19.03.2023 22:01 h

Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

Arsenal took advantage of Manchester City's weekend off from Premier League action to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the table thanks to a 4-1 thrashing of managerless Crystal Palace.

The mood on the other side of north London is very different after Antonio Conte lambasted his Tottenham players for throwing away a 3-1 lead to drop two vital points in their bid for a top-four finish by drawing 3-3 at Southampton.

Only Leeds, who beat fellow strugglers Wolves 4-2, won from the sides threatened by relegation, meaning the bottom nine are separated by just four points.

The race for European places is also tightening as Aston Villa and Chelsea closed to within four points of the top six.

AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend.

Fatigued and frustrated after their agonising Europa League exit at the hands of Sporting Lisbon in midweek, Arsenal responded with the kind of stylish display that bore all the hallmarks of champions in the making.

Mikel Arteta's side crashed out on penalties against the Portuguese giants after Gabriel Martinelli missed the crucial spot-kick.

So it was symbolic of Arsenal's new-found resilience that Martinelli was the man to put the Gunners on course for an easy afternoon at the Emirates by scoring the opening goal.

The Brazilian's cool finish laid the foundations for a sixth successive league win before Bukayo Saka struck twice either side of Granit Xhaka scoring Arsenal's third.

Champions City have a game in hand and host Arsenal in April, but Arsenal have control of the title race.

Antonio Conte arrived at Tottenham as the serial winner seen as capable of instilling a winning culture at a club used to underachievement.

Instead the Italian looks set to join a number of Spurs managers to come and go without lifting a trophy.

Conte's contract expires at the end of the season and the question over his future now is whether he even sees out the remaining 10 Premier League games.

The former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan boss called his players "selfish", lacking in heart and too used to not playing under pressure or stress.

Spurs still sit fourth, but are only two points ahead of Newcastle, who have two games in hand.

The question for the Tottenham board is whether his relationship with the dressing room is now beyond repair.

When Steven Gerrard was sacked in October, only goals scored was keeping Villa out of the relegation zone.

Five months on, they are a club transformed under Unai Emery.

Bournemouth were swept aside with ease 3-0 at Villa Park on Saturday for a third win in four games for Emery's men.

Indeed, only four teams have taken more Premier League points in total since the former Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain boss was appointed.

Manchester United and City's progress to the FA Cup semi-finals this weekend has increased the possibility that seventh could be good enough for European football, which remains well within Villa's reach.

"We can add a new step, an objective, looking at the teams in the top 10 now," said Emery after all but guaranteeing survival. "They have an advantage over us, we have to fight starting behind them.

"But we are going to play here against Fulham, we are going to play here against Brighton, we are going to play at Brentford, at Chelsea. Of course, it is going to be very difficult, but we are going to try to add a new target in our minds."