Title chasers Liverpool ensured they kept pace with Premier League leaders Manchester City with a thrilling 4-2 win over Burnley in the weekend of football that also saw Borussia Dortmund fall to the second place in the Bundesliga. Dortmund, inspired by a second-half performance from Christian Pulisic, won 3-1 against Stuttgart but Bayern Munich's 6-0 win against Wolfsburg meant they now have a superior goal difference. Pulisic's team from next season, Chelsea FC, lost their opportunity to temporarily jump to fourth in the table when they played out a 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The biggest headline from the weekend, however, was Arsenal's stunning victory against a seemingly-unstoppable Manchester United side.
Here are our talking points from the weekend of football which saw Claudio Ranieri return to Roma as the head coach.
Is this the best Arsenal side for Emery?
After the results in the midweek, where Manchester United overcame a stiff challenge to beat PSG in the Champions League while Arsenal succumbed to a 1-3 loss against Rennes in the Europa League, it would have been natural to expect another a walk in the park for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men. But what United would not have expected is Unai Emery to drastically change the shape of his team and field his three main attacking stars – Pierre-Emerick Auabemyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal played with a 3-man defence in their match at The Emirates Stadium with Saed Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles taking up wing-back positions. Kolasinac's energy and pace meant Ashley Young was no match to him out wide which meant Diogo Dalot spent more time in his own half helping out in defence. Similarly, Maitland-Niles' constant running in the right kept Luke Shaw at bay. The extra presence in the midfield also meant the United players were overrun in that department.
All of Emery’s big decisions paid off in the victory that was arguably the finest of his tenure. The gamble to hand Ozil more responsibility in the midfield also worked wonders. Stationed behind the strikers Auabemyang and Lacazette, the German's role was a challenging one with creative responsibilities falling largely on his shoulders. But with Aaron Ramsey running his heart out in the midfielder, Ozil was able to roam forward and wreak havoc.
The reason behind Emery's shape change might have been the absence of Lucas Torreira and the tactician might shift to his much-preferred 4-2-3-1 in the future. But the idea of Ozil forming a partnership with the striker duo of Lacazette and Auabemyang must be something that will have Arsenal fans licking their lips.
Tottenham's surprising loss against Southampton in the weekend and Chelsea's draw against Wolves mean just four points separate Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea with eight games remaining, with each team hoping to secure Champions League football next season. The battle for fourth is now a battle for third and fourth.
Dortmund up for the fight
Under-pressure Borussia Dortmund needed a victory in the weekend to calm their nerves and stay in the title race and for most parts against Stuttgart, the team looked lost and unsure what they needed to do. But Cristian Pulisic's second-half substitution changed the game with the American assisting one and then scoring a late goal to win it for Dortmund.
But it was once again Jadon Sancho who impressed the most for Dortmund. He neither scored nor assisted in the game but he was a constant threat and bother to the Stuttgart defence. While the team’s performance was bereft of clear-cut opportunities throughout much of the game, Sancho worked hard both in attack and defence, using his skills and pace to try and create something. It certainly looks like Sancho will be one of coach Lucien Favre's key component if Dortmund are to win the Bundesliga.
Bayern did their title chances no harm by scoring six goals against Wolfsburg in the weekend. The huge margin of the victory meant they now have a better goal difference than Dortmund. The match also showed glimpses of the what made James Rodriguez immensely popular in the footballing world – a tricky, intelligent midfielder with an eye for a goal. The Real Madrid loanee scored the third goal for Bayern in the weekend, and his improved form will come as a huge relief and at the right time for coach Niko Kovac. Striker Robert Lewandowski scored a brace for the Munich-side who now sits on top of the Bundesliga table with 13 games left to be played.
Piatek can't stop scoring
One can't talk about Polish strikers and not mention Krzysztof Piatek. The forward, who came into the Milan side in January as a replacement for Gonzalo Higuain, just can't stop scoring. Against Chievo, at the Stadio Bentegodi, all he needed was one chance to set up AC Milan's victory. Piatek's form (eight goals in nine matches the Rossoneri) has gone a long way in covering the struggles in the creative department at Milan with Suso struggling again as the chief orchestrator of the attack.
Piatek has scored 19 goals in the Serie A this season and is the joint highest with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella. Overall, the 23-year-old has scored 27 goals this season. Milan are now third in the points table, a point above their arch-rivals Inter, who they play next in the Serie A.
Juventus increased their lead on top of the Serie A to 18 points after second-placed Napoli drew Sassuolo 1-1.
Real fighting implosion
Real Madrid might have won their trip to Valladolid 4-1 with Karim Benzema scoring a brace, but all is not well at the Madrid camp. The entire week leading up to the match was filled with news that players were revolting against the management while senior stars Sergio Ramos and Marcelo were seen getting into an altercation at the end of a training session on Saturday.
Having been eliminated from three competitions, including the Champions League, in the span of a week, pressure and criticism have been forthcoming for much of the squad. There is also disapproval within the team with coach Santiago Solari's methods which has all but ensured Real Madrid players will be going into the summer holidays with no new medals to show.
Barcelona's comeback win against Ray Vallecano ensured they maintained a seven-point gap from second-placed Atletico Madrid who won against Leganes in the weekend.
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Updated Date: Mar 11, 2019 15:58:01 IST