted to the foot of the Premier League and eight points from safety at kick-off, few gave Burnley a chance of claiming a first victory since the end of October but claim it they did – and in emphatic style.
It was a performance which illustrated that Burnley have all the ingredients to haul themselves out of the predicament they find themselves in.
In Sean Dyche, they have a manager with pedigree, who won’t wilt under the pressure surrounding the club. In Wout Weghorst, they have a focal point in attack who, having just had his first taste of scoring in the Premier League, could really take off. And support the Dutchman, the precocious talents of Maxwel Cornet and Dwight McNeil.
Burnley have the tools at their disposal to secure another season of top-flight football but the only thing missing was the spark. The manner of this victory could be the catalyst they have been craving.
The Hodgson Effect is starting to kick in
As Clinton Morrison said in his post-match analysis on Soccer Saturday, “I have to give credit to Watford, they went there with a game plan and you could see the Roy Hodgson effect, the way they defended” and he is right.
The veteran former England manager is well known to take time imposing his game plan on his players when he takes over a new club, preferring to work for hours on hours on the training ground on the team’s shape and in particular, their defensive rigidity.
All that hard work came to fruition at Villa Park on Saturday as Watford gave life to their previously slim survival hopes with a well-deserved 1-0 win at Aston Villa based around those rarest of things, a Hornets clean sheet.
In fact, it was Watford’s first Premier League away win while also keeping a clean sheet since January 2020, when they won 3-0 at Bournemouth, and it can be no coincidence they have now recorded as many shutouts in four league games under the 74-year-old as they had in their previous 36 top-flight matches combined.
And if Watford keep defending as resolutely as this in the remainder of the campaign, then they have every chance of beating the odds, and the drop.
Hasenhuttl’s army building momentum
Southampton are reaping the rewards of sticking with manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
The Austrian has overseen two 9-0 Premier League defeats since taking charge at the end of 2018, but Saturday’s convincing win over Everton saw his side extend their unbeaten run in the league to four matches. In all competitions, they have lost just once in 11.
Apart from the opening 10 minutes, Southampton dominated and could have scored more had it not been for an inspired Jordan Pickford in goal. The hosts had 19 shots, with 11 of those on target.
“The belief is absolutely there, we are convinced in our qualities,” said Hasenhuttl.
Saturday’s victory came after an impressive win at Tottenham and draws against both Manchester clubs. Southampton are growing in confidence and undoubtedly on an upward trajectory. They are playing some of the best football in the division.
Everton reminded of challenge ahead
Everton boss Frank Lampard thought he had generated lift-off with last weekend’s 3-0 home win over Leeds in his third match in charge, but he will not need reminding that his side’s dismal showing at Southampton on Saturday keeps them well and truly in a relegation battle.
“I think it’s really clear isn’t it? The position we’re in in the table is clear, it’s not something we have to debate,” he said afterwards.
Despite starting brightly at St Mary’s, his side never really looked like scoring and that was confirmed at full-time. They finished the match without a single shot on target.
Everton’s haul of 22 points from their first 23 games in the Premier League this season is their worst tally at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1950-51, when they also had 22 and were relegated.
They are currently four points above 18th-placed Watford with a game in hand. Lampard has work to do at Goodison Park.