Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s football action

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Adam Wharton;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Adam Wharton</a>, <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Andreas Pereira;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Andreas Pereira</a> and Oliver Arblaster.</span><span>Composite: Guardian Picture Desk</span>

Wharton does the business at Anfield

Joachim Andersen was named Sky’s man of the match at Anfield and with good reason. But while the Danish centre-back won header after header and made clearance after clearance, and while the front three of Jean-Philippe Mateta, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise caused repeated problems on the break, there was one figure who stood out in midfield for his calmness: Adam Wharton, perhaps the brightest of the hugely promising generation brought through by Tony Mowbray at Blackburn. The 20-year-old moved to Palace in January for an initial fee of £18m and has played at least some part in every Crystal Palace game since. No other Palace player came close to his pass completion rate of 88% and, while they rode their luck to an extent in the second half, they’d have had to ride a lot more had it not been for his distribution, which helped prevent Liverpool building up a head of steam. Jonathan Wilson

Familiar sinking feeling for Arsenal

A year ago, almost to the day, Arsenal gave up a 2-0 lead at Anfield, and though it didn’t settle the title, the feeling at full-time was that they’d missed their chance, just as it was following Villa’s ultimately comprehensive win at the Emirates. Dishing out blame on the strength of one game is harsh – Mikel Arteta’s men have played another excellent season – but when things got big on them, they shrank. To deal with those on the pitch first, in defence Arsenal lacked discipline – both goals they conceded were eminently avoidable – while in attack, they still lack ruthlessness and a bit of imagination, unable to finish while on top and create when struggling. Their manager, meantime, opted to leave out Jorginho – presumably saving him for the midweek trip to Bayern – problem being that when Villa started to play, his team lacked the means to wrest back control. So City lead the way once again and the sense is that Arsenal have blown it – also once again. Daniel Harris

Different season, same problems?

We’ve read and heard numerous paeans to a three-way title race only for Liverpool and Arsenal to hand control to Manchester City, jeopardising a season’s work and legendary denouement in a single afternoon. Nevertheless, on the face of things this represents an improvement: City can end the season on maximum 91 points, far less troubling than the 98-100 recorded by the league-winners between 2017-18 and 2019-20. This is because the Palaces and Villas of this world – along with nearly every team in the division – have various players able to hurt the best, in theory a good thing but in practice possible mainly because those clubs can outbid more storied European rivals for talent, while the champions-elect, champions in six of the last seven seasons, have links to a nation state with human rights issues. So, while no one can dispute the compelling entertainment of it all – Sunday was another fantastic day of Premier League Football™ – the same problems persist, just in slightly different forms. DH

Kovacic emphasises depth for slick City

On the day that Rodri was rested as wished, Mateo Kovacic did precisely what was required as understudy to Manchester City’s alpha midfielder: anchor the play and score a memorable first league goal for the champions. City, only 1-0 ahead, needed the purest of 20-yard volleys that met Julián Álvarez’s bounced-in corner on 64 minutes to fully break Luton, whom they proceeded to rout. Kovacic said: “It’s very nice to score. For me it’s not the most important but obviously it’s nice to be on the scoresheet with my family upstairs.” Expect Rodri to be reinstated for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second-leg visit of Real Madrid, the tie poised delicately at 3-3. But Kovacic has shown Rodri – and Pep Guardiola – that he can certainly deputise for his teammate. Jamie Jackson

Ten Hag tries to stay positive, but fails

Erik ten Hag’s first defence of a limp performance at Bournemouth was to stress Harry Maguire, his only available senior centre-back, was nursing an injury during a one-sided first half. That explanation surely did not cut much ice with Manchester United supporters, who have grown weary of the abject displays that have left their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League in tatters. For the first time in Premier League history, United are at risk of finishing below seventh. When that possibility was put to Ten Hag at the end of his press conference, he insisted it was an irrelevant question, before getting up from his seat and heading for the nearest exit. “I don’t comment,” he said. “That is not important at the moment.” With United now trailing Newcastle and West Ham and Chelsea not far behind them, it soon might be. Ben Fisher

Pereira makes limited Hammers pay double

David Moyes’s future beyond the end of this season remains uncertain, with his contract expiring this summer, and his team’s performance against Fulham did him few favours. Despite their success in Europe and a lofty position in the top half of the table, there is a sense West Ham fans have never truly bought into his pragmatic style. The team’s lack of swagger and his attacking conservatism have failed to win over supporters and this lacklustre defeat highlighted his side’s limitations. Aside from a lively start, West Ham quickly ran out of ideas, with Lucas Paquetá lacking his usual creative influence, and there is no doubt they badly missed the injured Jarrod Bowen. The England attacker’s availability for the Europa League quarter-final second leg at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday is still in doubt and West Ham looked one-paced without him. Fulham delivered a commendable away performance – suggesting a top 10 finish is not unrealistic – with the midfielder Andreas Pereira enhancing his reputation during an excellent display which was topped by his two goals. Simon Mail

Newcastle make merry on Maddison’s off-day

James Maddison had a choice last summer but the England midfielder opted to leave Leicester for Tottenham rather than Newcastle. On the evidence presented by Spurs’ 4-0 defeat on Tyneside, Eddie Howe had a lucky escape. Maddison was dreadful and surely one of the key individuals his manager, Ange Postecoglou, had in mind when he lamented his side’s “lack of bravery on the ball”. Maddison’s main involvements were escaping a booking for body-checking Anthony Gordon before being booked for fouling Jacob Murphy. He was withdrawn after 81 minutes with the taunts of Newcastle’s fans ringing in his ears. They did not appreciate Maddison’s preference for life in the capital but it would have been intriguing to see if Howe’s coaching might have imbued his often wonderfully gifted game with the consistency it evidently lacks. The excellent, fast-improving Alexander Isak, scorer of two goals on Saturday, could tell him how good Newcastle’s manager is. Louise Taylor

Danilo impresses for Forest as Wolves lack bite

Despite Matheus Cunha netting twice for Wolves in Saturday’s 2-2 draw, his Brazilian counterpart Danilo was a cut above as he played a key part for Nottingham Forest again. Danilo is one of only four players to start in all Nuno Espírito Santo’s wins as Forest manager, despite not holding down a regular place this campaign. Winning 100% of his duels in what proved to be a crucial midfield battle, Danilo continued to show his worth. The midfielder also created the most chances (four) as well as scoring a vital goal. Wolves struggle to capitalise on dominating the possession stats; they had 54% of the ball at Forest, but Gary O’Neil has seen more success from his team when they have less possession. Wolves have had less than 45% possession in 11 games this season; they have won five of those and lost only three. Conversely, in the nine league games this season when Wolves have had more than 55% possession, they have won two and lost six. Peter Lansley

Burnley offer hope for future despite looming drop

Burnley have lost once in their past six matches, winning one and drawing four. It will not keep them in the top flight but it shows improvement has been made over the past month. Vincent Kompany’s side lacked Premier League experience at the start of the season and have gained it the hard way. Even after his latest blunder against Brighton, the error-prone Arijanet Muric has improved the back five since replacing James Trafford in goal, helped by Maxime Estève’s form in front of him. As a team they are passing better and look more composed when facing attacks, not offering the defensive panic that was seen earlier in the campaign. Wilson Odobert was a threat on the wing throughout on Saturday and would have provided two assists had his teammates been more clinical. Burnley will almost certainly start next season in the Championship but there are green shoots of hope, despite being second from bottom with 20 points from 33 games. Will Unwin

Arblaster gets high marks despite own goal

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United contract runs to the end of next season and, judging by the away contingent at Brentford, he retains the approval of the diehards. Next season, almost certainly played in the Championship, the club will start on minus-two points for financial mismanagement. Wilder said that reaction from his fellow Blades was “humbling” given he has been unable to arrest the dire situation he inherited. The rebuild starts here, encompassing players like the fledgling midfielder Oliver Arblaster. “I thought he was outstanding, he’s got nothing to apologise for,” said Wilder of a local lad who has been impressive since being introduced last month following a loan to Port Vale. Arblaster provided Brentford’s opener with an unfortunate own goal but Wilder marked the teenager at “9.5/10 … he’s dominated their midfield, I thought he was the best player by quite a distance. Brentford have got some good players and Ollie was in there, amongst it.” John Brewin