Laurent Koscielny

Premier League Recap: 8 Things We Learned From Another Dramatic Weekend of Football Action

From the dramatic and heart-stopping 4-3 score-lines at both Molineux and Anfield on Saturday, to the gut-wrenching injury-time defeat for Fulham the next day, the Premier League was at it again with more high-octane drama.


The race for the top four and those coveted Champions League places has well and truly come alive after Arsenal's impressive victory over Chelsea, whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's rejuvenated Manchester United juggernaut just keep picking up victories.


For all the drama at the top, there was just as significant amount of excitement at the bottom. Newcastle scored an unprecedented three times to earn a monumental victory over relegation rivals Cardiff, whilst Ralph Hasenhuttl's Southampton seem to have turned a corner.


With an unbelievable weekend of sheer footballing theatre at both ends of the Premier League table, here is a look at eight things we learned from it.

8. Fulham's Lack of Experience May See Them Go Down

With less than a minute to go, Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico had the ball in his hands and simply had to hang on to it for as long as possible to ensure the Cottagers earned a hard-fought point against Tottenham. Instead, the Spaniard inexplicably attempted to kick-start a quick counter-attack and saw Spurs get the ball back, send in a cross for Harry Winks to nod home and steal all three points for the north London side. 


It smacked of mind-numbing inexperience at a crucial moment of the game, and a pivotal part of the season. Claudio Ranieri's side find themselves cut adrift in the Premier League relegation zone, and any point against one of the 'big six' would have been a shot in the arm. But, thanks to Rico's moment of madness, and some of his fellow Fulham teammates' poor game management, Ranieri was left to rue a huge missed opportunity.


If the 'Tinkerman' can't change his side's mentality sooner rather than later, then Fulham's return to the top-flight may very well be short-lived. 

7. Late Defeat May Be Claude Puel's Final Nail in the Coffin

Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions! Wolves' clash with Leicester in the early Saturday kick-off set the tone for an entire weekend of Premier League drama. Unfortunately for Foxes boss Claude Puel, the late drama may just be the final straw in his tenure as manager.


Despite masterminding a set of stunning results last month over both Manchester City and Chelsea, Puel has come under growing criticism in recent weeks for his style of play and indifferent performances. The manager has never seemed to have truly connected with the Leicester fanbase, and after seeing his side mount a stirring comeback to make it 3-3, he saw his players completely lose the plot by allowing Diogo Joto to complete his hat-trick and snatch victory for Nuno Espirito Santo's men.


The Frenchman is the odds-on favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job, and there seems to be an air of inevitability surrounding his fate as Leicester boss. 

6. Liverpool Deliver Another Reminder of Title-Winning Credentials

Whisper it quietly, but Liverpool are just gaining momentum in their pursuit of their first league title in over two decades. The Reds once again had to come through adversity on Saturday though, with Jurgen Klopp's side falling behind to Andros Townsend's effort.


After then coming back after half-time to take the lead, Palace hit back to equalise through James Tomkins, and Anfield was on bated breath. But as has been the case since his arrival, up stepped 'Egyptian King' Mohamed Salah to his side's rescue with less than a quarter of an hour to go to hand Liverpool the lead. 


Despite the dramatic finish involving James Milner's sending off and goals-a-piece for Sadio Mane and Max Meyer, Liverpool held on for a huge victory at home. Title-winning campaigns are built on games where you just somehow, some way pick up all three points, and without being at their best on the weekend Klopp's men saw the game out. Just 15 games to go Liverpool fans! 

5. The Arrival of Gonzalo Higuain Can't Come Soon Enough for Chelsea

With Sarri's post-match press conference taking the limelight, Chelsea's woeful performance going forward went slightly under the radar. With Eden Hazard again deployed as a false nine to combat the fact Sarri clearly doesn't trust either Olivier Giroud or the soon-to-be-gone Alvaro Morata, Chelsea lacked a focal point at the top of their attack.


Their Belgian talisman was marshalled expertly out of the game by Arsenal's two centre-backs, and whenever the Blues worked the ball out wide to either Marcos Alonso or Cesar Azpilicueta, they often turned back due to a lack of options.


With both Arsenal and Manchester United breathing down their necks just three points off them, Chelsea are in dire need of getting the Higuaín deal over the line as soon as possible. The Milan forward was prolific under Sarri during their time together at Napoli, and the hope will be that the pair can rekindle their relationship at Stamford Bridge and get the Blues back on track. 

4. Tottenham's Mounting Injury Crisis May Soon Catch Up With Them

Despite Harry Winks' dramatic late winner to snatch all three points for Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino was understandably downcast after the game. With star man Harry Kane already ruled out until early March, and Son Heung-Min on international duty with South Korea, the last thing Spurs needed was for another one of their goal-scoring threats to spend time out.


But after seemingly suffering a hamstring injury, Dele Alli, who scored the equaliser at Craven Cottage, looks set for a period on the sidelines. With a huge Carabao Cup semi-final second leg on Thursday, and the Champions League last-16 getting underway next month, Pochettino's threadbare squad is going to be tested to the absolute limit.


They may have been the only side in the top five European leagues to not spend a single penny in the summer, but Spurs may well be forced into bringing in reinforcements in January to cope with the growing list of recent injuries. 

3. Arsenal Keep Top Four Hopes Alive With Best Defensive Display of the Season

Coming into the game against Chelsea in arguably Unai Emery's most testing week in his fledgling rein as Arsenal manager, the Gunners delivered a professional and tactically proficient performance to keep their top four hopes alive.


The very definition of a 'six-pointer', a loss would have seen Emery's side fall nine points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, almost certainly ending their hopes of finishing inside the coveted Champions League spots. But in another invigorating home performance against one of the Premier League's big six, Arsenal hustled and harried Sarri's side into looking extremely ordinary.


Emery has come under fire in recent weeks for some of his decision-making, but on Saturday, he got all the big calls right and Arsenal's use of the diamond formation in midfield brought rich rewards. The Gunners certainly have the firepower up front, but they produced their most resilient and assured defensive display of the season, with Sokratis and man-of-the-match Laurent Koscielny looking like the club's best defensive partnership. 

2. Marcus Rashford Is the Premier League's Best Striker Right Now

Ahead of Manchester United's victory against Spurs last week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked about his thoughts on Marcus Rashford and how he compared to Harry Kane. The United boss was adamant that on-form his forward could claim to be one of the best in the Premier League, and after another superb solo goal against Brighton on the weekend, Rashford, right now, is the best.


The England international has enjoyed an incredible run of form under his new manager, and has seemingly rediscovered the confidence and goal-scoring touch that seemed to flit in and out during Jose Mourinho's reign. On his 150th appearance for the club, Rashford was electric and notched his fifth goal under Solskjaer by leaving Pascal Gross for dust before bending a sumptuous effort into the top corner. 


Since his debut in February 2016, the 21-year-old has scored more times than any other player for United, with 41 goals. At this rate, Rashford could well come up the blind-side and add his name to the conversation for the Premier League's Golden Boot.  

1. Maurizio Sarri Has Thrown the Gauntlet Down to the Chelsea Dressing Room

Undoubtedly the biggest talking point of the Premier League weekend, Sarri's explosive rant at questioning his Chelsea players' motivation and commitment to the cause was shocking to say the least.


After falling to an insipid 2-0 defeat to top-four rivals Arsenal, the Blues' Italian boss launched into a scathing attack on what he felt was a mentally weak dressing room and left no stone unturned. 


He said, as quoted by the Evening Standard: "I have to say that I'm extremely angry, very angry indeed. This defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else, our mental approach. We played against a team which mentally was far more determined than we were. And this is something I can't accept.


"The fact of the matter is it appears this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate."


History will tell you that whenever Chelsea managers take their feud with the players public, the players invariably end up on the winning side - and to great success too. Sarri will be hoping that his words galvanise his team for him, rather than against him, or else.