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Four things we learned in the Premier League

FOOTBALL: In last weekend’s Premier League action, week 27 in the fixtures, Tottenham Hotspur closed to within seven points of leaders Chelsea and Manchester City stayed in touch after defeating basement club Sunderland but Arsenal lost ground in the race for a top-four finish with a defeat by Champions League place rivals Liverpool.


AFP

Saturday 11 March 2017, 06:00PM


Zlatan Ibrahimovic clashes with Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mingsduring their game at  Old Trafford. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP
Zlatan Ibrahimovic clashes with Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mingsduring their game at Old Trafford. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP

Here are four things we learned in the Premier League this weekend:

Wenger’s football faith tested

Arsene Wenger compared being a manager to being a priest and last Saturday (Mar 4) many Gunners fans felt he had committed the sin of omission. The decision to leave his two leading scorers, Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, on the bench against Liverpool backfired spectacularly in the first-half as a limp display saw the visitors 2-0 down at the break. Sanchez’s introduction at half-time sparked a revival but that was not enough to salvage even a point in an eventual 3-1 loss and merely led to further questions as to why he had not been in the team from the kick-off at Anfield. Wenger rebutted any criticism but to some observers it was merely further evidence the 67-year-old French manager has lost his way and is unlikely to help persuade Sanchez, one of the few world-class players at Arsenal, to sign a new contract.

Kane no flash in pan

As Tottenham’s fans celebrated Harry Kane’s second goal in their team’s 3-2 win over Everton last Sunday (Mar 5), it was easy to hear the defiant edge to their songs. Their chorus of “he’s just a one-season wonder” was a sarcastic reminder to all those who wrote off Kane before he embarked on a prolific run of three successive seasons with at least 20 goals. With 24 goals in 28 games this season, Kane is well established as one of Europe’s most deadly strikers.

Shakespeare’s tale of intrigue

Just 10 days after Claudio Ranieri’s shock sacking, Leicester have been transformed from an abject rabble in severe danger of relegation into a cohesive, focused group that closely resembles the side who won the Premier League last season. A come from behind 3-1 win against Hull last Saturday lifted the Foxes clear of the relegation zone and increased caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare’s chances of landing the job on a permanent basis. Despite their very public denials, it is surely no coincidence Leicester have won their first two matches since former manager Ranieri departed amid strong reports of player unrest over the Italian’s tactical tinkering and confusing team selections. Shakespeare, who served as Ranieri’s assistant, has gone back to basics with a 4-4-2 formation and direct approach that served Leicester so well last season. Crucially, Shakespeare’s presence in the dug out – or Ranieri’s absence from it – has revitalised Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

England sees other side of Zlatan

He has charmed English football since his move from Paris Saint-Germain, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic now finds himself in the dock following a volatile display in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth. The 35-year-old Swedish striker appeared to deliberately elbow Tyrone Mings late in the first half and although he was acting in retaliation after the Bournemouth defender seemed to stamp on his head, a violent conduct charge from the Football Association was inevitable. Ibrahimovic also saw a second-half penalty saved by Artur Boruc, preventing him from registering a 27th goal of the season. United’s next-highest scorer is Juan Mata, with nine. With a three-match suspension for Ibrahimovic, Jose Mourinho's other forwards will need to step up to the plate in the weeks ahead if their top-four challenge is to remain alive.

 

 

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