Kelechi Iheanacho, Patson Daka, Antonio Rudiger, Steven Gerrard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Manchester City’s style of play all feature in this week’s installment of lessons from the English Premier League
Matchday 16 in the English Premier League was as exciting as ever with the Top 3 teams all picking up wins to maintain their chase for the title. David Moyes’ West Ham side will now be looking over their shoulders as they scuppered the chance to keep up in the Top 4 with a draw against Burnley, especially with Arsenal and Manchester United keeping up the chase with victories over Southampton and Norwich City respective.
It was a tale of mixed fortunes for two Africans at the King Power Stadium with Zambian hotshot Patson Daka turning in the kind of performance that could keep Nigeria’s Kelechi Iheanacho on the bench for much longer. Chelsea’s defence continues to be the downfall and the redemption of a flailing Blues side under Thomas Tuchel. These are the five things we learnt from this weekend’s Premier League matches.
1. Daka is here to replace Iheanacho, not complement him
A lot was said about Zambia’s Patson Daka when he joined Brendan Rodgers’ side during the summer from RB Salzburg. Many saw him as a long-term replacement for an ageing Jamie Vardy and the perfect partner for Kelechi Iheanacho. But on the evidence of Sunday’s performance, the 23-year-old is here to stake his claim at the expense of Iheanacho.
Daka was directly involved in two of Leicester City’s four goals on the day, finding the net for the Foxes second goal and then making a simple but effective assist for James Maddison’s goal.
Daka has scored seven goals and made three assists in just seven starts for Leicester City, averaging one goal contribution per 83.2 minutes played
Crucially, the former RB Salzburg man also picked up a second-assist (the final forward pass before the assist) for Youri Tieleman’s second goal, progressing the ball well before unloading to Maddison who gave the final pass to the Belgian.
Involvement in the build-up play as this will make him invaluable to the team while scoring frequently will cement his place as the preferred partner to Jamie Vardy in no time. Again, Iheanacho has a battle on his hands at the King Power for a starting berth.
2. Give Rudiger a new contract and any amount he requests as wage
Antonio Rudiger once again proved his worth within the Chelsea team, winning the Blues’ two penalties that ultimately gave them the win. The German defender has been instrumental for Chelsea on both ends of the pitch this season. The 28-year-old has added goals (two) and assists (four) to his excellent defending this season, easily being one of Chelsea’s most influential players on the pitch.
Rudiger is in a contract stand-off with Chelsea with Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich all said to be interested in taking on the 28-year-old
It is a shock that the Chelsea board is still hand-wrangling with the German centre-back whose contract expires in June 2022. Considering Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva (both over 30) are in the same contract situation, it is a no-brainer that the Blues hierarchy should prioritise tying Rudiger to at least another three years at Stamford Bridge. If not for anything, as a reward for his impact so far and the promise of more to come in the immediate future.
3. Gerrard aced his audition at Anfield Stadium
Much of the media speculation ahead of this weekend’s matches was centred on the return of Steven Gerrard to Anfield Stadium as an opposing manager. Though his Aston Villa side lost by a lone goal, they covered themselves in glory by making it hard for Jürgen Klopp’s side, a glowing reflection on Gerrard.
Gerrard’s record at Villa Park reads three wins out of five, with two losses coming against the top two sides in the league. While Villa would not battle relegation this season, Gerrard would be examined on the matches against the Big 6 and a push for the same as this is the aim for Aston Villa.
Steven Gerrard (right) lost 1-0 to Liverpool on his return to Anfield as Aston Villa manager
Resolute performances against Manchester City and Liverpool and a rousing come-from-behind win against Leicester City on Matchweek 15 are good signs of being able to mix it up with the big boys.
4. Manchester City are the definition of a slow kill
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City once picked up a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday but the scoreline does not tell the whole story. The Citizens were dominant from start to finish, racking up 78 per cent of ball possession and firing off 19 shots compared to Wolves’ three.
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling scored his 100th goal in the Premier League against Wolves on Saturday
Even before Raul Jimenez’s moment of madness, it was a matter of when not if for the Mancunians breakthrough. Guardiola’s brand of patient football, chipping away at the opponent till they find a way through or force their opponents into a mistake is a masterclass to behold. It is very different from the relentless hounding and pressing of the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and recently Manchester United but is effective nonetheless perhaps even more so.
5. Aubameyang is on his last legs at Arsenal
The future does not bode well for Arsenal’s captain and highest-earner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabonese was left out of the squad that faced Southampton due to disciplinary issues. If that was not enough cause for concern, the Gunners romped to a comfortable 3-0 victory without their marksman.
We have seen this before at Arsenal under Mikel Arteta with Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi high-profile casualties of the ‘fall in line or step aside’ regime under the Spanish manager. Arsenal have coped admirably without the two aforementioned stars and Aubameyang seems to be on the path both of them took out of the club.