Leicester City find themselves top of the league in the middle of December, and perhaps it’s finally time to take the Foxes seriously after their convincing victory over Chelsea FC on Monday
The biggest match of the Premier League round saw Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City continue their incredible run of form by beating Premier League champions Chelsea FC 2-1 at the King Power Stadium on Monday, while Manchester United failed to win their fifth consecutive match in all competitions after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of AFC Bournemouth.
Mesut zil’s ominous consistency ensured Arsenal FC won on their travels after failing to win maximum points in their last two away games, and the Gunners look like genuine title contenders this season, even with their list of injuries.
Manchester City’s fortuitous win over Swansea City raises questions about whether Manuel Pellegrini’s men have what it takes to go all the way this season, particularly if they suffer injuries to players that are part of the team’s ‘spine’ once again.
Here are five things we learned from the weekend:
1. Leicester City should be taken seriously
With every passing week, Leicester City’s naysayers are getting softer and less numerous, and it will be no different after their win over Chelsea FC. Despite the champions’ train-wreck of a season, it was arguably the Foxes’ biggest test this season given that it they needed a win to go back to the Premier League summit, and they passed it with flying colours.
The plaudits will go to the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, and deservedly so, but N’golo Kant was arguably he man of the match, working tirelessly in midfield to nullify the Blues’ attacking threat and being an impenetrable, one-man human shield for Wes Morgan and Robert Huth behind him.
Claudio Ranieri’s men deserve immense credit for their mature performance, and given they are top of the league in the middle of December, perhaps it is now time to take them seriously. No team has ever finished outside the top four when leading the Premier League table at this stage of the season, and if they continue to play this way, there is no reason to see why Leicester City will upset that trend.
2. Manchester United are in deep trouble
Although they are within touching distance of top spot, the Red Devils’ performances will not fill the fans with confidence. Louis van Gaal’s side made a habit of getting results so far this season despite not playing the most ‘attractive’ football, but injuries to key members of the defence, combined with a blunt attack, have consigned them to three games without a victory in the Premier League.
There were more of the same issues for Van Gaal at Bournemouth, with his team unable to recover from an early freak goal from Junior Stanislas. The defence was unable to hold out either, and given the experience in the back four, that wasn’t particularly a surprise.
The Dutchman won’t be best pleased to hear stories in the press about players being discontent, while criticism from Manchester United legends like Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand is certainly not making his job any easier either. The Red Devils have had their greatest strength snatched out from under them overnight, and will be hoping that they can put together a defence featuring the likes of Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo sooner rather than later.
3. Arsenal FC will not have a better chance of winning the title
Despite not spending on a striker or a defensive midfielder in the summer, Arsenal FC find themselves close to the top of the table as we approach the January window, picking up wins despite missing key figures including Francis Coquelin and Alexis Sanchez.
Given the struggles of Chelsea FC and Manchester United, as well as Manchester City’s unconvincing recent form, it seems as though this season could be the best chance the Gunners have in years to get their hands on the Premier League trophy. Against Aston Villa, an assured first-half performance — and the consistent brilliance of zil — saw the Gunners take a comfortable lead, and a resilient second-half display saw them hold on to it admirably.
A huge positive for Arsene Wenger will be the return of Aaron Ramsey, who adds dynamism and goals to the midfield, and whose return from injury could not possibly have been better timed, with Santi Cazorla recently being ruled out for an extended period of time.
If the North London side can continue churning out victories, they could well lift the trophy for the first time in 12 years. The game against Manchester City next weekend will be the perfect opportunity to make a statement.
4. Lukaku finally living up to his potential
There is no doubt that Romelu Lukaku has improved as a footballer since his A?28 million move from Chelsea FC to Everton, particularly in terms of his link up play and playing with his back to goal.
However, what is arguably most encouraging for the Belgian is his consistency in terms of his goalscoring this season. Lukaku opened the scoring at Carrow Road in the early kick-off on Saturday, and has now scored in six consecutive Premier League games, with a total of 12 goals throughout the course of the campaign.
Only Jamie Vardy has scored more, and one suspects that Lukaku is likely to overtake him if he can maintain his form and build on his partnership with the likes of Arouna Kone and Gerard Deulofeu. The 22-year-old’s progress is also great news for Belgium, who have struggled to find a consistent goalscorer for their team up front, and it will please manager Marc Wilmots to see Lukaku scoring all types of goals this season — running on to through balls, moving across defenders to find space, as well as excellent headers.
5. JA?rgen Klopp ‘gets’ Liverpool FC
Although the German did get some criticism for leading the Liverpool FC side in a slightly melodramatic acknowledgement of the Anfield crowd after the full-time whistle following a 2-2 draw against West Brom, things like this are the precise reason Reds’ fans have taken to him so quickly.
In contrast to the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace earlier in the season, when Klopp expressed his sadness at watching home fans leave early, the manager was delighted with the support his team got on Sunday against West Bromwich Albion, which arguably pushed them to get a last-minute equaliser.
The Anfield atmosphere is famous, and the team will need it if it is to turn its fortunes around playing at home. The return of Jordan Henderson on the scoresheet is another huge positive for the Reds, and although there is no doubt they need to improve their performances, Klopp’s attempts to build a bond with the fans can only be a good thing for the club.