Whisper it, but it’s December. That time of the year when those who follow the Premier League start muttering ridiculous predications under their breath. With the way the season has been going, though, there’s no need to resort to such lunacy at the moment. One can be quite content by simply getting absorbed in the hullaballoo of the weekly goings-on of all the teams.
With every weekend seemingly as exciting as the next, purveyors of footballing entertainment might be wondering when it’s all going to come down to a thumping end. For now, it all remains fascinating watching and picking just five points every weekend is becoming a bigger and bigger struggle. Here are five from week 13.
Aaron Ramsey keeps on keeping on – and so does Arsenal
Arsenal, although not at their most fluent, beat Cardiff City 0-3 on Saturday with Aaron Ramsey finding the back of the net twice. Some magic from Mesut Ozil and a little bit of his own goal-scoring swagger propelled Ramsey into the spotlight once again. He now has 13 games and five assists in the league and has truly been outstanding now that he is actually playing in a position where he is most comfortable. What’s been really impressive about Ramsey, though, is even though he does tend to play quite deep, he finds a way to carve his way into goal-scoring positions consistently. His finishing and first touches have been immense and when Arsene Wenger once said: “Once Aaron Ramsey starts scoring, he won’t stop”, he clearly knew what he was talking about. There have been some doubts about whether Ozil could keep up with the pace of the Premier League and whether he has perhaps been somewhat overplayed, but he showed again that he can bounce back from quiet games and be worth his transfer fee. Some concerns remain for Arsenal around having just one credible striker, and that striker isn’t striking as often as he should. Luckily for the Gunners, the January transfer window is just a few weeks away and with Wenger now admitting that he’s spent far too much time selling players, just maybe there really is a change of thinking happening at The Grove.
Sound the alarm, it’s Liverpool in crisis
The headline is in jest, of course. Liverpool faced their first massive upset of the season, losing 3-1 to Hull City. Although they remain rooted in the top four of the Premier League table. Things are about to get pretty tough for Brendon Rodgers’ men with Daniel Sturridge out of the game with injury for six to eight weeks and with that, it seems like the air was let out of the balloon just a little bit. Luis Suarez was left with far too much to do and his frustration was evident. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, though, although Liverpool aren’t the only side who have been riding their luck, the signs of something as cataclysmic as this have been there for a while. Against Everton, they just managed to escape being beaten, they were completely outclassed by Arsenal and snuck a point against Newcastle. They now have to travel to Tottenham, Manchester city and Chelsea in the coming month. Forget the juggling act of the defence, which seems to be constantly changing, Liverpool will need somebody to inspire them. Rodgers also has to find a way to make the defence click. Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure played as the centre pairing on Sunday, with Skrtel playing on the left. The two games before that it was Skrtel and Daniel Agger. Then it was Mamadou Sakho, and before that it was Agger and Toure. A lot of factors have determined that kind of juggling, but it’s something which can be detrimental to a team’s harmony. Chemistry for centre-backs is the key to success and familiarity, but it’s something which Liverpool doesn’t have the luxury of at the moment.
Poor football with sprinkles of brilliance is the best kind of football
For the most part of the game between Tottenham and Manchester United, both sides were poor and made errors which would make an Under-15 side blush. However, for every five minutes of underperforming, a wormhole of magic opened up to provide some impeccable footballing brilliance. From fine goals to sprinklings of midfield magic, the game showed that when two elite teams play poorly, sometimes it just makes for the best kind of entertainment. David Moyes will cop a lot of flak for the result and he probably should. It was the first time in four games Tottenham actually managed to find the back of the net. To put it in perspective: Tottenham’s £26 million striker has the same amount of goals in the Premier League from open play as Stoke City’s goalkeeper. Ouch.
Newcastle’s 100% record in November
Newcastle United beat West Brom 2-1 on Saturday to secure their fourth win on the trot. A lot is going right for the Magpies at the moment. Shola Ameobi is looking recharged after qualifying for the World Cup with Nigeria, Mike Williamson is looking solid in the back four and Moussa Sissoko is rapidly growing in stature. After a few ups and downs at the start of the season where many where muttering the words “bottom half of the table” under their breath, Newcastle are switching gears and the confidence in the camp is very much evident. That was underscored by the way players continue to grow in their roles – whether those are defined or still being worked out. Sissoko, for example, struggled with the demands of the Premier League at first, but in a switch of positions on Saturday, he was seamless in his roaming and backing up of the forwards. In defence, Williamson’s height has been a massive asset to the Magpies, he’s not for frills and fuss and does a good job organising the troops and ensuring a no-nonsense approach. There is something magical about Newcastle as a city on the Monday mornings after which they won and there certainly will be a bit more magic around this time.
The race for Champions League race is wide open
The talk about the title race is always heavily debated and while that remains an interesting tussle, the race for Champions League is something else which is very exciting this season. This time last season, West Brom were in with a chance for Champions League football, sitting fourth on the table. They were level on points with Chelsea with Tottenham and Everton hot on their heels while Arsenal were sitting seventh. Teams who challenge for that Champions League spot often seems to drop off, but things look a bit different this time around. Results have been vastly unpredictable and often surprising with Everton, Newcastle, Manchester City, Southampton and Manchester United all having rather intriguing runs. As the cliché goes, it’s too early to judge, but for once, it seems like there might be a surprise finish in that top four, something to break the run of boring and predictable results of recent years. The best part about breaking the top four status quo is that those pushing for a place aren’t from the school of over-spenders. It might not be a new era of Premier League football just yet, but as it stands, at least things are enticing. DM
Premier League week 13 results
Photo: Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey during their English Premier League soccer match at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. (REUTERS/Rebecca Naden)
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