01/03/2024

Mario Lemina celebrates his 97th minute winner against Tottenham. (Image: Wolves on X)

It was a weekend that provided some upsets, a wealth of goals, and a match scoreline not seen since 2009. Here’s what we learned from Week 12 of the English Premier League.

Newcastle and Tottenham are feeling the strain on their squad depth

As the footballing schedule continues to get more congested every year, so does the list of names on the sidelines for Premier League clubs. Every team in the league has had to deal with numerous injuries and suspensions to start this campaign.

For two high-profile sides this weekend, the number of absentees finally started to have an impact on the pitch. Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur were without a combined 19 players for their fixtures against Bournemouth and Wolves respectively, and it showed.

Missing ten players, Newcastle looked far away from the high-energy outfit Eddie Howe has moulded over the past two years.

From start to finish, the Magpies looked off the pace while Bournemouth flew around, creating chance after chance. A 2-0 loss at the Vitality Stadium could have been a lot worse were it not for an impressive goalkeeping display from Nick Pope.

After two injuries and two suspensions extended their unavailable list to nine players, Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham side also looked considerably less impressive.

The Lilywhites started well and were ahead inside three minutes, but after five minutes, the absence of key starters became evident as Wolves took control. Gary O’Neil’s side dominated, and some poor finishing was all that kept the Spurs in the contest for as long as they did.

Two injury-time goals eventually earned Wolves a deserved three points at Molineux.

As Howe grapples with managing Champions League player rotation, and Postecoglou attempts to keep his already thin squad ticking, the international break poses yet another injury risk for their players. Both managers face a busy two weeks as they tinker with their sides to try and bounce back.

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Everton are looking better, but remain a long way from safety

Following the law of averages, based on Everton’s xG, the results were bound to turn in their favour eventually.

After a slow and unlucky start to the season, the Toffees are finally starting to reap the rewards that their performances have merited.

Sean Dyche’s side have taken ten points from a possible 15 from their past five fixtures, with seven of those points coming against sides above them in the table.

The Everton manager has had an almost fully fit squad at his disposal over the past month and has found a consistent line-up that is clicking on the pitch.

The return to fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin cannot be understated, but a fully fit Jack Harrison and Dwight McNeil have also been key pieces to the puzzle. The improvement of players such as Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitaly Mykolenko and James Garner under Dyche has been synonymous with the improvement of the team as a whole.

Eight points clear of the relegation zone, the Blues are trending in the right direction, but a dark cloud looms over their progress.

Everton is currently under investigation over potential breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. Last month, it was reported that the Premier League, who are effectively prosecuting the club, had recommended the severe punishment of a 12-point deduction.

This would be unprecedented as Everton would be the first club in the history of the Premier League to be found guilty of breaking FFP rules.

As it currently stands, a 12-point deduction would see the Toffees reduced to two points and seven points from safety.

While there has been plenty to cheer about in recent weeks, those from the blue faction of Merseyside have some nervous months ahead.

Chelsea are proving to be a big game player this season

Chelsea Football Cub has a new look and a new identity.

The club is in the midst of a transitional phase from the  Abramovich era to the present day, and even from last season’s disaster to the current campaign.

New American owner Todd Bohley re-imagined a squad with young, long-term prospects and has brought in a manager known for his ability to develop young talent.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side, for all intents and purposes, has looked like a young, talented side still working out the kinks this season. Plenty of quality build-up play, coupled with some lacklustre finishing and a mostly resolute defence, but capable of lapses in concentration.

However, they have dropped points against the likes of Brentford, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forrest, but on the big stage, they have been showing up in style. Chelsea have faced four opponents from the traditional ‘Big Six’ this season and, despite being favoured as underdogs in all four contests, have yet to lose.

Strong outings against Liverpool and Arsenal saw them earn a point against each while arguably outplaying both on the day.

In the last two weeks, the side from West London has put the high-flying Spurs to the sword before going toe-to-toe with Manchester City on Sunday. It was the first time any side in the world had put four goals past the Champions in over three years.

Finding success against the top sides is often the last piece of the puzzle for rebuilding teams, but the new Blues are already proving they can hang with the best.

If they can continue putting in these performances week in and week out, they will soon be a force once more.

Liverpool are ready to challenge for the league title again

Jurgen Klopp and the Liverpool front office were commended earlier this season for their successful overhaul of the aging midfield.

Completely changing a midfield in a single off-season while improving the overall playing level is no easy feat.

Fast forward to the present, and it’s not just midfield that continues to excel.

The Reds’ offense has been operating at a typically high level, having scored the third-most goals (27) of any side in the league. Likely linked to the success of the new midfield, the likes of Núñez, Díaz, Salah, Jota and Gakpo are showing signs of growth as an offensive unit.

While the defence may have been a cause for concern prior to the start of the season, the Liverpool backline has shown marked improvement.

Despite no defensive signings, the Liverpool backline has the equal best defensive record in the league.

The maintained fitness of the central defenders Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konaté has been crucial, but the emergence of 20-year-old centre-back Jarell Quansah has been a revelation. Quansah has stepped up to allow Klopp to rotate his defenders through various games and maintain their fitness.

The Reds return to their old selves, comfortably beating teams at home, and have lost just one match on the road.

They have flown under the radar to start the season, but there is no denying now that they are back to being Manchester City’s closest rival for the Premier League crown.

Sitting one point off league leaders in second, they face the Champions after the international break.

A positive result at the Etihad in a fortnight’s time and Liverpool are well and truly back in a title race.

Team of the Week

A first start since coming back from injury, Eberechi Eze sees him land a place in the Team of the Week, where Wolves match-winner Mario Lemina joins him. As selected by Inner Sanctum writers Jasper Woodcock and Liam McMahon.

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