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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Picture: CARL RECINE/REUTERS
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Picture: CARL RECINE/REUTERS

Manchester City continue to set the pace in the Premier League with another solid performance away to Leeds at the weekend. And while their talented midfielders and attackers once again led the way in a 4-0 win, City’s defenders were not far behind notching their fifth successive away clean sheet of the season.

Another notable clean sheet was Everton’s 1-0 win over Chelsea in a match where the Everton players seemed to have realised the dire straits the club is in and played with a determination recently lacking.

These and other talking points from the Premier League weekend.

City backline deserves more praise than it gets: Manchester City are usually heralded for their free-flowing, sublime football, but the supreme defensive unit coach Pep Guardiola has created is often overlooked.

Leeds United threw everything at the champions in a hostile atmosphere on Saturday, but time and again they were denied by last-ditch blocks and tackles, celebrated by City players as if they had scored.

City have the best defensive record in the league this season, just as they did last term. Their shutout in Saturday's 4-0 win was their fifth successive away clean sheet in the league — their longest stretch in the league.

The Premier League title looks set to go to the wire once more this season, with City’s rigid rearguard key to their chances of success.

Everton profiting from mentality shift: Everton can make any number of excuses for their dip into the relegation zone this season, but a lack of ability is not one of them as they showed again in the 1-0 home victory over Chelsea on Sunday.

The controversial appointment of former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez ahead of the season always looked a poor fit, while injuries have decimated their squad and they have been on the wrong side of some dubious officiating.

But the players have also had to have a hard look at themselves and the mentality they have displayed for much of the campaign, which has seemed at times lackadaisical. Perhaps they have now been scared into action.

As they have shown in their recent wins over Manchester United and now Chelsea, and even for large parts of the Merseyside derby loss to Liverpool, when they are switched on, focused and determined, they are a match for anybody in the Premier League.

Klopp’s selection gamble pays off: Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp made a raft of changes to the side that faced Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal earlier in the week but they still managed to eke out a vital 1-0 win at in-form Newcastle United.

Among the players brought in was Naby Keita, who controlled the game from midfield and scored the winner with a superb solo effort. Veteran James Milner also made an impact, offering much-needed energy and experience in another high-pressure game.

With Liverpool still challenging on all fronts, the strength of Klopp’s squad could prove hugely significant in their quest to achieve an unprecedented quadruple of trophies this season.

Arsenal show resilience: A so-called soft underbelly has been blamed for Arsenal’s failure to finish in the top four since the 2015/2016 season, but Mikel Arteta appears to have finally galvanised the Gunners.

When Arsenal suffered three successive defeats in April it appeared their old failings had returned.

But Sunday’s gritty 2-1 win at West Ham United, described as “ugly” by Arteta, made it three wins in a row to keep themselves in fourth place with four games left.

Reuters

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