Watford set blueprint in Liverpool win… EIGHT THINGS WE LEARNED IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE THIS WEEKEND

Another thrilling weekend of Premier League action saw Liverpool lose their 44-game unbeaten run when Watford came to spoil the party with a 3-0 victory at Vicarage Road.

The result will not change the destination of the title, but the race for the top four took a tantalising turn as Chelsea relied on a late equaliser to claim a point at Bournemouth, while Wolves went level on points with Manchester United to lead the chasing pack with their win at Tottenham.

Here, we take a look at the things we learned from the eight top-flight fixtures that took place at the weekend.

Physical Watford show Liverpool CAN be frail 

It was Troy Deeney’s post-match quotes following Watford’s 3-0 victory over Liverpool that were the most eye-catching following the end of the Reds’ unbeaten run.

The Hornets captain revealed he targeted centre back Dejan Lovren, believing he could use his physicality to greater effect against the Croatian than the more imposing Virgil Van Dijk.

Whether the Dutchman has at times masked Lovren’s frailties this season is a topic up for debate, but there is certainly a point to be made that the latter’s display impacted upon the former.

However, there had certainly been no such blueprint to expose the flaws in the centre backs’ relationship for Nigel Pearson’s men to follow this season.

Liverpool's unbeaten 44-game run in the Premier League ended with a 3-0 defeat at Watford

Liverpool’s unbeaten 44-game run in the Premier League ended with a 3-0 defeat at Watford

Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure were key physical presences in Watford's victory

Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure were key physical presences in Watford’s victory

Napoli had kept the scoreline level for as long as possible before striking late twice in September.

Manchester United switched off when they required peak concentration to allow Adam Lallana to equalise at Old Trafford, and Atletico Madrid’s hassling and harrying still didn’t prevent Mo Salah and Jordan Henderson from going close at the Wanda Metropolitano last month.

Yet Watford were relentless in their pursuit of beating Alisson in both halves, Craig Cathcart and Christian Kabasele’s imperious performances at the back ensured the hosts never lost focus, and their relentless pressure on every Liverpool player saw Lallana’s long-range effort against the post represent the only occasion they really came close.

Ismaila Sarr’s pace in behind and Deeney’s presence are clear reasons behind Watford’s win, which saw them jump out of the relegation zone.

But a more nuanced view is that the hosts matched, and at times overpowered, Liverpool with their physical presence at both ends of the field.

De Gea shows Spain have a serious keeper problem 

Kepa Arrizabalaga’s high-profile mistakes have seen Frank Lampard drop the Spaniard in favour of 38-year-old Willy Caballero in recent weeks.

But it seems unlikely that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hand out a similar punishment to Kepa’s compatriot David de Gea after his latest howler that gifted Everton the lead on Sunday.

Ben Foster suffered a similarly embarrassing moment when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s quick feet and thinking saw him close down his clearance for a winning goal last season.

But there was no lethargy from Foster in comparison to De Gea, who invited pressure from Dominic-Calvert Lewin, the beneficiary of the United goalkeeper’s sluggishness on the ball.

David de Gea gifted Dominic-Calvert Lewin the opener

Jordan Pickford failed to keep out Bruno Fernandes' equaliser at the near post

David de Gea (left) and Jordan Pickford had days to forget as Everton and Man United drew

No goalkeeper has made more errors directly leading to Premier League goals than de Gea’s seven since the start of last season, with three blunders coming in this campaign.

He was soon joined on seven by Jordan Pickford after his role in Bruno Fernandes’ equaliser, while De Gea did manage to redeem himself slightly with a fine save from Calvert-Lewin a few minutes later.

But his latest error has left Spain, and England with Pickford, with issues in goal ahead of the Euros this summer.  

Marcos Alonso is standing up in Chelsea’s time of need

If Kepa requires an example of how to reclaim his place in Chelsea’s side, he need look no further than fellow Spaniard Marcos Alonso.

The Chelsea left back appeared destined for the exit door at Stamford Bridge, with talk of a move to Atletico Madrid appearing in the summer and then re-surfacing in the January transfer window.

But injuries to initial first-choice Emerson Palmieri and a switch to a 3-4-3 formation have seen Alonso handed a second chance, and in Chelsea’s desperate time of need, it is he who has come up with the goods in recent matches.

Marcos Alonso has scored more Premier League goals than any defender since August 2016

Marcos Alonso has scored more Premier League goals than any defender since August 2016

And the Spaniard's return to the team could serve as a blueprint for goalkeeper Kepa

And the Spaniard’s return to the team could serve as a blueprint for goalkeeper Kepa

His arrowed drive against Tottenham ensured the Blues claimed victory over their rivals last week before his double against Bournemouth salvaged a point when it looked like Chelsea were headed to defeat this weekend. 

Alonso’s double on the south coast means he now has four league goals this season - as many as winger Willian - and in 17 fewer matches, too.

His overall tally in Chelsea colours stands at 19 non-penalty goals in 105 Premier League matches, the most by any defender since August 2016 when he signed.

Brighton and Potter are 2020’s biggest losers 

Brighton remain the biggest losers in the Premier League in 2020, and those with critical eyes will become further skeptical of the six-year contract handed to Graham Potter in November.

Despite their 23 shots in the M23 rivalry with Crystal Palace, the Seagulls remain the only side in England’s top four divisions not to have won this calendar year.

The defeat came thanks to Jordan Ayew’s seventh goal of the season and consequently saw the hosts suffer a first home defeat in the top flight at the hands of their bitter rivals.

Graham Potter is right to be optimistic but Brighton must match his positivity with results

Graham Potter is right to be optimistic but Brighton must match his positivity with results

‘Sometimes luck is a commodity that you need and we didn’t have too much of that. But I believe in what we’re trying to do and now we have to pull it all together,’ Potter said after the loss.

The scoreline aside, the statistics reinforce Potter’s determination to remain optimistic, with the hosts having enjoyed 67 per cent possession and completing nearly double the number of passes of their opponents.

But should results continue to falter and West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth leapfrog them after the trio cut the gap to Brighton to just one point at the weekend, Potter could be facing a similar path to Alan Pardew at Newcastle after he signed his eight-year contract in 2012.

Jota can drag Wolves into European contention - and they must avoid United’s interest 

If Wolves had even thought about entertaining any offers from Manchester United for Diogo Jota this summer, their 3-2 victory at Tottenham should have seen that consideration well and truly discarded.

The Portuguese’s equaliser against Jose Mourinho’s men was his sixth goal in eleven days, following his Europa League hat-trick against Espanyol and a double against Norwich last weekend.

He then went on a scintillating run before setting up Raul Jimenez for the winner, and if that wasn’t enough it also meant that Wolves have won nine of their last 11 Premier League games in which Jota has found the net.

Jota and Jimenez are Wolves’ dynamic attacking metronome, and the sky could well be the limit if Nuno Espirito Santo can retain their services. A top-four finish may even be in sight this season.

Diogo Jota netted his sixth goal in 11 days with an equaliser for Wolves against Tottenham

Diogo Jota netted his sixth goal in 11 days with an equaliser for Wolves against Tottenham

West Ham have shown more strings to their Bow  

‘He showed exactly what he showed in training, that he can score, but we can’t bring him here and act like he’s the saviour of West Ham.’

This statement from David Moyes about Jarrod Bowen put what was only West Ham’s second win under the returning Scotsman in perspective.

Bowen scored his first goal since signing for £18million from Hull City on deadline day in January, and he offered the Hammers a glimpse of his talent in their 3-1 victory over Southampton.

And despite only having 34 per cent possession at home, they created more chances than the visitors and should have had a greater margin of victory.

Jarrod Bowen scored his first West Ham goal since signing from Hull City in January

Jarrod Bowen scored his first West Ham goal since signing from Hull City in January

But it does appear that Moyes’ plan is slowly coming together, with contributions appearing from all areas of the pitch, such as Issa Diop and Pablo Fornals’ goals at Anfield and Michail Antonio putting in an impressive shift against Ralph Hassenhuttl’s men. 

A first league win in two months does not mask their issues, as evidenced by protests against co-chairman David Sullivan and David Gold before the game by thousands of Hammers fans who are angry at the way the club is being run.

But at last there appears to be an avenue that has been cleared for West Ham to follow.

Leicester are at risk of dropping out of the top four

Leicester will only have themselves to blame if they surrender their Champions League spot.

No doubt Brendan Rodgers’ men have faced a series of challenging tests in the last couple of months, including two matches against Manchester City, the visits of Liverpool and Chelsea and a trip to Wolves.

But Friday night ought to have put them back on track after taking just 12 points from their previous 11 games. 

Leicester were facing bottom club Norwich, but instead of reinforcing their Champions League ambitions, the Foxes allowed the Canaries to believe that an escape from the drop is possible after Jamal Lewis’ superb winner.

Leicester City have taken just 12 points from their last 11 league games after losing at Norwich

Leicester City have taken just 12 points from their last 11 league games after losing at Norwich

Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel had suffered dips in form after their early-season excellence, but the former’s presence was noticeably missing at Carrow Road despite his inability to score in recent weeks.

Crucial midfield cog Wilfried Ndidi returned from injury, but their first of eight straight games against sides outside the top eight yielded little reward.

Chelsea’s draw at Bournemouth ensured the gap to fifth remains five points, but Leicester must shrug off their mid-season cobwebs before it is too late.

Bruce’s calls for ‘change’ aren’t working 

Steve Bruce said that it was ‘time for a change’ following their 1-0 defeat against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

To some Newcastle fans’ dismay, he did not mean that he would be relinquishing his duties with the club still possible relegation candidates, but was instead referring to a change in tactics.

But if expectations were that a switch to a flat back four against Burnley would see them replicate results that saw them climb into the top half of the table in December after changing from a 3-5-2 to the 3-4-2-1 system, then supporters would have been greatly disappointed with another 0-0 draw.

Dwight Gayle started up front in a fresh Newcastle system but failed to find the net

Dwight Gayle started up front in a fresh Newcastle system but failed to find the net

With Joelinton operating on the left of a midfield attacking three, Dwight Gayle - who was starting just his third Premier League game this season - was entrusted with leading the line.

Gayle, Miguel Almiron and Matt Ritchie all had chances in the first half, but the hosts managed just one shot on target after the break from Allan-Saint Maximin.

The stalemate meant their goalless run in the league since their remarkable injury-time comeback at Everton in January was extended, and despite a change in system there is yet to be an upturn in results.