A full calendar year had passed without Diogo Jota scoring for Liverpool before Monday’s 6-1 demolition of Leeds.
But, having seen two goals at Elland Road end a puzzling drought, his double in the 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday – which made it four goals in six days – drew an emphatic line under the affair.
Jota justified Jurgen Klopp’s decision to name an unchanged side for the third successive game running for the first time since January 2020 as he kickstarted a chaotic second half at Anfield with two well-taken strikes.
The sight of the 26-year-old, who due to injury made just 10 appearances in the first six months of the season, rekindling his touch in front of goal will have heartened Liverpool as their inconsistent campaign nears an end.
Had Jota been fit and available all season, the Reds may have more than the outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League they currently possess. But his timely return does mean they finally have the firepower to make that unlikely target a reality.
Arsenal bottled it and showed incredible character all at once. Southampton looked like they had won it, then thought they might have lost it, then went home with a point from a 3-3 draw against the Premier League leaders which somehow feels disappointing.
It was a mind-bending game at the Emirates Stadium, the tone set inside the first minute, when Aaron Ramsdale, under no pressure, passed straight to Carlos Alcaraz, who accepted the gift. A title race can do strange things to players. So can a relegation battle.
Logic was turned on its head.
On one side, a team who had coasted through games such as these all season suddenly looked nervous, heavy-footed and sapped of belief. On the other, a team already written off by most, bottom of the table and winless in seven, bristled with aggression as they roared into a lead they fully deserved.
Mikel Arteta hailed the perseverance of his players in coming back from two goals down afterwards. But his reaction at the final whistle, head in hands, as his dejected players crumpled to the turf in front of him, was more telling. It’s advantage Manchester City.
Arsenal need “something miraculous”, said Jamie Carragher. Wednesday’s trip to the Etihad Stadium might be more must-not-lose than must-win, but defend as they did on Friday night and divine intervention might be necessary even to draw against Erling Haaland and the rest.
There are games to come after that, of course. There could be more twists and turns in store. But Arsenal’s frailties were plain to see on Friday night. Three games, three draws. Their late rally shows they are still fighting, but it looks increasingly like a losing battle.
They say in order to have any success in football, no matter at what end of the table you are, you need a good goalkeeper.
Just down the road from Craven Cottage, John Terry once said that Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech earned his title-chasing teams around 10 to 15 points a season.
Yes, goalkeepers can save you points but they can chuck them away too. David de Gea and Aaron Ramsdale realised that on Thursday and Friday night. On Saturday afternoon, it was Illan Meslier’s turn.
One flap and one simple push out to Andreas Pereira to tap in for Fulham’s second and the game was beyond Leeds.
It is not just Meslier’s poor form that is hurting Leeds. The midfield needs a shake-up with Marc Roca, Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson making poor passes in the build-up to both goals.
But if you play with those mistakes in midfield, you need your goalkeeper to step up and bail out those errors. Despite a couple of smart stops at Fulham, Meslier is not doing that. He and his defence have conceded a league-high 62 goals this season and only Bournemouth – who conceded nine in one game – are remotely close to them on 59.
With Joel Robles having experience of this dogfight at Everton and Wigan, perhaps it is time for a change in between the sticks.
When Leeds first came into the Premier League, Meslier’s style and shot-stopping ability was one of the reasons the club excelled in their first season under Bielsa. Now it looks like he could take them down.
When Leicester announced their starting line-up for Saturday’s home game against Wolves, there was one glaring omission – James Maddison. In fact, the England midfielder was not in the matchday squad at all due to illness.
Before this weekend, Leicester had taken just one point from a possible 18 without their captain since the World Cup. And considering the 26-year-old leads the way for goal involvements (15) and chances created (55) for the Foxes this season, it was difficult to see how they would find a way to beat a Wolves side who had kept back-to-back clean sheets.
It looked even more unlikely when Leicester, searching for their first victory in 10 top-flight matches, fell behind in the 13th minute. But just as the murmurs and groans started to become audible inside the King Power, they somehow found the resilience and determination to fight back.
Leicester registered 15 shots on goal during the match, eight of which were on target. They also created three big chances – Wolves created zero. Dean Smith, taking charge of his first home fixture, deserves huge credit too. He picked an adventurous line-up with Tete, Kelechi Iheanacho, Patson Daka and Jamie Vardy all named in attack. It was a risk worth taking and it paid off.
Leicester’s first win since February 11 lifted them out of the bottom three – albeit only on goal difference – but with games against relegation rivals Leeds and Everton up next, they have given themselves a real chance of preserving their Premier League status.
They have shown they can win without Maddison. Now is the time to prove this was not a one-off.
Brentford’s clash with Aston Villa was not just a meeting of two European hopefuls, but also a chance for two candidates for England’s No 9 shirt to come face to face.
Ivan Toney was the striker handed the job of backing up Harry Kane by Gareth Southgate last month, but Ollie Watkins had surely pushed himself into the England boss’ thoughts after scoring 11 goals in his last 12 games.
However, that record took a hit on his return to his former club as Brentford kept Watkins quiet on a frustrating afternoon for the striker, who has not played for England since winning his seventh cap 13 months ago.
Watkins averages 30.42 touches per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season but Brentford limited him to 24, while his expected goals total of 0.36 was also down from his average of 0.47.
Even more frustrating for Watkins will be the fact that Toney scored his 19th Premier League goal of the season – five more than the Villa striker and just four behind Kane.
There is plenty of time for hopefuls to play themselves into England contention ahead of their country’s next fixtures in June, but Toney will feel he got the better of his rival Watkins in west London.
For Everton, the meeting with Crystal Palace was ultimately about holding on for a point rather than trying to take all three, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s return is timely as the relegation run-in approaches.
The striker, absent since the 1-0 win over Arsenal in February due to injury, was thrust back into the team at Selhurst Park and, in front of the watching Southgate, showed flashes of why he is so important to his club and why he might yet have a role with England too.
His physicality and aerial prowess unsettled Palace from the start, with Sean Dyche’s side sending the ball long to him at every opportunity. Early on, there was a headed opportunity saved by Sam Johnstone. Later, he would elegantly spin away from two Palace defenders before firing agonisingly wide of the post.
He looked sharp despite his time on the sidelines, playing right until stoppage time, when he was replaced by Neal Maupay, and at times troubling Palace with his pace as well as his strength.
He pulled to the flanks to meet aerial balls, dragging Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen out of position and creating space for his team-mates centrally, and while his role was reduced to that of a bystander following Mason Holgate’s red card, he had already shown enough by that point to suggest his presence could lift Everton in the crucial weeks ahead.