For the time being, Manchester United keep their dominant record over Arsenal, although the Gunners remain top of the table. Sunderland proved to be Manchester City’s bogey team yet again, and Liverpool returned to their attacking masterclass. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from the weekend.
A weekend of rather ridiculous results saw Chelsea draw with West Brom, Manchester City lose to Sunderland, Stoke throw away a 2-0 lead and Arsenal succumb to Manchester United. It has, once again, ignited the excitement of the Premier League right before the international break.
Arsenal remain at the top of the table, just two points clear of Liverpool now, while Manchester United move into fifth. It was quite the weekend in the Premier League, and here are just five talking points from the two days gone by.
Arsenal have got a bit of BMT, but no big match player
Arsenal started their match at Old Trafford shaky, unstructured, unsure and out of their depth. Some dubious zonal marking saw Robin van Persie head home early on and United had a penalty denied to make Arsenal look like a mid-table club. There was no Per Mertesacker or Tomas Rosicky and their absence was evident. There was very little, if any, chemistry between Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen and it took until the second half for Arsenal to wake up. The Gunners managed nearly 70 percent possession in the second half and bossed the midfield, but simply couldn’t find the back of the net. Mesut Ozil, in the biggest game of his season thus far, was very poor, and there was not one player who stood out and put their hand up. That Arsenal only managed to lose 0-1 is impressive and shows that they do have BMT, just not the BMP. Bacary Sanga was, as ever, phenomenal, but he can only do so much – and on Sunday, unfortunately for Arsenal, ‘much’ didn’t involve a defender scoring.
Can Manchester City say “bunny”?
In some miraculous way, Sunderland managed to hang on to a 1-0 win by the skin of their teeth to beat Manchester City. Since January 2012, Sunderland have now won three out of five fixtures between the two sides, losing only once and drawing the other. For Gus Poyet, it was his third win in four games in all competitions and his third win in three games. Sunderland continue their revival under their new manager while Man City continue to struggle away from home. Despite having more of the possession, more of the pressure, and just generally being better, Sunderland seemed to want it more. They threw nine men behind the ball, gritted their teeth and hoped for the best. It worked and it was utterly thrilling, proving that a game doesn’t always need loads and loads of goals to leave you on the edge of your seat.
A dodgy penalty and Chelsea’s dodgy composure
Chelsea pulled off a great escape at Stamford Bridge thanks to a dubious penalty decision late into injury time. The hosts were trailing 2-1, but a kick from the spot put them level at 2-2 and ensured that Jose Mourinho kept his unbeaten home run intact. On any other place on the pitch, Ramires’ dive would never have been a foul, yet, after much protest, the referee awarded the penalty to Chelsea and cruelly ripped away the looming romance of West Brom claiming a historic win. Chelsea dominated possession, they had 68 percent of it, but they were too often dispossessed in the midfield. Ramires and Eden Hazard struggled to maintain their composure and while they got away with it against West Brom, against teams with more flowing midfields, who like to score on the counter, it’s going to cause them some serious problems going forward.
Liverpool’s attacking master class and Tim Krul’s magic for Newcastle
After a defeat to Arsenal last week, Liverpool bounce back to hammer a hapless Fulham 4-0. It was back to business for the reds. They took 32 shots, the most by any side in the Premier League this season. Liverpool were completely relentless, taking a 4-4-2 formation to embarrass Fulham. If things continue this way, Liverpool are set for a Champions League place next year. Liverpool were back to strangling their opposition’s midfield, all while Luis Suarez continued his goal scoring prowess and put in a little bit of extra work, often tracking back to support his team all over. Another London side was similarly embarrassed with Newcastle beating Tottenham 0-1 at White Hart Lane. Hugo Lloris missed out and Brad Friedel took his place, but was foxed by some crafty work from Loic Remy early on. His opposite number, Tim Krul, put in a superb performance to help the Toon clinch as the keeper made 14 saves. Despite Spurs throwing everything they have forward, they simply couldn’t get past the Dutchman, meaning they have now scored just nine goals in 11 league games, with three of those being penalties. Spurs travel to Manchester City after the international break, where their hosts have scored 20 goals this season. Spurs have scored just four times away from home – it’s like lambs to the slaughter.
Ricky Lambert and high-flying Southampton
Southampton have lost just one game this season and continued their impressive run of form with a 4-1 win over Hull City on Saturday. Ricky Lambert was particularly impressive for the Saints and found a way to feature in three of his side’s goals. He managed two assists and scored from the spot, meaning he has now netted every single penalty he has taken for Southampton. He had a solid season last season, with 15 goals in 38 games, but has struggled this year with the pace of the Premier League being somewhat different to what he’s used to. Confidence does players the world of good and this might very well be exactly what Lambert needed to propel him back into being the leader of the attack. With a solid defence – having conceded just six goals the entire season – the Saints will become a thorn in the side of many of the big clubs, having already beaten Liverpool and drawn with Manchester United.
Special mention: Tokelo Rantie scores for Bournemouth
Much has been made about South Africa’s Tokelo Rantie moving to Bournemouth. A club record signing, Rantie has showed promise, but failed to convert for most of the season. That changed on Saturday when the Bafana Bafana man netted a superb volley off the cross-bar away at league leaders Burnley. Bournemouth conceded later on in the game, but held on for a 1-1 draw and Rantie had nothing but praise for his teammates, saying: “The guys have shown so much faith in me, they’ve been supporting me since day one, and the goal today was dedicated to them. Without their guidance, without their help and their motivation, this kind of goal wouldn’t have come.
It’s all thanks to Brett Pittman, too, to be honest. He was encouraging me, he was telling me to shoot and he was telling me to take them on throughout the game. For it to go in in that way, I didn’t expect it, to be honest, and I’m very grateful I managed to score it.”
You can watch his goal here.
Premier League weekend results:
Photo: Manchester United’s Robin van Persie celebrates his goal against Arsenal with Wayne Rooney during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, November 10, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble
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