Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Soccer

1) Tottenham cap a week of seeing emotions

There are few clubs in the Premier League with mood swings as dramatic as Tottenham’s right now. A week ago they joyously outplayed leaders Manchester City, then a 1-0 loss to 18th-placed Burnley prompted a seething Antonio Conte to openly question his own future from him. Now, after beating a broken Leeds 4-0 at Elland Road, the good vibes are back. Son Heung-min and Harry Kane are now firmly in the record books as the most prolific pairing of all time, creating 37 goals together and counting. Kane has returned to seriously good form. Dejan Kulusevski has settled in at warp speed. Conte’s frustrations may well surface again soon, but a turbulent week at least ended on a positive note. Tumaini Carayol

2) Bielsa had no answer to injury crisis

Marcelo Bielsa has never stayed at a club as long as the thoroughly transformative three and a half years he spent at Leeds and that Elland Road tenure, which ended in his sacking on Sunday, will never be forgotten in West Yorkshire. It is hard to overstate Bielsa’s impact on Leeds but even he struggled when the spine of his side was removed by the injuries that have sidelined Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper for much of this season. If the incoming manager, Jesse Marsch, is to avoid relegation he needs that trio restored to fitness on schedule this spring, not to mention devise a way of modifying the aggressive high-pressing style that terrified opponents last season. Harry Kane and his Tottenham teammates triumphed far too easily on Saturday, their 4-0 win prefacing one of English football’s saddest exits. louis taylor

Marcelo Bielsa left Leeds after their defeat to Spurs. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/Shutterstock

3) Time for Rashford to spearhead United’s attack?

Anthony Martial is on loan at Sevilla, Mason Greenwood is unavailable, and Edinson Cavani is injured (again). Thus Ralf Rangnick has to continue selecting Cristiano Ronaldo, who is 37 and appears shot of confidence as was illustrated by the slew of chances he missed as Manchester United somehow failed to beat an insipid, relegation-threatened Watford. Asked about Ronaldo’s workload, the interim manager said: “Edinson is not available [and] we don’t have that many other central strikers. For the last 15-20 minutes I brought on Marcus [Rashford] and Jadon [Sancho] – almost all our offensive players were on the pitch. I spoke with him [Ronaldo] yesterday before the game, before the training session: he told me that he was fully fit and that’s why I had him in the starting XI.” Perhaps it is time to field Rashford as the No 9. The 24-year-old has previously operated there and as he too is low on form, the chance to lead the line might offer the fillip he needs. Jamie Jackson

4) Brentford need Toney to find his shooting boots

How much trouble are Brentford in? Defeat to Newcastle on Saturday could to an extent be written off as a result of the dismissal of Josh Dasilva after 11 minutes that, as Thomas Frank said, was probably the correct decision but was also essentially a random event, the midfielder catching Matt Targett as he stepped over the ball to protect possession: an act of carelessness rather than malice. But this fits a pattern. Brentford have lost nine of their last 11 in the league and, perhaps most worryingly, have scored only six goals in that time. Although the return of Christian Eriksen 259 days after his cardiac arrest understandably took the headlines, in terms of Brentford’s hopes of survival the more significant comeback may have been that of Ivan Toney. Eriksen should also offer additional creativity, but without Toney they have looked toothless. Jonathan Wilson

5) Guardiola gets it right with tactical switch

Phil Foden’s winner came from a left-wing cross by Bernardo Silva. City’s most sustained spell of pressure, however, came when the Portuguese was stationed on the opposite flank. He had begun as the false nine and while Pep Guardiola reorganized his forward line midway through the first half, a second change of tack helped shift momentum after Allan and co had stifled Kevin De Bruyne before the break. “To break this kind of defense is always so complicated and difficult,” Guardiola said. He showed his prowess at tactical chess. John Stones was an ersatz right-back but, in possession, Guardiola instructed him to come infield and act as a midfielder, in turn allowing De Bruyne to operate outside him and combine with Silva on the wing. Guardiola added: “On the right side Bernardo and Kevin were brilliant and [Jordan] Pickford was the best player in the second half.” I have needed to be. Richard Jolly

Match report: Everton 0-1 Manchester City

John Stones was kept busy by Anthony Gordon in Manchester City's right-back position.
John Stones was kept busy by Anthony Gordon in Manchester City’s right-back position. Photograph: Peter Powell/Reuters

6) Cash makes his mark with message for teammate

After consecutive defeats to bottom-half teams, Aston Villa appeared to set themselves on the right path as they recovered to produce a vital 2-0 win at Brighton. The victory included a particularly hopeful sight for Steven Gerrard: Ollie Watkins slipping past the Brighton defense to calmly score his first goal in seven league games. Perspective was provided by Matty Cash, who scored the first goal and then removed his shirt to reveal a message of support towards his Poland teammate Tomasz Kedziora, the Dynamo Kyiv defender. Earlier in the day, Cash and his international teammates each posted a statement firmly explaining their decision not to play against the Russian national team after the invasion of Ukraine. Tumaini Carayol

7) Clarets goal difference like an extra point

With various teams directly above them struggling badly, Burnley aided their survival hopes by pulling off a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace. It was predictably grisly: Burnley registered just one shot on target, 16 fouls to Palace’s five, and scored through an own goal by the Palace captain, Luka Milivojevic, from an Aaron Lennon cross. But what mattered was the result and the growing hope that comes with it. With their point, Burnley have the joint-highest number of draws in the league, 12, and the fewest wins at three. But they are one point behind Everton in 17th and with a far better goal difference than anyone in that fight. If grinding out results like Saturday’s ultimately results in survival, they will take it. Tumaini Carayol

Burnley needed an own goal to secure a point at Selhurst Park.
Burnley needed an own goal to secure a point at Selhurst Park. Photograph: Katie Chan/Action Plus/Shutterstock

8) Moyes still evolving as a manager

There are plenty of people who will regret, once upon a time, leveling a “dinosaur” tag at David Moyes. It was offensive and unfair, and some of the football West Ham are now capable of giving the lie to it perfectly well. He is still seeking to evolve their style and, as their matchwinner Tomas Soucek had suggested in midweek, he has tweaked a few things he feels will help their top-four pursuit. “Sometimes you have to break things to make them better,” Moyes said after the important victory over Wolves. “You have to change things up and see if you can find something else and I am in that mood at the moment. It’s two years since we beat Southampton to get out of the bottom three and we have had a pretty good rise in those two years; now it’s what are the next two years going to be?” The next phase of Moyes’ West Ham was could further silence those who got him so badly wrong. Nick Ames

Match report: West Ham 1-0 Wolves

9) Lampard shows tactical pedigree

Pep Guardiola’s half-time adjustments may ultimately have helped City towards three points but the fact that he was forced into such a rethink reflects well on his opposite number. Frank Lampard’s credentials as a tactician have been subject to serious doubt over the course of his short coaching career but he set his Everton side up smartly on Saturday and, for the opening stages of the game, kept the country’s most decorated attacking side at bay with ease. This was doubly impressive as it required an overhaul of formation – from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 – which Lampard’s side enacted seamlessly. Particularly eye-catching were the central midfield duo of Abdoulaye Doucouré and Donny van de Beek, who together offer a rare combination of steel and style. The Dutchman is only on loan until the end of the season but should he rediscover his form of him, as he has hinted at doing under Lampard, a permanent move to Merseyside should surely suit all parties. Alex Hess

10) In-form Saints looking up rather than down

As the ground staff at St Mary’s set to work within seconds of the final whistle, Ralph Hasenhüttl made a point of drinking in another home win, this time over Norwich, with supporters. The way the Saints are playing, with such control and freedom, it is hard not to wonder whether a team that started December four points above the relegation zone could push for the European places, particularly given their relatively kind March schedule. They face Newcastle, Watford and Burnley in three of their next four league matches but first host West Ham on Wednesday for a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals. Stuart Pearce, who took in Friday’s game from the stands, will have no doubt relayed to David Moyes the apparent feel-good factor on the south coast. “The belief is there that we are strong enough to switch to the next gear to kill these games,” Hasenhüttl said. Ben Fisher

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