Premier League: Eight things we learned from matchround 17

Chelsea’s leaky defence is hitting their title hopes, Arsenal’s young guns are key to top four push, Kevin de Bruyne is getting back to his best and there is hope yet for Rafa Benitez at Everton… eight things we learned from the Premier League in midweek

  • Chelsea only came away with one point in a 1-1 draw against struggling Everton
  • Man City showed no mercy against Leeds as 7-0 victory saw them stay top
  • Liverpool came from behind to seal three points against Newcastle at Anfield
  • A 2-0 win over West Ham saw Arsenal leapfrog the Hammers into the top four 

After a short turnaround, the Premier League returned to action midweek as the top-flight hit a jam-packed festive schedule. 

The fixtures were slightly overshadowed by Covid-19 outbreaks in a number of clubs which caused three games to be postponed but 14 teams were still in action as the title race heated up.

Chelsea’s shock 1-1 draw with Everton saw the Blues lose significant ground in the race for the Premier League crown as Manchester City stormed to a 7-0 win over Leeds to stay top, while Liverpool snatched all three points against Newcastle. 

Elsewhere, Aston Villa secured yet another win under new boss Steven Gerrard, while Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal leapfrogged West Ham into fourth with a 2-0 victory. 

Everton were offered a thin slice of glimmering hope but things are not getting any easier for Newcastle towards the bottom of the table as Sportsmail takes a look at what we learned from round 17 in the Premier League.

Kevin de Bruyne dazzled as Manchester City showed no mercy against a Leeds side ravaged by injuries in a dominant 7-0 win.

Just over a week ago, the midfielder looked like he would have to fight for a starting spot in Pep Guardiola’s side. 

De Bruyne has made just six starts in the top-flight this season and prior to the Leeds game had scored just two league goals thanks to a debilitating ankle injury leading to questions over his value to this City side. 

Kevin de Bruyne was back to his best as he scored twice in Man City’s 7-0 win against Leeds

But he proved the doubters wrong on Tuesday night with a masterclass. 

The Belgian scored twice to essentially seal the three points in what was arguably his best performance of the season. 

In addition to his goals, his all-round play was much more effective than in recent weeks. He skipped through the Leeds midfield with ease and constantly picked out the right ball in the final third.  

2. Liverpool are weaker without Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho

Anyone who believed Jurgen Klopp did not need to bring in reinforcements in January, need only watch Liverpool’s performance against Newcastle. 

With two key members of their squad missing, the Reds looked lost throughout the game, despite a 3-1 win. 

Liverpool were the latest Premier League side to be hit with a Covid-19 outbreak as Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones were revealed to be suspected positive cases just before the team news broke on Thursday night. 

Liverpool missed Virgil van Dijk (left) and Fabinho after they tested positive for Covid-19

While Ibrahima Konate was a stellar stand-in at the heart of the Reds’ defence, Liverpool desperately missed Van Dijk’s ability to create an attack from the backline. 

In his absence from the side, the Dutchman’s contribution to Liverpool’s usually riotous attack was notably lacking and Klopp’s side often looked as if they were struggling to gather momentum. 

Meanwhile, Fabinho’s absence left a gaping void in midfield which left Liverpool far too open in the middle of the park. 

3. Chelsea need to fix their leaky defence

On paper Chelsea should have breezed to an easy win against Everton, who have just one win in 11 games. 

But the Blues leaky defence once again dashed their hopes of three points as they slipped further behind Man City and Liverpool with a 1-1 draw against the travelling Toffees. 

Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side have been almost watertight at the back since he took control 11 months ago, but the leak that has sprung up in his defence in recent weeks is threatening to turn into a flood. 

Chelsea have now conceded 11 goals in six games in all competitions after Thursday’s 1-1 draw 

Jarrad Branthwaite’s equaliser for Rafa Benitez’s side was the 11th goal Chelsea have conceded in their last six games in all competitions. 

The goal, which came just four minutes after Mason Mount’s equaliser, was also the seventh time Tuchel’s side have let their lead slip in their last five games. 

As title rivals Liverpool and City snatched three points in their games to maintain their positions at the top, Chelsea had to reconcile themselves with just the one. 

But if the Blues want to get back in the race, Tuchel needs to solve his defensive woes as soon as possible.  

4. Arsenal could pull off comeback of the season

Arsenal began the season with the worst start in their 118-year history. 

The Gunners suffered defeats in their three opening games of the Premier League, including a 5-0 mauling by Man City, and sunk to rock bottom of the table after failing to score a single goal.

But Mikel Arteta’s side have turned their season around and a 2-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday night saw them leapfrog the Hammers to creep into the top four. 

And it could be thanks to the manager’s faith in his firing young Gunners. 

Gabriel Martinelli, 20, and Emile Smith Rowe, 21, were on target against West Ham, meaning 10 of Arsenal’s 23 Premier League goals this season have been scored by players 21 or under – more than any other top-flight club in 2021-22. 

Meanwhile, the Emirates has become a fortress this season as evidenced by their win over West Ham.

Arsenal have lost just once at the Emirates all season – to Chelsea back in August.

Arsenal have turned their season around thanks to starlets such as Emile Smith Rowe (centre)

5. Aston Villa are winning in Gerrard era 

Aston Villa have undergone a Cinderella transformation since Steven Gerrard’s arrival at Villa Park. 

Since taking charge, Gerrard has overseen four wins out of six games for Aston Villa – with the two defeats coming against leaders City and his former side Liverpool. 

The 2-0 win over former boss Dean Smith’s Norwich on Tuesday lifted Villa to 10th in the table. 

When Gerrard took over the Midlands outfit were floundering but the new boss has instilled a new confidence in his side which is evident in the way they play, churning out the victories.  

Since Steven Gerrard (above) took charge, Aston Villa have won four of their six league games

6. Jacob Ramsey could be Aston Villa’s next Jack Grealish 

It was difficult to imagine Aston Villa coping after former talisman Jack Grealish’s £100m move to Man City in summer.

But Villa already have the answer to Grealish’s departure in their ranks. 

Jacob Ramsey underlined his incredible potential with a brilliant performance against Norwich, capped off with a wonderful solo goal to give Villa the lead. 

Young midfielder Jacob Ramsey (right) gave Aston Vila the lead over Norwich on Tuesday

The wonder strike had echoes of the Villa boss and with Gerrard already showing willing to give the youngsters a chance, the 20-year-old could be moulded into the midfield great. 

The young midfielder now has the same number of Premier League goals as Grealish so far this season, and has the potential to fill the void left by the former Villa captain. 

7. There is hope yet for Rafa Benitez 

Under-fire Benitez looked on the brink of the sack before Everton’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Thursday. 

With just one win in 10 games before the clash and Blues fans turning mutinous against the manager, Benitez’s future at Goodison was looking far from secure. 

But Everton pulled off a shock 1-1 draw against third-place Chelsea to see the Spaniard secure ‘one of the best points’ in his career.

Jarrad Branthwaite’s (right) equaliser at Chelsea offered under-fire Rafa Benitez (left) hope

With the number of senior players missing for the Toffees running into double figures, many expected Chelsea to comfortably take the three points when the teams were announced.

However, Thomas Tuchel’s side were left stunned as Jarrad Branthwaite’s 74th minute equaliser was enough for Everton to take one of their most hard-fought points of the season. 

A spirited performance from the Toffees’ youngsters has given Benitez hope to turn the season around. 

8. Down to a two-way title race 

Everton did a huge favour for their Merseyside rivals as they caused Chelsea to stumble on Thursday night. 

The Blues lost significant ground in the title race as rivals City and Liverpool secured three points in their midweek fixtures, while Chelsea fumbled to come away with just one. 

The Stamford Bridge stalemate has opened the gap between Chelsea and leaders City to four points,  while Liverpool pulled two points ahead in second. 

The result eases the pressure on Jurgen Klopp’s side who now need to focus on keeping pace with City without Chelsea breathing down their necks. 

As Tuchel’s side continue to leak in goals the title race seems to have been cut down from three to two. 

Jurgen Klopp (left) and Pep Guardiola’s sides are separated by one point in the race

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