Another weekend of Premier League brought great entertainment and excitement for sets of fans, unless their team lost of course.
The relegation fight still remains the most intriguing aspect to the remaining games of the Premier league season, with a number of teams in free fall and in desperate need of help.
Here are five things we learned from this weekend…
Romelu Lukaku is in spectacular form
There might have been a vast amount of critics over the Belgian’s performances in the crucial matches, but those questions asked should have been answered by now after yet another spectacular game against top four opposition.
Lukaku’s overall bullish demeanour caused too many problems for Liverpool’s feeble defence, and the first goal came on from the centre forward’s flicked-on header into Marcus Rashford’s path.
The former Everton striker’s link-up play has impressively changed in a positive manner, where he understands the team’s needs come before his own. The chemistry between him and the other forwards has been blossoming this season, but looks as if they are in fully in sync now.
It is easy to forget Lukaku is 24 years old – a relatively young age still for a centre forward – primarily because he’s one goal away from scoring 100 in the Premier League. And when he does, he is more than likely to be the fifth-youngest player to have achieved such a milestone. Hugely impressive.
Lukaku is only going to get better and it’s evident to see his game evolve this season under José Mourinho’s guidance. The Red Devils will be hoping he continues this form against Sevilla in the Champions League as well as in the FA Cup quarter final.
Ashley Young deserves to be in the England squad
He might divide opinion in the Manchester United fan base, but Young has been a reliable and consistent defender under the Portuguese coach’s reign.
While fans understandably want to see Luke Shaw grace the field with his weaving runs and extra edge in attack, Young has shown his diligence and organisation in defence that has made Mourinho use him as his first choice.
Against Jürgen Klopp’s team, Young was tasked with the near impossible job of man-marking Mo Salah, arguably the best player in the Premier League this season with a staggering 24 goals to his name.
However, unfazed by his duties, the left back delivered one of the best performances of his United career and kept the Egyptian international incredibly quiet throughout the game. At no point did Salah look threatening or on the edge of scoring – he was played out of the game by a stellar Young.
With consistency to his game, as well as years of experience, Gareth Southgate should seriously consider calling the former Villa man up into the England squad. To have a player who can play in midfield, as well as at left back which he has adopted as his own, is a good versatility to have in the squad.
Young has proved his critics wrong and shown he is a valued member of this United squad.
West Ham in a sorry state of affairs
The events that unfolded at the London Stadium this weekend were worrying scenes for West Ham United’s Board as well as their own players.
A string of protesters took the pitch on their own accord and were running around causing chaos and being a disruptive force throughout the game. Things soon escalated and the directors, David Gold and David Sullivan, 81 and 69 years old respectively, soon left after fearing the worst for their safety.
Sullivan in fact got hit by a number of coins thrown by the protesters, causing severe embarrassment and further fractious feelings between himself and the fans. Whether the West Ham fans are upset or not, throwing coins at an elder man – or anyone for that matter – is shameful and should not be condoned.
With emotions off the pitch at an all time high, the state of play on the pitch certainly isn’t easing the mood around the club right now. Three points above the relegation zone is treading water after what was an upswing in results when David Moyes first took over.
There are worse teams below them, which will be in the back of fans’ minds, but still to play Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City could cause the Hammers to slip down the table and find themselves relegated before they even know it. That’s how close it is down the bottom of the table.
As these things normally go, it is likely to get worse before it gets better, especially off the pitch, but all Moyes can do is try to make the players believe that every match now is a Cup final and that they really are fighting for their survival.
Until Arsenal cut ties, they will continue with this merry-go-round
A win against Milan in the Europa League and an emphatic 3-0 victory against Watford has caused the attention to off Arsène Wenger for the time being.
While that is evidently not going to fix the current animosity shown by the fans at the club’s management, it will ease the pressure slightly – especially if they lift the Europa League trophy in May and qualify for the Champions League.
What has been remarkable to witness over the past few years is Wenger’s evasive ability to keep fighting for Arsenal and not be relieved of his duties. It’s admirable in a way to see the lengths he will go to for the club, but if this kind of form was replicated at any other European heavyweight team, that manager would have been long gone.
The Gunners have been in a cyclical Groundhog Day for the past five years where they raise expectations, fall short of them, and then win a consolation prize at the end of the season to justify Wenger’s position at the club.
Until Arsenal fully cut ties with the Frenchman, Arsenal will never move on from this underwhelming era. The Arsenal Board have to learn to become ruthless and make the next step.
Southampton in real danger
At the start of the season, you would have seemed ludicrous to have suggested that Southampton would be one point above the relegation zone, hovering with absolute caution.
The Saints’ team, man for man, is far better than any other team around them. They have quality in abundance and should be striving for a Europa League-qualifying position, rather than fighting for survival.
Mauricio Pellegrino has had a difficult spell in charge of the Saints, with some fans asking the question of why he hasn’t been sacked yet. It’s a fair question given they are in a dire position, but the managers currently available make it a hard sell for the Southampton Board.
If the Saints are relegated down into the Championship, a mass exodus is set to come next. Given they have a Premier League squad, with some expensive wages and international players, a lot of those players will demand moves away, causing the club to slip down even further.
Southampton have to be extremely careful if that is the case, otherwise they could become stuck in the Championship for a number of years – just as Hull are embarking on – rather than coming straight back up like Newcastle. The quality of those players will be incredibly difficult to replace, too.
Pellegrino has to prepare his team for the fight of their lives as it would be a true embarrassment to see a club of Southampton’s stature slip down the football league ladder.