I’m glad to report that the Premier League title race is alive and well. Week 23 could have seen league leaders Chelsea open up an eight-point gap at the top as they hosted second placed Manchester City. While the Premier League’s party-piece failed as a spectacle, the fact that Chelsea didn’t win was good news for the neutral. It may only be February but – with mastermind Mourinho at the helm – an eight-point lead for Chelsea would have been insurmountable.
A reported audience of 650 million people worldwide had only five minutes of genuine excitement on the day. It began just before half-time as Loic Remy (starting in place of banned Diego Costa) put the finishing touches on a swift Chelsea move. And it was over when David Silva redirected Sergio Aguero’s shot, to make it 1-1 at the break. The second-half was like a sad game of Jenga with neither side willing to take their turn for fear of the wooden tower crumbling. There was none of the confidence or swagger you’d normally associate with the league’s top two – both happy to share the points and satisfy the minimum requirement.
The lack of attacking ambition at Stamford Bridge was made up for by Arsenal and Tottenham who produced classy wins ahead of the North London derby. Arsenal beat Aston Villa 5-0 in a renaissance of Wenger’s golden years, while Spurs put an end to Tony Pulis’ unbeaten start as West Brom manager. For the first time since early 2013, Arsenal managed to score five goals in a game and they did so without Alexis Sanchez. In fact, there were five different goal scorers on the day as the Gunners made a mockery of the “one man club” jibe often leveled at them. Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen were the goal scoring heroes in Tottenham’s 3-0 win at West Brom, but the score-line could have been oh so different but for another magical display from Hugo Lloris at the other end. It makes for a mouthwatering encounter next weekend at White Hart Lane… the North London clubs are both bang in form, and truly neck and neck in the Top-four battle.
The Champions League spots really are up for grabs with Southampton slipping up in the final game of the weekend. Swansea were only the third visiting side to leave St Mary’s with a win this season. It took a wonder-strike from Jonjo Shelvey (aka a typical Shelvey goal) to steal the points late on. The Saint’s loss made it a perfect weekend for Manchester United who beat Leicester 3-1 at home. It means The Red Devils retained third spot and – if they’re still dreaming – also saw them make up some ground on the league leaders.
Newcastle 3 – 0 Hull City
Manchester Utd 3 – 1 Leicester
West Brom 0 – 3 Tottenham
Liverpool 2 – 0 West Ham
Crystal Palace 0 – 1 Everton
Sunderland 2 – 0 Burnley
Stoke 3 – 1 QPR
Chelsea 1 – 1 Manchester City
Arsenal 5 – 0 Aston Villa
Southampton 0 – 1 Swansea
GOAL OF THE WEEK:
(83’) Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea) vs Southampton
It was going to be Arsenal’s opener against Villa because of Ozil’s genius touch to set up Giroud (see the clip at the bottom of this page) but Jonjo Shelvey snatched the prize with his stunning winner at St. Mary’s.
WORTH A MENTION:
– Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge made a goalscoring return after five months out through injury (he brought his celebration back with him too)
– Jermain Defoe was also amongst the goals this weekend, scoring his first since returning to the Premier League with Sunderland
– And oh how Aston Villa would love to have either of those players on their books. The lowest scoring side across all tiers of English football and they’ve broken the record for the Premier League’s longest goal drought. 10 hours and counting… summed up beautifully in the tweet above:
OUTSIDE OF ENGLAND:
The French Ligue 1 results (above) read more like binary code than a top-flight score sheet:
Not sure if that’s a record-low, but only 10 goals across the entire weekend showed a dearth of entertainment that Chelsea and Manchester City would be proud of.
CLIP OF THE WEEK
Ozil’s genius touch to set up Giroud during Arsenal’s opener against Villa…