Three into one doesn't go as top four battle heats up, Lincoln rout does little to ease Arsenal fears, Harry Kane injury

Seven things we learned: West Ham stuck in mid-table mediocrity, Everton a club on the way up, City finally look like Guardiola's team and why Millwall fans continue to let the club down

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Three into one doesn’t go

Once the games in hand in the Premier League have played out, we’ll have a much clearer idea of the top four battle and who is most likely to be playing Champions League football next season. Liverpool took full advantage of the FA Cup quarter-final schedule this weekend to open up a five-point lead on fifth-place Arsenal, with an extra point between them and sixth-place Manchester United.

But the other two have two games in hand on Liverpool, while those above them – Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City – have played a match less in the league. It looks like the top three will be safe in the top four, barring any disasters, although the loss of Harry Kane to injury may test that idea for Spurs.

But behind, three into one doesn’t go, and if they can win their two games in hand, it’s advantage Arsenal as they will leapfrog Liverpool by one point. The biggest problem for the Gunners though is that they hold the worst record in the top six mini-league, and still have to face Manchester City and Manchester United at home and Spurs away. They could prove to be the crucial matches to decide who finishes fourth.

Thrashing of Lincoln does little to ease fears at Arsenal

Another Arsenal match at the Emirates, another protest against Arsene Wenger. The fans who want the manager to leave the club made their feelings clear once again by protesting from the old Highbury stadium to the front of the Emirates, and even though they thrashed non-league Lincoln City 5-0, the signs of frustration continue to mount.

Fans were growing incredibly uneasy when half-time approached and the score was still 0-0, with Theo Walcott only finding the breakthrough in first-half stoppage time, while the protests show no signs of stopping with the suggestion already made on social media that a flyover at the Hawthorns next weekend when Arsenal face West Bromwich Albion will call for Wenger to leave.

The Frenchman has already confirmed that he will take the protests into account when he decides his future, but it can’t be helping to see those you’ve sacrificed everything for over the last 20 years to turn on you so hatefully.

West Ham stuck in mid-table mediocrity

The message from West Ham co-owner David Sullivan was clear. “I was very disappointed and frustrated with the manner of our defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday,” he said. “Slaven, the players and the staff all know we have to do better.”

If Slaven Bilic didn’t know it before, the West Ham board expect better than a 3-2 defeat at Bournemouth. The club have made their lofty ambitions very clear, from the London Stadium to their Champions League dreams and also their desire to build the club’s stature among the biggest sides in the world.

But the position in the Premier League table can’t hide the fact that they are not where they would like to be. West Ham are not even in the top half of the table, with their tally of 33 points from 28 matches leaving them seven points off the top eight as West Bromwich Albion lead the charge of the best of the rest. For a club that see themselves among Europe’s biggest, it appears Bilic need to start delivering results.

Millwall fans manage to make themselves the story again

Disgraceful, shameful and sickening. Three words that can appropriately be used to describe the racist abuse aimed at Tottenham forward Son Heung-min during the 6-0 thrashing of Millwall in the FA Cup on Sunday. But rather than tear into the League One club for the behavior of some of their fans, it should be highlighted that it’s an enormous shame the club’s successful run has been overshadowed once again by their fans.

As the Millwall manager, Neil Harris, pointed out following the match, this is not the actions of the club, or its entire fan base. This is a small selection of supporters who feel it is acceptable to chant disgraceful abuse at footballers that they wouldn’t dream about doing so in public, and unless they start to realise that their actions are tarnishing a club that has worked hard to try and rid itself of its unwanted hooligan tag, the progress will be pointless.

City starting to look like Guardiola’s well-oiled machine

Pep Guardiola made a good point last week when he stated that his side are playing better football now than they were during their 10-match winning start to the season. City are now unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions, and something appears to have clicked with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and, most importantly, Sergio Aguero.

The striker has returned to form since being dropped for new arrival Gabriel Jesus, and instead of letting the setback affect his performances – as he could easily have done so – he went about proving a point to Guardiola. Having scored six goals in his last five games, Aguero looks like a player born-again, and that can also be said of the team.

City’s defensive vulnerabilities are well-documented, but Guardiola has never been known for his ability to shut down games in the same way that Jose Mourinho or Antonio Conte do. This is the City everyone expected under the Spaniard, and while it may not yet be a model for silverware this season, it’s an exciting one to watch.

Spurs face their biggest test without Kane

It was the sight that every Tottenham fan has dreaded for the best part of three seasons – what if Harry Kane suffers and injury? He did exactly that on Sunday, the England striker hurting his ankle early in the win over Millwall following a challenge from defender Jake Cooper.

The Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino, hinted afterwards that it could be a recurrence of the ankle ligament injury he suffered earlier in the season, and if he faces a similar length of time on the sideline as the seven weeks he missed from September to November, he will barely play again this season.

Suddenly, Tottenham’s back-up strikers of Vincent Janssen and Son Heung-min have a much bigger role to play, and with Spurs yet to guarantee a top four finish along with an FA Cup semi-final and potential final in the pipeline, Pochettino will hope that they can both vindicate his decision to sign them as Kane’s deputies.

Everton showing signs they can join the top six

Another comfortable victory for Everton – a 3-0 win over their nearest challengers West Brom – shows that they are stuck in middle ground between genuine top four candidates and the Premier League also-rans. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had high praise for Everton last week as he claimed they will be in the mix for a top four place next season, and all the signs appear to back-up the Italian’s claim.

Everton showed that they are not yet on the level of those above them when they suffered a 301 defeat by Spurs last week, but then results like the 4-0 thrashing of City show they have the quality to bridge the gap. They have bought well in Morgan Schneiderlin, who scored his first goal for the club this weekend, and they appear increasingly likely to keep hold of Romelu Lukaku next season. If they can keep hold of manager Ronald Koeman too, then everything is pointed in taking Everton in the right direction.

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