LONDON: Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League has been whittled down to three points as Manchester City and Tottenham applied the pressure to Jurgen Klopp’s men before they drew 1-1 at West Ham on Monday.
Further back Chelsea got a much-needed win for under-fire manager Maurizio Sarri by thrashing Huddersfield 5-0 and Manchester United’s resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continued unabated at Leicester.
AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from round 25 of the Premier League.
Three-way title race?
Less than a week ago Liverpool could have opened up a seven-point lead in their quest to win the title for the first time in 29 years.
A week on from Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Anfield to Leicester, City can go top by beating Everton on Merseyside this midweek.
Almost forgotten amid City’s pursuit are Tottenham who continued to defy the odds to close to within five points of the leaders with a third consecutive late win over Newcastle.
“For me they are 100 percent in the race,” said Klopp of Spurs’ challenge.
New management, same old Arsenal
City beat Arsenal 3-1 on Sunday to send the Gunners down to sixth with a familiar failing threatening their chances of Champions League qualification.
Arsenal have not won away since November in the Premier League, taking just two points from their last six games away from the Emirates.
Despite the changing of the guard from Arsene Wenger to Unai Emery, Arsenal’s defensive weakness and open approach has made them easy to pick off, particularly by other members of the top six.
Arsenal have not won any of their last 24 combined visits to City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham stretching back five seasons.
In contrast, only City have a better home record this season than Emery’s men, which has included victories over Spurs and Chelsea at the Emirates. That suggests the talent is there to work with when the mentality and tactical approach is right.
Son shines amid Spurs struggles
No new stadium, no new signings, no Harry Kane or Dele Alli, but Spurs remain on the fringes of the title race thanks to the return of Son Heung-min from the Asian Cup.
South Korea’s quarter-final exit to eventual champions Qatar meant that Son missed just three games for his third international tournament in eight months.
Spurs lost two of them to Chelsea and Crystal Palace to miss out on League and FA Cup glory for another season.
However, they have not lost any ground in the league since Kane and Alli pulled up with injuries thanks to three late winners against Fulham, Watford and Newcastle.
After grabbing the equaliser against Watford, Son got the only goal to end 83 minutes of Newcastle resistance for a 1-0 win at Wembley.
Hazard back in natural habitat
Freed from the shackles of Sarri’s failed tactical gambit, Eden Hazard was back to his best as Chelsea eased the pressure on their manager with a 5-0 rout of struggling Huddersfield.
Out of desperation, Sarri had used Hazard as a central striker for Chelsea several times this season in a bid to pep up his spluttering attack.
But Hazard made his name as a playmaker who thrives in the wide open spaces on the flanks and the Belgian never looked comfortable receiving the ball with his back to goal.
Sarri appears have realised the error of his ways as his loan signing of Gonzalo Higuain, who struck twice against Huddersfield to open his account for the Blues, has allowed Hazard to return to his natural habitat.
Strong spine key to Solskjaer’s success
Three weeks on from a 1-0 win at Spurs earned by a Paul Pogba assist, Marcus Rashford finish and goalkeeping heroics from David de Gea, Manchester United used exactly the same formula to win by the same scoreline at Leicester.
Both Rashford and Pogba now have six goals in 10 unbeaten games since Solskjaer took caretaker charge, while De Gea’s wonder stops are now winning games rather than just keeping his side in them as they were earlier in the season.
On the day Jose Mourinho was sacked, the Red Devils trailed the top four by 11 points. That gap is down to two and come next weekend could easily be erased completely as fourth-placed Chelsea visit City a day after United travel to relegation-threatened Fulham.