What Happened in the Premier League This Weekend, and Why
Another weekend, another helping of twists and turns in the world’s most scintillating football league. We saw the top 3 teams in the league win, as well as 6 of the top 7. We witnessed impressive performances from the leaders, Chelsea, who dispatched Hull at home, the defending champions, Manchester City, who staved off Leicester on the road, and Manchester United, winners of 6 consecutive fixtures, who handily defeated arch-rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford. Southampton lost their 4th match in a row, Tottenham stole 3 points from Swansea, and Arsenal fans breathed collective sighs of relief after a 4-1 drubbing of Newcastle United. Here’s what happened on matchday 16 in the Premier League, and why.
Leicester City 0, Manchester City 1- Things got from bad to worse for the Foxes on Saturday, as reeling Leicester City were downed by the champions at home. With the loss, Leicester are now 3 points behind Hull City, sitting bottom of the Premier League. Ever since their dramatic, astounding 5-3 home victory over Manchester United, Leicester have lost 8 of their last 10 matches. Nigel Pearson’s side didn’t look too convincing against Manchester City, who were without their talisman Sergio Aguero. The Citizens played a more conservative, passing style of play, completing 81% of their passes and only attempting 6 crosses. Frank Lampard was the man yet again, scoring in the 40th minute for what proved to be the decisive goal. It was the Englishman’s 5th goal of the campaign. Lampard, who is on loan from newly founded New York City FC, has been invaluable to City thus far, scoring timely goal after timely goal. He scored the winner against Southampton a week ago, and also equalized at home against former club Chelsea in October. Our man of the match, however, is Gael Clichy. Clearly Leicester were attempting to play a wide style of attack, which is evident in the 25 crosses they attempted. Clichy did well all game, registering 4 interceptions, 5 clearances, and 2 tackles. The Frenchman’s string of good form has made it increasingly difficult for Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini to choose between him and Aleksander Kolarov at left back. With the victory, City now stand at 36 points, 3 behind league leaders Chelsea. They are also 5 points clear of 3rd place Manchester United.
Sunderland 1, West Ham 1- West Ham should perhaps feel disappointed to only leave the Stadium of Light with a draw, but Sam Allardyce’s men remain in the Top 4 with the point. After falling behind after 22 minutes, courtesy of a Jordi Gomez penalty, Stewart Downing responded 7 minutes later to equalize. The former Liverpool man scored his second goal of the season, and it was a fine strike indeed. The big quarrel West Ham can raise is over the penalty decision, a call which outraged Sam Allardyce. “It was not a penalty and it is as simple as that. It was given by the assistant referee and he got it horribly wrong,” the manager claimed. It was Adam Johnson who drew the penalty after a challenge from James Tompkins, which was neatly converted by the Spaniard Gomez. Statistically, West Ham were the more dangerous side, with 18 shots compared to Sunderlands 13, and with 13 chances created compared to Sunderland’s 7. However, Sunderland weren’t able to capitalize on two golden chances. One from American Jozy Altidore, who missed a golden opportunity at the close of the first half, and Englishman Connor Wickham, whose shot was met by a brilliant save from West Ham keeper Adrián. Because of these chances, a draw is a fair result. West Ham have been beaten just once in the past 10 matches, while Sunderland drew their 10th game, by far the most in the League. The Black Cats sit at 15th place, but are only two points clear from relegation. Our Man of the Match is Costel Pantilimon. The Sunderland keeper made 8 saves to keep the dynamic forward pairing of Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll at bay, and preserve a key point for his side. The big goalkeeper has impressed since taking over the first choice spot from Vito Mannone.
Crystal Palace 1, Stoke City 1- A hard-fought, scrappy draw was to be expected at Selhurst Park, and that’s exactly the result we got. The goals came early and in quick succession of each other. James MAcArthur received a nice pass from winger Yannick Bolasie, and curled it past goalkeeper Jack Butland to give the hosts an early lead in the 10th minute. The lead lasted for a very short time, and Peter Crouch scored the most Peter Crouch-like goal imaginable, a hard fought tap in off a deflection. Crouch’s poacher style of play has earned the 33 year old England international 4 league goals on the season. Overall, in a game where there were only 10 chances created and 6 shots on target, a draw seemed the right result. Our Man of the Match goes to Mile Jedinak. Palace’s phenomenal central midfielder had another solid day protecting the back 4, making 7 clearances, 4 interceptions, and 2 tackles. Stoke are currently in 12th place, 2 points outside the top half of the table. Palace are 16th, and one point away from the relegation zone.
Burnley 1, Southampton 0- After a flying start to the season, Southampton have really begun to falter. Ronald Koeman’s side have lost four consecutive matches, against Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, and now Burnley. The last three matches have come by only one goal, but regardless, the Saints haven’t been putting together the kind of results they were getting at the beginning of the season. If one player could perfectly represent the team’s struggles, it would be Dusan Tadic. The Serbian got off to a staggering start to life on the South Coast, and perhaps peaked in his teams 8-0 drubbing of Sunderland, where the former FC Twente man scored once and recorded three assists. Ever since that day, he hasn’t scored or assisted in the Premier League, a streak that has lasted nine matches. He had a chance to score on Saturday from the penalty spot, but was denied by Burnley keeper Tom Heaton. That miss opened the door for Burnley, who took advantage in the 73rd minute courtesy of a winner from Ashley Barnes. It was a game that the Saints dominated– they outshot Burnley 15-7, out possessed them 53%- 47%, and created 11 chances compared to the hosts 3. But it was Tom Heaton who saved the day, making 4 saves, including one from the spot, to get his side the win and earn Man of the Match honors. With the win, Burnley have only lost one of their last six matches, winning three of them. They are, for the moment, out of the relegation zone by one point. Southampton is still in the top 5, thanks to their strong start, level with Arsenal on 26 points.
Chelsea 2, Hull City 0- The league leaders faltered for the first time last weekend at Newcastle, but with the “Invincibles” label shaken, Chelsea went out and responded like champions. The Blues comfortably defeated Hull City 2-0, thanks to goals from their star man and their talisman. Eden Hazard scored after only 7 minutes, and Diego Costa bagged his 12th goal of the season in the 68th minute. It was a masterful performance from Hazard, who is our Man of the Match. He scored, assisted, created 2 chances, completed 90% of his passes, and had three successful take ons. Chelsea held 60% of possession, outshot Hull 12-8, and were camped in Hull’s half for much of the game. 78% of the match was played in Chelsea’s middle and attacking third, and right back Branislav Ivanovic’s average field position was fairly deep in Hull territory on the right flank. Chelsea scored early, kept Hull at bay, and scored late to secure three points and stay atop the league. Also worth noting, Petr Cech started his first league game in place of Belgian Thibaut Courtois, who was not in the 23-man squad for Jose Mourinho. Hull got a solid performance from Jake Livermore, who completed 90% of his passes and recorded a game high 9 tackles, but Steve Bruce’s men are currently 19th and in the drop zone. To make matters worse, Tom Huddlestone was sent off in the second half. It’s still early, but Steve Bruce is definitely in the hot seat.
West Brom 1, Aston Villa 0- Craig Gardner snatched a late winner at the Hawthorns, as West Brom saw off Aston Villa 1-0. Gardner’s goal came in the 73rd minute, on what was a frustrating day offensively for both sides. Aston Villa only managed two shots on target, and were shut out again thanks to a fantastic defensive display from the Baggies. Right back Andre Wisdom is our man of the match, after recording 2 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 5 clearances. Also strong were goalkeeper Ben Foster and midfielder James Morrison. Jores Okore had a solid day for Villa, recording 6 tackles and for the most part minimizing the threat of Saido Berahino. The prolific English striker has 7 league goals thus far, but hasn’t scored since October 25th against Palace. Villa lost Kieran Richardson to a red card early in the first half, and were shutout for the 8th time this season in the Premier League. West Brom moved up to 14th in the table, 2 points shy of Villa who are in 12th. The Baggies were victorious at home for the first time since a 4-0 drubbing of Burnley on September 28th, and earned their first victory since winning at Leicester on November 1st. The loss snaps a two game winning streak for Villa.
Arsenal 4, Newcastle 1- Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla each recorded braces, and Arsenal rebounded from a disappointing 3-2 loss at Stoke last weekend to win 4-1. With the victory, Arsene Wenger’s men moved up to 6th in the Premiere League, only two points outside of the Top 4. Giroud continued his fine form after returning from injury, scoring in the 15th minute and the 58th minute. Cazorla, who is rebounding after a poor run of form to start the season, scored from open play in the 54th minute, and from the penalty spot in the 88th. Ayoze Perez had a nifty flick off a set piece to give Newcastle their only goal, in what was a disappointing performance from Alan Pardew’s men after such a brilliant showing last weekend v.s. Chelsea. Cazorla is our Man of the Match after putting together a dominating performance. He scored twice, had five shots, created two chances, completed 81% of his passes, and spent the majority of his afternoon in Newcastle’s defensive third. Alexis Sanchez, Giroud, and Hector Bellerin also put together solid shifts for Arsenal. With the loss, Newcastle dropped to 8th in the table, and are 2 points clear of the bottom half. Jack Colback played valiantly, but Newcastle failed to pressure Arsenal defensively as much as they would have liked. The win gives Arsenal 2 in 3, and momentarily silenced critics who want Wenger to be removed from the managerial spot.
Manchester United 3, Liverpool 0- One of English football’s biggest rivalries drew all the attention on Sunday morning, where Manchester United avenged a defeat to Liverpool at home last season, reversing the scoreline. Last spring, it was Liverpool who shellacked United at Old Trafford, winning 3-0. This time around, a seemingly rejuvenated United returned the favor. Louis van Gaal’s men have won six consecutive matches, including tilts against Arsenal, Southampton, and now Liverpool. The 11th minute opened the action. Raheem Sterling was denied a golden opportunity at one end, and United scored 20 seconds later. Antonio Valencia split two defenders brilliantly, and found his captain Wayne Rooney, who smashed a one-timer past Brad Jones. Late in the first half, Juan Mata flicked in an Ashley Young cross to make it 2-0, and Robin van Persie made it 3 in the second half off a brilliant pass from Mata. But despite United’s offensive exploits, the day belonged to David de Gea. United’s Spanish goalkeeper was unbeatable, making 8 saves, including 3 on Sterling and 3 on Mario Balotelli, who still hasn’t scored for Liverpool in the Premier League, despite attempting the second most shots per game (only behind City’s Aguero, who leads the league in goals). It’s de Gea’s heroics that earn him Man of the Match, despite a brilliant performance from van Persie. The Dutchman has scored 4 goals in his last 4 matches, and was all over the place Sunday. He completed 80% of his passes, made 4 tackles, won all 3 of his take ons, and scored a very clinical goal to seal the points. United are now up to third in the Barclays Premier League, while Liverpool are down to 10th. One more setback for the Reds could spell the end of Brendan Rodgers tenure with the club. United are firmly in third place after the victory, while Liverpool slipped down to 10th. United have won seven matches in a row- their longest winning streak last year under David Moyes was four.
Swansea City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 2- A late winner from Christian Eriksen snagged all 3 points for Spurs on the road. A poor giveaway by a Swansea defender found Brad Davies, and the former Swan fed it through to Eriksen, who neatly dispatched it past goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel. The win shoots Spurs up to 7th, while the loss dropped Swansea down to 9th. Harry Kane opened the scoring with his 3rd league goal for Spurs after only 4 minutes. Kane now has 10 goals in all competitions. Wilfried Bony scored his 8th goal of the season on 48 minutes, before Eriksen won it on 89 minutes. For Swansea, Jefferson Montero and Ashley Williams were fantastic. Montero had 6 tackles and 5 successful dribbles, while Williams had 3 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 15 clearances. Our Man of the Match, however, goes to Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen, who scored the winner, created 3 chances, and completed 81% of his passes. Eriksen kept Spurs afloat last season, and his recent run of form has to be a good sign for Mauricio Pochettino. The game was fairly even statistically– 53% of possession went to Swansea, who also outshot Spurs 15-10 and created 11 chances to Tottenham’s 9. Spurs form is starting to pick up, having won 3 of their last 5 games, but against England’s top teams (City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton), they’ve been outscored by a total of 13-3, and are 1-1-3 in those fixtures. Swansea have lost two in a row.
Everton 3, Queens Park Rangers 1- Everton shot up to 10th in the Barclays Premier League following a 3-1 home victory over QPR at Goodison Park. The Toffees are finally in the top half of the table, thanks to goals from Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, and Steven Naismith. Barkley in particular stood out, registering a goal, creating two chances, winning four take ons, and making 4 challenges. The English international has been surrounded by transfer rumors for the duration of the season, and his stock has been increasing rapidly since his return from injury. The victory was Everton’s first since a 2-1 home win against West Ham on November 22nd. Barkley’s goal was particularly special. He surged forward, ranging toward the left side, and smashed a left-footed cracker past goalkeeper Rob Green into the upper 90 from outside the box. Barkley’s goal in the 32nd minute was followed by Belgian international Kevin Mirallas’ goal, whose free kick from outside the box took a fortuitous deflection of Eduardo Vargas to beat Green. Goal number three was Green’s error– his poor goal kick was corralled by Everton. Mirallas found Aiden McGeady on the right flank, and the Irishman crossed it to Steven Naismith, who headed it home. QPR got a consolation goal at the end, as Bobby Zamora tapped home a Tim Howard deflection, but the three points went to the club from Liverpool. QPR fell to 18th with the loss, and have lost 3 of their last 5 matches.
XI Of the Week-
GK: David de Gea, Manchester United- While United scored 3 goals in their victory at Old Trafford, it was their Spanish goalkeeper who stole all the headlines, stifling Liverpool’s offense with 8 saves, including a particularly spectacular one off of a rocket by Italian Mario Balotelli. de Gea earned his 5th clean sheet of the campaign.
DF: Andre Wisdom, West Brom- Wisdom but in a solid shift at right back, helping his team to a crucial three points against Aston Villa.
DF: Eliaquim Mangala, Manchester City- The French defender had 11 clearances, 3 tackles, and a blocked shot in City’s triumph. Mangala has been much maligned since his move from Porto over the summer, but he’s been steadily improving for the club.
DF: Gael Clichy, Manchester City- The champions’ French left back put together a solid defensive showing in a tight win at Leicester.
MF: Santi Cazorla, Arsenal- The Spaniard bagged two goals on his birthday, including a penalty, in the Gunners 4-1 triumph over Newcastle. His first, which was sublime, was his first Premier League goal from open play in 28 games.
MF: Christian Eriksen, Tottenham Hotspur- The Danish midfielder scored a late winner to give Spurs three crucial points at Swansea.
MF: Eden Hazard, Chelsea- Hazard is making a case to be the Premier League’s best player with performances like his on Saturday. The Belgian international scored in the 7th minute to lift Chelsea to a 2-0 win over Hull, and assisted on Diego Costa’s second.
MF: Ross Barkley, Everton- the Evertonian shined against QPR, scoring an absolutely unbelievable goal
FW: Robin van Persie, Manchester United- The Dutchman continued a fine run of form, scoring one and assisting one in the 3-0 drubbing of Liverpool. He also had a crucial clearance off the line for the Red Devils.
FW: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal- The Chilean forward didn’t score against Newcastle, but he assisted the opening two goals to Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla for his 4th and 5th helpers of the year.
FW: Olivier Giroud, Arsenal- The Frenchman scored two brilliant goals, one with his head and another with his right foot, to help earn Arsenal a key win against Newcastle.
Player of the Week- David de Gea, Manchester United. 8 saves, a clean sheet, and a domineering overall performance by the Spaniard lifted the Red Devils to a crucial home win over Liverpool.
Goal of the Week- Ross Barkley v.s. QPR- The first of Everton’s three goals was their best. Barkley’s left footed smash can be seen below:
Manager on the Hot Seat: Steve Bruce, Hull City. After impressing so many last season, the Tigers sit in 19th and are in serious danger of relegation. Not only did Bruce’s men not put up a fight against mighty Chelsea, but they also lost a key man in Tom Huddlestone to a red card.
Predictions for Top 4 and Bottom 3:
- Chelsea– The Blues haven’t shown any sign of decline. A small setback at Newcastle was put to rest after a dominating performance against Hull City. The Blues may have gotten a tough Champions League draw with PSG, but they still have a 3 point cushion in the Premier League.
- Manchester City– No Aguero, no Tour’e, no problem. The Citizens pulled out a gritty away win at Leicester to remain 3 points behind the leaders. City have the squad, experience, and pedigree to sustain the long season, but they won’t be able to catch Chelsea.
- Manchester United– 6 in a row for van Gaal’s men, and they’re still missing key players. When Marcos Rojo, Angel di Maria, and Radamel Falcao get to full fitness, this team can make some noise. Plus, they’ve shown more consistency this season than all but the two teams ahead of them, and maybe West Ham. They’ll return to the Champions League.
- Arsenal– The Gunners are seemingly always in 4th, but staying in the Champions League should be good enough for Arsene Wenger’s men. They have more talent than their main challengers for the spot, which are Southampton, Spurs, Liverpool, Everton and West Ham, and also boast a world class talent in Alexis Sanchez.
- West Brom- They’ve been impressive at times this season, but the Baggies squad depth worries me. Ben Foster and Saido Berahino are strong individual players, but the rest of the squad might not be Premier League worthy.
- Burnley- Danny Ings is in sublime form, and he’s been keeping his side afloat. He’ll run out of gas at some point, and so will Burnley.
- Leicester- Other than that 5-3 home win v.s. United, it’s been a rough season for the Foxes. Barring a major shift in form, they’ll be returning to the Championship next season.
Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next weekend!
*All Statistics from squawka.com and whoscored.com.*