English Premiership

Five lessons from the Premier League

2017-02-14 19:36
Sadio Mane (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Leaders Chelsea were held up by Burnley, Arsenal and Liverpool got back on track and Leicester City's title defence took another turn towards disaster.

Here are five things we learned in the Premier League this weekend:

Cup commitments untimely for Man United

It has been a source of great mirth for the fans of Manchester United's rivals that despite a run of 16 games without defeat, Jose Mourinho's side have been in sixth place since the first weekend in November. But while the gap between United and the Champions League places stretched to nine points in early December, their current run has seen them move to within a point of the top four and two points of second-place Tottenham Hotspur. It will be a source of frustration, then, for Mourinho, whose side comfortably beat Watford 2-0 on Saturday, that FA Cup and League Cup commitments mean his team do not have another league game until March 4.

Fortune favours under-fire Wenger

Faced with mounting criticism from Arsenal fans amid talk he was planning his exit strategy, Arsene Wenger was a manager under siege ahead of Saturday's clash with Hull City. Fortunately for Wenger, Alexis Sanchez was able to ease the pressure with a helping hand that put Arsenal on course for a 2-0 victory. Sanchez's 34th-minute opener was allowed to stand despite the ball ricocheting into the net off his hand and he added a second goal with a stoppage-time penalty after Sam Clucas had been dismissed for a handball the officials did spot. Wenger was quick to dismiss Arsenal great Ian Wright's claim that he is ready to end his 21-year reign at the end of the season, and with luck like this, who can blame him for wanting to stick around?

Mane makes Liverpool's world go round

Left for dead in the title race after failing to win any of their previous five league games, Liverpool got back on track against Tottenham thanks to a Sadio Mane masterclass. Following the Senegal winger's departure for the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool went into free-fall, losing touch with leaders Chelsea and crashing out of both domestic cups. Mane looked a little off the pace when he returned in Liverpool's embarrassing 2-0 loss at Hull, but he was back to his dynamic best with a quick-fire first-half double that gave his side a 2-0 win. Catching Chelsea still looks a pipedream, but manager Jurgen Klopp has challenged his team to win all their remaining league fixtures and this swaggering performance suggested a strong finish is not out of the question.

Home is where the heart is for Burnley

Only one of Burnley's 30 points this season has been picked up away from home, but when their home form is as impressive as it is, that may not matter. Their 1-1 draw with leaders Chelsea means the Lancashire club have gone six top-flight games unbeaten at home for the first time since September 1975, and it was no backs-to-the-wall effort. Pedro put Chelsea ahead in the seventh minute, but Burnley more than held their own after home debutant Robbie Brady had equalised with a fine 24th-minute free-kick and prevented Antonio Conte's league leaders from registering a single shot on target in the second half. It was only the third time Chelsea had dropped points in 19 games and their lead will be trimmed to eight points if Manchester City win at Bournemouth on Monday.

Leicester are making the wrong kind of history

Nine months on from their astonishing 5,000-1 title triumph, Leicester City continue to make history, but now it is for all the wrong reasons. Their 2-0 defeat at Swansea City made them the first English champions to lose five successive games since Chelsea in 1956. A point and a place above the relegation zone, they are in increasing peril of becoming the first defending champions to go down since Manchester City in 1938.

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Fixtures
Saturday, 26 August 2017
AFC Bournemouth v Manchester City, Vitality Stadium 13:30
Crystal Palace v Swansea City, Selhurst Park 16:00
Newcastle United v West Ham United, St. James' Park 16:00
Huddersfield Town v Southampton, The John Smith's Stadium 16:00
Watford v Brighton & Hove Albion, Vicarage Road Stadium 16:00
Manchester United v Leicester City, Old Trafford 18:30
Sunday, 27 August 2017
Chelsea v Everton, Stamford Bridge 14:30
West Bromwich Albion v Stoke City, The Hawthorns 14:30
Liverpool v Arsenal, Anfield 17:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley, Wembley Stadium 17:00
Saturday, 09 September 2017
Manchester City v Liverpool, Etihad Stadium 13:30
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth, Emirates Stadium 16:00
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur, Goodison Park 16:00
Leicester City v Chelsea, King Power Stadium 16:00
Southampton v Watford, St. Mary's Stadium 16:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v West Bromwich Albion, The American Express Community Stadium 16:00
Stoke City v Manchester United, Bet365 Stadium 18:30
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