Three talking points from the Premier League
Arsenal squandered a 2-0 lead for the second consecutive week, making Manchester City firm favourites to win their fifth Premier League title in six years.
Injury-hit Manchester United took a potentially decisive step towards finishing in the top four as Tottenham and Newcastle both slipped up while the bottom three sides all lost.
AFP Sport looks at three talking points from this weekend’s action in the English top flight.
Title turning point?
Bukayo Saka held his head in his hands and Mikel Arteta trudged dejectedly down the tunnel after Arsenal’s damaging 2-2 draw at West Ham.
The Gunners, who had raced into a 2-0 lead at the London Stadium, dropped points they could ill afford to lose in their title duel with a Manchester City team firing on all cylinders.
They also suffered the pain of a Saka penalty miss.
Arsenal are still four points clear of second-placed City, who have a game in hand, but there is a growing feeling that the Gunners’ young squad are feeling the strain of the title race.
Pep Guardiola’s team have won 10 matches in a row in all competitions and have title-winning nous after dominating the Premier League in recent seasons.
Sunday’s result means Arsenal may well have to beat City at the Etihad on April 26, a task that could prove beyond them.
United pull clear in top-four race, Villa enter fray
Third-placed Manchester United are now firmly on course to finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League.
After three straight league wins they are six points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham.
United travelled to relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest on Sunday without their injured first-choice centre-backs Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez as well as top-scorer Marcus Rashford.
But Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen pulled the strings in an impressive display.
Spurs, who conceded a last-gasp goal in losing 3-2 to Bournemouth, and fourth-placed Newcastle, hammered 3-0 by Aston Villa, will now be looking nervously over their shoulders.
Unai Emery’s Villa are still six points off the Champions League qualification spots but have won their past five games.
The former Arsenal boss says it is too early to call his side contenders for the top four but with forward Ollie Watkins in red-hot form, Villa cannot be discounted.
Hodgson delivers in style
The decision to bring former manager Roy Hodgson back to Crystal Palace last month looks inspired.
The team have scored nine goals in three Premier League matches since the ex-England boss returned to Selhurst Park — as many as they had netted in their previous 16 league games between November 2022 and March 2023.
Chairman Steve Parish spoke of the “immediate requirement of keeping us in the league”, when he appointed the 75-year-old to replace the sacked Patrick Vieira.
Three games and three wins later, Palace are nine points clear of the relegation zone and are close to safety.
Eberechi Eze, who scored both goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win against bottom side Southampton, said Hodgson had taken the shackles off.
“We’re playing with a lot more freedom, more energy, and we’re so much more positive, which is a huge credit to the gaffer coming in and helping us with that,”He said.