Anwar El Ghazi's cruel repayment to Marcelo Bielsa's kindness - 7 Premier League talking points
Leeds United missed out on the opportunity to move into the top half of the Premier League when they faced Aston Villa on Saturday evening.
The Whites conceded early to a strike from Anwar El Ghazi, and despite boasting 70% possession and a majority of efforts on goal, weren’t able to claw themselves back into the match.
That result leaves Marcelo Bielsa’s men 11th in the table, two points behind Arsenal in 10th.
Frustratingly, it also allowed Villa to open up a four-point gap over the Whites, who now face an uphill battle to secure a top-half finish.
Here is a rundown of some of the other major talking points from a busy weekend of action in the Premier League...
Tottenham 4-0 Burnley: Bale back in the swing of things
Boris Johnson announces that golf courses will reopen on March 29th and a few days later Gareth Bale puts Burnley to the sword with an uncharacteristically upbeat performance that rolled back the years on his Spurs career. Coincidence? Surely not.
The Welshman took just two minutes to find the back of the net against the Clarets on Sunday, and he would go on to bag another and provide an assist for Harry Kane in a 4-0 rout that fully vindicated those who have been calling for Jose Mourinho to put more faith in the exiled Galactico.
For Burnley, a loss this heavy was always going to be a bitter pill to swallow, but Sean Dyche will understand that there are matches on the horizon that represent much more winnable opportunities for his side.
Next up, injury-ravaged Leicester at Turf Moor in midweek…
West Brom 1-0 Brighton: Carnage at The Hawthorns
Graham Potter must have had a job on a demolition crew in a mirror factory in a past life given his side’s recent run of luck in front of goal.
Over their last three Premier League matches, Albion have had 66 efforts on goal, but have managed to score just once – and even then that goal ultimately counted for nothing in last week’s late defeat to Crystal Palace.
Things really came to a head in Saturday’s chaotic clash against West Brom though.
Not only did his side miss two penalties, but they also had a goal chalked off in one of the most shambolic refereeing incidents that we’ve seen all season.
Lewis Dunk caught Baggies keeper Sam Johnstone napping with a quick free-kick, but it took Lee Mason and his VAR team a long period of deliberation – and several U-turns – to ultimately decide that the official had not blown his whistle in time for the goal to stand.
With the game ending 1-0 to West Brom, how big could Mason’s painful fiasco prove to be for the Seagulls come the end of the season?
Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United: Damp squib at Stamford Bridge
Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner once sang ‘Anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment in evening entertainment’, and nowhere was that truer than at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
A clash between two of the Premier League’s big guns that was hyped up to such an extent and given such a grand billing by Sky Sports that it was almost inevitable it would end in a 0-0, this was, if we’re being diplomatic about it, a match to forget.
Of course, boring stalemates between two strong sides are hardly anything new – worn out adages about irresistible forces and immovable objects readily spring to mind – but what might just concern Chelsea fans is that this kind of low-scoring grind is becoming a bit of a recurring theme under Thomas Tuchel.
The Blues have hit the back of the net just 10 times in his opening nine matches in the dugout.
As for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally has a definite answer as to whether his side are in a title race. They are not.
West Ham 1-2 Manchester City: Dias for Player of the Year?
Again, West Ham deserved huge credit for their performance against Man City on Saturday lunchtime.
Pep Guardiola’s title juggernaut has resembled a plague of sky blue locusts in recent weeks, indiscriminately devouring everything in their path, but for large spells of this one, the Hammers held their own admirably.
Still, there’s only so long you can put off the inevitable, and once more, the man who had a major impact for City was Ruben Dias.
He and John Stones have been superb this season, and when we look back on this season in months and years to come, his arrival at the Etihad will be held up as a key turning point on which the fate of the title race hinged.
Dias scored the opener in this one, and the big question is, if Virgil van Dijk was showered with plaudits and accolades for a similarly influential role in Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side, why shouldn’t the Portuguese international receive the same level of praise when the beans are counted this year?
Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool: Blades coming to terms with their fate
At about 9pm last night, ‘Buffon’ was trending on Twitter in the UK.
The reason? Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale had just put in a performance against defending champions Liverpool that had nervy Kopites tearing their hair out and comparing the 22-year-old to the legendary Italian goalkeeper.
Alas, it wasn’t enough to stop the Blades from slumping to a 2-0 defeat, but at least it was a glimmer of positivity in a game that offered little in the way of respite for Chris Wilder's ailing side.
After the game, the manager admitted that there was a gulf in class between the two sides, and suggested that United base their recruitment model on signing the best Championship players they can get their hands on.
With an air of resignation surrounding the club and a 15 points gap between themselves and safety, it could well be that those Championship players are headed right back to where they came from.
Newcastle United 1-1 Wolves: Injury blows are salt in sore wounds
On paper, a 1-1 draw against Wolves wasn’t the worst result in the world for Newcastle United on Saturday night – especially with Burnley, Brighton, and Fulham all dropping points over the weekend.
A win would have been preferable – but when is that not the case? – and at least this way Steve Bruce’s men were able to keep some kind of buffer between themselves and the Cottagers by sharing the spoils.
What will be a major concern for the Magpies, however, is that creative duo Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron were both forced off injured against Wanderers.
We’re still waiting to find out how severe their respective knocks are, but with top scorer Callum Wilson also in the treatment room at the moment, the Toon Army are looking worryingly threadbare in attacking areas.
Outside of that trio, the only Newcastle player with more than one league goal this season is Jeff Hendrick.
Panic stations, anyone?
Leeds United 0-1 Aston Villa: Whites pass up golden opportunity
With Fantasy Premier League darling Jack Grealish ruled out of this one, there was probably never a better time for Leeds to come up against Aston Villa.
Dean Smith’s men rely on the England international immensely, and while they still pack a punch without him, they’re a much more manageable proposition when he isn’t in the side.
Leeds couldn’t capitalise on his absence at Elland Road on Saturday evening though, and in a cruel twist, it was Grealish’s replacement Anwar El Ghazi who struck the decisive goal after just five minutes.
A further kick in the gut is the fact that El Ghazi actually consulted Bielsa – who he played under briefly at Lille – to find out what English football was like before he signed for Villa in 2018, and then the pair shook hands at half-time after the Dutch winger’s strike on Saturday.
With Arsenal also picking up an unexpected three points against high-flying Leicester City on Sunday, the Whites’ top half hopes took a bit of beating this weekend.