Liverpool and Manchester City still standing in Premier League title fight
The Premier League title fight between Liverpool and Man City has felt like a case of Goliath vs. Goliath. But has it actually been entertaining? Nick Miller recaps another wild weekend.
Question of the weekend
"I was trembling," said Pep Guardiola, about the closing stages of Manchester City's narrow 1-0 win over Burnley.
In some respects, it's a relief to hear that the manager of this relentless winning machine gets nervous: This was City's 12th consecutive victory, meaning that since they last lost a game, the top two have dropped a total of eight points from a possible 75.
But the question in all of this is, while this title race has clearly shown absurd levels of quality in terms of City and Liverpool's supremacy over the rest (the gap between second and third is one point more than the gap between Wolves in seventh and the relegation zone), you're left wondering whether the last couple of months have actually been entertaining.
There's been very little peril. Neither side has been knocked down and had to dust themselves off. This has been Goliath vs. Goliath, both smacking each other but remaining upright, and in the end one will emerge just slightly less battered than the other.
Maybe this seems ungrateful. Maybe the last two games will bring some more drama. But until now you do have to ask: Has this actually been a good title race, or do we all just think it has?
Player of the weekend
We still don't fully appreciate Sergio Aguero. Those around him had a slightly frustrating afternoon at Turf Moor, but it was Aguero who kept hammering away, eventually getting the winner, albeit by a mere 29 millimetres.
That was his 230th goal in 334 City appearances, the fifth season in a row and sixth overall that he has scored 20 Premier League goals in a season. He's now level with Robbie Fowler in the all-time Premier League scorers charts, and next season he'll pass Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry and perhaps Andy Cole, which will mean only Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer will be ahead of him.
Embarrassment of the weekend
It should be pretty embarrassing for Manchester United that of Manchester City's two games this week, their trip to Burnley was much tougher than the game at Old Trafford. And even more embarrassing, that this wasn't really a surprise.
Dilemma of the weekend
What to do about David De Gea? According to Adam Bate from Sky Sports, he has now made more errors directly leading to goal this season than in his previous five seasons combined. Beyond having a set of concrete-footed defenders in front of him who reacted too slowly as Marcos Alonso pounced, you can't make any excuses for De Gea for this one, spilling a straightforward long-range effort from Antonio Rudiger right back into the danger zone.
It always has been one of those slightly odd football conventions that a goalkeeper should not be so readily dropped when in poor form as outfielders. Presumably the idea is that keepers represent stability, that they are the steady rock on which a team is based, and also because with most teams there's a bigger drop in quality between their second-choice keeper and, say, their second-choice centre-back.
Those two things don't apply to Manchester United at the moment. De Gea is not offering stability, and in Sergio Romero they have a keeper good enough to have won 96 caps for Argentina. Given his body of work, it would be a big call for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop De Gea, but the time to do so is nearing.
Helpers of the weekend
Decide for yourselves whether this means anything or not, but Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have 20 assists between them this season, which is the same number as Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.
Tactical mistake of the weekend
Few could doubt that Neil Warnock has done a remarkable job in getting this set of Cardiff players into the Premier League, then ensuring they have a chance of survival with two games remaining.
But his approach in Cardiff's 1-0 loss to Fulham on Saturday was entirely baffling, playing as if he were happy with just a point when his side started the day three behind Brighton. And, as is often the case when a team is so passive, the approach didn't work, they went a goal down and by the time they started to attack, it was all too late. Bobby Reid, their most dynamic attacking presence on the bench, emerged only in the 87th minute.
They were perhaps unlucky not to score in a late barrage of the Fulham goal, but if they had been more proactive earlier, they may not have needed luck. Afterwards, Warnock admitted he got his team selection wrong, but that isn't a huge amount of use.
Cardiff now need to win their remaining two games and hope Brighton only pick up one point from theirs. The latter half of that scenario is perfectly possible, but if Warnock approaches either game the way he did this weekend, the former isn't.
Collapse of the weekend
Anyone reasonable would recognise that Unai Emery had a difficult job at Arsenal this season, and qualification for the Champions League was the height of their realistic ambitions. That could still happen, but the last week has been absolutely calamitous.
Three defeats, nine goals conceded, only three scored and their abysmal away record continues. Leicester are a good side who have improved under Brendan Rodgers, so you could argue that in isolation losing to them is not an absolute disgrace. But it's the context of the other results that makes it more troubling.
After Sunday's 3-0 defeat, Emery emphasised the impact of Ainsley Maitland-Niles' sending off, which may well have been harsh, but up to the point he was dismissed Arsenal had just 27 percent of the ball. For a small bit of context, Burnley had 31 percent at half-time against Manchester City. It's a problem if Emery genuinely thought things were all going well and that was the turning point, but it's an even bigger problem that Arsenal capitulated so meekly after the sending off.
Team of the Week
Consequence of the weekend
In terms of domestic matters, Tottenham's 1-0 defeat to West Ham on Saturday might not actually mean much. They remain in third place and the three teams behind them are so inconsistent that you'd have a hard time believing one will reel them in, never mind two. Unless there's an epic collapse, they will still qualify for next season's Champions League.
But it's the impact on this season's competition that might be more significant. Ajax visit in the first leg of their semifinal on Tuesday, where Spurs will be without Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks. It's something that is preying on Mauricio Pochettino's mind, too.
"The feeling for everyone has changed quickly," he said. "After the win here against Brighton on Tuesday everyone had a very good feeling -- that we are having a fantastic season and we are going to arrive in our best condition.
"But after our defeat today, it's like we will arrive the complete opposite."
Manager of the weekend
Their 3-3 draw with Bournemouth means Southampton are safe, and while this is a point frequently made in this column it's worth making again: When Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived the Saints were below Huddersfield in the table and had won just one game.
There are plenty of candidates for manager of the season, but Hasenhuttl has to be up there.