Following the Premier League’s festive period, I put together a list of 20 words: one word for each BPL club that summed up how they were looking. For example: Chelsea – Cocksure… Manchester Utd – Reborn… Leicester – Doomed. A week later, I’m tempted to change what I wrote for almost every team.
It has simply been that kind of season – surprises around every corner, with no one (aside from the top two) able to capture any kind of form or consistency. It’s led to an unrecognisable Premier League picture, but, after 21 rounds, the table doesn’t lie. Southampton really are 3rd… last season’s runners-up Liverpool truly sit 8th… and the gap between 12th and 20th is, amazingly, just five points.
This weekend highlighted just how perplexing this season has been – not a single result mirrored the corresponding fixture back in December. That is to say, the same Newcastle side that ended Chelsea’s 23-match unbeaten streak a month ago, were outclassed by Jose Mourinho’s men on Saturday. Oscar opened the scoring just before half-time, before providing a classy assist for Diego Costa to round off the scoring in the second-half.
Granted, Chelsea are top of the league, so perhaps that wasn’t too surprising. So how about Manchester United? 2-1 victors away to Southampton before the New Year… yet they end up losing 1-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday. Substitute Dusan Tadic scored the winner with the only shot on target in the entire match.
Arsenal too. The Gunners were abused by their own fans after a dismal display against Stoke last month… now they’ve gone and smashed the same Stoke XI 3-0. It was another Alexis Sanchez inspired victory, the Chilean with a hand in all three goals, as Arsenal put in arguably their best performance of the season.
The theme goes on… Liverpool and Tottenham played out goalless draws to Sunderland and Crystal Palace respectively before Christmas. This weekend however, Liverpool scraped passed 10-man Sunderland 1-0, thanks to Lazar Markovic’s first league goal, while Tottenham were beaten 2-1 by Crystal Palace. The Eagles’ eagerness to impress new boss Alan Pardew may have played its part – but how Spurs can go from beating Chelsea 5-3 to losing to a struggling side is yet more evidence that the football gods are no closer to reaching sobriety after an already over-indulgent few months.
Another new manager, Tony Pulis, made a winning start in the league, as his West Brom side beat Hull 1-0. Saido Berahino scored the winner (and probably added another million to his price tag as clubs form a queue for his signature).
I haven’t even touched on the results at the foot of the table, as 19th-placed Burnley and rock-bottom Leicester both picked up huge wins. Burnley beat relegation-rivals QPR 2-1 (reversing their 2-1 loss to QPR in December). The win came courtesy of stunning solo goals from Scott Arfield and Danny Ings, coming either side of a Charlie Austin penalty. After looking doomed for months, Leicester have won three of the last four matches across all competitions. A 1-0 win over Aston Villa (a team they lost to in December, of course…) sees them inch closer to safety.
There were two draws this weekend. Manchester City lost ground on Chelsea after failing to see-off Everton. Not the best result for City, but the sight of Sergio Aguero returning from injury will have given their fans a lift. The goal of the weekend came in the other draw, as Andy Carroll scored a screamer and gave West Ham the lead against Swansea. The Swans equalised in the second half as it ended 1-1.
So after another crazy weekend, there’s plenty to play for across the table.
Yes, it’s a two-horse race for the title… but below that, the Top Four battle has been blown wide open. Six teams now have a realistic chance of clinching Champions League qualification. At the bottom, no one is safe – it’s suddenly become an eight-team scrap for survival.
Sunderland 0 – 1 Liverpool
Chelsea 2 – 0 Newcastle
Man City 1 – 1 Everton
Swansea 1 – 1 West Ham
Burnley 2 – 1 QPR
Leicester 1-0 Aston Villa
West Brom 1 – 0 Hull
Crystal Palace 2 – 1 Tottenham
Arsenal 3 – 0 Stoke
Man Utd 0 – 1 Southampton
GOAL OF THE WEEK:
(43’) ANDY CARROLL (West Ham – against Swansea)
WORTH A MENTION (ELSEWHERE IN THE FOOTIE WORLD):
Francesco Totti scored two goals as Roma came from 2-0 down to draw with rivals Lazio. It made him the all-time top scorer in the Rome Derby, but it was his celebration for the second goal that deserves a word or two.
A member of staff passes him a hand-phone … Totti holds it up and takes a SELFIE (really… see below).
Bearing in mind that it was during the game, it was kind of crazy to see. As a club legend, I know he can do what he wants, but as a 38-year-old he should probably have grown out of the teenage girl stuff a while ago.