Premier League weekend awards: Anthony Gordon is not slowing down

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Let down the week

What do you get when you pair two of the Premier League’s best teams, both of whom tend to play melodic, pass-and-move football? A 0-0 dude. Manchester City v Arsenal not the barn that was promised. Instead, we had a scrappy game with no real quality. When the independent regulator of English football finally arrives, the first order of business should be stopping managers at big clubs from starting back fours.

Arsenal will be happy with a point, although the game was there for the taking. City were smart with the ball and gave it away in their own half in the first half. This was a match suited to a reshaped Arsenal team. They have blitzed opponents over the past three months, pacing the field with a plus-28 goal differential since the start of January. But while last season’s success was based on chippy-tappy creativity, this season Arsenal have been counter-attacking and league monsters. They weren’t as ruthless in possession as they were a year ago, but the change in approach gave them a stronger footing against the top flight. One clear opening, one well-worked set piece, and Arsenal could have achieved three points on Sunday.

For Mikel Arteta, point, it is frustration, that will do. But Pep Guardiola will be disappointed. City had plenty of the ball but were not their usual man between the lines. Guardiola is preaching patience, but City’s accurate play bordered on the yawning against an Arsenal team unwilling to give up openings. The most damning statistic: Erling Haaland finished with fewer passes and touches than Nathan Aké, who left the field with an injury in the 27th minute.

Goal of the week

In the context of the draw at the Etihad on Sunday, there was no bigger goal than this weekend Mohamed Salahwinner for Liverpool in their 2-1 win over Brighton.

This was Salah at his best, sliding into an opening in the box, the ball clinging to the Velcro of his boot and then finishing first on the turn. “This is sexual football for me,” chief goalkeeper Roy Keane said on Sky Sports. “I love seeing that.”

Salah’s strike puts Liverpool two points clear at the top of the table with a favorable game against Sheffield United on deck. Liverpool’s advantage in the title race, for now.

Administer the episode of the week

We head to St James’ Park for the most controversial decision of the week: Kalvin Phillips’ foul on Anthony Gordon which led to a penalty in Newcastle’s stunning 4-3 win against West Ham.

I mean, come on now. What are we doing here? Phillips tries to clear the ball. Pulling his foot back, Gordon goes through the back door. Phillips is blind to Gordon’s position, with his eye on the ball, swinging his foot. Gordon contacts Phillips before the West Ham midfielder can clear the ball. Phillips is slipping and the Newcastle front is collapsing. Realistically, there is nothing Phillips can do. His only option: let Gordon cut through and pinch the ball.

Fear not, West Ham. The PGMOL will be on the phone with the usual excuse on Monday.

Player of the week

Terrible penalty call – or two, if you’re a West Ham fan – it shouldn’t apply Anthony Gordonand influence for Newcastle.

Some young players grow in increments. At the age of 23, Gordon has become the complete package in 12 months. Against West Ham, it was a one-man fast break, turbo-charging Newcastle’s attack every time they crossed the halfway line. He finished the day with six shots, an assist, three created chances and won two penalties; he was also sent off for a second yellow in the closing stages.

There is no slowing down Gordon. He is explosive when he cuts inside, and has developed as a playmaker. But his first step quickness suits defenders. When Gordon starts to move up the touchline on the left, the defenders go back aggressively. There is no easy way to play it. Get tight, and Gordon’s legs skip out and burn into open grass. Hold off, and it gives Gordon a free runway to drive at top speed.

Some players are 0-to-60 burners. Others make their hay in narrow paths. The best can blend the two, zooming at top speed and maintaining friendship with the ball. Gordon was a speed racer early in his career, driving, head down, into a closed space. These days, it’s getting craftier around the box. Speed ​​is still at the heart of everything, but he’s thinking one step ahead now, manipulating defenders – and sometimes officials. The results are gaudy.

All told, Gordon ranks third in the league in expected goals, the quality of chances he creates and the number of times he wins the ball back.

The situation of the week

How many more times can Manchester United produce a rudderless performance under Erik Ten Hag? It has become United’s vintage to show a glimmer of life before thudding back to Earth. If it wasn’t so common, it would be baffling.

It was only one international break since United performed another classic against Liverpool in the FA Cup. But against Brentford in Saturday’s 1-1 draw, United gave in to their worst instincts: a collapsing midfield, a defensive line that sat too deep, wide players too isolated and Rasmus Højlund left to start to chase the ball by himself. .

The Ten Hag side took the lead against the run of play in the 96th minute, but let it slip almost immediately, conceding a 99th minute equalizer courtesy of Kristoffer Ajer.

It could – and should – be worse. “Brentford were better than we were today,” Ten Hag said after the game. “They showed more passion, desire, determination. There are always reasons. It is mental. It is psychological. I can not tell. We should bring more.”

Over 100 minutes, United were terrible. Brentford won the expected goals matchup 2.67 to 0.5 – and hit the woodwork four times. More worrying, however, are the figures under the hood. Brentford finished with 85 touches in the Manchester United boxthe most by a team in any Premier League game in the final five seasons. And this was a Brentford side who have won just three of their last 18 games and were missing their usual opening goal by four goals.

Dig further and it gets even worse. No team conceded more shots in 2024 than United. If you only count Premier League games, they have given up 81 shots in their last three games. Not even Sheffield United went to that level of incompetence. It would be one thing if United played a free-flowing, kinetic style, creating as many chances as they concede. But United have been out-shot in 16 league games this season, including against the league’s relegation fodder.

United are eight points behind fifth-placed Spurs with nine games to play. Next season’s Champions League competition looks a long way off.

Relegation subplot of the week

It is strange this season that the relegation battle can be decided in the courtroom rather than on the field. But on the pitch, Burnley picked up a vital point to draw Chelsea 2-2.

Burnley were dealt a heavy hand in the final minutes of the first half, and were reduced to 10 men with a penalty call.

It is difficult to know what Lorenz Assignon is supposed to do in this situation. It’s a textbook defense. Mykhailo Mudryk did not collect the ball; he was there for the taking. Assignon did not leave his feet. He stood his ground. What should have been a run-of-the-mill defensive stint ended with Burnley conceding penalties and losing a man for the rest of the game.

Vincent Kompany was furious with the decision – and was shown a red card for his troubles. But Burnley broke away and fought through the second half despite Chelsea’s advantage, coming from behind twice to secure a result.

With the draw, Burnley are up to 18 points, four behind Luton in 18th and Nottingham Forest in 17th. A crucial week ahead, with games against Wolves and Everton. Due to the difficulty of their remaining games, Kompany’s team will probably have to take four points from those games.

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