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Seven takes from the weekend of EPL action

Tottenham head north to take on Man City. (enviro warrior / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Roar Guru
1st May, 2017
4

A sleepy Saturday just as quickly morphed into super Sunday as the Barclays Premier League roared back into life.

On Saturday, there was a total of four goals scored in five games as the mid-table battlers did just that. With nothing on the line, the only note of significance was that Hull gained a crucial point in their quest for safety as they drew with Southampton.

The early start on Sunday saw Manchester United draw with Swansea and, in the process, break an unwanted record for the most draws in a single season.

Meanwhile, Chelsea took another step forward towards winning the title with a clinical 3-0 away win over Everton.

At the Riverside, a drama-filled tussle saw Manchester City twice come from behind to virtually condemn Middlesbrough to the Championship.

The marquee game of the round saw the Spurs confirm their status as Kings of the north with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Arsenal.

Here are some talking points from the weekends Premier League action.

1. Chelsea dismiss Everton with brutal efficiency
Everton may have felt that their recent solid form gave them a sniff of spoiling Chelsea’s run to the title.

After a tight 60 minutes, a piece of Pedro magic gave Chelsea the priceless first goal and from there, they never looked back.

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Everton hardly mustered a decent effort on goal all game and had great difficulty breaking down the Chelsea defence. Chelsea were well and truly back to their best with the recently crowned PFA Player of the Year, N’Golo Kante, putting in another outstanding performance in the heart of the Chelsea midfield.

2. Romelu Lukaku is a flat track bully
Romelu Lukaku had a chance to show his previous owners what they had lost out on. Unfortunately, he hardly landed a punch.

Shorn of quality service, he failed to lead the line, was unable to effectively hold the ball up and barely managed a shot on goal. He does lead the goal scoring tally but only four of his goals have come against top six opposition.

There is no doubt the Lukaku is one of the best strikers in England, and at the age of 23, has undoubted potential for the future, but the fact remains he has a few rungs to climb before he can be spoken about in the same breath as Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa or even Harry Kane.

3. City fails to capitalise on Manchester United slip-up.
Gabriel Jesus made a welcome return from injury as he scored a late equaliser to give City a share of the spoils against a dogged Middlesbrough.

Fighting for their relegation lives, Middlesbrough twice took the lead only to be pegged back by strikes from Aguero and de Jesus.

City still hold a slender one-point lead over arch rivals United but it could have been so much more. They are hanging onto a spot in the top four, and with the easier run in, City would still appear to be favourites to qualify for the Champions League.

4. Rashford should be applauded for clever play rather than pilloried for diving.
Young United striker Marcus Rashford is sure to come under media scrutiny during the week for diving to win the penalty against Swansea.

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With the Swansea keeper racing out, Rashford toe-poked the ball froward. Łukasz Fabianski moved his hands away but Rashford clipped his leg on him and took a tumble.

Swansea players could scarcely believe their eyes as the referee pointed to the spot. Yes it was gamesmanship but not dissimilar from the FA cup semi-final a week ago where Chelsea’s Victor Moses stumbled over a sliding Son Heung-min to win a penalty.

Moses was described as clever for artfully stumbling over a suicidal challenge but Rashford will not be so fortunate.

5. Sunderland bids farewell to the Premier league.
It has been coming for several years but Sunderland have been officially relegated after their loss to Bournemouth on Saturday.

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After enjoying many years in the Premier League, their run will come to an end. They are a big club and should find their feet in the Championship soon enough, but as many of their predecessors have found, returning to the Premier League straight after relegation can be a difficult business.

The blame will, of course, be placed on the shoulders of David Moyes, but in truth, just like Aston Villas demotion the year before, expecting relegation escapes year on end is a recipe for failure.

The problem of course is multifaceted, from poor recruitment, lack of squad investment, poor player performances and coaching.

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6. Spurs hand out a lesson in the North London derby.
Watching the derby from a unique vantage in an Arsenal pub in North London, supporters spent the first 55 minutes supporting their team with vicious fervour.

However, it took 75 minutes for them to turn on their team.

Arsenal were well and truly outclassed by a Spurs outfit that, if not for poor finishing, should have won by a lot more. Their pressing was excellent, as was their calmness and patience playing from the back.

Victor Wanyama was most impressive, bossing the midfield area, winning challenges and showing again why he has been held in such high regard by Mauricio Pochettino.

Wanyama and Eric Dier did the grunt work allowing the class of Dele Alli, Kane, Christian Eriksen and Son to shine through. Spurs were dominant from the get-go as Alli and Eriksen missed wide open goals in quick succession inside the first 20 minutes.

Early in the second half, Alli put Spurs ahead, finishing some fine lead up work by the ever present Christian Eriksen. Two minutes later, Kane put Spurs 2-0 up after winning and converting a penalty from the spot.

Gabriel showed again why Arsenal must delve into the transfer market for a solid centre back, needlessly sticking his foot in when the smarter play would have been to channel Kane wide. After that it was only the heroics of Petr Cech that kept the score line unchanged.

7. There is a distinct power shift in North London
After two decades of dominance, Tottenham will finally finish ahead of their North London rivals for the first time in the Premier League era.

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The fans celebrated like they had won the title. Perhaps to the uninitiated, it seems like a hollow victory to finish over an insipid Arsenal side that was at the Spurs mercy, but living here, the animosity is real and hatred between the two clubs runs like blood through the veins of each respective supporter base.

Arsenal have faltered over the last few seasons and, despite winning the FA cup, they have never mounted a meaningful title challenge and their European exploits inevitably end in a Round of 16 loss.

Spurs meanwhile will likely finish runners up in consecutive seasons. They have a young squad brimming with talent and an equally astute young manager who has the world at his feet.