Three talking points from the Premier League

LONDON • Manchester City may have the threat of being stripped of league titles in the courts hanging over them, but the champions are back in the race to win another Premier League crown on the pitch.

City closed to within three points of Arsenal at the top of the table after beating Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday.

The Gunners dropped points for the second consecutive game in a 1-1 draw at Brentford, but had a right to feel aggrieved as referee’s body PGMOL admitted the Bees’ equaliser was wrongly allowed to stand by the VAR officials.

That was just one of many controversial calls from the referees with Brighton, Chelsea and Wolves also affected.

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

VAR-cical scenes

The PGMOL publicly apologised to both Arsenal and Brighton after a shocking Saturday for officials on the field and in the VAR room.

Brentford’s equaliser at the Emirates did go through a lengthy VAR check for offside and a potential foul by Ethan Pinnock. But in their haste to then restart the game, VAR did not check for offside against Christian Norgaard before he squared for Ivan Toney to head in.

Brighton were also left aghast as Pervis Estupinan’s goal in a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace was wrongly ruled out by incorrect drawing of the offside lines by the VAR official.

PGMOL admitted both were cases “human error” but they were far from the only baffling calls.

Chelsea were somehow denied a late penalty in their 1-1 draw at West Ham when midfielder Tomas Soucek saved Conor Gallagher’s shot low to his left.

Mario Lemina’s red card ultimately did not cost Wolves as the 10-men came from a goal down to beat Southampton 2-1.

But the second booking of the Gabon international inside 27 minutes by Jarred Gillett looked incredibly harsh.

Southampton pull the trigger

That result proved to be the final straw for the Saints board as they sacked a manager for the second time this season.

Nathan Jones won just one of his eight league games in charge during a turbulent three months at St. Mary’s.

The outspoken Welshman had long since lost the faith of the Southampton support, with many fans questioning why it took the owners this long to realise the error of their ways.

Southampton are rooted to the foot of the table, four points adrift of safety.

The number of sides Southampton can realistically hope to catch in the battle to beat the drop is quickly dwindling.

Wolves’ win moved Julen Lopetegui’s men five points clear of the relegation zone.

Arsenal feeling the heat?

Despite the injustice surrounding the circumstances of Brentford’s goal, there will be concerns for Mikel Arteta that Arsenal are beginning to falter just ahead of a showdown with City on Wednesday.

The Gunners still have a game in hand on the defending champions to go with a three-point lead, but City will go top on goal difference should they win at the Emirates.

Leandro Trossard’s first Arsenal goal to open the scoring on Saturday showed exactly why Arteta was keen to bolster his attacking options in the January transfer window.

But the presence of Gabriel Jesus is starting to be missed up front and there remains a huge creative burden on Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka.

After dropping just seven points in their first 19 league games of the season, Arsenal have let five slip away in two weeks against Everton and Brentford. – AFP