Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

Sigurdsson remains central to Everton, Deulofeu poses a threat to Man City and is it time for an extra concussion sub?

1) Where is Wan-Bissaka in the young player shortlist?

There is an argument that Raheem Sterling should walk the PFA player of the year award, let the alone the young player of the year prize the 24-year-old is also nominated for. To be eligible for the award, players must be 23 or under at the beginning of the season, at which point Aaron Wan-Bissaka was 20. His name, however, is missing from the six-man shortlist. Assured, athletic and colossal in the challenge, the manner in which the Crystal Palace full-back tormented – and nullified – Sead Kolasinac during an impressive win at Arsenal has been a familiar sight in the Premier League. Wan-Bissaka’s list of admirers grows by the week, while he may yet be involved with England this summer. Declan Rice and David Brooks, who have been nominated, have enjoyed fine breakthrough seasons, but Wan-Bissaka should at least be in the conversation. Ben Fisher

• Match report: Arsenal 2-3 Crystal Palace

2) Howe reaches 500 games in management with a whimper

This was no way to celebrate 500 games in football management for Eddie Howe. “The effort was there but the quality wasn’t,” he said as Fulham celebrated a first away win of their doomed campaign. Bournemouth require two wins from their remaining three matches to surpass their previous best points total of 46 from the 2016-17 season. That will have to be achieved with a patched-up squad. Adam Smith, originally selected at right-back, broke down with a knee injury in the warm-up only for his replacement, Junior Stanislas, to suffer a similar complaint in the first half. Allowing Fulham, for whom goalkeeper Sergio Rico was admittedly outstanding and particularly in the opening 20 minutes, only their second clean sheet away from Craven Cottage was not a pleasing sign for a manager for whom improvement and progress are so important. John Brewin

• Match report: Bournemouth 0-1 Fulham

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3) Is it time for the use of an extra concussion substitute?

Liverpool’s medical team deserve enormous credit for overruling Fabinho, who wanted to come back on the field after a clash of heads with Cardiff’s Kenneth Zohore. Fabinho, who had come on a few minutes earlier, was obviously concussed and had to be replaced by James Milner. The decisive, dispassionate response of Andy Massey, the head of medical services at Liverpool, was a lesson in how to treat head injuries. It’s natural to wonder, however, whether all physios would have reacted in the same way – and particularly how strong their principles might have been if their team had no substitutions remaining and faced being reduced to 10 men in a vital game. Now that football is waking up to the dangers of head injuries, albeit far too slowly, it’s surely time to trial the use of an extra concussion substitute. Rob Smyth

• Match report: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool

4) Sigurdsson is central to Everton’s future

Everton were blessed with several outstanding individual contributions to a dominant team display against Manchester United – the joy that is Bernard, the stylish Lucas Digne and the commanding Idrissa Gueye – but no one better illustrated their rising confidence than Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Iceland captain’s influence on Marco Silva’s debut campaign as Everton manager has increased gradually and he orchestrated the club’s biggest win over United in 35 years with a goal and two assists, if his corner for Digne’s goal is included. Sigurdsson has 13 Premier League goals for the season – his best league return to date – which represents reward for Silva’s decision to play the club’s record signing in his favoured position and the player’s awareness of his own importance to this Everton side. He will be as mystified as anyone, however, at how United are 15 points above Everton on Sunday’s evidence. Andy Hunter

• Match report: Everton 4-0 Manchester United

5) Barça-made Deulofeu poses greatest threat to Pep and co

If any player can stop Manchester City’s march towards an unprecedented domestic treble, then Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu lies in wait in the FA Cup final. His two goals at the John Smith’s Stadium confirmed a player brimming with confidence, his first similar to his first semi-final goal against Wolves in that he made himself time to control, pivot and pick his spot with an impudent finish. As Son Heung-min showed in City’s recent trilogy of matches with Tottenham, Pep Guardiola’s team are susceptible to a player with pace, speed of thought and unpredictability. The Catalan is at last living up to the expectations of his days at Barcelona’s La Masia academy, and playing the best football of his three spells in English football. He can be something of a soloist rather than team player but is a dangerous wild card to deal with. John Brewin

• Match report: Huddersfield 1-2 Watford

6) Spurs’ aims this season: top four. Next season: the title?

After the euphoria of reaching the Champions League semi-finals at the Etihad on Wednesday, Spurs left the same stadium on Saturday knowing they are in an almighty battle to finish in the top four. They have four league games remaining – as well as two Champions League semi-finals against Ajax – and Toby Alderweireld pointed to the need to win the games against Brighton, West Ham, Bournemouth and Everton. “On Tuesday [against Brighton] we know the pressure is on us,” he said. “We have to win all our remaining games in the Premier League. We want to get that top-four place, because it’s important to be in the Champions League next year.” If this is achieved then next season will be about challenging for the title. “I think by just working hard we will close the gap,” he added. Jamie Jackson

• Match report: Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham

7) Newcastle has come a long way as a city and a club

Back in the 1980s the National Front used to distribute leaflets outside St James’ Park; during the 1990s Andy Cole’s family were racially abused in the Milburn Stand and, at the turn of the millennium, Newcastle fans chanted “town full of Pakis” when they visited Bradford. On Saturday Gallowgate Enders emphasised precisely how radically the landscape has been transformed by unfurling two impressive anti-discrimination banners: “Things aren’t always black and white” and “United as one against Prejudice.” Newcastle today is one of England’s friendliest, most welcoming, grounds – and cities – and part of that is down to the club’s tireless, largely unsung, work in the diversity and inclusion spheres. Mike Ashley may be a deeply flawed owner but some excellent staff are employed at St James’ Park and their current “United as one” community campaign is already paying dividends. Louise Taylor

• Match report: Newcastle 3-1 Southampton

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8) Vardy will remain crucial for Leicester in tough run-in

The arrival of Brendan Rodgers at the King Power Stadium appears to have given Jamie Vardy a new lease of life, with the striker having scored six times in Rodgers’ seven games. His goal against West Ham showed that despite turning 32 in January, Vardy has lost none of his pace off the mark and could still be around for a few seasons yet. “Jamie’s still got great legs and he is such a threat, because he can occupy an entire back four,” purred his manager after Saturday’s 2-2 draw, in which Harvey Barnes scored a stoppage-time equaliser. “He’s been a joy to work with.” If Leicester are to stand any chance of snatching seventh spot, however, they will need Vardy to be at his very best given their three remaining games are against the top-six sides Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea. Ed Aarons

• Match report: West Ham 2-2 Leicester

Jamie Vardy cups his ears to the fans after opening the scoring against West Ham.
Jamie Vardy cups his ears to the fans after scoring against West Ham on Saturday. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

9) ‘Boring’ Brighton prove a stubborn test for Wolves

Towards the end, the patience of the Wolves supporters snapped. Brighton had barely ventured into the Wolves half all afternoon, Nuno Espírito Santo’s team had been unable to break down their opponents’ stubborn resistance, and now the visitors were time-wasting. Cue chants of “How do you watch this every week?” and “Boring, boring, boring”. It was easy to understand the frustration – it had been a joyless occasion for anyone other than Brighton fans, who celebrated a precious point – yet Wolves also need to look at themselves when it comes to their approach to this sort of game. They never look as comfortable when the onus is on them to take the match to the opposition, as some curious statistics illustrate. Wolves have a better points-per-game ratio against the top six clubs than against the bottom six. Nuno needs to address that next season if Wolves are to kick on again. Stuart James

• Match report: Wolves 0-0 Brighton

10) No team should apologise for trying to gain a legal advantage

When asked about the dryness of Cardiff’s pitch against Liverpool, Neil Warnock claimed ignorance. “I think the groundsman must have thought there was a hosepipe ban. I thought it slowed us down a bit too,” he grumbled after the game. Nobody is buying that from Warnock – Liverpool even trained this week on longer, dryer grass at Melwood in preparation for Sunday’s match, and it worked as Liverpool eked out a 2-0 win. But regardless of whether Warnock is telling fibs, no manager should have to apologise for trying to gain a competitive advantage within the rules. If Mark Hughes wants to trim a few yards of Wales’ pitch dimensions, or Norwich want to paint the away dressing room pink (apparently to reduce their opponents’ testosterone levels), all power to them. In a league as financially lopsided as England’s top flight, Cardiff are under no obligation to aid what Jürgen Klopp described as “the fluency of the game”, although one suspects that when Crystal Palace come to Wales on 4 May, the grass could well be a little slicker. Michael Butler

• Klopp praises Liverpool’s set-piece routine but hits out at ‘dangerous’ pitch

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Liverpool 35 59 88
2 Man City 34 65 86
3 Tottenham Hotspur 34 29 67
4 Arsenal 34 25 66
5 Chelsea 34 21 66
6 Man Utd 34 15 64
7 Everton 35 6 49
8 Watford 34 0 49
9 Leicester 35 1 48
10 Wolverhampton 34 -1 48
11 West Ham 35 -10 43
12 Crystal Palace 35 -5 42
13 Newcastle 35 -9 41
14 AFC Bournemouth 35 -13 41
15 Burnley 34 -18 39
16 Southampton 34 -17 36
17 Brighton 34 -21 34
18 Cardiff 35 -35 31
19 Fulham 35 -43 23
20 Huddersfield 35 -49 14