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Five things we learned in the Premier League


London, United Kingdom | AFP | 

Chelsea coped admirably without Diego Costa as the leaders battered Leicester, while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suffered one of the worst days of his career and Manchester United drew with bitter rivals Liverpool.

AFP Sports looks at five things we learnt from the weekend Premier League matches:

No Costa? No problem

Without their leading scorer Diego Costa after a reported training ground row with boss Antonio Conte, Chelsea proved they can thrive in the absence of the Spain striker in a dynamic 3-0 win at Leicester on Saturday. Costa is said to have fallen out with Conte after a dispute over his fitness, amid reports he has been offered a lucrative move to China. Costa claimed he wasn’t fit to play and Conte disagreed, at one point reportedly shouting ‘go to China’ at his player. In the end, Costa didn’t feature at the King Power Stadium and Conte coyly put his absence down to a back injury. It was a saga that could have damaged Chelsea’s morale but two goals from left-back Marcos Alonso and a further strike from Pedro ensured the west Londoners cemented their position in top of the table.

 

Size matters as City crash

As Pep Guardiola sunk deeper into his coat in the closing stages of Manchester City’s dismal 4-0 defeat at Everton on Sunday, the Spaniard might have been forgiven for wishing he was back in east London. Just nine days previously Guardiola was being hailed for his managerial genius after City picked West Ham apart in a 5-0 demolition job at the London Stadium in the FA Cup third round. After a spluttering spell, Guardiola felt City’s players had regained their confidence because West Ham’s large pitch suited their passing game. But, on the much tighter confines of Goodison Park – one of the league’s smallest pitches – City found themselves hemmed in by Everton’s relentless pressing as goals from Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas, Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman left them 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea following Guardiola’s biggest ever league defeat.

 

Pogba should let his football do the talking

To great fanfare, Paul Pogba this week became the first footballer with his own Twitter emoji – a small image of the Manchester United midfielder’s head in profile that appears in a tweet whenever the hashtag #pogba is used. United seemed proud of their player’s achievement and flashed the image up on the advertising hoardings encircling Old Trafford’s pitch during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool. But after several impressive performances in recent weeks, Pogba had a shocker, misplacing passes, running down blind alleys and committing a needless handball offence that allowed James Milner to give the visitors a first-half lead. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late leveller got him off the hook, but United’s supporters will hope to see more from the France international on the pitch – and perhaps a little bit less from him on social media – in the weeks ahead.

 

Spurs sharper than ever

Tottenham Hotspur’s sophisticated 4-0 dismantling of West Bromwich Albion left their rivals contemplating the unpalatable thought that Mauricio Pochettino’s side might be even better than the team that chased Leicester City to the line in last season’s title race. Harry Kane scored his first hat-trick of the season and Tottenham would have won even more comfortably had it not been for the reflexes of visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster, who was also beaten by a Gareth McAuley own goal. After a return of two wins from eight league games between October and December, Spurs have now won six games on the trot.

Hammers shine without Payet

Michail Antonio’s superb show in West Ham’s 3-0 romp over Crystal Palace suggests life without Dimitri Payet won’t be all bad. Payet is reportedly refusing to play in an attempt to engineer a lucrative transfer to his former club Marseille. But Payet wasn’t missed as Antonio created all three of the Hammers goals — the highlight of which was Andy Carroll’s sublime bicycle kick. Carroll’s form after an injury-blighted start to the campaign also offers some hope to manager Slaven Bilic that West Ham can enjoy a strong second half of the season regardless of whether Payet ends his self-imposed exile.

 

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