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Sunday 18 March 2018

5 Things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

Kevin de Bruyne was the star of Manchester City's rout of Stoke
Kevin de Bruyne was the star of Manchester City's rout of Stoke

Manchester City powered their way two points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a seven-goal romp against Stoke as rivals Manchester United fought out a stalemate at Liverpool.

Here, Press Association Sport's Damian Spellman takes a look at what we learned from this weekend's top-flight fixtures.

1. Kevin de Bruyne is the real deal.

It is no secret that Belgium midfielder De Bruyne is a player of the highest quality, but his individual contribution to City's 7-2 demolition of Stoke was at times breathtaking. His vision and ability to pick out a pass are also well-known, but the guile with which he repeatedly paralysed the Potters to set up four goals was a joy to behold and the standing ovation he received as he was replaced by Ilkay Gundogan was 24 minutes remaining was richly deserved.

2. Arsenal are a soft touch if they fail to make the most of their chances.

If City were brutally clinical, Arsenal were anything but to squander a lead and ultimately leave Watford with nothing. Ahead through Per Mertesacker's towering header, they passed up a series of opportunities to kill the game off and having being pegged back by Troy Deeney's penalty - contentious as the decision to award it was - they eventually succumbed to Tom Cleverley's injury-time winner.

3. One player can make the difference.

Roy Hodgson could have been forgiven for wondering what he had done after his first three league games as Crystal Palace manager yielded no points, not a single goal for and 10 against, and there seemed little prospect of an imminent improvement as Chelsea arrived at Selhurst Park on Saturday. However, Wilfried Zaha's return from a two-month lay-off with a knee injury provided the spark they needed and it was fitting that his pace and endeavour ultimately proved decisive as he scored a priceless winner and more generally, the inspiration they have lacked so far this season.

4. Andy Carroll needs to match brawn with brains.

Andy Carroll is a big man whose physicality is a major weapon in West Ham's armoury. He will argue that he did not intend to catch either James Tarkowsi or Ben Mee with a leading arm as he launched himself into two aerial challenges inside as many first-half minutes at Burnley, but the fact is that he did and in the process, he left referee Stuart Attwell with little choice but to dismiss him.

5. Every point will be vital for the promoted teams.

Sunday brought draws for Newcastle and Brighton, who both led before being pegged back, a day after Huddersfield had succumbed 2-0 at Swansea. The Magpies emerged from the weekend sitting in ninth place with 11 points, two places and as many points better off than the Terriers and a further two places and a single point ahead of the Seagulls, but with promoted sides often wilting after an initial flurry, all three need to maintain momentum if they are to extend their stays.

Press Association

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