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Talking points from Premier League matchweek 23: Chelsea boss faces the heat while Everton rally

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From Arsenal beating Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium to Newcastle United and Luton Town sharing the spoils in a thriller, matchweek 23 of the 2023/24 Premier League season was not short of controversy, entertainment, drama and goals.

A total of 41 goals were scored across nine games, with Brentford vs Manchester City slated to happen on Monday night. Should Man City win, they will leapfrog Arsenal back in second after the Gunners took their spot on Sunday.

Without further delay, let’s take a look at the 10 talking points from the Premier League matchweek 23.

#Arsenal blow title race wide open

Arsenal are aiming to end their 20-year-long Premier League title drought and appear to have learned some lessons in finishing runners-up to Manchester City last term. They led for much of the campaign but faltered down the business end of the season when City ramped up the pressure.

Having wobbled mid-season with back-to-back defeats to West Ham United and Fulham in December, Mikel Arteta’s side responded with three successive wins since the winter break and blew the title race wide open by beating Liverpool 3-1 at home on Sunday.

With both teams heading down the tunnel at 1-1 at half-time, second-half strikes from Gabriel Martinelli and substitute Leandro Trossard sealed the deal for the Gunners as they handed Jurgen Klopp’s side their first league defeat since September.

#Luton Town move out of relegation zone

Luton Town’s thrilling 4-4 draw with Newcastle United at St James’ Park made it three games unbeaten in the Premier League, lifting them above the dreaded relegation zone. Before that, they had smashed Brighton and Hove Albion 4-0 at Kenilworth Road with Elijah Adebayo grabbing the headlines with a hat-trick.

If the art of management is getting the best out of the available resources, Rob Edwards is doing a marvelous job. And in the last few weeks, the Hatters aren’t just trying to survive by battling it out. They are positive, pressing in numbers, playing attractive, front-foot football, and Ross Barkley rolling back the years to shine in Luton’s engine room.

#Mauricio Pochettino under immense pressure

Chelsea’s latest defeat against Wolves was their 10th Premier League loss of the season in 23 games. With only 9 wins and four draws, Mauricio Pochettino’s team are currently closer to relegation than to the fourth-placed team in the league.

Mauricio Pochettino has failed to lift the spirits at the club after joining last summer. The defeat to Wolves has left him under immense pressure as the Blues’ American owners have their patience tested by another awful season.

The Carabao Cup final at the end of the month may give the Argentinean tactician the chance to change the narrative with his first silverware in English football. However, if he fails to get results against Aston Villa (FA Cup), Crystal Palace and Manchester City in the Premier League, it could also fast-track Pochettino’s exit should Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital believe a new manager bounce is their best chance of beating Liverpool to the Carabao Cup trophy.

#Rasmus Hojlund starting to fire

Rasmus Hojlund had a difficult start to his Premier League career. By Christmas Day, Hojlund was still to score a league goal. The Dane eventually broke the goal drought with the winner against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, and he has since scored in his next three league appearances for Manchester United.

Hojlund marked his 21st birthday on Sunday with a top finish against West Ham. When Casemiro stabbed the ball forward, he moved smartly to his right to create room to create room to shoot and arrowed a right-footed shot past Alphonse Areola’s right-hand corner. It was the Denmark international’s 10th goal of the season and arguably the finest yet in his mushrooming United career.

#Pedro Neto’s return coincides with Wolves’ dazzling football

Back from injury, Pedro Neto again shown why he is such a valuable asset to this Wolves side. He has scored against local rivals West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup, as well as finding the back of the net in Wolves’ cruel 3-4 defeat to Manchester United at Molineux last week.

On Sunday, Neto and Matheus Cunha combined to tear Chelsea into shreds. Mauricio Pochettino’s side could not stop the Portuguese winger from targeting Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell down their left. He created Wolves’ second goal with a burst down the right and made the third after beating Silva for pace, with Cunha also running riot with his fine hat-trick at Stamford Bridge.

#Leon Bailey vital to Aston Villa’s top four aspirations

Signed from Bayer Leverkusen for £25 million in August 2021, Leon Bailey took some time before adapting to the demands of Premier League football. Having only sparkled in flashes during his initial time at the club, the Jamaican is now looking like a proper player under the tutelage of Unai Emery.

The 26-year-old was unstoppable on Saturday, using his pace, directness and movement to tear Sheffield United’s defence into shreds. He curled in a fine effort to help Villa smash United 5-0, taking his tally to seven goals and six assists in 21 league appearances this season. Going by Bailey’s eye-catching contributions, it is safe to say that he is vital to Villa’s Champions League aspirations.

#Sheffield United look dead and buried already

Sheffield United fans were left dreading a repeat of September’s humiliating 8-0 defeat by Newcastle as they watched their side be completely trounced by Aston Villa. Newcastle did not score their fourth until the 56th minute on that occasion. At Bramall Lane on Saturday night, that was the scoreline with just half an hour gone.

The two teams headed into the tunnel 4-0 at half time, and soon after the restart, United found themselves 5-0 down. The nature of the defeat will do nothing to aid the Blades’ belief that they can become the first side to survive from the precarious position they find themselves in.

#Pascal Gros sparkles as Brighton smash Crystal Palace

Roberto de Zerbi will be hoping Brighton’s historic win over arch-rivals Crystal Palace can be the springboard to make it another memorable season at the Amex Stadium. The Seagulls overwhelmed the Eagles 4-1, with Pascal Gros playing a starring role in the middle of the park.

The German was everywhere on the pitch as helped Brighton beat Roy Hodgson’s injury-hit side and end their goalscoring style in sumptuous style—a result that kept De Zerbi’s troops within touching distance of the top six. They can take a lot of confidence from the big win over their arch-rivals and hope to build on it in the upcoming fixtures.

#David Fofana makes instant impact for Burnley

There were boos as Vincent Kompany trudged across the pitch at half-time, his Burnley team 2-0 down to Fulham and staring down the barrel of a 10th home defeat of the season. But the mood had drastically changed an hour later thanks to David Datro Fofana’s double.

Shortly after the hour mark, Fofana was introduced for his home debut and it took him only seven minutes to half the deficit. The young striker earned the Clarets a valuable point by bundling Wilson Odobert’s low cross over the line from close range.

Burnley are seven points adrift of safety but Fofana’s impactful cameo should give the fans something to cheer about.

#Everton show grit to hold Tottenham to a draw

Everton’s physical approach and prowess at set-pieces produced two equalisers against Tottenham on Saturday. This saw Sean Dyche’s side become the team with joint-highest tally of set-piece goals this campaign.

Guglielmo Vicario’s susceptibility under pressure—and a lack of protection from the defenders around him—was constantly exploited by Everton. They pressed, probed and won possession numerous times high up the pitch, and in the end, were good value for a point against Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs.

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