Arsenal remained at the top of the table, Chelsea and Liverpool sat on their heels and Manchester City continued to score goals at will on their home turf. The Premier League returned after the international break and it looked like it never left. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from the weekend gone by.
The Premier League returned on the weekend and looked no different to where it stopped: loaded with action and coated with a poor officiating decision. Arsenal bounced back from their defeat against Manchester United before the break to extend their lead at the top of the table while Crystal Palace picked up their first win since August, under the guidance of new manager Tony Pulis. Newcastle United continued their good run of form, picking up their third win on the bounce while Fulham continued to struggle with their fourth consecutive loss. Here are five talking points from match day 12.
Are referees more lenient in derby games?
There is something about derby matches that beats a completely different rhythm to other games. The atmosphere, the pace of the game, the approach of the players – everything is more intense, which makes for great entertainment. What also seems a bit different is what referees allow in these matches. Kevin Mirallas made a shocking, high studs up tackle on Luis Suarez and got away with nothing more than a yellow. There are two factors at play here – reputation of a player and reputation of the game. Sure, football could do with a bit more physicality and a bit less rolling around on the ground, but in any other match, that would have been a straight red card; to get away with that is shocking. It’s fine that referees want to be a bit more flexible in the derby games, but poor decisions should not be allowed and referees should be held accountable for their actions. Secondly, imagine Suarez made such a tackle? He would have been sent off straight away and probably cited afterwards and given a further ban. Officiating is something which still causes more talking points than the actual football, and for a match of such high intensity, that’s a shame.
Arsenal continue to ride their luck
Arsenal beat Southampton 2-0 at the Emirates to bounce back from defeat against Manchester United and further extend their lead at the top of the table. They got that result thanks to some dodgy goalkeeping from Southampton and a penalty. In fact, the first goal was nothing but sheer foolishiness form Southampton keeper Artur Boruc, who instead of simply passing to his fellow teammates tried to be cute about it and allowed Olivier Giroud to close him down. As has been the theme of their season, Arsenal managed to win a game which they would have possibly lost or drawn in the last few years. What was disappointing was that Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil haven’t quite formed the flowing partnership that one would expect of them just yet. Cazorla was kept quiet for most of the game and Ozil wasn’t much better. Perhaps it’s break fatigue or perhaps there just isn’t any chemistry. For now, Arsenal fans will live in hope as long as the Gunners continue to get away with it.
Was Romelu Lukaku really let go to take points off teams like Liverpool?
Romelu Lukaku is in extraordinary form this season. He’s got seven goals for Everton, making him joint third-highest scorer for the season thus far. The question everyone is asking is why on earth he was let go on loan from Chelsea. The joke that’s doing the rounds is that Jose Mourinho, in all his evil-genius plotting, let Lukaku go so that he could take points off Chelsea’s title-rivals. It’s a nice thought, but that’s pub talk. In the current Chelsea set-up, it’s unlikely that Lukaku would be getting the chance to play regular first-team football. Instead, it’s far more likely that Mourinho wants to give some of his potential stars time to develop. The Belgian is on a season-long loan stint with the Toffees, but still has time left on his Chelsea contract. Mourinho is probably thinking of ways to ensure that he ups Lukaku’s value when he sells him off instead.
An embarrassing few weeks for Spurs
If it’s not Andres Villas Boas making bad decisions with regards to his players’ health, it’s his side losing to Newcastle at White Hart Lane. If it’s not that, it’s Spurs being flogged by a Manchester City side with such a gulf in class that you might as well put the Atlantic Ocean between the two teams. The lighter side of Manchester has now scored 13 goals in their last two home games and lost to Sunderland in between, but nothing could have prepared Spurs for the woeful 6-0 hammering that awaited them at the Etihad. Although Gareth Bale was not the be-all and end-all of the team, at least he provided some impetus when the chips were down. Spurs may not be in crisis, but they certainly aren’t looking like they’re pushing for a top-four spot. Some of their mental disintegration started with the loss against Newcastle before the break, but the thrashing handed out to them by City is only going to make things worse. Things were so bad that Villas Boas even resorted to bringing on out-of-favour striker Emmanuel Adebayor, but even he couldn’t make a difference. It’s all downhill from here for North London’s other club, and not downhill in a good way. They have not scored for three Premier League games now, the worst run out of anyone at the moment. Even Crystal Palace managed a goal lately!
Vidic is a key player for Manchester United
It might be stating the obvious a bit, but without Nemanja Vidi?, Manchester United look completely unstructured and directionless. He missed their 2-2 draw against Cardiff and although United did claw their way into the lead twice, he seems to be the X-factor in the team. Statistically, things were fairly equal between the two teams – with possession shared at 50/50 and an almost equal amount of shots – both on and off target. It was just that something special that lacked and for United, it was their Serbian defender.
Premier League match day 12 results
Photo: Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (R) is fouled by Everton’s Kevin Mirallas during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, northern England November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble