Five things we learned from this weekend's Premier League action

Sport360 staff 23:31 30/04/2017
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Premier League leaders Chelsea were left four points out in front with four games to play as second-placed Tottenham Hotspur maintained their title charge with victory over Arsenal in the last North London derby at White Hart Lane.

Both Manchester clubs dropped points in their race for a Champions League place after United and City were each involved in frustrating draws, while Sunderland had their relegation confirmed.

Here are five things we learned in the Premier League this weekend.

Pedro underlines Chelsea strength

Pedro may not make headlines in quite the same way as Diego Costa but the way in which he opened the scoring in an eventual 3-0 win away to an obdurate Everton said much about the strength in depth that has left Chelsea eyeing the Premier League title. Antonio Conte’s side initially found it impossible to impose their high tempo game as Everton matched them blow for blow in a bruising first half. But Pedro broke the deadlock with a bolt from the blue, the impish Spanish winger blasting home from 20 yards before goals from Gary Cahill and Willian completed the victory.

Pedro.

Arsenal no longer lord it over Spurs

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger asserted prior to his side’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur that talk of a north London power shift was premature, but Spurs’ devastating 2-0 victory in the last derby match at White Hart Lane suggested he may come to eat his words. Second-half goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane ensured Spurs will finish above Arsenal in the table for the first time since 1995. Defeat left Arsenal six points off the Champions League places, albeit with a game in hand. As Champions League perennials with a massive global fanbase, the Gunners are still the dominant club in north London. But with a young, hungry team steered by one of the most dynamic coaches in world football, and with a spectacular new stadium to move into next year, Spurs are closing the gap.

Arsene Wenger.

United injuries add to Mourinho’s woes

Jose Mourinho has never been shy of criticising his players in public but the Manchester United manager may need to adopt a different approach as he tries to inspire his injury-hit side in the closing weeks of the season. Sunday’s 1-1 draw at home to Swansea was made worse for United by the sight of Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw going off to join an already extensive list of sidelined defenders. With a tough domestic run-in, United’s best hope of Champions League qualification could lie in winning the Europa League, where they face Celta Vigo in a two-legged semi-final.

Eric Bailly.

Battling Boro sum up Guardiola grief

If ever a match demonstrated why Pep Guardiola will end this season without a major trophy for the first time in his managerial career it was surely his Manchester City side’s 2-2 draw away to relegation-threatened Middlesbrough on Sunday. A comparable La Liga or Bundesliga clash when the Spaniard was in charge of either Barcelona or Bayern Munich would most times have ended in a comfortable win for one of the European football giants. But the Premier League, for all the questions regarding its quality, is generally more competitive, with City twice having to come from behind in a match where Gabriel Jesus’s equaliser five minutes from time rescued a point for Guardiola’s men.

Pep Guardiola.

Sunderland pay the price for inaction

As the relegation picture began to take shape over the English winter, several club owners near the foot of the table sacked their managers. Crystal Palace, Swansea City, Hull City and, most strikingly, Leicester City pressed the panic button and all have since witnessed upturns in their fortunes. Only Sunderland and Middlesbrough kept faith with their managers, Boro eventually sacking Aitor Karanka, by which time it was effectively too late. David Moyes’s Sunderland sank into the Championship after losing 1-0 to Bournemouth on Saturday and Middlesbrough are poised to follow them. Sometimes it pays to change.

Jermain Defoe looks on in disappointment.

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Spurs 2-0 Arsenal: Player In Focus - Alli

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Dele Alli is a curious talent. There are games that he will absolutely dominate and then there are ones in which he is largely anonymous. However, there’s rarely one that he fails to leave his mark on.

The North London derby on Sunday was a quiet one for the Englishman for a the most part but it was him who made the breakthrough.

His movement was slight but ever so crucial. After carrying the ball into the box, it fell to Christian Eriksen’s feet and when the Dane made space for himself, Alli duly drifted into the perfect position and was on hand to eventually stab the loose ball in.


It’s that instinctive movement that changed the game and a second soon followed for Spurs when Harry Kane converted from the spot.

THREE KEY MOMENTS

22′ – A great chance goes begging. Kane holds up the ball before attempting a shot at goal which deflects perfectly into Alli’s path. The midfielder is put off by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s challenge and ends up sending his header wide when he had the goal at his mercy.

24′ – Just two minutes later, Victor Wanyama powered down the left flank before and played in Alli. The 21-year-old did well to find his way through a couple of Arsenal shirts before being stopped by Gabriel before he could do any real damage.

55′ – The damage was always coming though and Alli inflicted it early in the second half. He was alert enough to follow in Eriksen’s shot and turned in the rebound after Petr Cech’s save.

KEY STATS

Alli has been in scintillating form of late and Mauricio Pochettino will be glad that he’s come good at the business end of the season.

What’s been great for Spurs in terms of Alli’s goal-scoring is that it’s been spread out well of late. He’s scored regularly rather than in bulk.

It wasn’t easy from the off for the youngster though as both he and Kane struggled to get involved with the team’s play for much of the first half.

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Player In Focus: Wayne Rooney

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A congested fixture list coupled with key injuries to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba brought Wayne Rooney back into the first team fold. It seemed like the Manchester United captain was granted one last lease of life but it may only have been just enough rope to hang himself with.

Rooney was deployed in midfield as Swansea City paid a visit to Old Trafford but the Englishman failed to stamp his authority on the game that ended in a 1-1 draw. Apart from a few decent but relatively routine passes out wide to stretch the play, his influence in midfield was limited.

The 31-year-old did score the opener from the spot but the game largely passed him by as he struggled to carve out any openings for the United attackers to capitalise on.

A clumsy challenge on the edge of his own penalty area awarded Swansea a free-kick from which Gylfi Sigurdsson pulled them level.

The result leaves United’s hopes of a top four finish in tatters and it’s disheartening to think that the team’s captain, all-time top scorer and a player who should be a club icon has to shoulder a large portion of the blame.

THREE KEY MOMENTS

24′ – The first signs of Rooney’s lack of sharpness. Ashley Young does well to get down the left side and deliver a cross only to see his skipper loop a header well off the mark.

45′ + 3 – Marcus Rashford wins a penalty and Rooney dispatches it expertly.

79′ – Sigurdsson scores from the free-kick Rooney gave away with a clumsy challenge on Jordan Ayew.

KEY STATS

A pretty average display in midfield. Didn’t impress but didn’t do too much wrong either. The the one foul, but a costly one at that – two points worth to be exact.

The records just keep piling up for Rooney though. Joining Alan Shearer in an exclusive club with that penalty.

He may not be the most reliable penalty taker around but he did dispatch the one against Swansea with aplomb and this latest United record is a credit to his longevity if nothing else.

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