Skip to content

Thoughts and analysis from rip-roaring weekend of Premier League action

Photo illustration by Julian Catalfo / theScore

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

theScore examines the most important developments and biggest talking points from another entertaining weekend of Premier League football.

Man City flustered at Anfield

Just when it seemed Manchester City would end their barren run at Anfield, Liverpool reminded them why they've only won one Premier League game there since 2003.

Liverpool swarmed City within seconds of the restart, injecting urgency into a game they were trailing 1-0 at halftime. The ensuing action was breathtaking to watch. Anfield's raucous crowd supercharged the atmosphere and helped Liverpool sucker City into the kind of box-to-box showdown few teams can force Pep Guardiola's usually suave side into playing.

The hosts outshot the defending champions 12-3 during that manic second stanza, pressed their opponents into turnovers, and flustered the majority of City's starters. That included the impervious Rodri, who had to hack down one player just to stem the tide.

It's not often City entertain track meets like this one. They crave control, and after setting the tone early on with a clever set-piece routine that caught Liverpool's defenders napping, the visitors struggled to keep the ball for more than a few seconds at a time.

There was a clear method to the chaos Liverpool rained down on City: run down the field, stretch them, and force them to play with their head on a swivel. City had approached previous matches at Anfield with an abundance of caution just to avoid descending into this kind of trench warfare, using possession as a form of defense. However, Liverpool, by sheer force of will, made it impossible for them to play conservatively.

Alex Livesey - Danehouse / Getty Images Sport / Getty

"If you can play football like this against City, that's a statement," Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports afterward. "And I love that."

Guardiola had to withdraw Kevin De Bruyne - one of the most dangerous players on the pitch - just to find a way to keep the ball. De Bruyne can swing matches in an instant, and Guardiola is always willing to play him, whether the game calls for the Belgian's open, creative passing or a more pragmatic approach. This time, Guardiola must've known a point was all City could get.

Mateo Kovacic offered more security, if not as much inspiration, and so he came on. Liverpool forced that change. They got City out of their comfort zone, which is only fitting because Klopp's Liverpool have been the only team in England capable of breaking City's dynasty under Guardiola.

Backup 'keepers come to the rescue

Caoimhin Kelleher and Stefan Ortega would usually be spectators on a day like Sunday. But circumstance and injury pushed them into the fray. Not that they didn't look the part. Each of them made exceptional saves with the game tied at 1-1 and ensured it ended that way.

At least Kelleher had the week to prepare. The 25-year-old has also had plenty of playing time in the absence of Alisson, who's out long term with a thigh injury, and he seemed to gain confidence during Liverpool's triumphant League Cup run. Ortega has played a similar role at City, appearing mostly in cup competitions, but he had mere minutes to warm up as Ederson's mid-game replacement.

Imagine stepping into the cauldron that is Anfield with the title race on the line and a mistake the only likely difference between a positive and negative result. A few early errant passes confirmed Ortega was feeling the nerves and pace of the game. But he didn't let it define his performance. He was proactive, coming off his line to block shots, and he kept it relatively simple with no-nonsense clearances. He looked more sure of himself than Ederson did, up to and including the moment the Brazilian conceded Liverpool's game-tying penalty with a reckless swing at Darwin Nunez.

And therein lies the secret to sustaining success in the modern game. Both Liverpool and City have exceptional starting lineups, but their depth is second to none. They source talent from either their academy or teams a few rungs below them to ensure they can compete with or without their best players.

Michael Regan / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The role of the backup 'keeper is perhaps the most underrated. It's difficult to find shot-stoppers who are happy to play second fiddle and still be capable of tending goal themselves once every few months, sometimes fewer. Many clubs don't want to spend big on second-choice 'keepers, either. But where would Liverpool be without Kelleher? Two League Cups may not have been theirs. It's even harder to retain such talent, but Kelleher's ties to Liverpool, having been brought up as a diehard supporter, help.

Likewise, City would've lost Sunday's game with a 40-year-old retiree shoring up Guardiola's bench. But they did well to pluck Ortega from Arminia Bielefeld in July 2022, giving a solid 'keeper a chance he otherwise wouldn't have on one of the greatest teams of the Premier League era.

Mature Arsenal changing narrative

A mistake like the one Aaron Ramsdale committed against Brentford would've been disastrous for Arsenal last season. Heads would've been down and shoulders would've been slumped, with players unable or unwilling to move on from such a calamitous moment. But it's a different story this season for Arsenal and a squad featuring several players who know a thing or two about overcoming adversity.

With the game tied 1-1 and its chances of winning fading fast, the north London club persevered late with the help of two other players who've dealt with their own difficult periods at Arsenal: Kai Havertz and Ben White. They further endeared themselves to fans Saturday, combining to score the winning goal in the 86th minute to spare Ramsdale's blushes.

Before Havertz's header, Ramsdale was feeling the heat at the Emirates Stadium after gifting Brentford an equalizer right before halftime. As Arsenal tried to close out a dominant first half, Ramsdale's struggles with the ball at his feet proved costly again after his sloppy clearance attempt ricocheted off Yoane Wissa and into his net. It was the type of lapse in judgment that cost Ramsdale his job after David Raya was signed to be Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper.

Conceding right before halftime was obviously crushing, but it offered Ramsdale a chance to escape to the locker room and compose himself away from jeering fans. He returned after the break with two huge saves to prevent Brentford from inflicting more damage before Havertz's winning goal.

Resilience has been a hallmark of Arsenal's impressive season, which has helped them remain in the title race with 10 games to go. It's a quality that'll be important in next week's Champions League clash with FC Porto - when they'll try to overturn a 1-0 deficit - and when Mikel Arteta's men face their biggest challenge of the season against Manchester City after the international break.

Quick free-kicks

Klopp-Guardiola era ends with a bang

Few thought the rivalry between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger would ever be topped, let alone matched in terms of intensity and quality. But then Klopp and Guardiola came along. Liverpool and Manchester City games have been appointment viewing since the two exuberant tacticians brought their coaching talents to England almost a decade ago. Sunday's encounter was no different, as the two - at the center of another title race - duked it out at Anfield in the last league meeting before Klopp leaves Liverpool this summer. Like so many games in the years since Klopp's Liverpool and Guardiola's City first met on New Year's Eve in 2016, it was a contest of the highest quality that featured plenty of scoring chances and drama. That Sunday's bout finished in a draw is perhaps a fitting way to close the chapter on a rivalry that'll be remembered by Premier League fans for generations to come. Hopefully, these two brilliant footballing minds lock horns again somewhere down the line.

Spurs rise to the challenge

Tottenham's failure to deliver in key moments is one of the Premier League's longstanding memes. Sunday's 4-0 hammering of fellow top-four contenders Aston Villa didn't have quite the same stakes as some of their matches from recent seasons, but, keeping in line with the club's upward trajectory under Ange Postecoglou, it was refreshing to see Spurs deliver in a big spot. A loss Sunday wouldn't have been fatal in their chase to secure Champions League football, but it would've given Villa a healthy eight-point advantage going into the stretch run. With a game in hand on Villa, fifth-placed Tottenham, now only two points adrift of fourth, appear to be in the more favorable position after winning a game with "plenty of significance." Both clubs still have to play all three of Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City between now and the end of the season, so there will be (at least) three more high-leverage games for Villa and Spurs in what's an intriguing battle for fourth. Can Tottenham rise to the challenge a few more times to secure a coveted top-four spot, or will their "Spursy" tendencies of past seasons make an appearance?

Stat of the weekend

Liverpool accomplished an exceedingly rare feat this weekend.

Tweet of the weekend

Yes, this is technically cheating, but we're dipping into the Championship for this one ...

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox