PL hits and misses: Are Chelsea showing maturity now?

Are Chelsea starting to show maturity?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Nottingham Forest and Chelsea.

For Chelsea, there have been too many “back to square ones”. A 4-1 loss to Liverpool followed three straight league wins. Last month, they backed up a 6-0 win over Everton with a 5-0 loss to Arsenal.

The Blues looked set for another setback when Callum Hudson-Odoi put Nottingham Forest 2-1 up. The player they sold for £5m was overshadowing the likes of Raheem Sterling and Mykahilo Mudryk, who were deemed “what a waste of money” by the home fans as Forest took the lead.

But as Mauricio Pochettino said after the game: “The last few months, the team is showing this capacity to be strong in our mind and be more mature.”

The manner which Chelsea struck back was a strong response to the narratives they have faced all season.

Sterling and Nicolas Jackson can turn up when needed. Reece James can deliver despite his injuries. Moises Caicedo – who had an assist and played a stunning pass for James to set up Jackson’s winner – looks somewhat like a £115m player.

Chelsea have now lost one league game in three months – and that 5-0 loss to Arsenal looks now looks like a blip. If Pochettino had 20 more games this season, who knows where they would be? In fact, with a European slot one step nearer, who knows where they’re going?
Sam Blitz

Fulham given summer window reminder as goals dry up

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win against Fulham in the Premier League.

For a long time it looked as though Fulham would be fine without Aleksandr Mitrovic. Both Marco Silva and owner Shahid Khan have pointed to how impressive another mid-table season has been given the unwanted loss of their talisman last summer.

For a long time, it looked like the Cottagers would even outscore last season, following a run of nine games without drawing a blank to the start of April.

But now alarm bells have started to ring.

Rodrigo Muniz netted four times in March to earn the Premier League player of the month award, but since his goals have dried up, so have Fulham’s.

Four in their last six have seen them pick up just five points in that time. The season is not ending on a sour note as such, but there is certainly one of caution.

It took almost an hour to register even a shot against Manchester City, and it ended up being their only one. That can perhaps be forgiven against one of the world’s best teams.

But it followed a similarly dour 0-0 at Fulham a week ago.

Muniz still looks a rough diamond who could yet produce another purple patch or more next season. But Fulham need more.

Replacing a striker of Mitrovic’s standing is not easy – and if they do want to push on towards Europe next season, as Silva has suggested, it’s a problem they need to solve this summer.
Ron Walker

Spurs rediscover winning touch ahead of Man City showdown

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Tottenham and Burnley.

There was a lot of pressure on Tottenham heading into Saturday’s game against Burnley. After four successive – and bruising – Premier League defeats, a win and good performance were needed.

And they had both. While Burnley matched Spurs in the first half – not surprising given their own Premier League status was on the line – the hosts accelerated ahead with their superior quality.

Ange Postecoglu would have wanted the winning goal to come sooner than the 82nd minute, but Spurs’ undisputed player of the season Micky Van de Ven once again dug them out of a hole.

“Credit to the players,” the Spurs boss told Sky Sports. “We’ve had four defeats and it’s bound to add some stress and anxiety into the performance. Burley had to go for it… The pleasing thing for me is the lads worked their way through it and got the result.”

The stats show that they were back to the kind of form we are used to as well. Tottenham have won 25 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season – only Liverpool (28) have recovered more – and have scored in 33 of their 36 games, the most in the league.

Tuesday 14th May 7:00pm

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Sky Sports Premier League HD
Sky Sports Premier League HD

It is just the performance they needed ahead of a huge showdown with title-chasing Manchester City on Tuesday evening, live on Sky Sports – a game that has implications across north London.

Without wanting to state the obvious, Man City will offer a sterner test that Burnley, but a confidence-boosting win can do wonders. Whether it will be enough to shake up the Premier League title race remains to be seen.
Charlotte Marsh

Determined Burnley fight to the end

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Vincent Kompany reacts to his side’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham – a result which confirmed their relegation to the Championship.

While Burnley’s season has ended in a return to the Championship, they certainly didn’t go down without a fight.

The Clarets gave as good as they got on Saturday. Knowing it was a win or out, they really did play with the shackles off as Vincent Kompany mentioned in his pre-match press conference.

In fact, at the end of an even first half, the stats were almost level. Burnley had half as many shots (4), but three of those were on target – the same as Tottenham. The visitors had the greater xG too.

And they hardly disgraced themselves after the break either – Spurs’ quality simply shone through. A special mention for goalkeeper Aro Muric too for a string of fine saves.

But Burnley needed a lot to swing their way to keep them from a drop that had seemed inevitable for some time. However, the team have to be given credit for not only their good performance against Tottenham, but in a number of games over the last two months.

They gave themselves a fighting chance – the most you can ask for in their situation – and Kompany spoke of excitement not only in his team, but also the future.

“Day one is tomorrow and that’s about where the opportunity is to get back to the Premier League as soon as we can,” he told Sky Sports.

Burnley and Kompany know what awaits them in the Championship – and more importantly, how to win it. Any success next season is being built as we speak.
Charlotte Marsh

Newcastle must finally deliver away from home

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Newcastle and Brighton.

Newcastle supporters have received good value for their season tickets at St James’ Park, celebrating at least one goal in all 19 of their home league games for the first time in the Premier League era.

Their side had previously scored in 18 of their 19 home games in the 1995/96, 1996/97 and 2002/03 campaigns and 20 out of 21 in 1994/95, but have finally set a new record this term.

Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon and Callum Wilson have been their main source of enjoyment in a testing season that has seen Eddie Howe’s side riddled with injuries and playing in the Champions League.

Their Premier League away record ranks at 15th which has also been their undoing. With two games to play at Manchester United and Brentford, Newcastle must now earn crucial points on the road to qualify for Europe once more.
David Richardson

De Zerbi should mold Brighton around Enciso

Julio Enciso reminded Brighton of what they’ve missed and why Roberto De Zerbi should build the team around him next season.

The 20-year-old Paraquayan was sidelined for 32 matches in all competitions due to a knee injury with his appearance at Newcastle just his fourth start in the Premier League this campaign.

De Zerbi has eased Enciso back into action since his return in February and he is yet to complete a match but now his sharpness has begun to return.

Enciso flourished at St James’ Park playing behind striker Danny Welbeck and was at the heart of Brighton’s best moments with his energy and creativity.

He lacked composure in the final third with three of his five efforts flying off target while there was a bizarre dive which saw him booked which showed he is still rough around the edges although another Brighton diamond that can shine under De Zerbi.
David Richardson

Calvert-Lewin remains in unplayable mood

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton’s win against Sheffield United in the Premier League.

Where would Everton be if Dominic Calvert-Lewin had been this fit and firing all season?

He has looked a different animal since his late penalty grabbed Everton a late point at Newcastle. Amazing what a goal can do, although the way Sean Dyche has managed Calvert-Lewin’s workload has to be commended too. He scored the winner in the 1-0 win over Burnley, which was the start of this amazing run of five straight home wins to nil.

Since then, Everton and Calvert-Lewin have been rampant, seeing off Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Brentford and Sheffield United without conceding a goal. Outside Arsenal and Manchester City, no team are in better form.

Calvert-Lewin’s pace, power and physicality was too much for the powderpuff Blades, whose frustrations at having to deal with him boiled over just before the break when Jack Robinson inexplicably pushed the striker to the floor in an aggressive manner. In this mood, the Everton man is borderline unplayable. With a potential fire-sale in the summer happening at the club, Calvert-Lewin won’t be short of suitors if Everton need to cash-in.
Lewis Jones

Solanke outshines England rival Toney despite defeat

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Brentford’s win over Bournemouth in the Premier League

In a battle between two strikers competing to make England’s Euro 2024 squad, it was Ivan Toney’s team that came out on top but Dominic Solanke who staked a better claim to earn a seat on the plane to Germany.

Despite ending up on the losing side at the Vitality Stadium, Solanke netted his 19th Premier League goal of the season in front of Three Lions coach Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and on another day would have scored a hat-trick had two controversial first-half decisions gone his way.

The 26-year-old has already scored more goals than any other Bournemouth player in a Premier League campaign and until recently was in the hunt for the Golden Boot. Toney, on the other hand, has now gone 11 top-flight matches without scoring – his longest drought since playing for Northampton 10 years ago.

Dominic Solanke celebrates after scoring a late equaliser for Bournemouth
Dominic Solanke scored his 19th Premier League goal of the season during Bournemouth’s loss to Brentford

Toney and Ollie Watkins were given chances to shine in Harry Kane’s absence during England’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium in March – games designed to let Gareth Southgate experiment with those on the fringes of making his final squad for this summer’s tournament.

But Solanke, whose one cap for his country came back in 2017, was overlooked and it’s difficult to understand why. He has evolved into a complete striker and deserves another taste of international football.

There is no doubt Toney has wonderful qualities but as he readjusts to the rigours of the Premier League following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Solanke continues to knock on Southgate’s door. He is making it impossible for the England boss not to pick him.
Dan Sansom

Luton in good shape to come straight back up

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win against Luton in the Premier League.

Rob Edwards cut a dejected figure at full time with tears rolling down the Luton Town manager’s cheeks as he and his players applauded their fans after a 3-1 loss at West Ham sent them straight back down to the Championship.

However, Edwards was more upbeat in his post-match press conference, rightly pointing out how his side – who nobody gave a chance of staying up – have been able to compete with most Premier League teams this season.

“It has fuelled the fire to come back,” said a defiant Edwards, before adding: “We will now be in a stronger place to attack the Championship and will be one of the stronger teams in the Championship.”

Edwards is right as his team have already showed they can compete at this level – “Some of our players have looked like Premier League players,” he rightly observed – and boosted by the parachute payments coming their way, it would be a surprise were the Hatters not to make an immediate top-flight return 12 months from now.
Richard Morgan

Olise shines again in Palace victory

Michael Olise's heatmap since Oliver Glasner took over at Crystal Palace
Michael Olise’s heatmap since Oliver Glasner took over at Crystal Palace

After scoring twice in Crystal Palace’s 4-0 win over Manchester United on Monday evening, Michael Olise was the star of the show once more in his team’s deserved 3-1 victory over Wolves at Molineux. He was a delight to watch in winning the game for his side.

Olise scored the first goal of the game with what has become a trademark strike and set up the last. In between, he was constantly trying to create. It helps that Oliver Glasner appears to have found a style of play that brings out the best in the wide forward.

“I think everybody knows that he is a good player,” Glasner told reporters in the press conference afterwards. “I also think we found a very good position for him. He also benefits from other players. Daniel Munoz, how often he runs, gives him the space.”

This was the second game in five in which Olise has scored and assisted, drifting in from that right flank. With the energetic Munoz ever willing and with options ahead and inside, it feels like Olise has taken the next step forward as a player since Glasner took over.

The supporters at Molineux agreed – and not just those in Palace shirts. “He’s just too good for you,” sang the away end. The home fans responded in agreement with the same chant, before adding: “You’ll never see him again.” The Palace fans will hope they are wrong.
Adam Bate

Wolves end with whimper – but proud

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Wolves and Crystal Palace.

Looking back now and it appears that Wolves’ season ran out of momentum with that FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Coventry. It is one win in 10 since then, their 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace confirming that Gary O’Neil side are limping towards the line.

Perspective is needed and there was plenty of it at Molineux – the players warmly cheered as the end-of-season awards played out on the pitch despite defeat. There is an awareness that this could have been a fraught campaign rather than an enjoyable one.

The concern for O’Neil is that he was without only two players – Pedro Neto and Craig Dawson. The former is likely attract interest from other clubs in the summer and the other is 34. Wolves need to strengthen but any funds will have to be generated by sales.

It is a challenge that many other Premier League clubs will face this summer – how to improve without investing. O’Neil’s impressive work has earned him time to coax that improvement out of his players on the training ground but it will not be easy.

A starting point will be figuring out how to cause more problems for the opposition than themselves when passing out from the back. Wolves have lost it in their own defensive third 242 times this season – more than any other team. Lots to work on in pre-season.
Adam Bate

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Fury vs Usyk
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