Published On: Sun, Feb 11th, 2018

3 things we learned in the Premier League this weekend

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Before Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion lock horns on Monday, theScore looks back at a Premier League weekend that saw Alexandre Lacazette take it upon himself to show why he’s a second-choice striker.

Lacazette explains why he’s the odd one out


Confident players would’ve laced it at Hugo Lloris‘ net. Those lacking belief would’ve lifted the ball across the box towards an unmarked Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A striker who’s gone from his club’s priciest acquisition to a bench-warmer in a matter of months sidefooted it into the London sky.

That wasn’t Lacazette‘s worst miss. The Arsenal substitute expertly skipped behind Davinson Sanchez with seconds remaining on the clock to allow a through route on goal, but contrived to fluff an effort that spun wide of the upright. The chances of an unlikely draw against dominant Tottenham Hotspur were quashed.

He’s an expensive second-choice striker, and one that, following the January grabs of Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, doesn’t appear to fit at all. There’s little verve to his play, so rapid link-ups going forward will be rare when Lacazette is up front, and it will be difficult to correct his defeated expression when he’s hiding behind a snood on the Gunners’ bench.

Either Arsene Wenger finds room for Lacazette in a 4-4-2 or more creative shape, or the French artilleryman remains a firm loser of the Aubameyang-BatshuayiGiroud carousel.

There are 2 good reasons for Aguero’s improvement


Pep Guardiola has improved a legion of players at Manchester City, and Sergio Aguero is among them. It’s actually a revision of Aguero’s play from his early days at Independiente that has sparked the Argentinian’s obvious improvement – an example of how exhaustive Guardiola’s coaching philosophy is.

Related: How Guardiola’s reimagining of Aguero revives his South American roots

But there’s a reason less studied that explains Aguero’s exploits, and that is Kevin De Bruyne.

“I am very lucky because most of the goals come from his assists – I just have to hit the ball,” Aguero said. “I am happy for him as well. He is a great player and any team in the world would love to have him.”

Aguero bagged a quartet in Saturday’s 5-1 mauling of Leicester City, and the Belgian was on hand to set up two of them. He also assisted Raheem Sterling‘s opener at the Etihad Stadium.

Mohamed Salah is this season’s Premier League pin-up, but De Bruyne’s overall influence over Guardiola’s game plan and, therefore, the output of colleagues such as 21-goal Aguero easily makes him the division’s best.

Who is Martin Dubravka?


Newcastle United‘s valiant team performance against Manchester United earned a 1-0 victory in Sunday’s meeting, and the first win Rafa Benitez has enjoyed over rival Jose Mourinho since their 2007 Champions League semi-final spat.

Related: Stunning defeat to Newcastle leaves United a massive 16 points behind City

There were some great individual performances from the Magpies – Jonjo Shelvey was sublime, and Kenedy was sapped of energy after a breathless 84 minutes – but it was Dubravka who introduced himself in a determined debut.

The Magpies needed a goalkeeper. Karl Darlow is barely a Championship-standard shot-stopper, while Rob Elliot‘s impressive athleticism was weathered by a knee injury in 2016. It’s no surprise that, given the financial constraints during Mike Ashley’s attempts to flog the club, Benitez had to go a little leftfield in finding a netminder.

Dubravka, 29, has played in his native Slovakia, as well as Denmark, and either side of the storied Czech rivalry between Slovan Liberec and Sparta Prague. His resume is fairly modest – he’s only been capped by Slovakia nine times – but he appears to be a late bloomer. Newcastle has the option to make his loan deal permanent at the end of the season.

After Dubravka put in a heroic showing against Scotland in October, then-manager Gordon Strachan opined: “There was no doubt about the man of the match and it was their goalkeeper who was magnificent – and the crossbar was good as well.”

Around the grounds


Huddersfield Town 4-1 Bournemouth: Finally, it wasn’t just down to Christopher Schindler and Aaron Mooy to carry the Terriers. Alex Pritchard and Steve Mounie starred as David Wagner’s side hauled itself out of the relegation zone. Just when people start to write a bottom-three candidate off, it responds with a statement victory. It’s going to be a cracking battle against the drop.

Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace: Contrary to Sam Allardyce’s earlier belief, Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson are able to play together, and the latter opened the scoring in a precious three points for Everton. There could be a difficult few weeks ahead for Roy Hodgson. The veteran gaffer is missing a host of players, but no absence is more damaging than that of Wilfried Zaha. The Eagles have lost all seven league matches he’s missed this season.

Elsewhere:

  • Southampton 0-2 Liverpool
  • Stoke City 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Swansea City 1-0 Burnley
  • West Ham United 2-0 Watford

Monday: Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion


How is Antonio Conte still in charge of Chelsea? Every press conference seems to include a complaint from the Italian about his employer – something’s wrong with the transfer policy, Roman Abramovich won’t voice support for his regime – and comprehensive back-to-back losses to Bournemouth and Watford have left the Blues two points outside the Champions League qualification places. Surely the bottom-placed Baggies, still waiting for an Alan Pardew bounce, can’t twist the knife at Stamford Bridge?

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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