Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 24: Gunners Roar Back; Rashford Stikes Twice in United Win; Spurs Drop Hammers; Liverpool Casts Newcastle From Top Four; Everton Climbs Over Leeds; Bournemouth Escapes; Saints Bedevil Chelsea

Arsenal responded to its midweek loss to Manchester City by roaring back from two in-game deficits to defeat Aston Villa 4-2 and retake the lead in the Premier League title chase. Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko matched goals from Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho, respectively, before a former Gunner helped provide the final two goals for Arsenal in stoppage time. Current Aston Villa and former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez is a controversial figure. His taunting of opposition players, on global display during Argentina’s successful World Cup run, makes him a magnet for criticism. Thus many did not shed tears when Martinez was victimized on both of Arsenal’s final two goals. A shot by new Arsenal player Jorginho caromed off the crossbar only to deflect back into the net off Martinez’s head three minutes into stoppage to give Arsenal its first lead of the match. Five minutes later, Martinez was caught up field during an Aston Villa corner, allowing for a breakaway, uncontested insurance goal by Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli. A draw by Manchester City put Arsenal on top of the Premier League standings once again.

Manchester City fell victim to the proverbial trap game. Having defeated Arsenal Wednesday and facing a Champions League match this Tuesday, the Citizens neglected to take care of business at the City Ground versus 13th place Nottingham Forest. The Tricky Trees, much improved since a lengthy stay in the relegation zone earlier this season, had a surprise in store for the visitors. Chris Wood’s 84th minute goal for the Trees created a 1-1 final scoreline which shocked the Citizens and knocked them back to second place after less than three full days at the top of the table.

Nottingham Forest has now lost but once in seven 2023 Premier League matches, winning three and drawing three. Manchester City, meanwhile, has now dropped 15 league points away from the Etihad this season versus 11 away points dropped the entirety of last season.

No player in Europe has scored more goals since the World Cup than Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. Rashford’s’ two goals in a 3-0 defeat of Leicester brings his total to 16 in 17 games across all competitions since returning from Qatar. No other player in the top five leagues has scored more than 10. Unsurprisingly Manchester United has won seven of its 10 Premier League matches since the break, losing but once. Talk of title contention will continue to increase so long as Rashford sustains anywhere near his current rate of goal scoring. The Red Devils, however, also have other players performing at, or near, championship level as well. Goalkeeper David de Gea had at least two incredible saves against a Leicester squad which had scored four goals in each of its previous two contests. Leicester, meanwhile, suffered a reality check which ended a three-match unbeaten run for the Foxes who are but four points from the drop zone.

Liverpool won for a second consecutive match and completed a double over Newcastle this season in a 2-0 win which ejected Newcastle from the top four. Liverpool started fast with goals by Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo inside the first twenty minutes. Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope then handled the ball outside his box to put the Magpies down to 10 men and effectively end the Magpies’ chances. Pope’s red card means he will miss the Carabao Cup final versus Manchester United next weekend. While Newcastle’s only two losses this season have been to Liverpool, their lack of goalscoring bite has been a continuing concern. Only Chelsea has scored fewer goals than the Magpies among teams in the top half the table. Liverpool registered a second consecutive clean sheet as it heads into its Champions League matchup with Real Madrid this week.

While still seven points outside the Champions League places, Liverpool has played two fewer matches than fourth place Spurs. Tottenham Hotspur charged back into the top four by virtue of a 2-0 Sunday victory over West Ham in the clubs’ London derby. Son Heung-min scored in a cameo second half appearance as last year’s joint Golden Boot winner scored for just a fifth time this season.

West Ham manager David Moyes set his club up defensively and left scoring threats Danny Ings and Said Benrahma out of his starting lineup. Moyes’ conservatism is paying no dividends this season as the Hammers are now in the relegation zone after winning just one of their last 11 Premier League matches. West Ham are the only one of the bottom six teams in the table to not have made a manager change this season.

No newly promoted side has accumulated as many points to this stage of the season than manager Marco Silva’s Fulham. The Cottagers won 1-0 at Brighton as their Portuguese manager continues to burnish his manager of the year credentials. Manor Solomon struck for Fulham’s winner in the 88th minute as the Cottagers moved past their Saturday opponent into sixth position in the Premier League table. The Seagulls saw their five-match unbeaten run come to an end as frustrated manager Roberto De Zerbi was shown a post-match red card for contesting some of the match decisions by officials.

A late Brentford equalizer stung Crystal Palace in a 1-1 final which extended the Bees’ unbeaten run to eleven matches and deprived the Eagles of a possible first win of the year. Vitaly Janelt scored the equalizer on the final kick of the match. Brentford now holds the longest  unbeaten run in the league and is level on points with seventh place Brighton and eighth place Liverpool in the battle for a European qualification slot. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, is eight points from relegation with the arrow pointed downward.

The Graham Potter era at Chelsea reached a new low as the tortured London squad lost 1-0 at home to the bottom most club in the league which, coincidentally, has no permanent manager of its own. The free kick wizardry of James Ward-Prowse provided the winner for the Saints as his free kick goal versus Chelsea now leaves him one short of topflight career leader David Beckham. Chelsea, meanwhile, was again dreadful. Potter started the match with several of his better players on the bench, apparently expecting a walkover versus the Saints. Such was not the case and things didn’t improve after the manager began making substitutions. Raheem Sterling provided some increased excitement but no goals. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remained rooted to the bench as Chelsea failed to score for a fourth time in its last five matches in all competitions. Chelsea has now won only two of its last 14 matches in all competitions. Potter’s excuses regarding the problem of integrating expensive new players are not impressing supporters but apparently suffice for Chelsea owners who seem committed to the former Brighton manger. Southampton, meanwhile, won its first outing under interim manager Ruben Selles who has declared a desire for the permanent Saints job.

Bournemouth rose from the dead and lifted itself out of the relegation zone with the Cherries’ first victory since November. A Marcus Tavernier 49th minute goal was the only score in the Cherries’ 1-0 defeat of Wolverhampton and was only the third goal Bournemouth has scored since their November victory. Wolves, however, are the joint lowest scoring club in the league along with Everton and showed little bite versus the Cherries. Center forwards Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa and Matheus Cunha have all failed to score a single league goal for Wolverhampton this season. The Cherries moved a point above now relegation bound West Ham with the victory. The loss for Wolves ended a run of three wins in four matches and leaves them a still precarious three-points above the drop zone.

Sean Dyche has won twice in three Premier League contests since taking over Everton. The Toffees defeated Leeds 1-0 at Goodison Park with long time Everton stalwart Seamus Coleman scoring a rare goal. As with Dyche’s maiden victory, disciplined defense and the occasional goal from an unexpected source can provide a winning formula for a goal challenged squad. The victory relocated Everton from the relegation zone while Leeds took up residence in the land of the damned. Leeds clearly had no plan when it fired Manager Jesse Marsch and has been under the charge of their former under-21 team manager. The search for Marsch’s replacement now seems to be turning toward former Watford manager Javi Gracia as the club approaches another massive relegation battle when Southampton visits Leeds this coming weekend. 

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