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Three things We Learned from the Premier League : Week 31

Tuesday 22nd March 2016
After a weekend of FA cup dominated football, It's Round and It's White returns with a weekly round up of the latest premier league key talking points.

Wenger Is Still Gunning For The Title

Everton 0 - Arsenal 2

The Saturday lunchtime kick off at Goodison Park between was well poised prior to kick off, with the hosts Everton buoyed by the home FA Cup win over Chelsea, and with Arsenal coming in from the back of wretched recent results, including elimination from the aforemtioned competition, as well as an early Champions League exit.

It was the visitors who started the brightest, with manager Arsene Wenger putting his faith in teenager Alex Iwobi by handing him his Premier League debut in a game that the Gunners simply had to win to keep the pace on leaders Leicester and bitter North London rivals Spurs.

Romelu Lukaku had an early effort saved by David Ospina, but it was Danny Welbeck - a player that kept his place after the mid-week defeat at Barcelona - who opened the scoring after seven minutes. The Englishman seized on some sloppy Everton defending and eased the ball past Joel Robles after rounding the Everton keeper. From then on, Arsenal dominated, and Wenger's belief in Iwobi paid off, after the 19-year-old converted a beautifully weighted pass from Alexis Sanchez to put the visitors in complete control before half-time. At the start of the second period, Everton manager Roberto Martinez brought on John Stones, but after already conceding twice, it was a time for creating, not defending for his Everton side. They did create some chances in the second period, but none that troubled Ospina greatly.

It was a case of Arsenal being as good as Everton were bad. The visitors blitzed Everton in such fashion that it was reminiscent of Wenger's team from the Invincible's era. They appeared a rejuvenated team, and this win should provide momentum going into the latter stages of the campaign. All Arsenal can do is win what games they have left, and on this form, they certainly can. It might be out of their hands, but a title race is never a title race without one team slipping up.

As for the hosts, the only reason that Everton's season has not finished is because of their upcoming FA Cup semi- final. For a team that boasts Lukaku in attack, coupled with players such as Stones, Gerard Delofeu, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Barry, they should be doing so much better than this. They sit twelfth in the division, and have managed four wins at home all campaign. Martinez needs to find the balance between defence and attack sooner rather than letter to give his team stability. He had a similar problem at Wigan, but he can have no complaints with the standard of defenders at his current club. His expansive style of play certainly does work delightfully well when Lukaku is fired up, but if they concede, the team appears lost. Pragmatism is certainly needed for Martinez and Everton.

No Away Day Blues For Ranieri

Crystal Palace 0 - Leicester City 1

Another Leicester game, another Leicester win. It is becoming a recurring theme this season, and the Foxes are certainly showing no sign of running out of steam. On paper, Crystal Palace were an easy fixture for Claudio Ranieri's men, given the fact that they are winless in the calendar year. But no away game in the Premier League is easy, and this is the same ground, remember, where Liverpool's title hopes were extinguished two years prior.

If there were doubts and nerves in this Leicester team, it certainly didn't show in the opening stages. Riyad Mahrez failed to convert an early chance after he was put through on goal by Jamie Vardy, and from then on Leicester dominated proceedings. The visitors played with the usual intensity and attacking-intent we now come to expect from them, and Wes Morgan was a rock in central defence in the seldom times Crystal Palace did attack. The deadlock was broken on 34 minutes, and it was the usual suspects involved again. A Vardy cross was met by a clinical Mahrez finish to take the Algerian's tally this season up to 16. It was also Leicester's tenth away victory this season, a remarkable stat in the context that this side were bottom of the division at this stage of last season.

Palace are now 13 games without a Premier League win, and this performance did not suggest that this unwanted stat will be eradicated anytime soon. For a team that started the campaign so well - they were even mooted as top four outsiders by some - their collapse certainly has been alarming. Similar to Everton, it could be argued that the Eagles are an enigma. They have the players, who on their day can compete against any team, with Yohan Cabaye and Joe Ledley pulling the strings in central midfield and Yannick Bolasie and Wilfied Zaha providing a potent attacking outlet. But their day has not occurred enough this season. The lack of a clinical striker, with both Emanuel Adebayor and Connor Wickham proving to be inconsistent, has not helped their struggles, and the long term injury to Bolasie has not helped. Like the Merseysider's, they are also in an FA Cup semi final, which could end with silverware at Selhurst Park this season. Whilst relegation is looking unlikely due to their excellent start, if they don't start winning soon, Palace may well find themselves in the mire.

Canaries Taking Flight

West Brom 0 - Norwich 1

After a spirited goalless draw against Manchester City, Norwich certainly had a lot of momentum coming into this fixture at the Hawthorns. The hosts had not previously lost at home since December, and were confident in their approach going forward in the early exchanges. Claudio Yacob had a pile-driver from outside the box which stung John Ruddy's fingertips. Norwich started with Patrick Bamford up front, and with Matt Jarvis and Robert Brady playing in behind. Despite a brief flurry, the first half proved lacklustre with both teams having plenty of the ball but not many opportunities.

It was Brady who opened the scoring in the 50th minute, with the games only shot on target. The Republic of Ireland international converted a Jarvis cross from eight yards out to secure the three points for the visitors. Whilst not the most eventful of matches, it provided a big boost for the visitors. Given that both fellow strugglers Newcastle and Sunderland only took one point apiece the following day, they may well prove to be a very valuable three points for the Canaries. Manager Alex Neil reiterated this in his post-match interview, "Today was a big result, and we've got a batch of another four big games coming up... We need to take this momentum into those matches, and we will fight tooth and nail to stay up."

Other Results:

Swansea 1 - Aston Villa 0

Chelsea 2 - West Ham 2

Watford 1 - Stoke 2

Newcastle 1 - Sunderland 1

Southampton 3 - Liverpool 2

Tottenham 3 - Bournemouth 0

Manchester City 0 - Manchester United 1
Chris Baily

From Liverpool, I am also a life-long Reds supporter. I enjoy watching, writing and participating in football. As well as watching the Premier League, I also keep a keen eye on leagues across Europe, such as the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A.

Total articles: 20

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