Premier League, FA Cup, Old Firm and WSL: 10 talking points from weekend

1) Moura responds in Mourinho’s hour of need

Lucas Moura’s place in Tottenham history was assured two years ago by his hat-trick against Ajax in the Champions League semi-finals. And yet neither Mauricio Pochettino, his manager then, nor José Mourinho, his manager now, have ever seemed comfortable with making the Brazilian an automatic first choice in the fashion Son Heung-min fulfils as Harry Kane’s main supporting act. Mourinho ought to be a little more appreciative after the Brazilian’s contribution to a victory that, for the moment, has quietened any talk of Daniel Levy wielding the axe. It was Moura’s alertness that set up Carlos Vinícius’s goal when seizing on Emi Martínez’s error. An exchange of passes with Harry Kane set up his fellow Brazilian for a tap-in. Mourinho’s previous preference for the far more functional Steven Bergwijn can appear mystifying when Moura supplies such magic. Perhaps alone amid Tottenham’s current malaise is Moura rising fully to the occasion. John Brewin

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

2) Jesus fails to assert himself as Agüero fades

It was a chastening night for Manchester City’s greatest goalscorer. They required a breakthrough and Pep Guardiola summoned first Riyad Mahrez and then Kevin De Bruyne, but not Sergio Agüero. With each game, it feels ever likelier his City career will end when his contract expires in the summer. All of which prompts questions about the future of City’s other striker. Gabriel Jesus may have owed his place on Saturday to a reputation as the scourge of Everton but, after seven goals in his previous six games against them, he was utterly ineffectual. Not for the first time, Guardiola’s band of attacking midfielders provided the incision instead. The decision for next season may revolve around whether to pursue a superstar striker such as Erling Braut Haaland or to use a false nine as their preferred tactic for an entire campaign. Either way, Jesus, Agüero’s long-term understudy, looks likely to remain Plan B. Richard Jolly

READ  3,000 players, five days, one goal: the world’s biggest football match | Suzanne Wrack

3) Arteta can build his attack around Ødegaard

Mikel Arteta says he knows Arsenal’s summer transfer priorities and the top one seems obvious: sign Martin Ødegaard at all costs. Nobody knows exactly how keen Real Madrid are to keep hold of the loaned-out playmaker and, if they are watching his performances closely, it would seem implausible that they do not want him back. Arsenal should fight tooth and nail for Ødegaard: it has taken him under two months to become a fundamental part of Arteta’s side, whose attacking play is unrecognisable to the dire fare they were serving up before Christmas. The Norwegian stitches it all together and was the driving force behind their thrilling comeback at West Ham, raising the levels of everyone around him. “He commands the pressing and he’s been really influential,” Arteta said. How Arsenal would love him to wield that influence over a period of years, rather than simply the next two months. Nick Ames

Arteta rues Arsenal's draw with West Ham despite three-goal fightback – video
Arteta rues Arsenal’s draw with West Ham despite three-goal fightback – video

4) Gilmour short of sharpness against Blades

It has not been easy for Billy Gilmour since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival at Chelsea. The 19-year-old is fourth choice in central midfield and in danger of missing out on a place in Scotland’s squad for Euro 2020. Excellent performances from N’Golo Kanté, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic are making it hard for Gilmour, denied a loan move by Tuchel in January, to build any momentum. His lack of sharpness was a problem in Chelsea’s victory over Sheffield United in their FA Cup quarter-final. Although Gilmour had a fine first half after being handed his second start under Tuchel, snapping into challenges and using the ball smartly, he tired in the second half and was substituted when Chelsea lost control of midfield. It might be a while before Gilmour, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury, gets another chance to impress Scotland’s manager, Steve Clarke. Jacob Steinberg

5) Brighton and Newcastle look leagues apart

The gap between Brighton and Newcastle in the table was only a point before kick-off, but Saturday’s game showed the distance between them in quality is as wide as a canyon. Steve Bruce’s men were barely able to escape their own half for much of the contest, registering just one shot on target and creating very little in a toothless performance that came just as they desperately needed to show some resolve. With a difficult fixture list ahead, it will only raise more questions about Bruce’s ability to keep them ahead of Fulham and in the league . Brighton, after a campaign defined by a chronic lack of composure in front of goal, stepped up with three brilliant finishes and outstanding performances from Leandro Trossard and Danny Welbeck. They can now look to their run-in with a renewed confidence. Tumaini Carayol

6) Van de Beek struggling to make any impression

Donny van de Beek remains enigmatic for Manchester United. At best. Cup competitions have provided opportunities to show he is an alternative to Bruno Fernandes but Leicester was evidencethe Dutchman has significant distance to travel. Like a number of Eredivisie graduates, he has struggled to adapt to English football’s tempo, and a combination of him in United’s midfield with Pogba playing off the left of attack looked one too many players whose retention of the ball could not be guaranteed. Van de Beek’s taking up of positions is intelligent – his step-over for Mason Greenwood’s goal was well executed – but his lacking the raw pace of Marcus Rashford or the zest of Fernandes means he is nowhere near the killer United require. And his pressing was sluggish, often resembling a geriatric Paul Scholes but without any of the United legend’s notorious bite. His 62nd minute removal registered as absolutely no shock whatsoever. John Brewin

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.

7) Walker-Peters another England option at right-back

It is probably too late for Kyle Walker-Peters to press his case for a place in the England squad this summer but in a week in which the omission of Trent Alexander-Arnold caused consternation at Anfield and beyond, Gareth Southgate has shown he takes form seriously when it comes to full-backs. England are well-stocked at right-back, with Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker leading the way, and last week Southgate name-checked Luke Ayling and Matty Cash as others who have caught the eye. Since joining from Tottenham for £12 last August, Walker-Peters has been a revelation – perhaps Southampton’s standout performer this season – and his marauding runs left Bournemouth in a spin on Saturday. They are not the first opponents to suffer and Walker-Peters’ explosive pace, fine first touch and nose for danger may give Southgate another name to consider. Ben Fisher

Patrick Bamford put his England disappointment behind him with a match-winning display at Fulham on Friday.
Patrick Bamford put his England disappointment behind him with a match-winning display at Fulham on Friday. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

8) Bamford and Leeds look at home in top flight

It went largely unnoticed given the consequences for Fulham’s relegation struggle, but Leeds effectively guaranteed themselves another season of top-flight football with Friday night’s win at Craven Cottage. They have 39 points with nine games to play and were never seriously in the relegation picture. To have reached this tally with such a cushion speaks plenty for how well Marcelo Bielsa and his players have fared in their first season back. The manner of their victory against Fulham summed up one of their greatest strengths: drawing usually well-drilled opponents into an intense, end-to-end, pinballing encounter and simply overwhelming them. They could have won by a couple more and it was a particularly satisfying night for Patrick Bamford, who scored one and set up another to bury any disappointment at missing out on the England squad. His 14-goal haul in the league is exceptional and it will be fascinating to see how he and Leeds push on from here. Nick Ames

9) Celtic must move fast to begin their revolution

The scale of the upheaval to be presided over by Celtic’s next manager resonates in the number of players starting against Rangers who are unlikely to still be around when the new campaign begins. Jonjoe Kenny, Diego Laxalt and Mohamed Elyounoussi are loanees. Odsonne Édouard, Ryan Christie and Kristoffer Ajer have little over a year left on their contracts. The captain, Scott Brown, could be tempted by a role in Aberdeen’s next managerial setup, while upgrades on Scott Bain and Stephen Welsh are desirable. It is wholly possible that only Callum McGregor and David Turnbull from Sunday’s starting XI will be around for the 2021-22 revolution. Celtic may insist they will take time to appoint the right manager but the clock is already ticking with regards to a host of personnel issues that require urgent attention. Ewan Murray

A look back at Peter Lorimer's career highlights – video obituary
A look back at Peter Lorimer’s career highlights – video obituary

10) Montemurro’s Gunners may have turned corner

Does the result of one game have the power to shift a team’s fortunes? Occasionally, and Arsenal’s 2-0 home defeat of Manchester United could do just that. Win their final five games against middling opposition and, barring an exceptional swing in goal difference, Joe Montemurro’s team will secure a first-round place in next season’s Champions League. With Arsenal struggling to keep pace with the spending of Manchester City and Chelsea domestically, European competition is increasingly important. Prize money is rising and with the announcement of the WSL broadcast deal imminent, clubs will start to see some pay-off for their commitment – timely with Arsenal’s being questioned. The implications are not as great for United, playing just their third season. Casey Stoney’s team are ahead of schedule though and in Lauren James, they have a 19-year-old star that will be running the show soon enough. Suzanne Wrack


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.