English Premier League Weekend Highlights


3: Inconsistent Arsenal needs alternative plans

Not many people, from fans, journalists and the neutrals expected Arsenal to come this good this season, filling the boots of the departed French general, Arsene Wenger was never going to be easy, but the Gunnars under Unai Emery have done fairly well, but with the potential in the squad and sometimes with the quality of opposition, they have come short when they shouldn’t have.

Aaron Cresswell of West Ham (r) blocks an attempt from Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (l) (Image: Football Fancast)

The latest of their horrific showings happened at the London stadium, objective analysts can tell that for a good period, Arsenal played against ten men, Marko Aurnatovic wasn’t in the mood, he wasn’t his usual best, the beast mode was never activated and Arsenal didn’t up the ante to benefit; over reliance on wing plays will always frustrate Arsenal because Alex Iwobi is the only one that looks a bit like it on the flanks, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang always drift to the middle and the decision to keep Hector Bellerin on the bench for so long ruined the script.

The pattern is very predictable, forward runs from wingbacks and cut in for tap ins have been the way to go since Emery resumed, but it won’t always work, Maitland Niles isn’t the answer to such game plan, with the Spaniard back to full form, Arsenal can have a real bite on the right; but it’s time for Mesut Ozil to be invited to halt the rot, yes Matteo Geundouzi is full of potential but isn’t he too young to play week in week out? It’s time for Emery to consider playing from the middle


2: Southampton in, Palace under pressure

Forget what you learned last year; you’re as good as your last result. Crystal Palace missed a golden chance to steer further clear from the red zone when they lost their advantage at home to Watford, not for lack of efforts but they sure have it all to do to avoid heads dropping heading into a crucial phase of the survival battle.

Since the appointment of Ralph Hasenhüttl, Southampton have been pumped up, the victory away at Leicester wasn’t unexpected, the fact they even got more difficult to beat after going one man down tells the story of the new spirit in town, and guess what? The next four fixtures are all winnable, Everton at home, then away at Burnley, Cardiff afterwards just after Crystal Palace, they could be steady in the middle of the table by then.

Ralph Hasenhüttl, the man behind the Southampton resurgence (Image: The Irish Times)

For Newcastle, almost wouldn’t count. Home and away they gave massive accounts of themselves against Chelsea, but it feels like every effort goes down the drain as long as they can’t get results to fly; the coming fixtures aren’t very friendly and the best they can get from them would be between 4-6points or less. Cardiff is beatable, but the champions and Spurs follow that before they travel to the Molineux to negotiate Wolves… Perilous time for the Magpies as they attempt to stay up


1: The defender of the universe remains the bearded Spaniard

Tottenham Hotspur would feel pains for long, while some might feel they were wasteful but their day would have been made had David De Gea not been in the mood to ruin the party for them.

Three times, the impressive shot stopper denied Dele Alli all in quick successions, repelling everything thrown at him and in spectacular fashions too, wouldn’t be too far from the truth if you posit that his legs are more reliable than his fingers.

The second half was the real deal, Spurs were all over United, but De Gea said no, Harry Kane severally broke free but David De Gea wasn’t in the mood to give anything away, while some efforts were straight at him, the terrific goal line guard stretched low and fast to deny the World Cup golden boot winner late in the second half.

David De Gea after a superlative performance for Manchester United against Tottenham (Image: EuroSport)

The strategy of hitting the hosts on the break was a very effective one with fleet footed front three but credits must go in the directions of the renewed Paul Pogba who was denied severally by the equally outstanding Hugo Lloris; maybe Jesse Lingard for the hosts and the injured Moussa Sissoko for Spurs, everyone called on came to party in the match of the round, but the king of the entire weekend has to be the Lion of Manchester… David De Gea


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