Chris Hughton’s position looks uncertain after five successful years, Youri Tielemans catches the eye but Leicester will face a battle to keep him and Wolves show the way forward.
1) Manchester City equipped to handle stress
When was the last time Manchester
2) Liverpool forwards fire without Firmino
Yes, it was Huddersfield but it was reassuring for Liverpool that
3) Manchester United’s maddening inconsistency
4) Leicester face battle to land Tielemans
“Sign him up” was the chant that reverberated after another excellent performance from Youri Tielemans, who was one of the most eye-catching signings in the January transfer window. A supremely gifted midfielder, who joined on loan from Monaco until the end of the season, Tielemans has lived up to the hype, scoring three goals and setting up another four in his 11 Premier League appearances. Calm and composed on the ball, Tielemans is such an intelligent footballer, capable of executing the killer pass that prises a defence open but also blessed with that knack of knowing when to arrive in the penalty area, as he demonstrated with his header against Arsenal. Leicester would have to break their transfer-record to sign Tielemans, and all the indications are that they are prepared to do so. Their biggest problem, however, is likely to be the number of other clubs that have the same idea.
5) Warnock hasn’t forgotten Tevez
As Neil Warnock noted, it would certainly be some story. But while
6) West Ham can be more than party poopers
West Ham certainly know how to put a spoke in Tottenham’s wheels. Michail Antonio’s winner brought back memories of a similar contribution at Upton Park three years ago that drained momentum from their title chase but once the euphoria has died down, the frustration will be that they need to be more than novelty party poopers. That role is well and good but watching them defend with uncharacteristic composure and wresting control of the game after half-time to hand Spurs the first defeat at their shiny new home, one wondered exactly how Manuel Pellegrini’s side had taken a mere point from their previous eight away games. Felipe Anderson was a constant threat, Marko Arnautovic looked more or less fully engaged, Mark Noble put in one of his most commanding midfield performances of the season and their centre-backs, Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena, were superb. Would it be too much to ask for this not to be a false dawn for the division’s most consistently infuriating side?
7) Brighton need new direction
Brighton will limp over the line, the point gleaned on Saturday probably priceless, but change may come regardless. Chris Hughton’s five-year tenure had been one of constant progress but this calendar year has been a painful reality check. Albion need to find new ways to hurt opponents because the methods which established them at this level have been found out. It may take a radical new approach to recruitment under the technical director, Dan Ashworth. But there is a chance it might also need a change at the top. All appreciate what Hughton has done but, even with their losing home run checked, there was grumbling discontent from plenty departing the Amex. Disillusion is unlikely to dissipate over the summer. Hughton, a man of dignity,, under contract until 2021, may even recognise the time has come for change. For now Albion will be as committed as ever in the games that remain and hope Cardiff do not pull off a miracle.
8) Guaita a safe pair of hands for Palace
Vicente Guaita had to wait for his chance to replace Wayne Hennessey as Palace’s Premier League No 1 following his arrival from Getafe. Two Carabao Cup clean sheets showed that he was a capable goalkeeper who settled into English football with greater ease than many who arrive from overseas. He has dedicated himself to the cause by moving to Croydon rather than some of the leafier London suburbs where many footballers live and it seems to have helped him settle into his professional surroundings. On Saturday, in what was a tedious game, he made the only telling contribution in the 90 minutes when he reacted superbly to stop a backheel from Cenk Tosun. It was the sort of save that fans can take home to remember for the summer and give them positivity for next season. It should do the same for Guaita.
9) Southampton set for overhaul
Southampton may be safe but they have a huge rebuilding job on their hands this summer. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s brief after taking charge at St Mary’s in December was survival but, if they have designs to push on after successive seasons treading a relegation tightrope, they need to freshen up a bloated squad. It is difficult to envisage Fraser Forster, Guido Carrillo, Sofiane Boufal, Jordy Clasie, Wesley Hoedt or Charlie Austin playing key roles next season, while they require a defensive leader and a goalscorer, even if Shane Long has hit a purple patch. “I see us as a club that develops players from our academy or signs young players from somewhere else,” Hasenhüttl said. “We can help them to become stars or very good Premier League players. It is our way but we have to be clear that in some situations we need new players because the academy does not give us players in every position that we need.”
10) Wolves offer striking example
Success in the Premier League does not come cheaply nowadays but money does not guarantee it either. Wolves, however, have shown what can happen if the right players are targeted, even if they do cost a pretty penny. Raúl Jiménez and Diogo Jota look set to lead Wolves to an impressive seventh-place finish in the top flight, which is no mean feat considering this is their first season back in the big time. The two strikers have scored 27 league goals between them, which is ultimately the key reason why they could qualify for Europe. They were unfortunate to lose the FA Cup semi-final to Watford and Saturday’s win was a small measure of revenge, but over a season they have shown themselves to be arguably the best strike partnership in the country and the incentive of the Europa League could spur them on to even greater things.