19 February 2023

Arsenal vanquish Villa as title race takes another twist – 5 things we learned

19 February 2023

Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League table after battling back to beat Aston Villa as the title race took another twist with Manchester City held at Nottingham Forest.

Elsewhere, Liverpool resurrected their top-four ambitions with victory at Newcastle and Everton moved out of the bottom three at the expense of Leeds.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five things we learned from the weekend’s action.

Arsenal are up for the fight

Having collected just one point from an available nine, Arsenal were in danger of dropping off at a critical moment.

That feeling intensified when they twice fell a goal behind at Villa Park, only to draw level on both occasions before two stoppage-time goals helped the Gunners to a 4-2 win.

They lead the title race after Manchester City dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest but, arguably just as importantly, Arsenal have shown backbone and demonstrated they will not just slink meekly away.

Liverpool back in the hunt

Having spluttered for much of the season, Liverpool finally found top gear this week.

If continuing their dominance over Merseyside rivals Everton might have been expected, Liverpool put their rivals on notice by showing how clinical they can be with a 2-0 win at 10-man Newcastle.

Two wins and two clean sheets do not mean all their problems are behind them but this time last week finishing in the Champions League place might have seemed fanciful. Now, it seems very much a realistic aim.

Erik ten Hag brings the best out of Marcus Rashford

OK, so this is hardly the hottest of takes given Rashford has scored 16 times in the 17 matches since the resumption of club football following the World Cup.

He bagged a brace on Sunday as United swept aside Leicester 3-0 to move to within three points of City and five of Arsenal.

Rashford now has 24 goals for the season – breaking his previous single-season scoring record of 22 for his boyhood club – and February is not yet over.

For someone who scored just five goals and was floundering for much of last season, Rashford’s rejuvenation under Ten Hag this term has been nothing short of remarkable.

Leeds in need of a lift

Winless in the league since November, Leeds are in a spiral.

There seemed to be promising signs after Jesse Marsch’s sacking in twin fixtures against Manchester United – even collecting a point at Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago.

But they managed no shots on target at Goodison Park and slipped to a 1-0 defeat, with Everton leapfrogging them in the table.

Only Southampton are now below Leeds and another loss against the Saints next week is unthinkable for caretaker manager Michael Skubala and co.

Pressure grows on Graham Potter

Chelsea continue to underwhelm this season under Graham Potter and a 1-0 defeat at home by rock-bottom Southampton represented something of a nadir.

There is no doubting the sum of Chelsea’s parts are better than what they have shown in recent months but while Potter was seen as a hire for the long-term, how long will Chelsea’s hierarchy show faith if results go against them in the short-term?

It might be that next week’s trip to London rivals Tottenham could make or break Potter’s tenure.

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