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Premier League: 10 Talking Points from Last Weekend’s Action | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Tottenham’s Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal against Arsenal on April 30. (Reuters)

London – Gabriel and Arsenal falter under pressure, Crystal Palace have a problem with fan behavior, Sunderland must keep Didier Ndong while Hull’s Harry Maguire continues his excellent form:

1) Palace fans throwing objects gives cause for concern

Sean Dyche laughed off the fact James Tarkowski had been struck by a plastic cigarette lighter as Burnley’s players celebrated their first goal but Crystal Palace will find the incident far from amusing. This was the third time a visiting player has been struck by an object thrown from that corner of the Holmesdale stand since the club returned to the Premier League in 2013. Wayne Rooney and more recently Fabricio Coloccini were the others hit and the Metropolitan police appealed for witnesses over the coin flung at the Newcastle defender. The Football Association spoke with Palace on both occasions but took no action. The incident is sure to be included in the referee Bobby Madley’s match report. Palace upgraded their CCTV after the Newcastle incident. “It’ll be dealt with, but it’s very disappointing,” Sam Allardyce said. “You don’t want to see that.”

2) Koeman knows Everton have hit glass ceiling in top flight

Ronald Koeman is looking increasingly annoyed at Everton’s present situation – held at West Ham last week, overrun in the end by Chelsea to end a sequence of eight wins on the bounce at Goodison – yet he knew the score when he came to Merseyside from Southampton. Everton are best of the rest, a nailed-on seventh. This season, with Chelsea back, Spurs going well and Arsenal hanging in there as usual, a top-six finish was always likely to be beyond Everton’s grasp. That situation will apply most seasons unless one or more of the big six unexpectedly hit the buffers, and it is for that reason that Everton face a difficult summer trying to keep Romelu Lukaku. Everton are not quite successful enough to retain their best performers, yet in playing if not in financial terms they cannot afford to sell them. Everton have improved under Koeman, though the significant step upwards seems as far away as ever.

3) Clement makes heartfelt plea for video replays

After Marcus Rashford wrongly won a penalty when diving in this 1-1 draw, Paul Clement made a strong argument regarding video technology. Swansea’s manager said: “When we played Burnley at home, a cross went into the box, their player has handled it, and he [the referee] gave a penalty to Burnley. A simple look at any kind of device sorts it out in less than a minute. I saw in the France-Spain game they trialed it. They reviewed an offside decision, it took 48 seconds and the correct decision was given. It’s unbelievable that in this day and age with the technology available, the only people that don’t get help are the ones who most need it. We can see it, you can, the fans, everyone apart from the officials. It has to be done. It’s long overdue.” Neil Swarbrick, the referee here, deserved help to avoid making the latest mistake a quick replay would have avoided.

4) Mourinho running out of defenders for run in

Manchester United missed the chance to move third with a 1-1 draw against Swansea, but the damage to their top-four aspirations was relatively light given Manchester City’s slip at Middlesbrough. After the match Mourinho blamed a busy fixture list for “punishing” his team’s success in cup competitions, and threatened to play the reserves in their last league game of the season in order to rest his team for the Europa League final three days later – but a depleted United must get there first, or risk missing out on Champions League football and regretting the 10 Premier League home draws, like this one, which have stalled their season.

5) Guardiola waiting anxiously on Agüero injury update

While Pep Guardiola faces an anxious wait to discover whether the injury to Sergio Agüero here will sideline his key striker, Steve Agnew is similarly concerned to learn if he has done enough to become Middlesbrough’s manager next season. Like Guardiola at City, Aitor Karanka’s interim successor has not always convinced but this was the Teessiders’ best performance of the season and suggested he could yet mastermind a Championship promotion bid. Although Boro are not mathematically down, their survival chances are fading in much the same manner that City’s hopes of a top‑four finish will recede should Agüero be unavailable.

6) Maguire shining in Hull’s relegation dogfight

Marco Silva has undoubtedly been the driving force behind Hull City’s turnaround since the turn of the year but their captain, Harry Maguire, has also come to the fore. The 24-year-old, who joined Hull from Sheffield United for £2.5m in 2014, was used sporadically by previous managers but has been at the heart of Hull’s resurgence. The challenge for Silva, regardless of which division they are playing in next season, will be retaining the defender, whom he has suggested should be in England squad. “Of course, it is an important player to us, a young player as well and it’s important for Hull City to keep these types of players,” said Silva, who confirmed the club had not received an official approach for Maguire. The center-back, after a difficult first 12 months in east Yorkshire, almost joined Bristol City in 2015 but Steve Bruce rejected the offer and the player, although he has had to bide his time, is reaping the rewards.

7) Butland return is good for Stoke and England

England have lacked for good news on the goalkeeping front for some time but the return of Jack Butland for Stoke, after more than a year out since his injury against Germany, offers one piece of encouragement. Butland was probably the standout performer in an otherwise meaningless goalless draw with West Ham on Saturday. His saves from André Ayew and Manuel Lanzini caught the eye but it was his commanding overall presence in the box that might have most impressed the watching England manager, Gareth Southgate. “All top clubs need keepers like Jack,” said the Stoke manager, Mark Hughes. They need good strikers too, of course, and Stoke must hope Saido Berahino’s luck finally changes soon. The forward is still goalless for his new club and was agonizingly close to breaking his duck when denied by Adrián’s one-handed save.

8) Sunderland need to keep hold of French gem Ndong

Sunderland’s relegation represented the “worst day” of David Moyes’s career and his Wearside tenure may now end in divorce but the former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad manager did something right in the north-east. When he invested almost half the club’s £30m summer spend on the little-known Gabon midfielder Didier Ndong, from Lorient in France, eyebrows were raised – and not least in Ligue 1 circles. Ndong, though, has frequently proved to be Sunderland’s best outfield player this season (the brilliant young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been the real star) and, typically, kept his side in the game up until Josh King’s late winner for Bournemouth. Sunderland’s record signing is still a bit raw but his high‑energy enterprise could serve the team extremely well in the Championship. Providing Sunderland can keep hold of him, of course…

9) Gabriel mistake exemplifies Arsenal fragility once more

It was a moment that summed up Arsenal’s afternoon at Tottenham Hotspur and, also, a broader theme of their season. One-nil down to Dele Alli’s goal, it was vital that they kept things tight for a few minutes, tried to ride out the storm. Enter Gabriel Paulista. It was a ridiculous challenge from the Brazil defender, one that he did not need to make and it presented Harry Kane with his penalty, three minutes after Alli’s goal. Game over. Gabriel lacked the composure when the pressure was at its highest and it felt like yet another instance of Arsenal’s fragility. This was an ordeal for them. Quite simply, Tottenham wanted it more. They ran harder and further; they dominated the 50-50s and, were it not for Petr Cech, the final scoreline would have been heavier. Thanks to results elsewhere, Arsenal’s top-four hopes are not dead. Playing like this, they will be.

10) Everything has turned out fine for Leicester after all

It has been a wild season for Leicester City, a rollercoaster ride that led to Claudio Ranieri’s dismissal and at one stage looked like ending with English football witnessing its first top-flight champions to be relegated since 1938. Yet when the dust settles on this chaotic campaign, and people look back through the record books in years to come, everything will point to a perfectly acceptable season on the back of the unthinkable 12 months earlier. After flying the flag for English football in the last eight of the Champions League, Leicester are now on course, with three of their final four games at home, to finish in the top half of the Premier League. “If somebody said we’d got to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and finish 10th, then a lot of people would have been snapping people’s hands off for that,” Danny Drinkwater said after this win.

The Guardian Sport