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A closer look at this weekend's Premier League action

On the face of it, it appeared to be just another normal weekend in the top flight.

VAR caused more chaos, Manchester City won again, and Chelsea’s strikeforce raised more questions than answers.

On the face of it, it appeared to be just another normal weekend in the Premier League.

Here the PA news agency takes a look at what we learned.

VAR from ideal

Chelsea v Manchester United – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
Callum Hudson-Odoi escaped a charge of handball (Ian Walton/PA)

Another weekend, another series of VAR controversies which left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer raging and everyone watching West Brom’s match with Brighton scratching their heads.

Solskjaer claimed Manchester United should have been given a penalty after a handball by Callum Hudson-Odoi, and went on to imply rival managers were heaping pressure on referees to resist them.

Meanwhile at West Brom referee Lee Mason disallowed and then allowed a Lewis Dunk free-kick before VAR finally ruled the goal out after five minutes of mayhem.

Cue another week of head-scratching and claims that VAR is alternately the game’s saving grace or not fit for purpose – until next weekend, when the same stories hit the headlines once again.

Defence is the best form of attack

Manchester City v West Ham United – Premier League – Etihad Stadium
John Stones played a crucial role in another Manchester City win (Clive Brunskill/PA)

Sergio Aguero made only his third Premier League start of the season after injury and illness, but it was Manchester City’s centre-backs that West Ham should have been watching.

Defensive pair Ruben Dias and John Stones turned master finishers as City took another step towards the title.

Dias headed home his first City goal and Stones swept home the second-half winner after Michail Antonio had levelled for the impressive Hammers.

It was Stones’ fourth goal of the season, more than any Premier League defender, and proof that Pep Guardiola’s men do indeed attack opponents from all angles.

Big battle at the bottom

West Bromwich Albion v Brighton and Hove Albion – Premier League – The Hawthorns
Brighton are getting sucked into the relegation scrap (Clive Mason/PA)

Just a few short weeks ago there were 10 points between Fulham in 18th and Brighton in 15th.

The gap between Fulham, still filling the final relegation place, and Burnley in 15th is now down to five points.

Fulham’s stalemate at Crystal Palace means just one defeat in eight games and the challenge for Scott Parker’s side is to turn draws into wins.

But Newcastle, Brighton and maybe even Burnley – after their 4-0 defeat at Tottenham – should be worried.

Newcastle have not recorded back-to-back home wins since December 2019, while Brighton’s strike problems are reaching crisis proportions after becoming the first side in Premier League history to miss two penalties by both hitting the frame of the goal in a single game.

May the fourth be with you

Sheffield United v Liverpool – Premier League – Bramall Lane
Jurgen Klopp has lowered expectations around Anfield (Shaun Botterill/PA)

It is quite a comedown for Jurgen Klopp’s previously all-conquering Liverpool team to be fielding questions about their quest to clinch Champions League qualification.

But after a testing campaign that is the limit of the Reds’ hopes and Sunday’s hard-fought 2-0 win over rock-bottom Sheffield United kept their reduced ambitions on track.

The key test of Klopp’s powers of rehabilitation will come on Thursday night when the Reds face their top-four rivals Chelsea.

Because for all the optimism over Curtis Jones’ goal and the imminent return of Diogo Jota, it is Thomas Tuchel’s side that will give Liverpool a real test of their credentials.

Doubting Thomas

Chelsea v Manchester United – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
Thomas Tuchel has a striking issue to address (Ian Walton/PA)

Few would dispute the positive impact Thomas Tuchel has been having on his Chelsea charges since replacing Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge.

But Sunday’s goalless draw against Manchester United highlighted the questions about his striking options which could yet dictate the Blues’ ability to reach the Champions League.

Tuchel’s favouring of a single centre forward has intensified competition for places and – for the moment at least – left Tammy Abraham out in the cold.

Tuchel insists Abraham remains very much a part of his squad but there will be some Chelsea fans a little concerned that their hopes appear to rest, for now at least, on Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner.

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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City32235467234474
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd32199464352966
3Leicester CityLeicester31175955371856
4West Ham UnitedWest Ham32167953421155
5Chelsea31159750311954
6Liverpool32158954381653
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs321481054371750
8Everton31147104340349
9Arsenal32137124436846
10Leeds UnitedLeeds32144145050046
11Aston Villa301351243331044
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves32118133241-941
13Crystal Palace31108133352-1938
14Southampton31106153956-1736
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle3298153553-1835
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton31712123338-533
17Burnley3289152645-1933
18Fulham33512162543-1827
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom3159172859-3124
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3242261756-3914

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