Arsenal’s defensive record away from home is key to title push – Premier League hits and misses

Plus: Luton have four cup finals to rescue an increasingly desperate situation as Premier League survival hangs by a thread; Arijanet Muric’s masterclass gives hope to Burnley – but there’s hardly any left for Sheffield United

Arsenal’s defence key to title push

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Highlights from Wolves’ match against Arsenal in the Premier League

“Apart from that one where they broke the back line, we have not conceded anything,” Mikel Arteta told Sky Sports. He was right. This was another Arsenal victory that was built on their rock-solid defensive record. It might yet take them to the title.

It is over 15 years now since a Premier League team have had a longer run of clean sheets away from home in the competition than this Arsenal team. The 2-0 win over Wolves extends their current sequence to six consecutive games without conceding.

  • Wolves 0-2 Arsenal – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

This was also a 15th Premier League clean sheet of the season – five more than any other team. Wolves were in the game, in front of their own fans, and with every motivation to find that equaliser but even creating chances against Arsenal is a challenge.

The data suggests that Arsenal would have been expected to concede 11.77 goals from the chances they have conceded away from home this season. Manchester City are the closest to being that mean but even their number is 17.44. Liverpool are on 22.47.

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That is a big difference and they do say that defences win titles. There was a time when Arsenal’s robustness on the road would have been a concern. Instead, if they do manage to claim this title, their defensive record away from home will have been key.
Adam Bate

Mbeumo stars in Brentford dress rehearsal without Toney

Image: With Ivan Toney not involved due to his ongoing hip issue, Thomas Frank watched Bryan Mbeumo run riot at Kenilworth Road

A day that promised so much proved so chastening for Luton – but this was the complete away performance from Brentford, who can look forward to a fourth straight Premier League season.

This was supposed to be the game to kick-start a run of winnable fixtures for Rob Edwards’ side but the Bees ran riot – inspired by Bryan Mbeumo.

Yoane Wissa’s fabulous strike sent the visitors on their way, but it was masterfully set up by Mbeumo.

  • Luton 1-5 Brentford – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats
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Highlights as Luton take on Brentford in the Premier League

After recovering from ankle surgery sustained back in early December, the Cameroon forward is now back up to full speed following six straight appearances.

Mbeumo wasn’t content with one assist, collecting another for Keane Lewis-Potter in the second period meaning he has now had a hand in 11 goals in his last 10 away Premier League starts, scoring seven and laying on another four goals.

Image: Mbeumo created three chances and provided two assists for Brentford

With Ivan Toney again left out through injury, the past few weeks have served as a dress rehearsal for when the striker is expected to depart over the summer. With Kevin Schade scoring off the bench, Frank may feel he already has a ready-made replacement – but the Wisa-Mbeumo partnership is also extremely promising.

Mbeumo was the best player on the pitch at Kenilworth Road and now has four assists for Wissa in the Premier League, with no Brentford player assisting a specific team-mate on more occasions in the competition. The only thing missing was his 50th goal in a Bees shirt.
Ben Grounds

Four ‘cup finals’ to save Luton’s season

Image: Luton’s Premier League survival hopes were dealt an enormous blow

Rob Edwards chose his words carefully post-match. He used ‘flat’, ‘disappointed’ and ‘deflated’. But deliberately avoided painting his side as broken.

Fundamentally, this was a chastening afternoon for Luton Town, one that significantly lengthened their odds of avoiding the drop. If relegation fear was supposed to inspire a sense of intensity or urgency, it didn’t show.

The manager openly admitted it was exactly those two qualities that were found wanting as Brentford scored five – the Hatters’ heaviest top-flight home defeat since the 1980s. Resolve simply crumbled. “It shocked me,” said Paul Merson on Soccer Saturday.

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Brentford’s Yoane Wissa was left fuming at full-time in Brentford’s 5-1 win over Luton Town in the Premier League after he was substituted when he was on a hat-trick

Luton have four games to unearth a miracle, despite it feeling increasingly like they are running out of runway. Now it’s about separating the battle from the war.

There was little doubt they lost the Brentford battle, but disheartening as it was, the war rages on.

Edwards ended his press conference on a poignant note: “We don’t want to give up the Premier League easily.” A warning his players need to heed before travelling to Wolves next weekend – the first of four cup finals.
Laura Hunter

Muric masterclass gives Burnley hope

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Highlights from Sheffield United’s match against Burnley in the Premier League

Vincent Kompany can vouch for how important a goalkeeper can be – any centre-back will tell you that.

Arijanet Muric owed his team-mates a performance after making high-profile mistakes in their defeat at Everton and last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Brighton. Kompany was under pressure to potentially bring James Trafford into the fold but credit the manager and credit the player – both stepped up. Kompany got the decision correct to keep him in and Muric delivered when his team needed him most. This wasn’t the Burnley we’ve seen so much of this season.

  • Match report & highlights – Sheffield United 1-4 Burnley
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

They usually play well and lose. Well, here they played quite badly and won.

They were able to do that because Muric was outstanding, making 10 saves across the game. Sheffield United created quality chances too – as proven by the expected goal figure created which ended up on 2.59. To score just one goal from a set of chances carrying that level of high probability is a testament to the performance of the goalkeeper. He has got Burnley believing again.
Lewis Jones

But hope almost gone for Sheff Utd after more missed chances and ‘disgusting defending’

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Speaking on Soccer Saturday, Tim Sherwood slammed Sheffield United’s defending as they shipped four at home to Burnley

Sheffield United had more shots than Burnley, more shots on target and a better Expected Goals total. But as the home fans trudged out of Bramall Lane early once again on Saturday, they won’t have been discussing the positives.

The visitors’ quickfire double in the first half came against the run of play but as Soccer Saturday’s Tim Sherwood hit out at Sheffield United’s ‘disgusting defending’ as Burnley pulled clear after the break, this was another example of the Blades undoing their good work between the boxes.

Chances given up at one end and missed at the other. It’s now 51 goals conceded at home this season – Sheffield United are just the third side ever to do that in the top flight.

Ten points from safety with five to play, the relegation battle is almost lost as well. But if Sheffield United do go down there will be much frustration among their fans about the way it’s happened.

In a season in which two of their rivals at the bottom have been handed points deductions, they haven’t even been able to give themselves a chance. Burnley – who have hit nine goals against the Blades across their two wins against them this season – have hung in there and done just that.
Peter Smith


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