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What we learned from Sunday's matches

James Harding 6 Feb 2023
Erling Haaland, Man City

From Haaland's struggles to Forest's defensive improvement, here is what Sunday's matches taught us

Following another thrilling day of Premier League action, we look at the key lessons learned from the latest matches.

Haaland's struggles

It was a day to forget for the Premier League's leading goalscorer as Manchester City were unable to take advantage of leaders Arsenal losing 1-0 at Everton on Saturday as they suffered a defeat by the same scoreline at Tottenham Hotspur.

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Erling Haaland failed to register a single shot and didn't touch the ball in the penalty area for the first time in a Premier League match.

The Man City forward only completed 12 passes, only two of them in the final third.

Haaland has now failed to score in each of his last three away matches.

The decision to leave Kevin De Bruyne out of the starting XI caused waves at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Julian Alvarez was deployed in the No 10 position but the Argentinian struggled to combine with Haaland.

After De Bruyne was introduced in the 59th minute, he made more key passes (three) than any other City player.

Unhappy hunting ground for Man City

It's now no goals and no wins in five visits to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in all competitions for Man City.

Speaking after the defeat, Pep Guardiola provided a possible reason regarding his side's struggles in London.

“Coming to London is like going to, I don’t know, northern Europe," Guardiola said. "It’s four hours and 20 minutes, four and a half hours to a hotel, so you come to London, I’m exhausted.”

City have won their two other trips to the capital this season, though, beating West Ham United 2-0 and Chelsea 1-0, and travel to Arsenal in their next away match.

But promisingly for Guardiola, he has led his side to five successive league victories at Emirates Stadium.

Emerson spurred on by Porro arrival

Emerson Royal enjoyed arguably one of his best performances in a Spurs shirt as he nullified the threat of Jack Grealish.

The right wing-back position has been a problematic one for Spurs in recent seasons, with neither Emerson or Matt Doherty, who joined Atletico Madrid last week, able to fully convince.

That hastened a January move for Pedro Porro, signed on loan from Sporting Lisbon with an obligation to make the deal permanent in the summer.

But Emerson's diligent defending against Grealish will provide food for thought for Antonio Conte, who will have been buoyed watching the match from home as he recovers from surgery to remove his gallbladder.

Will the Brazilian be rewarded for his performance by retaining his starting spot at Leicester City on Saturday?

Forest's defensive improvement

After conceding 33 goals in their first 16 matches, Nottingham Forest have let in only two over their last five encounters.

Since the season resumed after the FIFA World Cup 2022, Steve Cooper's side have kept three clean sheets and conceded 18 shots on target. Only Newcastle United and Man City have allowed opponents fewer shots.

Sunday's 1-0 victory over Leeds United, which turned out of be Jesse Marsch's final match as Leeds head coach after he was relieved of his duties on Monday, saw an impressive Premier League debut by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

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The experienced Costa Rican made four crucial saves as Forest moved six points clear of 18th-placed Everton. Who will be first-choice when Dean Henderson returns following a thigh injury?

Forest have now earned more points (11) in their last five matches than both Arsenal (10) and Man City (nine), and in particular look to have found a winning formula at the City Ground - four of their five home wins have been by a 1-0 scoreline.

Johnson in fine company

Brennan Johnson's superb 14th-minute strike means the Wales international has now been directly involved in each of Forest's last five Premier League goals (three goals and two assists).

He has scored five goals in 2022/23, with only Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, with seven each, netting more of the players aged 21 or under.

Crucially, Johnson's goals have earned Forest seven points this season.

Johnson's pace and dribbling ability on the counter-attack is a key component of Cooper's game plan at Forest. Despite all the new arrivals at the City Ground over the last two transfer windows, it is a homegrown talent that is arguably their most important player.

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Up next for Johnson and Forest is a trip to Fulham, who have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last four at Craven Cottage.

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