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Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

By AFP - Dec 12,2023 - Last updated at Dec 12,2023

Aston Villa’s English striker #11 Ollie Watkins (left) fights for the ball with Arsenal’s French defender #02 William Saliba during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on Saturday (AFP photo)

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Aston Villa fans are dreaming of an unexpected Premier League title challenge after beating Arsenal 1-0, a result which allowed Liverpool to go top of the table.

Manchester City snapped their four-game winless streak with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Luton to close back to within four points of the top.

But the crisis across Manchester deepens as United slumped to a shocking 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth.

AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend.

Man Utd crisis is real United boss Erik ten Hag dismissed the notion that his side’s season has been crisis-ridden after a 2-1 win over Chelsea in midweek.

But the Dutchman was given a rude awakening as a shambolic campaign for the Red Devils hit a new low in Bournemouth’s first ever win at Old Trafford.

Captain Bruno Fernandes publicly apologised on Sunday for a performance lacking in effort and aggression.

“If you don’t do your job, you’re not going to win the game,” said the Portuguese midfielder.

However, United fans are becoming tired of such statements rather than seeing the players do their talking on the pitch.

A seventh defeat in 16 league games leaves United 10 points adrift of Liverpool, ahead of a daunting trip to Anfield next weekend.

By then Ten Hag’s men will also likely be out of the Champions League, as they must beat Bayern Munich and hope FC Copenhagen draw with Galatasaray to progress to the last 16.


Villa’s title dream


Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez said he’s “a believer” that Unai Emery’s men can launch an unlikely challenge for their first top-flight title since 1981 after both City and Arsenal were added to the list of scalps at Villa Park in the space of four days.

Victory over the Gunners took Villa to within two points of the top and extended their winning run at home to a club record 15 consecutive league games.

Emery’s men also showed they are capable of winning in very different ways despite the same scoreline against their title rivals.

City were dominated in a manner rarely seen in Pep Guardiola’s managerial career, while Arsenal enjoyed the better of the game and chances but could not find their way past an inspired Martinez.

“When you beat City and Arsenal in a week, one game controlling them like I’ve never seen Man City being controlled, then suffering against Arsenal for 85 minutes and managing to win again, I’m a believer,” said the Argentine World Cup winner.

The key to what Villa can achieve likely lies in improving their patchy away form.

They have won just three of their eight Premier League games on the road this season.

But the inability of City, Arsenal or Liverpool to charge clear at the top is allowing a former European champion — a sleeping giant for decades — to dream.

Liverpool show resolve of champions

Jurgen Klopp said he had never seen a side play so badly for 76 minutes and still end up winning after Liverpool took advantage of a harsh red card for Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park.

The Reds have been far from their best over the past week but have still picked up nine points after also doing just enough to beat Fulham and Sheffield United.

It was a familiar story for Klopp’s men this season as they fought back after conceding first.

Liverpool have earned 18 points of their total of 37 after recovering from losing positions.

Klopp’s new-look side is not quite the finished article.

However, after the disappointment of slumping to fifth in the table last season, they are showing the resolve required of title winners to be back in the race once more.

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