The biggest fixture of the Premier League weekend saw Chelsea FC beat Arsenal FC 1-0 at the Emirates, and Diego Costa’s return to form means that the Blues have definitively turned a corner. 

 

A riveting weekend of Premier League action kicked off in the best way possible — a remarkable nine-goal thriller saw Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC triumph 5-4 over Norwich City at Carrow Road, with former Southampton skipper Adam Lallana popping up with the winner in the dying seconds of the game.

Leicester City continued their unbelievably good season with a comfortable win over top-half Stoke City, while Manchester United once again failed to score at home, and consequently succumbed to a Charlie Austin début goal.

Manchester City, meanwhile, were held to a draw by a West Ham side that look increasingly like competitors for a European place, and Everton — a side expected to be in and around the top five or six — fell to yet another home defeat despite creating enough opportunities to score at least three goals.

TheHardTackle draws seven conclusions from a hugely entertaining round of English top-flight football:

1. Chelsea FC have begun to turn things around

Since José Mourinho was sacked in mid-December, the Blues are yet to lose in the Premier League, winning thrice in their seven matches since that fateful day. Although Chelsea FC have been far from the 2014-2015 version of themselves under interim manager Guus Hiddink, the victory against Arsenal FC all but confirmed that they have turned a corner.

Arsenal v Chelsea

The results speak for themselves, but more saliently, it is the level of performances of two key players — Cesc Fàbregas and Diego Costa — that gives Blues fans cause for optimism. Diego Costa has scored 6 in his last 6 games, and there have been notable improvements in terms of his movement in the box — his winner against the Gunners being the perfect example of that.

Meanwhile, Fàbregas put in a masterful midfield performance, enjoying the freedom he was afforded due to Hiddink’s choice of playing two defensive midfielders behind him. With a man of the match display against Crystal Palace, a goal and an assist against Everton, and an utterly dominant outing against the side he once captained, the Spaniard has been slowly returning to his best, and his upturn of form could be huge for the Stamford Bridge outfit for the remainder of the season.

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2. Manchester United are in a mess

It is difficult to believe just how poor Manchester United have been this season, given the amount of money spent in the summer transfer window as well as the quality and potential of the players signed. The Red Devils fell to another defeat — this time against Southampton — in yet another insipid home performance, and many United faithfuls have now seen enough of Louis van Gaal.

Manchester United v Southampton

The Dutchman’s side have picked up five less points than Chelsea FC since Mourinho was sacked, and although there seemed to be a change for the better following the victory over arch rivals Liverpool FC, it appears that the win just papered over the patent cracks in the side.

The defence has failed to keep the opposition out, but the attack continues to  look disjointed and dysfunctional, either too hesitant to risk losing possession or simply incapable of finding solutions to break teams down. With the gap to the top four now five points, Van Gaal needs to get to the bottom of the issue, or he could well find himself spending a lot more time at home in the near future.

3. Sergio Agüero will be the difference between City winning the title and falling short once again

The Argentine superstar is arguably the most prolific striker in the country when fully fit, and he could genuinely be the difference between Manchester City winning the title and falling short for a second consecutive season. With 6 goals and 2 assists in his last 6 games, Agüero seems to be in a purple patch of form, and the longer that lasts, the better it is for City’s chances.

West Ham United v Manchester City

The City defence continues to look vulnerable, and a lot of the Citizens’ games may well come down to whether or not they’re able to score that extra goal. The best striker in the league gives them a great chance to do just that. Wilfried Bony up front has not really worked out, and Kelechi Iheanacho is still a few years away from being a reliable first-choice. As ever, Sergio Agüero is absolutely crucial for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, and it is crucial they keep him fit for the rest of the season.

4. Everton are not having a good season

Initially among the sides to have received praise this season, Everton’s league position at the moment tells its own story. The Toffees are 12th, a solitary point above Chelsea FC, and incredibly, have just one win in their last 10 Premier League games.

Although there may be several issues Roberto Martínez has to deal with, one of the more obvious ones is the defence. Everton have conceded 18 goals in their last 10 games, and have shipped three or more goals in four of those fixtures. Goalkeeper Tim Howard has been criticised for his displays, but it seems to be far too easy to run at and get behind the Toffees’ back four in counter-attacking situations.

Arsenal vs Everton

Martínez’s expansive style of football that encourages playing out from the back has its issues as well, as was evident on Saturday against Swansea City, when John Stones’ questionable pass to Howard led to the opening goal for the visiting side.  Meanwhile, it was a defensive mix-up from a counter-attacking situation that  allowed Diego Costa to bring Chelsea back into the game in their previous fixture. The Merseysiders need to do the basics right and keep things tight at the back to climb up the league once again.

5. Liverpool FC need a new-look defence for next season

Jürgen Klopp has a lot of promising talent to work with as far as midfielders and attackers are concerned, but the summer will surely see major changes in defence. The Reds won a remarkable game at Carrow Road on Saturday, but some of the defending on display would have worried Klopp.

Liverpool FC have conceded 17 goals in their last 10 Premier League games and 10 in their last four. Injuries to the likes of Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren haven’t helped, but there seem to be major issues at left-back and between the sticks.

Liverpool FC vs AFC Bournemouth

Alberto Moreno’s propensity for making stupid decisions (or not making any) in his own penalty area continues to bemuse neutrals, but Klopp is unlikely to look upon it too kindly for much longer. Meanwhile, Simon Mignolet is not the first-choice goalkeeper of a team with Champions League aspirations, and although the Belgian is a decent goalkeeper, the Reds can definitely do better.

A centre-back, a goalkeeper and possibly even a left-back seem like priorities for Klopp this summer, and it will be interesting to see who the Anfield outfit target.

6. Dele Alli is a bit special

The 19-year-old almost seems a shoe-in for the PFA Young Player of the Year award at this point, and his performances for Tottenham Hotspur have merited that level of recognition. His goal against Crystal Palace on Saturday was absolutely remarkable — not only in terms of the execution, but also for the sheer audacity to attempt that at such a late stage in the game.

Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Sunderland

It is amazing what confidence will do for a player, and the teenager who was plying his trade in League One not six months ago is now a fixture for a Tottenham side competing for a top four spot in the league. The 19-year-old has shown in his nascent career that he has an eye for goal, and he could genuinely become England’s next goalscoring midfield sensation.

7. Leicester City showing the rest of the league how winning football can be so uncomplicated

Part of the reason Leicester City are where they are in the league is Claudio Ranieri’s ability to get his team playing in a remarkably uncomplicated, yet extremely effective way. Jamie Vardy scored yet another goal after latching on to a ball behind the opposition defence, while the third goal started with Leonardo Ulloa’s knock-down, and continued with Riyad Mahrez producing a sublime bit of skill to allow Ulloa to take advantage of a scuffed shot.

Leicester City vs Stoke City

Meanwhile, the defence was able to shut out Stoke City — a team capable of scoring four against the likes of Everton. Ranieri’s simple 4-4-2 counter-attacking strategy has been paying dividends, and largely the same patterns of play have been so effective simply because the team seems to have a clear sense of purpose. The Foxes next host Liverpool, before playing away at Manchester City and Arsenal, and if they are able to go through that run without much damage, a top four finish seems a certainty.

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