Round 11 of the English Premier League saw the title race opening up with wins for Manchester United and Liverpool and setbacks for Chelsea and Manchester City
1) Manchester United back in title race
David Moyes knew that his side required a positive result against league leaders Arsenal because a defeat would have left them 11 points adrift which would have surely been insurmountable.
United are still not in top gear but in Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney they have two players who can hurt any team that the Premier League has to offer. And they combined in clinical fashion with Rooney delivering a perfect cross from a corner and Van Persie meeting it with a gliding run across the face of the goal and planting a fine header at the far post.
Arsene Wenger’s pre match talk had all been about how his side could match the achievements of United’s Class of ’92, but on the evidence of this result one felt that they lack one attribute which that United team had and still has. That is the ability to play dogged, in your face football and still grind out a result.
United started out with a very untraditional narrow midfield, to stop the neat little combinations that the likes of Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey, et al. can create. Valencia frequently helped out Smalling whereas Kagawa tucked in and filled any gaps which the Gunners could exploit on the left side of the pitch. All of this put the creative responsibility on Rooney’s shoulders and he did not disappoint as he frequently came in deep and started most of United’s attacking forays.
With the introduction of Jack Wilshere in the second half Arsenal did add more thrust to their game but it appeared as if they were still jaded from a week in which they also played against Liverpool & Borussia Dortmund. The Gunners though are still top of the league but Wenger should look to add a little bit of quality in the strikers department come January. On the other hand, Moyes can take comfort from the fact that while United are still not easy on the eye they are starting to build a solid foundation for the second half of the season.
2) Manchester City continue to have away day blues
Manuel Pellegrini must surely find a solution for his side’s away form this season. City have only collected four points from their six games on the road and a major reason could be the absence of captain Vincent Kompany. While Martin Demichelis and Joleon Lescott are a solid pairing at the back they do not yet have the reassurance that their injured captain brings. Phil Bardsley was too easily allowed to run onto a long ball and place a precise finish into the corner.
Another player that City have missed this season is David Silva as the Spanish international has been missing too often because of injuries. His absence places too much responsibility on Aguero to not only be the creative fulcrum of the team but also its main goal scorer. He had a chance on the half hour mark which he normally would have converted but today was just one of those days for the former Atletico man.
Gus Poyet meanwhile has been a breath of fresh air for Sunderland. He has allowed his players to go out and express themselves and this probably led to the Bardsley goal, as you rarely saw him venture forward during Paolo Di Canio’s reign.
But if there was one man whom you could single out as Sunderland’s star performer it would be Wes Brown. It is often said that if he had been lucky with injuries he would have not only been the defensive lynchpin at Manchester United but also for England. He was immense against City and if Poyet can keep him fit then City will not be the last side leaving The Stadium of Light empty handed.
3) Chelsea snatch controversial draw against West Brom
‘Jose Mourinho does not lose home games in the Premier League.’
Well this statement was about to be proven wrong but for a soft penalty decision by Andre Marriner. Ramires was quite clearly looking for a penalty when he went down from the slightest of touches from Steven Reid and Eden Hazard nonchalantly converted it with almost the last kick of the game. Until then Steve Clarke’s man had played the perfect away game – absorbing the inevitable pressure from Chelsea and striking fast and decisively on the break. This template worked like a treat at Old Trafford earlier on this season and it nearly worked at Stamford Bridge as well.
Mourinho though has a lot to ponder over. He would have realized that this season affords a golden chance to go for the Premier League with both the Manchester clubs struggling, but his Chelsea side are blighted by bouts of inconsistency. They look magnificent one moment and downright poor in another. This maybe due to the fact that Chelsea’s spine of Cech, Terry & Lampard cannot perform at the highest level week in, week out. A possible solution could be in restoring Juan Mata to the side and playing only one holding midfielder, especially against some of the lesser sides. Whatever the solution, Mourinho knows that time is always in short supply at the Bridge.
4) Suarez stars in Liverpool rout
Luis Suarez is slowly but surely winning over the Anfield faithful again and with performances like he produced against Fulham over the weekend it is hard not to see why. He was a constant menace to Martin Jol’s beleaguered Fulham defence and were it not for the heroics of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg he would have emerged with more than two goals to his name.
While Suarez is providing all the stories for Brendan Rodgers’ side, what is even more impressive is the chemistry between Henderson and Gerrard. Henderson has often been derided for not pulling his weight in the middle of the park but perhaps under Rodgers he has finally got a manager who trusts him and allows him to play in a role where he can dictate the tempo of the game.
After this game one has to feel that Martin Jol is running out of time at Fulham while Liverpool can finally start dreaming of playing Champions League football next season.
- Aston Villa 2 – 0 Cardiff
- Chelsea 2 – 2 West Brom
- Crystal Palace 0 – 0 Everton
- Liverpool 4 – 0 Fulham
- Southampton 4 – 1 Hull
- Norwich 3 – 1 West Ham
- Tottenham 0 – 1 Newcastle
- Sunderland 1 – 0 Manchester City
- Swansea 3 – 3 Stoke
- Manchester United 1 – 0 Arsenal
Team of the Week
Goal of the Week
Adam Lallana’s mazy run takes the cake in this week’s goal of the week.