Premier League Weekend 6 Things We Learned As Clinical Chelsea Take Two Point Advantage At Top
The destination of this season”s Premier League title is back in the hands of Chelsea after they took a two-point lead following Manchester City”s slip-up on Merseyside.
Out-of-form Everton helped Jose Mourinho gain the advantage in the title race, as City lacked a clinical edge and slumped to a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
City had closed the gap on the Londoners, but a disappointing draw at Goodison Park meant that Chelsea jumped back into the lead with their resurgent performance against Newcastle.
Arsenal bounced back to form, Southampton demonstrated their Champions League credentials to United and Liverpool began a march towards the top four.
At the bottom, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Leicester all claimed vitals wins, but the situation is becoming alarming from Aston Villa and Hull.
But what were the key things we learnt from the Premier League this weekend?
Mirror Football”s reporters have compiled them, just for you…
City lack the goalscoring touch… for now
It was by no means comprehensive when Chelsea beat Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime, writes Aaron Flanagan.
But they did what Manchester City didn”t this weekend: find the net when they needed to most.
City”s 1-1 draw at Everton was a dogged and battling affair, but City often come out on top in these games simply because of their goalscoring nous when the chances present themselves. This weekend, they failed to score goals when the chances did arrive.
Football pictures of the weekend:
With news that Wilfried Bony will link up with City after the African Cup of Nations, and Sergio Aguero returning to the line-up imminently, never before have they craved the return for goalscoring talent like this. Something also typified in the FA Cup game with Sheffield Wednesday.
Chelsea, on the other hand, withstood the significant first-half onslaught from Newcastle at Stamford Bridge and managed to bag goals when it mattered most. Oscar, one of the most prolific midfielders in the league, was on hand to fire home a first, before Diego Costa proved his worth by sealing the game when the Toon still had belief they would get something.
Manchester City”s title hopes could well rely on the performances of Wilfried Bony and Sergio Aguero. City have to get the goals and pick up the points – something that Chelsea rarely look like doing.
United”s future is not homegrown
Clive MasonDown and out: United”s 10-match unbeaten run came to a crushing halt at Old Trafford
As Oliver Holt pointed out before the game, Manchester United have come a long way lately and have adopted a new approach in the transfer market under Louis van Gaal, writes Arash Hekmat.
As a result of what has at times seemed like a “Galacticos” policy, there was not a single product of the famous youth system in United”s first XI against Southampton on Sunday.
Gary Neville was keen to point out that there were plenty of youth players on the bench and five English players starting.
But the point stands: this is a different era for the Red Devils and future success will probably be built more on the success of foreign imports like Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao than a core of players who have risen through the ranks at Carrington.
Alexis Sanchez is still the man
REUTERUnstoppable: Sanchez once again took the plaudits at the Emirates
By this point, we”ve been given ample evidence of the Chilean”s genius, writes Jack Lang.
He has been a revelation since swapping Barcelona for London, lending Arsenal”s attack some of the ruthlessness that it has lacked at times in the latter half of Wenger”s reign.
But it would be wrong to start taking his brilliance for granted. His contribution in the first half – a wicked cross for Laurent Koscielny”s opener and a fine solo goal – made the hosts comfortable and left the Stoke defence anything but. His second was a touch fortuitous but you could not say he didn”t deserve it.
The only worry for Wenger will be the number of minutes he has accrued; he seemed due a rest a few weeks ago and has hardly stopped since then. Keeping him fit and healthy will be essential as the Gunners push for a top-four finish.
Stepping up to the Mark
After a relatively inauspicious start to his Premier League career, Lazar Markovic is beginning to look like precisely the sort of player that Liverpool need, writes Arash Hekmat.
At just 20 years of age and with senior level experience only in his home country and Portugal, there”s no shame in the fact that it took the Serbian a few games to find his feet in the Premier League.
He”s been looking better and better lately – the first half today was one of his best spells so far, and not just because he scored the decisive goal.
Perhaps the moment of the game was his audacious volley from outside the area, which would have been a serious contender for goal of the month had it dipped an inch more and not struck the corner of the woodwork.
During Brendan Rodgers” tenure, Liverpool have lost one of their most talented ever players in Luis Suarez and the vestiges of their Merseyside core in Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard.
It”s time for a new generation of players to step up and Markovic could be a key part of that in the coming years.
Alan Pardew arrived in style
GettyThe king is back: Pardew returned to Selhurst Park and inspired a stunning victory
Alan Pardew has well and truly arrived at Selhurst Park, as he inspired the stunning comeback victory against Tottenham Hotspur, writes Vithushan Ehantharajah.
Much of the talk leading up to the game was how the home side would cope without Miles Jedinak and Yannick Bolasie, who are both on international duty for the next month. The record without each screamed away win.
Before today, the Eagles had won only one of their 22 matches without their Australian, while the absence of Bolasie had coincided with 12 defeats from 16, of which 10 of those matches had seen them fail to score.
It was perhaps Jedinak”s absence that was the most noticeable, in that Palace”s play, at times, seemed reminiscent of Pardew”s Newcastle; basic yet haphazard. In the first half, Spurs” Benjamin Stambouli had a good time of things, able to get off some decent passes and the odd interception. But it was all change in the second half.
It was Stambouli”s ridiculous foul that would lead to the Palace penalty, with Dwight Gale converting where Jedinak might have. Then, the onus was on Wilfried Zaha, a second half substitute, to do as Bolasie often does in these situations, where he uses his exceptional stamina to stretch play in the dying embers of the game in the hope of eliciting a mistake.
After beating two men on the byline, he found his way into the box, where his square ball was blocked into the path of Jason Puncheon, who finished first time for the game”s winner.
King Pards has now won more points from losing positions – 13, to be exact – than any other manager in the league this season.
Dreadful Villa puts Lambert on the brink
Action ImagesFind the net: Paul Lambert”s men have scored less goals than anyone else in the league
Misery loves company. And my word the travelling Aston Villa fans at Leicester this weekend were miserable, writes Alex Richards.
The Foxes claimed a 1-0 win over Villa, but it could and should have been more. Dave Nugent had chances to add gloss to the scoreline, while Villa themselves were dire.
Paul Lambert’s side have struggled in front of goal this term, scoring a dreadful 11 goals in 21 games. Miraculously they sit 13th in the division – based, thankfully, on an opening haul of 10 points from their first four matches.
Supporters have had enough.
Turgid football, increasingly strange tactics (a complete lack of width), no service to Christian Benteke and the stench that the former European Cup winners are heading only one way under the ex-Norwich chief: Down.
Handed a four-year deal back in September, Randy Lerner risks alienating supporters if he doesn’t put an end to the 30-month reign soon.
The owner can still get fans back on his side. Lambert, increasingly it seems, cannot.
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