Premier League takeaways: Hojlund six in row, Salah back in business, Haaland misfires

We pick out the main talking points from the weekend's English top-flight action

Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring Liverpool's third goal in their 4-1 Premier League win over Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday, February 17, 2024. AP
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Hojlund hot streak goes on

Another week and another goal for Rasmus Hojlund who scored for the sixth Premier League game in a row as Manchester United edged out Luton Town 2-1 on Sunday.

It took the 21-year-old Dane until December 26 to open his league account for Erik ten Hag's side but has hit the ground running since.

His first goal came after just 37 seconds meant became the youngest player to score in six successive Premier League games, at 21 years and 14 days, beating the record of Newcastle United's Joe Willock set in 2021.

“We recruited him on his character,” said Ten Hag after the match. “I knew it was strong. He can really perform under stress and that is something you need as a Manchester United striker.”

What will be concern for Ten Hag at Kenilworth Road would have been the performances of experienced duo Harry Maguire and Casemiro who were both hooked at half-time after picking up reckless yellow cards.

Salah's welcome return

Mohamed Salah made a welcome return for Liverpool on Saturday, coming on for the injured Diogo Jota just before half-time at Brentford.

The Egyptian was making his first appearance since New Year's Day – after picking up a hamstring injury while away at the Asian Cup – but was quickly back in the groove, scoring one and supplying an assist for Cody Gakpo, putting the icing on the cake of a 4-1 win.

That takes his goals tally for the season to 15 – with nine assists – behind only Erling Haaland (16) in the scoring charts with no one bettering his 24 goal contributions.

Salah has now scored and assisted in 30 different Premier League games, behind only Wayne Rooney (36), Thierry Henry (32) and Alan Shearer (31) in the competition's history.

“He is amazing,” said Mac Allister of Salah. “I am very happy for him. He has been out and a little bit frustrated about it but he came back and in just a couple of minutes, scored and assist. He is a great leader and an important player for us.”

Injuries to Jota, Curtis Jones and Darwin Nunez, though, took the shine off a convincing win for the league leaders.

Watkins' double delight

Sitting one shy of Salah in goal involvements is Ollie Watkins, whose double in Saturday's 2-1 win at Fulham meant Aston Villa leapfrogged Tottenham Hotspur after they were beaten at home by Wolves.

“He was clinical today and really amazing,” manager Unai Emery said after the match at Craven Cottage that leaves Villa two points ahead of Spurs and four behind Manchester City in third.

The England attacker now has 13 goals and 10 assists in 25 games with only Dwight Yorke (27 in 1995/96) having achieved more goal contributions in a Premier League season.

Watkins has already reached his highest ever goals tally across all competitions (18) while playing in the top-flight – he scored 26 for the then second-tier Brentford in 2019/20. The 28-year-old needs only three more to beat his highest Premier League total of 15 achieved last season.

“When he’s scoring, it’s very important for him and for us,” added Emery. “I’m very happy with him and I believe his commitment has improved a lot. Defensively in set pieces he is also very important, I’m very proud of him.”

Haaland off target

Such as been Haaland's ruthlessness in front of goal since joining Manchester City, it remains something of a shock when the Norwegian goal monster has an off day.

Haaland managed nine shots without scoring in City's 1-1 home draw with Chelsea, the most in a single game of him not hitting the back of the net in 79 games for the club.

His worst miss on Saturday came when he was picked out by an inch-perfect Kevin de Bruyne cross but could only head the chance wide.

But manager Pep Guardiola made clear he has no concerns about the 23-year-old who already has 73 goals for City in less than two seasons since moving from Borussia Dortmund.

“It's good he had nine shots – the next game he is going to score,” said Guardiola, whose team dropped to third in the table, two points behind Arsenal and four shy of Liverpool.

“Listen, I was a football player. I played 11 years and scored 11 goals. What a stat, hey? One goal a season, those are my stats. So, I am not the proper man to give advice to the striker, and what they have to do.”

Moyes under pressure

It was only just over eight months ago that David Moyes was holding aloft the Europa Conference League trophy after ending West Ham United's 43-year wait for a major honour.

That win against Fiorentina in Prague must already feel like a lifetime ago for the experienced manager following a dismal run of form that has seen them loose three games on the spin and not win a game this year.

They followed up a 6-0 home humiliation by Arsenal by losing 2-0 at relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest – who had managed just one point out of a possible 12 ahead of the game – that saw fans displaying a banner saying 'Moyes out'.

The match also saw loan signing Kalvin Phillips continue his desperate run of form with the midfielder sent off early in the second half after picking up two yellow cards.

Despite the latest defeat, the Hammers remain eighth in the table and having secured two top seven finishes, a Europa League semi-final spot and victory in the Europa Conference League since returning for a second spell at the London club, Moyes insists fans must remember how far the team has progressed.

“We're sitting in a strong position – last season we were sitting near the bottom,” he said. “It was only three years ago that we were Nottingham Forest and fighting relegation. We've moved on a long way from there.”

Updated: February 19, 2024, 10:43 AM