5 things we learned about the Premier League this weekend
Published 14/02/2016 | 18:21
There were significant developments at both ends of the Barclays Premier League this weekend as the title contenders jockeyed for position and the relegation candidates uneasily shuffled their feet.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the things we learned from the latest round of fixtures.
1. Leicester are no angels
Claudio Ranieri's men have captured the collective imagination of the nation's football fans, millions of whom are willing on the Foxes to claim a fairytale title success. However, they showed in heartbreaking defeat at Arsenal on Sunday that they are not all sugar and spice. Prolific striker Jamie Vardy made sure he made contact with Nacho Monreal to win his side's penalty and Riyad Mahrez collapsed theatrically in the area in search of another before Danny Simpson was sent off for a second bookable offence, with Danny Drinkwater escaping the same fate for a dreadful challenge on Aaron Ramsey.
2. Aston Villa are hurtling out of the top flight
Villa have been fighting a losing battle for some time but appeared to have given themselves a glimmer of hope with an improved run of form capped by last weekend's 2-0 victory over Norwich. However, a Valentines' Day horror show at Villa Park saw them ship six goals without reply, four of them after the break, to Liverpool and they are now eight points adrift of safety with just 12 games to go.
3. Newcastle's travel sickness could prove fatal
Life at St James' Park is rarely anything other than a roller-coaster ride, but the club's form on the road is eye-wateringly poor. A week after they turned in a hugely encouraging display to beat West Brom in front of their own fans, the Magpies were trounced 5-1 at Chelsea, who were 3-0 ahead with just 17 minutes played. They have lost their last five away games on the trot and have collected just seven points on their travels all season, and a failure to improve drastically upon that during the remaining weeks of the campaign could send them down.
4. Sam Allardyce knows what he is doing
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce may not be everybody's cup of tea, but if ever there was a manager to whom a club would turn in a relegation fight, it would be him. The 61-year-old has been fire-fighting for much of his time at the Stadium of Light to date, but his January signings have hit the ground running and he has instilled belief in a previously fragile squad to such an extent that they thoroughly deserved their 2-1 victory over Manchester United on Saturday.
5. Referees don't have it easy
Sunday's top-four showdowns between Arsenal and Leicester and Manchester City and Tottenham further highlighted the problems faced by match officials in the heat of Premier League games. Martin Atkinson had two penalty decisions to make at the Emirates Stadium - and probably got both right - had little option but to send off Simpson for a silly second offence and might have responded differently to Drinkwater's challenge on Ramsey had he had a clearer view. Colleague Mark Clattenburg, however, may have to watch Match of the Day 2 through his fingers after awarding the harshest of penalties for handball against Raheem Sterling.