Wednesday 21 February 2018

Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

Xherdan Shaqiri can take Stoke to the next level
Xherdan Shaqiri can take Stoke to the next level

It was another weekend of surprises in the Barclays Premier League as Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all lost, Manchester United drew at home, and even Jamie Vardy failed to score.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at what we discovered from the first round of fixtures in December.


There was plenty of excitement when Stoke pulled off arguably the biggest transfer in their history over three months ago in acquiring Xherdan Shaqiri. The hysteria had died down by the time Manchester City arrived at the Britannia Stadium on a blustery Saturday afternoon, but the Swiss soon reminded everyone why it was a move which set pulses racing in the first place. He had City's defence and Fernando under his spell in the first period as he provided two brilliant assists for Marko Arnautovic and outshone the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. Mark Hughes is chasing European qualification at the Britannia Stadium and, with Shaqiri in this form, it is a dream that may just be realised.


Vardy's incredible goal-scoring streak was snapped at 11 top-flight games as he failed to find the net at Swansea. Fortunately for him, and new table-toppers Leicester, Riyad Mahrez was able to pick up the slack with a hat-trick. It was not the purest treble the division will ever see - the first hitting him and the second coming from an offside position - but the Algerian deserves as much credit for the Foxes' stunning rise to the summit as man-of-the-moment Vardy. The winger now already has double figures for the campaign and has weighed in with half-a-dozen assists too as Claudio Ranieri's men continue to upset the established order in the division's upper echelons.


Throughout David Moyes' ill-fated 10-month spell at Old Trafford, he retained some support from Manchester United's fans who, while alarmed by the club's results, at least refrained from vocal shows of dissent. Louis van Gaal cannot point to the same luxury after the boos which cascaded down from the stands following the 0-0 draw, United's sixth of the season, against West Ham. The Dutchman may well have restored United to the title race but he is turning many supporters off with the rigid, efficient style he has implemented. Van Gaal has already spent big since moving to Manchester and he may need to purchase more attacking flair in January to keep the locals appeased.


Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe called the victory at Chelsea "the best individual result of the club's history" and it could be crucial in their survival fight. The Cherries moved out of the bottom three by becoming the fourth team to win at Stamford Bridge in the league this year. Howe has always said he will stick to the attacking principles that helped them take the Sky Bet Championship by storm last season and this result, which followed the dramatic 3-3 draw with Everton, suggests he is not naive in continuing to adhere to that philosophy. Bournemouth are now unbeaten in three - and were unfortunate to go down 1-0 to Newcastle before that - and they will be in buoyant mood ahead of Manchester United's visit.


It was not a good weekend for most of the managers under pressure as Swansea slumped to a fourth defeat in five in going down 3-0 at home to Leicester while Jose Mourinho virtually wrote off Chelsea's top-four aspirations following their loss to Bournemouth. However, Steve McClaren, whose side had conceded eight in their past two contests, finally saw some fight from his ranks when Newcastle defeated a rejuvenated Liverpool 2-0. The pressure had been growing on McClaren but this result will afford him some breathing space, even if they remain in the relegation zone.

Press Association

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