Premier League GW 31 Roundup: Arsenal trip up again; Manchester City, Aston Villa and Manchester United overwhelming winners

The Hard Tackle rounds up Gameweek 31 of the Premier League, as Arsenal trip up against West Ham, while Manchester City, Manchester United, Aston Villa and Bournemouth come out as big winners.

Gameweek 31 of the 2022/23 Premier League season ended with few twists and turns as there was plenty of movement on the table. Arsenal tripped up against West Ham United, while Manchester City gained a solid advantage in the title race. Manchester United also firmed up the third spot, while some boosts were in the bottom half.

Manchester City ended Saturday with a smashing win over second-to-bottom Leicester City. Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal sparked the visitors to life. But it was too late as Erling Haaland bagged yet another brace to help his team pile the pressure on Arsenal in the title chase.

That victory let Manchester City close the gap to Arsenal to three points with a game in hand and hoped Arsenal slip up in consecutive weeks. That is precisely what happened on Sunday, as Mikel Arteta’s side felt the pressure at the London Stadium against West Ham.

Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard’s goals in under ten minutes gave Arsenal a seemingly unassailable lead. Like their trip to Anfield, the Gunners folded under pressure and gave a dull second-half performance. The game’s highlight came from Bukayo Saka, who missed a crucial second-half penalty that could have given his side a 3-1 lead.

The four dropped points in two games have allowed Manchester City to crawl back into the title race. Pep Guardiola’s men have the advantage in the final run. And if they are to beat Arsenal at the Etihad, they can find themselves in the driver’s seat.

As for the top-four race, there were some important twists in the tale. With Manchester United, Newcastle United and Tottenham battling for two positions, the latter duo endured key defeats this weekend. Meanwhile, the Red Devils cruised to victory against Nottingham Forest to reclaim the third spot from the Magpies.

Newcastle United came into GW 31 in terrific form. And few would have expected them to lose this way. Unai Emery’s Aston Villa, in supreme form themselves, thrashed the Magpies by a 3-0 scoreline at Villa Park, with Ollie Watkins bagging a brace and continuing his terrific form in front of the goal.

As for Tottenham, they were passive in the game for most parts. And despite taking an early lead, they allowed Bournemouth to take control. The Cherries came from behind and were leading early in the second half. Substitute and forgotten man Arnaut Danjuma seemed to have secured a late draw. But Bournemouth did what Arsenal did to them and secured a stoppage-time victory in north London.

There were some expected results at the bottom half of the table, while few gave themselves a boost in the relegation fight. The bottom three remained the same. But Bournemouth, Wolves and West Ham United all got positive results to climb up the ladder.

Everton found themselves in familiar territory with a defeat at home to Fulham. After 31 games, the Toffees are only out of the bottom three on goal difference. Leeds United also suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Liverpool to remain 16th on the table with 29 points.

In midtable, Crystal Palace secured another victory under Roy Hodgson and crushed bottom-placed Southampton away from home. Their London rivals, Chelsea, continued their wretched form and endured defeat to Brighton at Stamford Bridge.

The decision to re-install Frank Lampard as Chelsea’s manager has continued to attract scrutiny, with the club legend losing his third game since taking over. Mathematically, they could still qualify for Europe. But it all seems improbable at this stage.

Finally, Liverpool took a major step towards a possible finish inside the top four. Having played the same number of games, the Reds remain nine points off fourth-placed Newcastle, and it might take a monumental slip from the Magpies to allow Jurgen Klopp’s men into the equation.

Winners of GW 31

The Manchester clubs

Manchester United were feeling the pressure ahead of the weekend’s game amid their latest injury problems. While the neutrals expected another crumble from the Red Devils, they gave a staunch response with a thorough victory away from home to cement their position on the table.

Newcastle United’s defeat gave Erik ten Hag’s men the impetus to climb up the table. Goals from Antony and Diogo Dalot got them the three points. Manchester United will now look forward to cementing their place in third and running away with a decent lead over the Magpies and Tottenham.

Meanwhile, in the other half of Manchester, nobody expected City to lose ground in the title race as they hosted a hapless Leicester City. Dean Smith got off to a dreadful start as goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland (brace) secured three points.

The experience of being part of numerous Premier League title races continues to show on Guardiola’s part. After being eight points behind Arsenal with a game in hand, the points deficit is now down to four points with that extra match to play.

Pep Guardiola will now switch his attention towards wrapping up the Champions League quarter-finals in Munich and possibly starring at a date with Real Madrid in the semi-finals. As for the title run-in, Manchester City will come into this as favourites to win every game, including the meeting at the Etihad with Arsenal and clinch the title for the third consecutive season.

Aston Villa and the European Dream

Unai Emery has continued to lead his Villa charges ahead of the possible entry into European competition next season. While they are inching closer to Tottenham in fifth, having played the exact amount of games, a Europa League berth will seem realistic for the Spanish manager to achieve.

Villa hosted Newcastle at home, and Ollie Watkins produced another strong performance to get the ball rolling. Unlike some recent victories, Emery’s men looked more in control here and seemed clinical enough to punish Eddie Howe’s men for their mistakes.

With seven games left to play this season, Villa will hope to continue playing with the same vigour and finish the campaign strongly. Incidentally, Villa were 17th on the table when the club decided to sack Steven Gerrard. And the recovery from there on has been nothing short of staggering.

The failed Arsenal stint aside, this is probably the real Emery we are watching here. Now it is time to qualify and continue building on the momentum for the remainder of the campaign and beyond.

Bournemouth and their quest for safety

The Cherries came to north London hoping not to repeat what they experienced in the Emirates. Ironically the finish to this game against Tottenham brought back memories. Only this time, Bournemouth returned home with all three points.

Son Heung-min’s opener around the 15th-minute mark seemed like Tottenham had found their bearings and could have buried Bournemouth here. Instead, the Cherries got back into the game, and around the 51st minute, Dominic Solanke even gave them a lead.

Gary O’Neil’s side stood their ground amid heavy Tottenham pressure in the game’s final quarter. Richarlison scored from an offside position and later missed a sitter with the goal at his mercy. In between that, forgotten man Arnaut Danjuma, a substitute in the game, scored a hopeful equaliser.

Ultimately, it was Bournemouth’s day, as Dango Ouattara expertly controlled the ball inside the penalty area and slotted it past Hugo Lloris in what looked like a shock victory. The win helped Bournemouth climb up the table and keep themselves safe, with six points separating them from 18th-placed Nottingham Forest.


Arsenal and their title hopes

Mikel Arteta’s men are as much in the title race as Manchester City. But their eight-point advantage has been cut into half throughout the last two games. Having dropped points with a two-goal lead over Liverpool last weekend, the Gunners repeated the trick against the Hammers.

Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard put Arsenal 2-0 up in the opening ten minutes. From then on, it seemed like the Gunners would stroll through and possibly score plenty to reduce the goal difference with Manchester City. Instead, it turned into a nightmare for the Gunners, particularly Bukayo Saka.

A Said Benrahma penalty in the first half resulted in a series of errors, first from Thomas Partey and then from Gabriel Magalhaes. With that strike, the Hammers upped the pressure on the Gunners. Arsenal could not get the upper hand in the game afterwards and steadily crumbled under pressure.

At the start of the second half, they had the glorious opportunity to make it 3-1. Bukayo Saka uncharacteristically missed his spot-kick. And soon enough, the scores were level on the other end, with Jarrod Bowen nicking one in. After that, fans were long resigned to seeing this team drop another set of points and open the backdoor for Manchester City.

The result leaves Arsenal with a four-point lead, having played a game more than their rivals. There is no more room for manoeuvre for Arteta to play around with. To clinch the title, they must win every game, including the one at the Etihad. Any more slip-ups will cost them that, and they could finish second to Pep Guardiola’s side.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea

This season has already seen Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, Graham Potter’s team, and Frank Lampard’s. The common factor between them is their inability to stitch together a good run of results. After the new owners spent £600 million on transfers in two windows alone, their standing in 11th seems unprecedented.

Despite a two-goal deficit, they are alive in the Champions League, although that slim dream could end on Tuesday night. The decision to re-appoint Lampard attracted massive criticism. And the pundits have been right about this, as the former Everton boss suffered his third consecutive defeat in all competitions.

Facing Brighton remains a big task for any team in the league, and Lampard found it the hard way despite going ahead courtesy of a Conor Gallagher strike. After last weekend’s VAR controversy for the Seagulls and a subsequent apology from PGMOL, Roberto De Zerbi’s men turned out in style with a smashing win at Stamford Bridge.

Danny Welbeck scored the equaliser early in the game to replace the injured Evan Ferguson. Julio Enciso scored a thunderbolt from range to give Brighton the lead and keep hold of it. As for Chelsea, the fans are wondering when this disastrous run will end, and they hope it will be soon.

The bottom three clubs

Southampton, Nottingham Forest, and Leicester City all suffered blows in their quest to secure safety. The Saints were desperate to stitch together positive results to get out of the bottom of the table. Ruben Selles’s side hoped to secure something at home against Crystal Palace, but he was wrong.

Crystal Palace tore through their defence and got the required strikes to collect all three points. Meanwhile, Leicester City continued their dreadful run in this relegation battle. And if results continue, we may soon have those three, including Forest, as the favourites to go down.

Everton should have been included in the conversation about the relegation clubs, as they are level on points with Forest. As for Steve Coopers’s side, they have to justify the huge spending at some stage. And as results continue to falter, the decision to stick with the manager may come to blame for their eventual collapse.

As things stand, these three clubs seem favourites to go down, with Everton also in the mix. Yet, we have a handful of games left before the season concludes, and those will certainly hope there are more twists and turns along the way.

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