Goalscorers and goalkeepers were among the talking points on a weekend which saw plenty of drama at both ends of the Premier League table.
Here, FP takes a look back at this weekend’s top-flight fixtures.
Lukaku can score against the top teams
The talk before the Manchester United-Chelsea showdown at Old Trafford was mostly centred on the bad blood between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. But Romelu Lukaku stole the post-match headlines with his first goal against a top-six rival in a United shirt, his first-half equaliser all the sweeter as it came against his former club. Lukaku also set up the winner for substitute Jesse Lingard as Chelsea dropped points for the first time this season from a winning position. Paul Pogba was also back in favour as United regained second spot from Liverpool and secured a six-point cushion over Chelsea, who now find themselves out of the Champions League places after Tottenham’s win at Crystal Palace.
England’s World Cup goalkeeper blues
It is less than four months to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and England have goalkeeping concerns. Joe Hart and Fraser Forster continue to sit on the bench at West Ham and Southampton respectively, while Burnley’s Tom Heaton has not played a senior game since September through injury. Stoke’s Jack Butland blotted his copybook on Saturday with his clanger gifting Leicester an equaliser, an error brought into sharp focus by the presence of Peter Shilton, England’s most capped player, in the stand. Add the regularity with which Jordan Pickford has been beaten at Everton this season and England manager Gareth Southgate has a real conundrum to solve in deciding his World Cup number one.
Strong Ox pulling up trees
There were plenty of eyebrows raised when Liverpool spent £35million to take Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal last August, especially with defensive issues to resolve at Anfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain chose Liverpool over Chelsea with the England international believing Jurgen Klopp would improve his game. It was a slow start for the ‘Ox’ who did not start a Premier League game for the Reds until the start of November. But he has now fully integrated himself into Liverpool’s high-intensity game and his strength on the ball in a midfield role, as well as his passing and dribbling ability, has boosted his hopes of making a World Cup impact with England this summer.
Silva change paying off for Watford
Watford caused a shock when they sacked Marco Silva in January. The Portuguese received plenty of plaudits in the opening weeks of the season until his flirtation with Everton saw the Hornets tumble down the table. Watford acted after one win in 11 league games and Silva’s replacement Javi Gracia has since steadied the ship at Vicarage Road. Gracia has taken seven points from 12 and Saturday’s 1-0 win against Everton gave them a six-point cushion from the relegation zone. They also had the added boost of Troy Deeney scoring his first league goal this season in open play, and beating bottom-placed West Brom at home next week would all but secure their top-flight status.
Palace in peril without Zaha
After starting the season without a goal or a point in their first seven games, Roy Hodgson managed to breathe life into Crystal Palace. But the Eagles are at serious risk of going down if star man Wilfried Zaha does not return from injury any time soon. The 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham means Palace have now lost all 10 Premier League games Zaha has been absent from since September 2016, scoring only once in that sequence. Although there was no shortage of fight against Spurs, who were indebted to Harry Kane’s late strike, the truth was they were fortunate to avoid a thrashing and, worryingly, three of their next four games are against Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.
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