Premier League: 10 talking points from this weekend’s football action

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Salah is firing on all cylinders again

From handbags in London with his manager a week ago to this: an individual performance of verve and efficiency matched by collective success, with Mohamed Salah smiling again. Much has been written and said about the Egyptian attacker, about his recent struggles, future and behavior. But a career as storied as his requires him to put the noise aside and go again, an internal wiring found only in the best. Salah was electric against Tottenham, hitting the crossbar with a forward-turned shot and forcing a strong save from Guglielmo Vicario inside the opening 10 minutes. Not long after, the post was struck, even though the offside flag went up, and after just sixteen minutes the goal came, a masterful move at the far post before a clinical header. He was present in the build-up to Liverpool’s other three goals, giving Jürgen Klopp a beautiful afternoon of sunshine and fist pumping at Anfield as the final farewell drew ever closer. Taha Hashim

A city penalty adds to O’Neil’s anger

If Gary O’Neil’s tirades against referees have a purpose beyond expressing his own anger, then surely it is, according to Sir Alex Ferguson’s old principle, to sow doubt in the referee’s subconscious, to make you think: ‘Am I really sure? about this? I don’t want him to yell at me.” It hasn’t worked. Perhaps the argument that a player standing a yard in front of an opposition goalkeeper doesn’t interfere – as he did after the West Ham match, which cost him a touchline ban and an £8,000 fine – isn’t the best way to make his point clear. but Saturday brought the total of extremely soft penalties given against Wolves this season to three. Rayan Aït-Nouri’s attempt to reach Bernardo Silva’s cross came a fraction later than Josko Gvardiol’s, resulting in the Croat putting it through. There was nothing malicious about it, no attempt at deception and no benefit was gained from it. Is that really a violation, and not simply a collision? Jonathan Wilson

Villa is struggling with heavy legs

If Tottenham’s collapse helped Aston Villa’s Champions League chase, Unai Emery’s team is showing the fatigue that every Premier League manager in Europe has complained about. Jürgen Klopp picked up that hobbyhorse last Friday, with TV planners in his sights. Roberto De Zerbi offered his condolences for the fatigue-stricken Villa at an inopportune moment. “I can understand that better than a lot of people,” he said, harking back to Brighton’s Europa League adventures and the after-effects on his own team. “We haven’t won that many games against Roma so far, we’ve lost too many games, and they’re suffering because of it.” Villa have hit a similar wall and must somehow find a way back to Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final at Olympiacos. “I want to get our freshness and energy back,” Emery said. “Thursday will be more difficult, but we will be there and try to do something different.” John Brewin

Arteta keeps Gunners cool in the title race

Mikel Arteta has looked like a cat on a hot tin roof in and around his technical room for years. Yet his act has become a little more zen in recent weeks – perhaps a reflection of how his players are handling the title race this time around. Arteta said this after the 3-0 win over Bournemouth, praising his team for “finding joy in this journey, in the title race at this stage of the season”. It’s a huge contrast to Arsenal last season and it shows in their results, with the home defeat to Aston Villa the only blemish on their record in seven games since the start of April. In April last year, Arsenal dropped points in four consecutive games to cede the title to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side may be able to win again this season, but Arteta’s side have at least done themselves justice in the heat of battle and shown that they can handle the pressure. Dominic Boot

Madueke shows that Blues are maturing

Chelsea learns. There was a self-inflicted row last month when Nicolas Jackson and Noni Madueke tried to save a penalty from Cole Palmer during the 6-0 win over Everton. Mauricio Pochettino was furious and criticized his young players for their immaturity. But the atmosphere was different after Chelsea’s 5-0 win over West Ham. Pochettino was delighted with Madueke as the winger went through on goal and passed to Jackson, who tapped in Chelsea’s fourth. It would have been easy for Madueke to shoot. Instead, he gave a teammate an open goal. “Noni’s assist to Jackson showed that we are learning, that we are smart,” said the Chelsea head coach. “The situation with the penalty against Everton, we received so much criticism, but a young team always has to make mistakes. You must always feel this situation to improve. Today was a great action by Noni to see how the group has come to believe.” Jacob Steinberg

Mission accomplished for Forest?

Saturday’s win against Sheffield United puts Nottingham Forest in a strong position to secure Premier League survival, but perhaps fittingly for a club that has produced as much drama off the pitch this season as it does off it, the coming days may turn out to be the same. important. With Forest now three points ahead of Luton and five ahead of Burnley – and with a superior goal difference – another win would all but secure safety. If their appeal against this season’s four-point deduction were resolved in their favor before Saturday’s match against Chelsea, things would look even better. If Forest were to get one point back on appeal, it would essentially relegate Burnley; if they somehow regained all four points they gained, the relegation race would be over without anyone kicking a ball. Nuno admitted after the match on Saturday that this would not be fair to anyone, but whatever happens, for once he and his players have at least let their football do the talking. Aaron Bower

Murphy shines again for Magpies

Jacob Murphy had three goals for Newcastle in their win over Burnley on Saturday. He has never been the most highly touted winger and has spent most of his Newcastle career as a team player, making more substitutes than starters in the league, but he has rarely let down Eddie Howe, who called Murphy ‘the ultimate professional’. This season he has seen more time on the pitch thanks to injuries and his own impressive form when given the chance to start. At Turf Moor, Murphy played a crucial role on the right in a modified formation and under a very specific set of instructions, with the winger given many attacking and defensive responsibilities. He held his nerve when he was in dangerous positions and Newcastle reaped the rewards. Every team needs a Murphy, that’s the law. Will win

Postecoglou and Spurs in a rut

For the second weekend in a row, Tottenham’s resistance came after the result was known. Against Arsenal, a 3-0 halftime score was turned into a narrow 3-2 defeat; a potential defeat was halted at Anfield, with Richarlison and Son Heung-min’s strikes making life slightly less comfortable for Liverpool in the final quarter. Ange Postecoglou doesn’t seem like one to shut up and save face, and he brought on Richarlison and James Maddison after his side conceded their fourth goal, still believing in the improbable. But a promising opening season for Postecoglou was hurt by two difficult passages in the league: the one point from five games in November and December, and now four consecutive defeats for the first time in almost twenty years. With Manchester City still to come and Newcastle reviving, even fifth place is not entirely safe. E

Adebayo can stay up when Hatters fall

Losing Elijah Adebayo to injury for two months has caused major headaches for Luton Town. Defenders don’t like marking the 26-year-old. This is Adebayo’s first taste of the Premier League and it has gone well. However, when he was injured in February, Luton struggled without being in the lead. The treatment room was packed, but Adebayo’s absence was most clearly felt by Rob Edwards’ side. Their threat diminished and the chances of getting out of the bottom three slipped away. Drawing with Everton on Friday evening appears to have all but sealed Luton’s fate. Edwards knew a win was necessary, although he could be pleased with Adebayo’s impact on his return to the starting line-up. He scored a powerful equalizer – his tenth goal of the season – and was a handful throughout. Perhaps there will be teams looking at Adebayo if Luton go down. He could be a smart signing for anyone looking for a striker this summer. Jacob Steinberg

Frank supports Toney for the place in the euro

The prevailing wisdom suggests that there will only be room for Ivan Toney or Ollie Watkins in the England squad for the upcoming European Championships. The Brentford striker scored four goals in five games following his eight-month betting ban and scored in his first England start against Belgium in March. But he has now played ten league games without a goal. With his club’s future uncertain – amid expectations he will leave Brentford this summer – this goal drought has come at the worst possible time as he looks to impress Gareth Southgate. But his club manager, Thomas Frank, believes it will have no impact. “I’m pretty sure Gareth knows who he wants to pick and if there’s a little dip in form I don’t think it means anything,” said Frank. “It’s a different thing when you enter the euro. If you’re fit, that’s the most important thing. It’s a different tournament, a different environment, a different energy.” Ben Bloom









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