Man City march on as Tuchel makes Lukaku call – Premier League talking points

City are firm favourites to claim a fourth title in five years

Andy Hampson
Sunday 02 January 2022 20:13
Manchester City extended their lead in the Premier League after Rodri grabbed a last-gasp winner at Arsenal (John Walton/PA)
Manchester City extended their lead in the Premier League after Rodri grabbed a last-gasp winner at Arsenal (John Walton/PA)

Manchester City moved 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League while nearest challengers Chelsea and Liverpool drew a thriller at Stamford Bridge.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some things we learned from the weekend of fixtures.

City can handle it all

Yet again Manchester City showed their champion quality and underlined why they are firm favourites to claim a fourth title in five years by coming from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1. It was an 11th successive win and further illustrated just how City seem capable of dealing with anything thrown at them. In recent weeks they have shown they can grind out victories against teams sitting back (Wolves), blitz sides playing more openly (Leeds, Newcastle, Leicester) and punish opponents that do not take chances (Brentford). Now, after Rodri’s injury-time winner at the Emirates Stadium, we know they can recover from setbacks and will fight to the end to get the points they need.

Tuchel not afraid to make big calls

Romelu Lukaku was dropped by Thomas Tuchel (Adam Davy/PA)

Chelsea and Liverpool lost ground on City over the weekend after playing out a compelling 2-2 draw. The game produced plenty of action and a number of talking points – but none bigger than the one Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel made before kick-off by dropping striker Romelu Lukaku. Tuchel decided to punish the £97.5million striker for his comments in an interview released earlier in the week in which he said he was “not happy” with his role at the club. It was a bold decision by Tuchel, to deny himself the services of a potential match-winner, but emphasised his strength as a manager.

Standing is back

Some fans were permitted to stand at Stamford Bridge (Adam Davy/PA)

For the first time in more than 25 years, supporters were legally able to watch a top-flight match standing up as a limited trial of ‘safe standing’ areas began with the clash between Chelsea at Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. It is obviously too early to draw conclusions with regards to overall safety based on one game but initial reactions to the trial, in terms of how standing can enhance the atmosphere at least, appeared to be positive. The situation will be closely monitored in the coming matches of the trial.

Arsenal getting closer to the top sides

Arsenal gave Manchester City a good run for their money (John Walton/PA)

One thing lacking from Arsenal’s resurgence in recent months has been a statement victory over one of the competition’s elite teams. On Saturday they came close to upsetting the best of the lot as they ran the champions so close. They deservedly led through Bukayo Saka at half-time and, on another day, they could also have had a penalty while City might not have been awarded the one from which they equalised. Then, had Gabriel Magalhaes not got himself carelessly sent off, they might have held on for at least a point. The Gunners have grown in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and they are getting closer to the top guns.

Pressure mounting at Everton and Burnley

It has not been a happy start to 2022 for Everton manager Rafael Benitez (Peter Byrne/PA)

It has not been a happy few weeks at either Goodison Park or Turf Moor. After being hit by a number of postponements, Everton and Burnley have returned to action in recent days and been unable to deliver much cheer. With just one win in 12, Everton boss Rafael Benitez is under growing pressure after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Brighton. They still have breathing space above the relegation zone but, in 15th, they are currently looking down rather than up. Concern will also be increasing at Burnley after their 3-1 loss at Leeds. The consensus remains that they should have the quality to pull away from trouble but they remain in the bottom three and another opportunity to escape it has slipped by.

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