Sport

Premier League naphand: five talking points, week 16

By Antoinette Muller 15 December 2013

Manchester City keep on banging in goals like it’s nothing at home while Liverpool keep flying and Tottenham went back to being woeful. Yet, despite taking an absolute flogging, Arsenal remain at the top of the table. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points form match week 16.

It wasn’t quite an overwhelmingly enthralling weekend in the Premier League, but Manchester City and Liverpool have got to be pick of the teams from the weekend. City at home were sublime while Liverpool were flying high at White Hart Lane when they annihilated Tottenham.

Elsewhere, Everton continued their Charge while Newcastle and Southampton entertained in a draw and there was even a sacking to top the weekend off . West Brom boss Steve Clarke was given the boot after failing to win three games in a row and managing just one win in the last 10 games. Here are five talking points from match day 16.

Liverpool keep flying and Villas-Boas’ time might soon be up

Liverpool fans might just be getting that inkling that their side could do a little bit of magic and go on to win the title. If Spurs’ efforts (or lack thereof) are removed from the equation, then Liverpool certainly look like they could challenge for the title. With Luis Suarez donning the captain’s armband, the Reds were out of this world. Fierce, fearless and absolutely magical as a team, they left a ten-man Tottenham side looking like an Under-12 team. Spurs were embarrassed and Andre Villas-Boas won’t be feeling too comfortable in his job right now. Despite spending a wad of cash after the sale of Gareth Bale in the English summer, Tottenham have had very little to show for their efforts.

Manchester United’s players finally step up

Sure, it was only Aston Villa who had won just three of their last ten games, but with United’s recent run of form, not many would have been surprised if the game ended in a draw. But Manchester United did almost everything right and their players finally stepped up to give David Moyes the kind of performance he expects from them. Despite a long list of injuries, United took advantage of their opportunity to grab some points against a struggling team. With Aston Villa not only asleep, but seemingly missing on the left, United’s men spotted the gap and created almost all their chances from that side. There were the usual kinds of concerns, of course. United had just five shots on target compared to Villa’s six, they had six shots off target and just three shots blocked, compared to Villa’s five. It was far from perfect from Moyes’ men, but at least it was a confidence boost.

Arsenal were the architects of their own demise

Manchester City were in a different league to Arsenal on Saturday. If the Light Blue side of Manchester can manage to improve their performances away from home, then the title is theirs, without a doubt. Arsenal’s passing and general chemistry was completely at sea and their defence were caught short far too often. Whenever Arsenal managed to get forward and find the back of the net, City would simply respond and expose them at the back. Some of that had to do with the losing Laurent Koscielny through injury, but much of that had to do with sluggish midfield struggles with Jack Wilshere in particular looking completely out of sorts. It’s not the kind of Arsenal performance once has come to expect this season. Although they were almost certainly going to lose the game, the way in which they lost was somewhat concerning. A gulf in class, sure, but there were an equal number of school boy errors from the Gunners which was far too reminiscent of the Arsenal of 2012. It might just be a blip, it might just be a bit of exhaustion, but it’s a tough month ahead for Arsenal and this is when the depth of Arsene Wenger’s miserly policy will be well and truly tested. With a number of bench players still out injured, fun at the top of the table could very soon turn into an expected slump for Arsenal.

Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker have a disagreement

Losing is never pretty. Losing 6-3 when you’re at the top of the table is quite ghastly. With losing comes a gulf of emotions and that was quite prevalent at the Manchester City’s thrashing of Arsenal over the weekend. It’s a traditional thing for players to applaud the away fans and thank them for their support. Arsenal’s away support is a real stronghold. When the club increased its season ticket prices to eye watering sums, a number of supporters opted to get rid of that privilege and join the travel contingent instead. The away stands tend to be full and vocal and although it’s a small gesture, the players acknowledge them, they always have, even before the days of stupidly priced tickets. On Saturday, Per Mertesacker called Mesut Ozil over to come and applaud the fans who travelled to see them lose so woefully. Ozil ignored his fellow German and gestured to him he had no intention of doing that sort of thing. Mertesacker was shouting, Ozil walked on. Arsenal’s big money signing as since apologised and although this has was a small incident in the heat of the moment, it’s both a dangerous and welcome reaction. That Arsenal play as a team and that they are a team this year there is no doubt. Even through losses, they have stood together and they have bounced back. Ozil’s reaction, although understandable, was hopefully just a heat-of-the-moment thing and won’t be the start of deeper fractions within the team where a player who is being paid far more than his colleagues is having his expectations dashed.

Chelsea still not firing at full force

Fernando Torres stepped up to the plate for Chelsea over the weekend and many Chelsea fans will feel that it’s about time. He has looked far better this season and his work-rate has been impressive. However, Chelsea still weren’t entirely convincing in their 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. Despite dominating possession, Chelsea had just six more shots compared to Palace. There were a couple of dubious misses too, but creating chances and scoring isn’t exactly Chelsea’s biggest problem at the moment. Chelsea lack a killer instinct and they lack an intimidating presence and many teams will probably go to Stamford Bridge thinking they can squeeze out a win. It might be partly to do with Jose Mourinho apparently unsure of his best XI at the start of his tenure or it could simply be some players feeling a little bit frustrated. Either way, as it stands, Chelsea remain in the title race and are comfortably nestled in the top four. If they don’t find some sort of imposing prowess, though, Chelsea won’t be taken seriously by their rivals. DM

Premier League Match Day 16 results:

  • Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal

  • Cardiff 1-0 West Brom

  • Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace

  • Everton 4-1 Fulham

  • Newcastle 1-1 Southampton

  • West Ham 0-0 Sunderland

  • Hull 0-0 Stoke

  • Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United

  • Norwich 1-1 Swansea

  • Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool.

Photo: Aston Villa’s Matthew Lowton (L) challenges Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney during their English Premier League soccer match at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England, December 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Darren Staples)

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