Ten things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

There were yet more potentially season-defining twists and turns at both ends of the Premier League table following another dramatic weekend of top-flight action.

Cristiano Ronaldo hit the headlines on the pitch this time with a hat-trick, just a week after causing a stir by flying home when he was ruled out of the Manchester derby with a hip flexor injury.

Liverpool closed the gap on Manchester City – who are in action on Monday night at Crystal Palace – to three points with a Luis Diaz-inspired victory, while Arsenal retained their top-four spot with victory over Leicester.

There were also vital wins at the bottom of the table for Brentford and Watford, but Everton’s situation worsened with a 1-0 defeat by Wolves. 

Here’s our weekly assessment of the top-flight action in our Things we Learned column.

Manchester United revived their top-four hopes against Spurs with a first win in three matches 

Manchester United’s top-four hopes rely on Ronaldo

The old adage goes that a week is a long time in football and so it proved yet again for one of the Premier League’s greats.

Speculation swirled at Man United last week Cristiano Ronaldo was unhappy about being a substitute amid his flit home – without Ralf Rangnick’s knowledge – prior to their defeat at Man City.

But fast forward seven days and he reminded those also claiming his abilities as a 37-year-old player were on the wane he is still very much United’s best hope of securing Champions League football next season.

Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick proved he can lead United to Champions League qualification

Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick proved he can lead United to Champions League qualification

His three goals in the victory against Tottenham had it all, a wonder strike from 30 yards, being on the end to tap home a Jadon Sancho cross before rising highest from a corner to demonstrate his well-documented aerial strengths.

The strikes not only took his tally into double figures for league goals this season but also saw him become the leading goalscorer in FIFA history with 807 goals.

United still face season-defining matches between now and May, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all to come. If United are to finish in the top four, Ronaldo’s big-game demeanour will be vital in those matches in particular. 

Luis Diaz vital to Liverpool title bid 

Jurgen Klopp has managed to pull attacking talent to Liverpool from all over the globe since taking over as boss in 2015, and Luis Diaz is just the latest off the conveyor belt. 

His adaptation to English football since joining from Porto for £37million in the January transfer window has been better than many had expected.

Another brilliant performance since arriving at Anfield was highlighted by the 25-year-old Colombian’s second goal in Liverpool colours with the opener at Brighton, a header which nearly cost him his consciousness.

While Liverpool were left stunned by the decision not to send Robert Sanchez off for his reckless challenge, Diaz continued to dazzle and was then praised for his bravery by the German boss.

Mohamed Salah sparked injury fears by heading straight down the tunnel after being substituted at the Amex, but if he is ruled out for any length of time the Reds have another excellent option fit and firing.

Luis Diaz scored a brave header in another dazzling display since joining Liverpool in January

Luis Diaz scored a brave header in another dazzling display since joining Liverpool in January

Thomas Partey is this season’s most improved player 

Public self-reflection followed by marked improvement has rarely been seen at the Emirates Stadium since it was opened in 2006.

So after rating his Arsenal career a four out of 10 in December, fans have been delighted to see midfielder Thomas Partey go from strength to strength, delivering yet another commanding display against Leicester.

The 11th-minute header from a corner is what will be remembered from the 2-0 victory, but he also won 100 per cent of his duels while also completing four tackles, the most of any player.

Thomas Partey scored Arsenal's opener and won 100 per cent of his duels against Leicester

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Thomas Partey scored Arsenal’s opener and won 100 per cent of his duels against Leicester

He only failed to complete five of his 47 passes against Brendan Rodgers’ men, and is now arguably the most in-form player in Mikel Arteta’s firing outfit. 

The Ghanaian undoubtedly struggled with injuries and consequently form in his first season in north London after a £45million move from Atletico Madrid.

But based on recent matches, there is arguably no player who has played in the Premier League in the last two seasons who has improved at such a rate as the Black Stars international.

Aaron Ramsdale must be England No 1

Brendan Rodgers has praised Aaron Ramsdale as ‘the best goalkeeper in England’ but there is no doubt the Leicester boss is sick of the sight of the Arsenal No 1.

After an incredible save from a James Maddison free-kick during Arsenal’s 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium in October, the 23-year-old produced another jaw-dropping stop to deny Harvey Barnes on Sunday.

An animated Rodgers on the touchline thought the forward had scored, and then was seen mouthing the word ‘wow’ in disbelief at Ramsdale’s save.

Aaron Ramsdale pulled off another superb save against Leicester and must be England's No 1

Aaron Ramsdale pulled off another superb save against Leicester and must be England’s No 1

It was another fine display from a goalkeeper who must surely be at the very least pushing Jordan Pickford – right now displaying patchy form at relegation-threatened Everton – for the No 1 spot for England at the World Cup.

The £24m summer signing has only made one appearance for Gareth Southgate’s men in a 1-0 win against San Marino in November, but his saves against the Foxes are just two of the many he has made a critical point in matches this season.

His leadership skills are also greatly admired and if he helps leads Arsenal back into the Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 season, Southgate will struggle to find a more confident goalkeeper ahead of Qatar this winter. 

Frank Lampard struggling to get best out of Richarlison 

Frank Lampard does not need any more problems at Everton right now. But with every passing game it appears the lack of goals in his attack is a pressing concern.

The Toffees made it four Premier League games without a goal as fears of Premier League relegation intensified following their 1-0 defeat by Wolves, made worse by Jonjoe Kenny’s dismissal.

At the crux of their issues is therefore the lack of goals from a forward who has scored just four league goals this season in Richarlison, whose only Premier League strike in 2022 so far came in January’s defeat at Norwich.

Richarlison failed to convert his chances and has just one league goal for Everton in 2022

Richarlison failed to convert his chances and has just one league goal for Everton in 2022

Getting on the end of chances was not Richarlison’s issue, but nothing he tried when it came to beating the goalkeeper came off and his repetitive failure to get Everton back into the game drew groans from the Goodison Park faithful.

Lampard called on his men to fight for their top-flight status following their defeat, something Richarlison appeared to display in abundance during a hard-working performance leading the line.

But Everton’s situation is so dire that Lampard would not be too bold in demanding better finishing from the Brazilian – and the similarly out-of-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin – if their top-flight status has any chance of being preserved. 

Spurs must reinvigorate Son Heung-min to boost top-four hopes

Criticism of the Tottenham forward may appear pretty harsh, considering he and Harry Kane passed the record for most joint goal involvements in Premier League history earlier this season.

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In the same vein, only Liverpool star Mohamed Salah has been involved in more goals in the top flight this season. But there does seem to be something off with the South Korean, albeit with 11 Premier League goals and six assists to his name.

There is still the same endeavour and determination to make things happen down the left-hand side of Spurs’ attack, but the final product – and therefore confidence – is not at a commensurate level. 

Son Heung-min missed a clear chance at Man United but Antonio Conte is not worried by form

Son Heung-min missed a clear chance at Man United but Antonio Conte is not worried by form

Tiredness has been mooted as a potential considerable contributing factor but the most worrying sign for the 29-year-old is when he fired an effort wide at Old Trafford when unmarked from Dejan Kulusevski’s cut back.

Gary Neville – and no doubt Son himself internally – also questioned the boots he was wearing after slipping twice in a matter of minutes with Tottenham in an excellent position to create something dangerous.

But Antonio Conte – who has been no stranger to voicing his opinion at Spurs this season – did not seem worried by his slips or his form, stating: ‘Sonny is a really important player for us and he’s a player that can make a difference for Tottenham.’

But the Italian admitted: ‘there are a couple of players that are very, very important to us’, and Son is no doubt one of those. For Spurs to ensure they slip up as little as possible between now and May though, they need him back in form to aid Kane.

Christian Eriksen and Ivan Toney will keep Brentford up

It looked in doubt at some points during the campaign, but Brentford appear to have all but guaranteed an extension of their top-flight status, for another year at least.

Ivan Toney scored a late brace for them against a wasteful Burnley to earn consecutive wins for the first time since promotion, and which moved them nine points clear of the relegation zone.

But while the goals went to Toney, the magician creating the chances behind him was none other than Christian Eriksen, who put in another man-of-the-match display.

Christian Eriksen (second from left) and Ivan Toney (right) starred in Brentford's weekend win

Christian Eriksen (second from left) and Ivan Toney (right) starred in Brentford’s weekend win

The Dane set up the first goal with an inch-perfect cross for Toney to head home and then put the striker through on goal to win – and convert – a penalty in stoppage time.

The ex-Tottenham and Inter Milan star dazzled at Norwich too and has the backing of Thomas Frank to make Denmark’s squad for the World Cup this winter too.

Toney meanwhile may yet have ambitions to play at a more high-profile club come the summer, but for the time being he and Eriksen should see the west London outfit through to their primary concern of Premier League survival.

Third far from secure for Chelsea amid uncertainty at club

Chelsea have not escaped with much in this past week after descending into turmoil following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich and consequent actions taken by the Premier League and the club’s various sponsors.

But there was a slight sense they had got away with one on Sunday when the European champions required an 89th-minute winner from Kai Havertz to beat Newcastle.

The Germany international should probably have been sent off for an elbow on Dan Burn long before he poked home the winner to the delight of Thomas Tuchel and the Blues bench.

The Magpies also felt aggrieved at the failure to award them a penalty in the second-half when Trevoh Chalobah clearly pulled Jacob Murphy back by grabbing his shirt.

Kai Havertz was lucky not to have seen red way before he netted Chelsea's winner on Sunday

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Kai Havertz was lucky not to have seen red way before he netted Chelsea’s winner on Sunday

But ultimately luck was on the hosts’ side. What is less certain is how much the off-field chaos is impacting on the players, and Sunday’s performance suggests the answer to that is ‘quite a bit’.

Should the sale of the club and their immediate future hang over the club for the next few months, the fear is displays like this could become a more common occurrence.

And while few would dispute claims they are the third best team in the country right now, there is no guarantee they will hold on to that spot, particularly if an in-form Arsenal can repeat last season’s achievement of winning at Stamford Bridge.

Leeds progress under Jesse Marsch with Patrick Bamford return 

Leeds have always had that entertainment factor about them ever since returning to the Premier League for the 2020-21 season, largely under the instructions of Marcelo Bielsa.

But this time it was Jesse Marsch’s turn to rejoice and despair almost in equal measure before claiming his first victory as boss at Elland Road.

Patrick Bamford’s return helped some of the buzz return to Elland Road, but what really got the crowd going was Joe Gelhardt’s injury-time winner.

Patrick Bamford made his first start at Elland Road for more than six months against Norwich

Patrick Bamford made his first start at Elland Road for more than six months against Norwich

There is no doubt Leeds have some way to go before resembling any sort of balance between attack and defence in their side. No wonder therefore Marsch described the end as ‘very frantic’.

But England international Bamford’s first start on his home ground for more than six months provided a focal point to the attack they have been lacking for much of this season, albeit the chance he put well wide of the near post when clean through.

Marsch’s side sit four points above the relegation zone, and they must now be confident with Bamford’s return and Raphinha’s magic that they have enough in the tank to survive.

Cucho Hernandez vital to Watford survival hopes 

‘I like difficult goals,’ Cucho Hernandez said after his double in the win at Southampton. ‘I like the easy ones as well but it doesn’t seem like they’re for me.’

It’s a good job that he seems well on his way to mastering the very challenging art of the former in that case.

The 22-year-old has now recorded five goals this season following his well-taken strikes at St Mary’s which lifted Watford up to 18th and level on points with Everton.

But they were not goals isolated to a single game. The Colombian netted a delicious curling effort against Aston Villa and then there was the simply sensational acrobatic effort against Arsenal last weekend.

Despite the victory the Hornets’ top-flight status is far from secure, but as previously mentioned, they appear to have a goalscorer in form, which is critical at this stage of the season. 

Cucho Hernandez has now recorded five goals this season following his brace at Southampton

Cucho Hernandez has now recorded five goals this season following his brace at Southampton

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