Six things we learned from the Premier League this weekend
There was a lot to be gleaned from an action-packed weekend of fixtures in the Premier League.
1. ARSENAL ENJOY THEIR BEST WEEKEND OF THE SEASON
The Gunners nearly let a 2-0 lead slip against Crystal Palace as they just held on to complete the double against the Eagles this season, but manager Arsene Wenger will head into training today with a rather large smile on his face.
Arsenal sit in third for the first time in a while, with goals from Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud giving them a hard-fought victory ahead of their Champions League clash with Monaco.
The win was made even better with defeats dished out to Manchester United and Southampton – Arsenal’s two closest rivals in the race for the top four – although they are not yet home and dry with just four points separating them in third and Tottenham in seventh.
2. TOP OF THE LEAGUE, YOU’RE HAVING A LAUGH?
A glance at the Premier League table would suggest that things are pretty rosy at Chelsea. A five point lead over Manchester City, a crucial away goal in the Champions League last-16 against Paris St-Germain and a Capital One Cup final to prepare for – not a bad situation to be in despite the 1-1 draw with Burnley this weekend.
Yet their manager Jose Mourinho still feels it necessary to fight the “campaign” against Chelsea that he rang Sky Sports in order to appear on their Goals on Sunday show on Saturday morning.
Mourinho’s principal aim was to fight the corner of Nemanja Matic, and rightly so. The midfielder was sent-off for his reaction to Ashley Barnes’ shocking challenge that could have ended Matic’s career, but there was an air of inevitability that this was the latest act in Mourinho’s insistence that his team aren’t getting a fair crack of the whip this season. If the Portuguese took a minute to analyse how the season is faring, he might just afford himself a moment to smile.
Spare a thought too for James Beattie. The former striker was due to appear on Goals on Sunday, only to be bumped off to make way for The Special One.
3. MANCHESTER CITY AREN’T READY TO RELINQUISH THEIR TITLE JUST YET
Three goals inside 22 minutes is a good way to show that you’re still in the Premier League title race. That’s exactly what Manchester City did on Saturday as a rapid start blew Newcastle out of the Etihad Stadium. Manuel Pellegrini certainly has the talent in his squad to fight back in the title race, but they’ll need to produce performances like this week in, week out if they are to catch leaders Chelsea.
The talents of Sergio Aguero are plain and obvious and as the striker returns to full fitness, City’s chances increase. But the man currently providing the impetus for City is their midfielder maestro David Silva. He managed to score twice to round out the victory over the Magpies but it was hi sublime pass for Dzeko’s goal that drew the plaudits, and his form of late has been nothing short of magical.
4. LIVERPOOL’S RESURGENCE COULD HAVE SERIOUS RAMIFICATIONS FOR MANCHESTER UNITED
No team has taken more points since Christmas than Liverpool, even if Louis van Gaal claims otherwise. The Manchester United manager claimed United were leading the way in the form table over the last 20 games, only for the stats to reveal United were third with both Chelsea and Manchester City holding better records than the Red Devils over the same time period.
With Liverpool on the up and Daniel Sturridge returning to full fitness, the Reds look a tasty proposition for a top-four finish, and you’d have to suggest that Arsenal currently look like the side most likely to finish third if they can continue grinding out results in the league. That leaves United in a battle with Southampton - who suffered a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday - and Spurs to finish fifth – a prospect that should have been avoided easily when Van Gaal spent £150m in the summer – and would mean United miss out on their minimum expectation this season having allowed themselves to dream of an unlikely title challenge not so long ago.
5. BARTON’S MOMENT OF MADNESS COULD COST QPR DEAR
As QPR captain, Joey Barton really should know better than to lash out at an opponent right in front of the referee. Having shoved Alex Bruce during the first half of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Hull, Barton proceeded to aim a swing at Tom Huddlestone’s groin right in front of referee Anthony Taylor, who was left with no option than to send Barton off for the ninth time in his career.
With Rangers sitting precariously above the drop-zone in 17th, manager Chris Ramsey will need all of his options fi and available if they are to remain in the top flight this season. Barton will now miss three matches due to a suspension, with the midfielder set to sit out games against Arsenal, Tottenham and Crystal Palace. When he returns, QPR will have just five games to save their Premier League status, and Barton will need to make it up to his team-mates with his performances on the pitch of the right kind.
6. ALLARDYCE FUMES BUT SONG SHOULD KNOW BETTER
Sam Allardyce is the definition of a no nonsense manager. The West Ham boss was infuriated by Harry Kane appearing to fall to the floor easily under the challenge of Alex Song, and the fact that West Ham had failed to hold on to a lead for the second time in their last three league outings won’t have helped his bad mood following the final whistle.
However, Alex Song is not a youngster learning his trade, nor is he a Premier League newbie that is yet develop an experience of playing in England. He should know that if he puts his hands anywhere near a player in the box – especially to a side trailing by a goal deep into injury time – that player is going to do their best to win a penalty. Is it right? No, far from it. But even Allardyce knew that his side need to play the referee as well as the game if they are to win tight affairs such as these matches.
Independent News Service