Premier League: Tottenham expose Man City again, Man United up for fight and Thiago is class

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It was another captivating Premier League weekend with results of great significance at both ends of the table.

Most excitingly, the title race is back on after leaders Man City were beaten in dramatic fashion by Tottenham a couple of hours after Liverpool piled on the pressure by beating Norwich.

It means that Jurgen Klopp’s chasers can cut the gap to only three points if they win their game in hand against Leeds on Wednesday.

Harry Kane was in inspired form as Tottenham beat Man City to reignite the title race

Harry Kane was in inspired form as Tottenham beat Man City to reignite the title race

Elsewhere, Man United won a throwback sort of game at Leeds to bolster their top four chances but with Spurs, Arsenal and Wolves winning, the chase is very much on.

A reshuffle took place down the bottom with Norwich sinking like a stone after both Watford and Burnley won on Saturday, with Newcastle claiming a point at West Ham.

Here’s what we learned from the weekend’s Premier League football.

Tottenham once again show everyone how to master City

Since Pep Guardiola came to the Premier League in 2016, Tottenham have got the better of his Manchester City side six times.

Mauricio Pochettino was the first manager to outwit Guardiola in English football in 2016 and Spurs memorably knocked them out the Champions League in 2019.

Now, under very different managers in Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte, they have completed the double over City this season and their secret is hardly ingenious.

Tottenham completed the double over Pep Guardiola's Man City under two different managers, with Antonio Conte repeating Nuno Espirito Santo's feat on the opening weekend

Tottenham completed the double over Pep Guardiola’s Man City under two different managers, with Antonio Conte repeating Nuno Espirito Santo’s feat on the opening weekend

Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias aren’t the fastest defenders, Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker like to push up down the flanks.

If you can get the ball to speedy attackers, whether through the middle or in pockets of space out wide, you can get in behind and punish City.

Spurs gave a masterclass in this on Saturday night. Harry Kane, who scored twice and might have had at least two more, dropped deep to keep them flowing forward.

Son Heung-min and the excellent Dejan Kulusevski had boundless energy and made threatening runs. If your low block is solid enough, even such a slick outfit as City can stumble.

Dejan Kulusevski was excellent for Tottenham as their speedy forwards troubled Man City

Dejan Kulusevski was excellent for Tottenham as their speedy forwards troubled Man City

Then you must pounce, work the ball quickly and intelligently and rewards can come.

Having said that, we all know City have about three off-days a season and they’ve lost three Premier League games already.

Thiago a class act wherever he plays

Consistency and a never-say-die spirit are vital factors if you want to win titles. Strength in depth is also essential.

So when Jurgen Klopp sent on Thiago Alcantara for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Liverpool trailing Norwich at Anfield, it was far from a gamble.

The Spain midfielder, 30, has won four league titles and the Champions League with Barcelona, plus seven Bundesliga crowns with Bayern Munich.

Thiago Alcantara came off the bench to inspire Liverpool's turnaround to defeat Norwich

Thiago Alcantara came off the bench to inspire Liverpool’s turnaround to defeat Norwich

Jurgen Klopp recognised the significance of the result as Liverpool moved closer to City

Jurgen Klopp recognised the significance of the result as Liverpool moved closer to City

The Reds will move three points behind the leaders if they win against Leeds on Wednesday

The Reds will move three points behind the leaders if they win against Leeds on Wednesday

He knew precisely what Liverpool needed in that situation. A calm and assured presence in the centre of the park and a firm foundation from which to launch the waves of attack that eventually saw the bottom club overwhelmed.

Thiago hasn’t played as much for Liverpool this season as he would have liked. A calf injury, a bout of Covid and then a hip issue have restricted game time.

But when Klopp called on him in a situation of need on Saturday, he responded with a classy 28-minute cameo.

At one point, he even played a no-look, 50-yard pass over to Konstantinos Tsimikas on the left which drew gasps from the Anfield crowd.

At last, United look up for a scrap

You can often find ‘The Big Match Revisited’ on ITV4 of a weekday afternoon, delving into the network’s football archive from the 1970s and 1980s.

Sunday’s no-holds barred clash between Leeds United and Manchester United, played before a braying Elland Road crowd and on a pitch just the right side of waterlogged, was a similar throwback.

Referee Paul Tierney let a lot of meaty challenges go which was a good decision given, at times, the game was slowed anyway by the sheer weight of water on the playing surface.

They were precisely the kind of conditions in which you expected Ralf Rangnick’s side, more whingers than warriors, to come unstuck.

Scott McTominay epitomised Man United's fighting spirit as they won 4-2 at Leeds on Sunday

Scott McTominay epitomised Man United’s fighting spirit as they won 4-2 at Leeds on Sunday

And for 59 tumultuous seconds just after half-time, as their two-goal lead vanished into the Yorkshire mirk, it looked a test of character they would fail.

But Rangnick made the right substitutions at the right time, bringing on Fred for the fading Paul Pogba and Anthony Elanga for Jesse Lingard, and United went on to claim a win of significance.

There was a bit of steel about them at last, with Scott McTominay outstanding as he snapped into tackle after tackle, relishing the old-fashioned nature of the occasion and just about staying on the tightrope after a 78th-minute booking. He showed off his battle scars afterwards.

With the much-maligned Harry Maguire also scoring, it was something for United to build on ahead of their Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid, which could well be similar.

Harry Maguire headed home to set United on course for victory after a tricky few weeks

Harry Maguire headed home to set United on course for victory after a tricky few weeks

Clean sheet comes as a relief for Tuchel

Much will be made of Romelu Lukaku’s anonymous performance in Chelsea’s late win over Crystal Palace.

The £97.5million striker managed a mere seven touches, which is the lowest statisticians Opta have on record for a player who completed the full 90.

At the other end of the field, however, there were positives for Thomas Tuchel with a very welcome clean sheet and Palace unable to fire in a shot on target in the entire game.

Under the German, Chelsea have kept 37 clean sheets in 70 matches. Impressive, but the issue is not many of them have come lately.

Hakim Ziyech slipped in to score Chelsea's 89th-minute winner at Crystal Palace on Saturday

Hakim Ziyech slipped in to score Chelsea’s 89th-minute winner at Crystal Palace on Saturday

Concerns had grown about Chelsea’s porous back line as they dropped points to the likes of Brighton and Everton to kill off any chance of a title challenge.

It doesn’t help that first choice wing backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James are out injured but, as a consequence, Tuchel has switched to four-at-the-back, albeit with Andreas Christensen a makeshift right back.

No matter if it shores things up for Chelsea with Lille in the Champions League and then the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool to come this week.

This new-look defence may help compensate for that shortage of goals.

Andreas Christensen, a makeshift right back, tries to keep tabs on Palace's Wilfried Zaha

Andreas Christensen, a makeshift right back, tries to keep tabs on Palace’s Wilfried Zaha

Brentford urgently need Eriksen’s magic

The general consensus before Christmas was that Brentford were nailed-on to stay in the Premier League for a second season.

But a run of six defeats from their last seven league outings, or just one win in 10 going further back, suddenly has the Bees only six points above the bottom three and glancing nervously over their shoulder.

There was no disgrace in losing 2-1 at Arsenal on Saturday – even if they did stun the Gunners back on the season’s opening night – but some insurance wins need to come from somewhere.

Thomas Frank’s team created pretty much noting until Christian Norgaard’s stoppage time consolation and, as a result, the craft and creativity of a certain Christian Eriksen cannot arrive soon enough.

Brentford have unveiled Christian Eriksen and his debut this weekend can't come soon enough

Brentford have unveiled Christian Eriksen and his debut this weekend can’t come soon enough

Now, here we have a delicate situation ahead of Eriksen’s likely Brentford debut against Newcastle on Saturday.

Fundamentally, it’s just a miracle that we’re going to see Eriksen on a football pitch again after his cardiac arrest at the Euros. We’re none the wiser as to whether the Dane’s magic remains.

And yet Brentford urgently need a glimpse of Eriksen’s best to inspire them if they’re to avoid an anxious finish to the season.

Kilman deserves an England shot

March’s Wembley friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast offer Gareth Southgate the perfect opportunity to audition a few new faces in a World Cup year.

West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen deserves a crack and so does Wolves defender Max Kilman. He has already represented England’s futsal team and Sunday’s 2-1 win over Leicester at a sodden Molineux was watched by Southgate’s No 2, Steve Holland.

As it transpired, Kilman set Wolves on their way for Daniel Podence’s winner midway through the second-half, carrying the ball out of defence to set Rayan Ait-Nouri away with a cross-field ball.

Wolves centre half Max Kilman is deserving of a first England call-up for friendlies in March

Wolves centre half Max Kilman is deserving of a first England call-up for friendlies in March

Southgate is more than happy to deploy centre halves confident at running out of defence with the ball – Harry Maguire did it to good effect during the Euros – so Kilman could offer something.

Kilman, 24, has played every single minute of Wolves’ Premier League campaign so far and he played his part in weathering a Leicester storm that included 64 per cent possession and 17 shots.

With Conor Coady already in the England set-up, maybe we’ll see an all-Wolves central defensive pairing in those March internationals.

Hodgson helps Watford hold it together

A crucial three points for Watford against a slumping Aston Villa with the Hornets now third bottom and within four points of Newcastle on the other side of the safety line.

They’ve taken some real beatings at times this season but Roy Hodgson is bringing his vast experience to bear in tightening things up at the back.

Saturday’s clean sheet at Villa Park was Watford’s second since the ex-England boss came in (after a goalless draw at Burnley at the start of the month) – that’s as many as in their previous 36 top-flight games.

Craig Cathcart put in a brave performance to keep Aston Villa at bay as Watford nicked a win

Craig Cathcart put in a brave performance to keep Aston Villa at bay as Watford nicked a win

While the sight of Emmanuel Dennis, Watford’s foremost attacking threat, back amongst the goals was very welcome, their survival bid will have to be constructed on solid defensive foundations.

Craig Cathcart caught the eye, seeming to be everywhere to blunt the Villa attacking threat and he said of Watford’s defensive improvement: ‘It’s something we’ve been working on, we’ve tightened up since the manager has come in.

‘I think the performance and the way we played, we showed fight, and took our chance when it came so we can be really happy.’

Weghorst is Burnley’s Wout out of danger

Plenty thought Burnley were doomed after Newcastle swooped to buy Chris Wood in January. But reinvesting some of that £25million income in giant Dutch striker Wout Weghorst could prove inspired.

The 6ft 6in target man played a hand in all three goals as Burnley battered Brighton 3-0 on Saturday, scoring with an emphatic near post finish, teeing up Josh Brownhill for the second and then playing a hand in Aaron Lennon’s third.

Weghorst, 29, who cost Burnley £12m to buy from Wolfsburg, has a reputation on the continent for being a true penalty box predator and his last 83 league goals have come from inside the area.

Wout Weghorst slams home the opener as Burnley won 3-0 at Brighton on Saturday

Wout Weghorst slams home the opener as Burnley won 3-0 at Brighton on Saturday 

Given that Burnley had managed only 17 league goals this season before Saturday, a reliable chance-taker was precisely what they needed. But his all-round play is clearly also impressive.

Sean Dyche’s side are more defensively resolute than all of those around them in the relegation battle but struggled to take opportunities at the other end.

Wood’s departure could prove to be a blessing in disguise if Weghorst can guide them to safety.

Will Everton’s travel sickness prove incurable?

Everton’s performances since Frank Lampard came in have either been dazzling or dismal with not a great deal in between.

The home wins – 4-1 against Brentford in the FA Cup and 3-0 against Leeds in then league – have suggested the former Chelsea boss can turn his time on Merseyside into something special.

But their away performances in the 3-1 loss at Newcastle and then Saturday’s 2-0 reverse at Southampton have been profoundly depressing.

Donny van de Beek sums up Everton's feelings after yet another away defeat at Southampton

Donny van de Beek sums up Everton’s feelings after yet another away defeat at Southampton

The Toffees don’t travel well at all. Just one win and six points from 12 away trips in the Premier League this season – the worst record of anyone.

Lampard bemoaned his team failing to win second balls, of fading after promising openings to each half and of bypassing the midfield too often. These aren’t new issues on the road, however.

Dele Alli wasn’t able to add any spark when introduced late on and Everton failed to register a shot on target as Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison failed to get any decent service.

It will concern Lampard – and England boss Southgate as well – that Calvert-Lewin has failed to score in five outings since returning from his foot injury.

Could the cups offer solace for West Ham?

Not a good weekend for West Ham. Not only did they let two points slip away against Newcastle in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off – an uncharacteristic error from Declan Rice leading to Joe Willock’s equaliser – but they then watched on helpless as Arsenal, Man United, Spurs and Wolves all won.

The league table may show the Hammers still in fifth place but Arsenal, Wolves and Spurs are all likely to surge past them once they’ve completed their games in hand, wrecking European qualification hopes.

The two dropped points, admittedly against a resurgent Newcastle, brought back into sharp focus the question as to why West Ham didn’t add to their squad in January.

A rare error by Declan Rice led to Newcastle's point-winning equaliser at West Ham

A rare error by Declan Rice led to Newcastle’s point-winning equaliser at West Ham

But that’s all done with now and, even if they don’t secure that coveted spot in the top four, David Moyes and his team still have so much to play for.

Next week’s FA Cup fifth round tie away at Southampton is now absolutely huge. Having already beaten Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City – the three strongest teams left in the competition – this season, there’s no reason why West Ham can’t go all the way.

They also pick up their Europa League campaign in the last-16 next month and will have designs on going deep in that as well. And we all know you get into the Champions League if you win it.

There were groans at the London Stadium when the final whistle sounded on Saturday but it could still be a special season.

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