The last round of Premier League fixtures before the international break produced their fair share of drama and here TheHardTackle takes a look at the 5 major points from this weekenda s games.
Arsenal show spirit against Tottenham
Tottenham were much the better side against Arsenal on Sunday and probably deserved a win. That they only got a point in this latest edition of the North London derby was down to the resilience and character of Arsene Wengera s men, two adjectives which are generally not used to describe Arsenal teams. This result will probably convince some of the more skeptical Gooners that their team can make a strong run for the title this year if their squad can stay clear of further injuries.
The next four fixtures in the Premier League for Arsenal are West Brom, Norwich City, Sunderland & Aston Villa and if the Gunners can get maximum points from these games then a first title since the a Invinciblea season will not just remain pipe dream.
Liverpool need better players
Crystal Palace inflicted the first defeat on Liverpool for almost 2 months, a run which included 12 unbeaten games. But on digging deeper one can see that that in this 12 game run there have been 8 draws and only 4 wins. 3 of these wins have come since Jurgen Klopp took over and he has built an atmosphere of positivity and energy around Anfield. But a manager is only as good as his players and Klopp can only do so much. What Liverpool need more than anything else are some quality players in the middle of the park and in defence. Apart from the perennially injured Daniel Sturridge & the magnificent Philippe Coutinho it is hard to think of any other player in the Liverpool side who can be defined as world class. These players are industrious but to qualify for the Champions League Klopp needs more players in the mould of Coutinho.
As far as this game was concerned it was an entertaining Premier League fixture which again demonstrated the depth in the League. When Coutinho cancelled out Yannick Bolasiea s opener it seemed as if the Anfield based side would go on to claim all 3 points but credit must go to Alan Pardew and his men who fought gamely and got their just rewards when Scott Dann nodded in a rebound following a Yohan Cabaye corner.
Chelsea & Jose Mourinho sink further
Just when you think that this season for Chelsea cannot get any worst, it does. With the players they have and with the resources at their disposal it is impossible to imagine that they would be sixteenth in the table & only 3 points off the relegation zone. But this is the reality & for Jose Mourinho it must make very grim reading. Sides managed by him are known to grind out results if things are not going their way but this season they have looked bereft of ideas & spirit. Just when it seems that the team is back on track with a good result like the one in midweek against Dynamo Kiev they conspire to lose the next match.
Against Stoke City, Chelsea were the better side and probably deserved to win but it is always difficult to get a result at fortress Britannia. In the absence of the suspended Mourinho Chelsea did all the running with Ramires & Diego Costa going close and Pedro striking the woodwork. But goals win games and Stoke got the all elusive goal thanks to a fine volley by Marko Arnautovic.
Lingard saves Manchester United
Manchester United top their Champions League group and are only 2 points off the top of the Premier League. Both of these facts point to a side playing well & in contention for the major honours come the end of the season. But the reality is completely different as United are playing some of their most dour football in recent memory and have only got these positive results thanks to the brilliance of goalkeeper David De Gea and the emergence of Chris Smalling as a high quality defender.
Even against West Brom United did not look like a side challenging for the title and despite a fine opener by Jesse Lingard they were never really comfortable. Saido Berahino should have brought the Baggies level 15 minutes from time when he headed over a more than presentable opportunity and Louis Van Gaal would have been relieved only when Juan Mata dispatched a penalty in the 90th minute. But the Dutch tactician knows that he has some serious work to do if United are to make a run for the league title.
Manchester City fire a blank against Aston Villa
Manchester City are favourites for the Premier League title this season despite a resurgent Arsenal. But favourites should be seeing off bottom of the table sides at home. That City could not at the weekend must have given hope to the chasing pack that Manuel Pellegrinia s men are not the real deal yet. City had their chances against a dogged Aston Villa side but could not find a way past Brad Guzan. In reality though it was more wasteful finishing from the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne rather than any heroics by the American stopper.
Pellegrini knows that his side should have pulled clear at the top of the league and if he has to win a second league title in England than his sides have to learn to be more ruthless.