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5 talking points from Matchday 22 in the Premier League

The Premier League title race is all but over after Matchday 22
The Premier League title race is all but over after Matchday 22
Akshay Tahiliani
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The action in the Premier League rarely fails to entertain us and game week 22 offered plenty. The title race, on paper at least, seems to be beyond those who are pursuing Manchester City. The top-four scene is still very much unclear with as many as four teams capable of making fourth spot.

It has been a frustrating month for Leicester City and their fans so far who have seen their third straight Premier League fixture postponed due to COVID. Newcastle United had a great opportunity to gain some breathing space in the relegation zone but Eddie Howe's side just couldn't keep the lead.

With just three minutes to go, the Magpies conceded a goal to draw 1-1 as Watford managed to stay above the bottom three. However, there were some big highlights in game week 22 as there are every so often.

These are the five big talking points from the weekend in the English top flight.


#1 Super-sub Coutinho inspires comeback on Premier League return as Aston Villa frustrate Manchester United

Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League
Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League

Aston Villa delivered a strong second-half performance and grabbed two late goals in quick succession to earn a deserved 2-2 draw at home. Having narrowly edged past the same opposition a week ago in the FA Cup, Manchester United took a very early lead due to goalkeeper Emi Martinez's mistake.

In fact, even their second of the night, by the same scorer, Bruno Fernandes, was the result of a careless backpass by Morgan Sanson. But the game was proof of how well Steven Gerrard knows his side and the areas they should strengthen. New signing Lucas Digne was brilliant in the left-back position, relentlessly going up and down the touch-line.

Aston Villa fans are loving Coutinho 😂https://t.co/qcsMPZomlZ

But most supporters were in the stadium to see Philippe Coutinho get into the act and get into the act he did. The Brazilian came on from the bench in the 68th minute and, 13 minutes from his arrival, turned the tie on its head. He was lively in the final third and showed signs of quick link-up play with Emi Buendia and Jacob Ramsey.

He got into good positions and, as a result of his awareness and runs into the box, scored the equalizer for Villa. Arguably the standout performer on the night was young Ramsey, who scored their first goal and provided an assist for Coutinho.

As things stand in the Premier League table, Man United are seventh and Aston Villa sit 13th. After the game, Stevan Gerrard pointed out that the Barcelona loanee needs a place where he is loved and Villa will give him the space to express himself.

As far as the Red Devils are concerned, they have been bang average since Ralf Rangnick's arrival. There were some positives in the first half, but overall this was a far from convincing performance. They will next face West Ham in the Premier League, which will be another difficult test.


#2 Chelsea kiss goodbye to their Premier League title hopes after Manchester City defeat

Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League
Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League

If you are a Blues fan and describe yourself as a hopeless romantic then there is still a happy ending for you in this season's Premier League. However, start thinking realistically and it is not difficult to see that Chelsea have wasted what was their last chance to salvage their dying ambitions.

Manchester City were triumphant in the Premier League for a 12th straight match, mostly unthreatened throughout the 90 minutes of this. It was a game of few chances, but when it came to being clinical, Pep Guardiola's men were way better than Thomas Tuchel's.

For the first time since taking charge a year ago, the German manager has been forced into finding solutions for a poor run of form having won one in six league games. Romelu Lukaku did not have an impressive outing and Tuchel said after the game that he expected more from his star forward.

Man City have now scored 520 PL goals in 212 games under Pep Guardiola.It took Alex Ferguson 274 matches to reach the same total.Levels.' https://t.co/Ev82d0XsiR

Chelsea must despise the sight of Kevin De Bruyne, who often ends up punishing them. He scored a wonderful curling goal, his fifth against the Blues. It is interesting because he only ever made three appearances for them and now has more goals against them than appearances for them.

The 13 point gap is realistically unbridgable and Chelsea's next goal should be to finish as close as possible and pip Liverpool to second spot.

#3 Liverpool make light work of Brentford in absence of Salah and Mane

Liverpool v Brentford - Premier League
Liverpool v Brentford - Premier League

Jurgen Klopp was wary that AFCON was going to deliver a serious disadvantage to his side in the Premier League. The Reds could be happy with their performance against Brentford in what was their first league game played without the African absentees.

It was a positive result after some disappointing ones as the Reds had last won in the Premier League on 17th December. Liverpool know that without Mohamed Salah they can be perceived as less dangerous but Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all stepped up.

The boss takes charge of his 3⃣5⃣0⃣th Reds game 🙌 #LIVBRE https://t.co/Z9Jdg14jHy

Klopp would be particularly happy to see that Fabinho has scored three goals in his last three games. Goals from midfield could prove very crucial for the Reds while both Salah and Mane are away. Thanks to their 3-0 win they are now one point ahead of Chelsea with one game in hand.

As far as chasing Manchester City is concerned, they are still eleven points behind the reigning champions.


#4 Arsenal face heat after postponement of north London derby

Liverpool v Arsenal - Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg
Liverpool v Arsenal - Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg

Tottenham Hotspur were left fuming after Premier League authorities decided to accept Arsenal's late proposal to postpone the north London derby. The proposal was made with just 48 hours remaining before kick-off and the decision was announced even later.

The Gunners were missing players due to injuries, AFCON and having sanctioned a couple of loan deals. However, it is being argued that their was notably only two players who were out due to COVID. Spurs were shocked that such a proposal was even entertained and felt that the guidelines were now being tested to their limit, and unfairly so.

Arsenal Football Club being hated again? Yeah, we might be back. #afc https://t.co/f3NXBjGvHq

Many pundits and journalists were left unhappy with this and argued that Arsenal were trying to bend the rules their way. Gary Neville tweeted against the postponement and said that the Premier League should stop entertaining such requests now and most games should be allowed to go forward.

Micah Richards advocated in favor of Arsenal and said that any other Premier League club in a strong position would have done the same. It is surely a gray area that the Gunners seem to have benefitted from, but Tottenham's frustration is understood given they could have faced a weaker Arsenal side.

A future date will now be decided for the fixture. Arsenal are currently placed fifth in the table with 35 points and Spurs are sixth with 33.


#5 Rafa Benitez's tormenting tenure at Everton finally comes to a halt

Norwich City v Everton - Premier League
Norwich City v Everton - Premier League

The writing was on the wall and this was inevitable. Just seven months into his three-year contract at Everton, Rafa Benitez has been relieved of his duties with the Toffies sitting 15th in the Premier League. They are only five points above the relegation zone and there is great pressure on the hierarchy in terms of the next manager.

Benitez has managed only one win in his last 11 Premier League matches and his pragmatic approach has not yielded any results. The 2-1 defeat at Norwich City was the final nail in the coffin. It was really shocking to see that even the worst team in the division beat Everton quite easily.

🚨 Official statement from Liverpool Football Club 🚨 https://t.co/MfRtZmIiF3

His connections with Liverpool made it difficult to establish a bond with supporters at Goodinson Park and this miserable run only created more difficulties. The fans had been protesting for a few weeks and on Saturday we even saw a fan run onto the pitch in a solo protest.

Wayne Rooney and Roberto Martinez are two big names who are being called the favorites to take up the Everton job. The club's hierarchy must make this decision with absolute care as they can't afford the fans turning against them anymore.

Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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