Don’t rest now, Premier League fans: more action is less than 24 hours away. But what did we learn yesterday?
Stoke City 2-0 Manchester United
What in the world is happening? Just under the half-hour mark, United found themselves down a pair of goals. For what seems like almost two months now, Louis van Gaal’s side lacked any sort of creativity.
They’ve fallen to sixth, though just three points out of fourth. While their defense has conceded just 16 goalsa��joint-second-fewesta��their 22 scored are the second-lowest total among clubs in the top half.
Stoke sit 11th, but are level on points with Everton and West Ham, and just one off Liverpool’s pacea��who pulled off a huge win in their own right Saturday.
AFC Bournemouth 0-0 Crystal Palace
Of all the games that could have finished scoreless, I thought this would be the least likely. Each team had their chances but ultimately nobody could capitalize.
Any point(s) for Bournemouth are good ones, while Palace fell slightly off the pace for fourtha��they’re only two points behinda��but jumped ahead of United into fifth.
The top of the table remains relatively wide open, as we’ll see momentarily.
Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham United
When you beat sides like Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City in the same season, logic would dictate you could tackle much smaller clubs as well. That continues to be West Ham’s problem, as they allowed an equalizer against Villa to see themselves walk away with only a point. It’s their fourth draw in a row and they haven’t won since October 24.
As for Villa, there’s no such thing as small victories anymore. They need to start winning, regardless of the opponent. One point is better than nothing obviously, but they remain the only club in that hasn’t reached double-digits in points (8).
With each passing week, relegation seems more and more nailed on.
Chelsea 2-2 Watford
Had they turned the corner? That was the question many asked (for maybe the fourth time this year?) after Chelsea dismantled a terrible Sunderland team. They even went one-up against Watford before conceding a penalty before the half, and another goal just after the break.
They battled back to equalize through Diego Costa’s bracea��yes, turns out he still playsa��but failed to capitalize on a late second-half penalty when Oscar pulled a John Terry and slipped during the run up. We keep saying Chelsea won’t get relegated, and they won’t, but the point only leaves them two points clear of said zone. They just can’t get into a groove.
Meanwhile, Watford’s special season continues. They’re unbeaten in their last fivea��four victoriesa��and join United in being just three points off fourth. Everyone’s talking about Leicestera��which is deserveda��and I imagine Watford won’t mind the spotlight staying off of them going forward.
Their 18 goals conceded puts their defense third-best overall.
Liverpool 1-0 Leicester City
The Reds hadn’t won in their previous threea��losing twoa��but a scrappy victory at home against the leaders might be the push they need to get going. That moved them to eighth and still a handful of points off the UCL pace, but it’s a step forward.
Are we surprised that Leicester lost a match that neither Jamie Vardy nor Riyad Mahrez scored in? In all seriousness, this was their first loss in ten matchesa��they had won seven of nine, drawing the other twoa��but it opened the door for Arsenal to take over. More on that later.
Manchester City 4-1 Sunderland
Speaking of Arsenal, City needed a bounce-back performance after losing to the Gunners and got just that over Sunderland. They scored three in a ten-minute span in, added one more after the break, and cruised to a 4-1 victory.
The win keeps them in third and increased their goal differential to +17, joint-best in the league. Sunderland, meanwhile, are only four points better off than Villa (12) and this relegation zone might be sorted out much sooner than later.
Swansea City 1-0 West Brom
Swansea needed a win in the worst way, and their one-nil victory at home over a oftentimes frustrating West Brom side (that’s a compliment) propelled them out of the relegation zone for now, but just one point clear of Norwich and Newcastle.
With the loss, West Brom remain more or less where we’d expecta��lower-mid tablea��have lost two in a row, and haven’t won since November 21. Losses to clubs battling relegation typically need to be avoided.
Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Norwich City
The interesting season for Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham continued Saturday with a comprehensive victory over Norwich at White Hart Lanea��despite struggling to find their footing for the first 15-20 minutes.
Harry Kane’s brace gave him 27 EPL goals in 2015, the most of any player, and the win kept Tottenham fourth, put their goal differential to +17, and solidified for the moment that their defense is the best in the league.
They travel to Watford for tomorrow’s match, which is sure to be a pretty stiff test. They’ve conceded just 14 this season, and after losing to Newcastle, have won two in a row while maintaining clean sheets.
Newcastle United 0-1 Everton
Everton had been winless since November 21, and while they didn’t have too much trouble scoring in every match since, issues arose when trying to keep the opponent out. They killed two birds with one stone Saturday, doing just enougha��thanks to a Tom Cleverly winner in the 94th minutea��while keeping Newcastle off the board.
This put the hosts back into the relegation zone, but third-last in the EPL is awfully close to spots 13 through 17. With wins over Liverpool and Tottenham, Newcastle has shown they have the ability and I think supporters will be allowed to breathe easier as we enter the new year.
Southampton 4-0 Arsenal
Who could have expected this? With Leicester’s loss earlier in the day, the Gunners had the chance to overtake first place. What happened was entirely the opposite: they laid an egg at St. Mary’s against a Saints side struggling for forma��they hadn’t won in five, losing foura��before dismantling ArsA?ne Wenger’s men.
Wenger largely blamed the official, and maintained that Southampton got away with plenty of physicality all afternoon. At the end of the day, Arsenal lost by a score of four goals to nothing. Unless all four were poorly-awarded penalties (they weren’t), that’s an awfully amusing path to take.
Despite the loss, the Gunners remain second, one point ahead of City and four ahead of Tottenham. They get Bournemouth tomorrow at home, who we know isn’t to be taken lightly.