April 2 (Reuters) – Talking points from the Premier League weekend:
ARSENAL SHOW NO SIGN OF PRESSURE
Manchester United’s former serial-winner manager Alex Ferguson famously described the run-in to a title race as ‘squeaky bum time’ but so far no such noises are emanating from Arsenal.
Manchester City’s 4-1 rout of Liverpool sent out a strong signal of intent on Saturday but a few hours later Arsenal had responded in emphatic fashion with a 4-1 drubbing of Leeds.
It was Arsenal’s seventh successive league win and kept them eight points clear at the top.
With visits to Liverpool, City and Newcastle United looming it is still too early for Arsenal fans to start preparing the celebrations. But the way the team is playing, those looking for cracks in their armour might be disappointed.
KLOPP BAFFLED BY LIVERPOOL INCONSISTENCY
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp had no answers for his squad’s ‘passive’ performance in the second half of a 4-1 thrashing by Manchester City, saying they were lucky not to concede more goals.
Mohamed Salah scored in the first half, but Liverpool unravelled after the break en route to their ninth Premier League defeat of the season, casting more doubt on their hopes of a top-four finish with the gap now eight points.
“If you want to get something here, 14 or 15 players have to be on top of their game and that was not the case,” Klopp said.
“We were not there, anyone, too passive, too open, too deep, too far away from anything.”
He said only four players played “OK”: Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Cody Gakpo and Alisson.
PANIC STATIONS AS RODGERS AND POTTER SACKED
Leicester City and Chelsea parted ways with Brendan Rodgers and Graham Potter respectively, as the two clubs looked to salvage their campaigns with 10 games left in the season.
The two departures took the number of sackings to 12 in the league this season, underlining how much patience owners have with financial rewards at stake — be it through higher league finishes or simply qualifying for European competition.
While Leicester are 19th and staring at the drop after nine seasons in the top flight which would severely weaken them financially, Chelsea are 11th and in danger of missing out on European football for the first time in seven years.
There is a stark contrast, however, with Rodgers barely getting any financial backing from the owners after a creditable eighth-placed finish last season and two fifth-placed finishes before that.
Meanwhile, Potter looked out of his depth as he could not get his squad to be the sum of their parts despite the owners shelling out over 600 million euros ($650.70 million) on new players in two windows.
MAN UTD STRUGGLE WITHOUT SUSPENDED CASEMIRO
Casemiro’s impact on Manchester United’s midfield has been hugely positive this season but if they ultimately fall short of their goals, his rashness may come back to haunt them.
The Brazilian missed the first match of a four-game suspension in the 2-0 defeat at Newcastle United on Sunday — courtesy of his second straight red card of the season in the draw with Southampton in their previous fixture.
United have lost four of their eight Premier League games without Casemiro this season, compared to three of 19 when he has played.
They will have to find a better way of dealing with his absence if they are not to jeopardise their chance of finishing in the top four.
HODGSON RESTORES PALACE’S SPARKLE
Roy Hodgson has seen it all since he became a football manager in 1976 but even he may have surprised himself with how well Crystal Palace responded to his return as they beat Leicester City 2-1.
The 75-year-old has a mission to secure Palace’s top flight status and the victory at Selhurst Park was their first in 2023. The result boosted their survival hopes after a 12-match winless league run cost Patrick Vieira his job.
Palace were the lowest goal scoring side in the league under the Frenchman but in Hodgson’s first game in charge, they had 31 shots — almost as many as their five previous games combined — and 10 corners as they put Leicester to the sword.
Hodgson could have opted for the easy life tending the garden or opting for punditry but clearly still has his magic touch and Palace fans will be resting more easy with the old master back at the helm in their bid to reach safety.
($1 = 0.9221 euros)
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