Premier League Review – Gameweek 17
Imagine, for a moment, that things had gone badly. Imagine that in January Chelsea had paid £21 million to bring Nemanja Matic – a player they had let go as a makeweight in a deal that also saw them give Benfica £21million for David Luiz – back to the club, and that he had played badly. Imagine wh...Read more
Premier League Review – Gameweek 17
Premier League Review – Gameweek 17 -Barcelona & Norwich Lead The Way In Europe
It was not hugely surprising that Manchester United defeated Sunderland at Old Trafford with something to spare. The perennial Premier League champions had already reached the head of the table this term, and certainly look to be in a very strong position to capture their thirteenth Premier League crown. The Rooney-van Persie partnership is beginning to bed in nicely, as the two high profile front men combined continually throughout the match, as United took opened up a three goal cushion early in the second-half. However, United once again displayed some of their defensive frailties, failing to secure a rare clean sheet, and conceding some late chances to a Sunderland side that hasn’t exactly impressed in recent weeks. Although this was another comfortable Premier League win – their fourteenth of the season is seventeen games – this particular United side does not look equipped to dine at the top European table come the end of the season. Nonetheless, the Premier League title looks well within their grasp.
Before United had eased past Sunderland, their neighbours and rivals Manchester City had an assignment against the north east’s other top club Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. Given the relatively poor form that City had showed in recent weeks, this was expected to be a potential banana skin for the defending champions. However, City turned in arguably their best performance of the season, with David Silva a constant menace, Yaya Toure titanic, and Tevez and Aguero combining in the sort of busy fashion that one tends to expect from them. After City had completed an excellent victory by three goals to one, it was mooted that when Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are paired together in attack, Manchester City have won thirteen out of thirteen games. Considering their lack of fluency this season, and the tangible understanding between the two, it does make one wonder why this isn’t an automatic selection. Although City are now clear second favourites to win the league, should they maintain something close to this form for the rest of the season, they won’t be far away from the title.
The surprise result of the weekend came at Anfield, where Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann tore the Liverpool defence to shreds, enabling Villa to come away from Merseyside with a handy 3-1 win under their belts. The result put Brendan Rodgers’ recent comments which implied that second position was up for grabs in a rather dim light. The reality is that Liverpool are a very long way away from being a Champions League outfit, let alone one that can seriously challenge Manchester City. As it stands, the Reds are still in the bottom half of the table. Villa, on the other hand, are beginning to look strong enough to at least stay in the division.
Tottenham’s hard fought 1-0 win over Swansea saw them climb into the Champions League places. The only goal was scored by defender Jan Vertonghen. Increasingly, it looks as if the battle for the third and fourth Champions League places will come down to a straight fight between the three London clubs, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.
Unfortunately, for the blue side of Merseyside, Everton’s form is not currently satisfactory for them to expect to challenge for a Champions League berth. And as a further blow, the Toffees lost Marouane Fellaini through suspension for several matches, due to the Belgian attacking midfielder stupidly headbutting Ryan Shawcross during Everton’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City. Everton’s best player, and increasingly a talismanic figure at Goodison Park, will be missed.
Arsenal, meanwhile, recovered from the embarrassment of going down to League Two Bradford City in the Capital One Cup by defeating Reading by five goals to two. Santi Cazorla was the star of the show with three goals, but it was the positioning of Theo Walcott in the centre of Arsenal’s front three, and the goal he scored to round off the victory, which most caught the attention of viewers. It seemed quite probable that this was Wenger’s attempt to placate the England forward, and compel him to sign a new contract with the club. Certainly Arsenal looked a lively and attacking force with Walcott, Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain up front, but defensively they once again looked somewhat suspect, as Reading scored twice in quick succession when trailing by four goals. Nonetheless, the Gunners go forth, and are bearing down on rivals Tottenham.
Queen’s Park Rangers finally broke the duck that has been sitting in their wins column since the opening day of the season by beating Fulham 2-1 at Loftus Road. There has been a significant improvement in QPR’s performances since Harry Redknapp took over at the London club, and now that the club has secured its first Premier League win of the season, supporters might already be dreaming of a miraculous escape come May next year. The victory was largely due to the efforts of mercurial Moroccan playmaker Adel Taarabt. The sometimes winger was given a central role by Redknapp and absolutely excelled. Taarabt scored both QPR goals, and the second involved a sublime piece of skill and impudent, yet precise execution. If the unpredictable Moroccan can maintain this form, QPR may retain their Premier League status.
In Europe’s top five leagues, only Barcelona have a longer unbeaten record than Norwich City. This may be the only time in their history that the Canaries have been mentioned in the same sentence as the Catalan giants, but on present form it is entirely deserved. The East Anglian club racked up their sixth consecutive Premier League victory when Anthony Pilkington scored the winner in a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic. The Canaries are perched in seventh, and look certain to maintain their exalted Premier League status for at least one more season.
Finally, West Brom and West Ham played out a fairly lifeless 0-0 draw at The Hawthorns, which seemed to indicate that the clubs’ promising early season form has become somewhat diluted by mid-season malaise. The busy Christmas period will test out the depth of both clubs’ squads.
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