BitFootball examines the most important Premier League developments by answering the key questions from this weekend’s slate of action.
Was Tuchel too harsh on Hudson-Odoi?
It’s hard to see a way back for Callum Hudson-Odoi after his latest – and possibly most embarrassing – setback at Chelsea.
The English international didn’t appear to perform that poorly in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton. After replacing Tammy Abraham at halftime, he did well to find teammate Mason Mount before the Chelsea midfielder won and scored a penalty. But Blues manager Thomas Tuchel clearly wasn’t happy, pulling Hudson-Odoi from the game after just 31 minutes.
The initial reaction concentrated on a possible injury, but Tuchel offered a blunt assessment of the 20-year-old immediately after the final whistle: “We brought in Callum Hudson-Odoi, but I was not happy with his attitude, energy, and counter-pressing. I took him off, and we demand 100%.”
Tuchel’s no-nonsense decision was likely designed to cause a ripple effect throughout the squad, but the impact on Hudson-Odoi is potentially irreparable given his precarious relationship at the club under previous regimes.
Three years after handing in a transfer request due to his limited role under ex-Blues boss Maurizio Sarri before deciding to stay, it would hardly come as a surprise if Tuchel’s controversial verdict is the birth of another transfer saga that ends with Hudson-Odoi finally leaving Stamford Bridge this summer.
Is Saka irreplaceable at Arsenal?
Mikel Arteta sometimes mixes things up with his game plan, but there’s always one constant: Give the ball to Bukayo Saka.
He’s the primary outlet when Arsenal try to launch a counter-attack, but he’s also asked to infiltrate tight spaces when the opposition’s backline is sat deep. When Nicolas Pepe left Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City after 73 minutes, Arsenal’s record signing had 22 touches to Saka’s 46 and was outperformed in almost every meaningful statistic, including shots, completed dribbles, and passes.
The 19-year-old is quickly becoming Arsenal’s most important player.
Arteta must be looking to form his team around Saka and other promising youngsters like fellow teenager Gabriel Martinelli and 20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe, as well as Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Magalhaes, both of whom are only 23.
The Arsenal rebuild will continue to be a slow and often frustrating project, but at least the green shoots of renewal are already visible.
Will Minamino’s loan help or hurt Liverpool?
All it took was a move away from Anfield for Takumi Minamino to endear himself to Liverpool fans.
Along with securing an important point for Southampton, Minamino, joining the Saints on loan in January, boosted Liverpool’s hopes of climbing back into a Champions League position by scoring a lovely goal against Chelsea, who occupied fourth place heading into the weekend.
But the Reds ultimately blew their chance to leapfrog Chelsea, losing to Everton in the Merseyside derby. Liverpool dominated possession throughout the encounter but never managed to solve Everton’s defense in a match where Minamino could’ve offered a different element to help kickstart Liverpool’s stagnant attacking unit.
Is it time to take West Ham seriously?
London is Claret and Blue, for those who haven’t heard.
That’ll be the case until the next matchday after West Ham United held on for a hard-fought victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday to climb to fourth and finish the weekend as the Premier League’s top team from London.
The victory was also David Moyes’ first against longtime rival Jose Mourinho, whose ninth-place Tottenham side is in the midst of a major slump.
Spurs mounted a late rally, but Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard, who previously worked with Moyes during their time together at Old Trafford, scored the eventual winner to seal West Ham’s seventh win in nine league matches.
Although it’s impossible to ignore West Ham’s surge up the table since the beginning of 2021 – from 10th to fourth – there’s still plenty of doubt over their ability to finish the season in a Champions League – or even a Europa League – position. However, that doubt might vanish if West Ham can slay the ultimate giant next week when they take on first-place Manchester City.
How long will Mourinho last?
Tottenham’s downward spiral continued Sunday with the aforementioned defeat to West Ham. Spurs, at one point discussed as potential title contenders, have now lost five of their last six Premier League matches and sit nine points adrift of the top four.
Precipitous falls have become an unfortunate staple of Jose Mourinho’s managerial career of late, and his post-match comments Sunday suggest the bombastic Portuguese bench boss has reached the point of open defiance in the face of growing on-pitch failures.
“Mine and my coaching staff’s methods are second to nobody in the world,” Mourinho responded when asked if he’s begun to doubt his tactical approach amid Tottenham’s wretched run of form.
“The results are the consequences of multi-situations in football,” he added, citing luck and refereeing decisions as part of the issue.
That tone will be familiar to Chelsea and Manchester United supporters, who watched as Mourinho became increasingly agitated and argumentative as those tenures came to their inevitable ends.
He’s right in that every team needs their slice of fortune to succeed – that’s true for every successful team – but his stubbornness, a trademark of his managerial style, is certainly a big part of the issue. Tottenham are flirting with the bottom half of the league table, and at this point, it seems like the only way to turn things around is to make a change on the touchline.
If precedent is any indication with Mourinho, it’s a matter of when, not if, he wears out his welcome.
Is Cash’s injury the most disruptive of Villa’s absentees?
Naturally, Jack Grealish’s layoff will demand the most attention. He’s Aston Villa’s best player by a mile.
But his absence might not be the most damaging to Dean Smith’s plans. The Villans are blessed with a raft of options in midfield and attack despite Conor Hourihane’s loan departure in January. Anwar El Ghazi started Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Leicester City in Grealish’s preferred slot on the left and was supported well by left-back Matt Targett and industrious midfielder John McGinn.
Ross Barkley is suffering a slight dip in form, but Smith was still able to call Trezeguet and Jacob Ramsey off the bench. Aston Villa’s depth is surprisingly good for a club that narrowly avoided relegation last season.
That is, however, until you consider what’s left when Matty Cash is unavailable. Cash – who leads his team in completed tackles and interceptions – was replaced by Ahmed Elmohamady this weekend. It was the veteran right-back’s first start since mid-December as he nears the end of his contract at Villa Park, and it showed. He failed to deal with Harvey Barnes when he assisted James Maddison’s opener and scored the Foxes’ second.
It’s a stark difference in quality between Cash and Elmohamady. Cash’s return can’t come soon enough.