Premier League weekend review: Title contenders graded

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Another round of the Barclays Premier League matches was served up this weekend and in typical fashion, there was some surprising results.

Title hopefuls Chelsea slumped into a shock defeat at struggling Newcastle while there was a cricket score for a Norwich City side that is looking ever more like relegation candidates.

Manchester United have attained some much needed momentum while Arsenal once again underlined their title credentials with clinical victory over early pace setters Liverpool. This is your weekly SCORECARD.


The Blues travelled to the Sports Direct on the back of two big wins against City and Arsenal and were starting to look like formidable opposition for everyone really. Mourinho had looked to finally be getting the best out of Torres and restored the Spaniard to the starting line up together with Juan Mata after his fantastic strike against Arsenal.

Newcastle on the other hand, had lost twice in three days, to Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby and to City in extra-time in the League Cup after putting in a spirited display.

Alan Pardew called upon his side to build up on that display in mid-week and put in another performance against Jose Mourinho’s men. They did just that.

Newcastle were stubborn and organised. They defended with ten men behind the ball and looked to break quickly and launch long balls forward to Ameobi and Loic Remy. Chelsea dominated possession but could not create much in the opening period. Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar were stifled of space and time as Newcastle defended resolutely.

The passionate home support rallied their team on and they took the lead deservedly after Yoan Cabaye’s absolutely glorious free-kick was headed in by Gouffran. The Toon faithful went into delirium. They started to believe and more importantly, the players started to as well after Remy and Ameobi missed chances to add to the score.

Mourinho responded by taking off the ineffective Fernando Torres and Adnre Schurrle for Willian and Samuel Eto’o. Chelsea were sparked into life and they forced Tim Krul into a number of saves from Hazard and Eto’o.

Both Willian and Eto’o saw their efforts blocked while Hazard shot narrowly wide from inside the box as Newcastle hanged on. John Terry had earlier hit the bar and had another effort cleared off the line and it increasingly looked like it was not going to be Chelsea’s day, and so it proved.

Loic Remy scored the goal that he and his team richly deserved late in the second half when Anita did well to beat Luiz and Ivanovic to square the ball to the Frenchman who hit it first-time past Petr Cech and into the et to continue his brilliant form for the Toon. Game over for Chelsea. They face a tricky West Brom next and Jose will look to bounce back after saying his team made ‘eleven mistakes’.

Chelsea grade : C 

Arsenal & Liverpool

The top of the table clash played out at the Emirates as the Gunners hosted Liverpool in the feature game of the weekend.

The hosts had come off a difficult week, losing to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Chelsea in the Capital One Cup in successive home games. November was set to be a trying time for them with fixtures against Liverpool, United (either side of a crucial trip to Germany for the return leg against Dortmund), and a tricky Southampton.

Arsenal had already come up short in two of those fixtures, will Liverpool
prove to be the third?

The Reds have been scintillating for most of the season and were coming into this game on the back of a 4-1 rout of troublesome West Bromwich.

Luis Suarez struck a wonderful hat-trick and his strike partner, Daniel Sturridge added gloss with a delightful chip later in the game. The ‘SAS’ had sent out
the perfect warning shot. At the Emirates though, there was to be no repeat of
that performance. Arsenal was in no mood to be ‘SAS’-ed.

The Gunners had a much better record than Liverpool in recent years having won eight more times than their rivals and as soon as they scored, that statistic always looked likely to be increased.

Arsenal begun the match with more purpose and a higher tempo as they dominated possession and took the game to their opponents. Brendan Rodgers stuck to his 3-5-2 formation with Henderson playing off the front two but it did not seem to help things defensively or offensively.

Liverpool were all over the place. Cissokho on the left had a torrid opening 45 minutes and was at fault for Arsenal’s opening goal. The absence of a full-back allowed Bacary Sagna to roam free and cross invitingly for Cazorla to head onto the woodwork before firing home the rebound.

First blood went to Arsenal and from that point it looked like Liverpool were ripe and ready for picking.

They did have their moments but they were few and far between. Liverpool lacked cohesiveness and fluidity. Surprise starter Joe Flanagan looked like he found the Emirates too imposing for him and did little to influence proceedings.

Gerrard and Lucas were constantly left isolated against the trio of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and occasionally Ramsey. Arsenal could have added to that tally before Ramsey’s screamer but Giroud and Ozil were guilty of wastefulness. Suarez struck the post and opted to go alone rather than square to Sturridge in the dying embers of the match but the fat lady had already started singing much earlier. Liverpool came up short against Arsenal again while the Gunners’ fans can now start to believe.

If they get a result at Old Trafford next Sunday, even the most skeptical of fans and
observers will have to jump on the Gooner gravy train.

Arsenal grade: A Liverpool grade: C

Manchester United

David Moyes’ men were on a six game unbeaten run in all competitions and travelled to a Fulham side that had not beaten them in six meetings. Fulham last won in December 2009 when they ran rampant over a depleted United side 3-0.

Moyes had rallied his troops to maintain some much needed consistency by
going on a winning run and they responded in emphatic fashion. United scored
three times in a span of eighteen minutes and ended the half 3-0 up. Fulham had
been bamboozled by the pace, movement and clinical finishing of United’s front
three of Januzaj, Rooney and van Persie. Moyes’ words had been well received.

Three enforced substitutions robbed United of some of their first-half spark and rhythm after Rafael, Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley were all withdrawn at half-time for Chris Smalling, Shinji Kagawa and Marouane Fellaini.

Fulham played better in the second period, got a goal back and missed some chances of their own but United ran out worthy winners in the end. It was a gritty performance in the second period with a couple of worrying defensive moments but United got the job done and that will please their manager and fans. Arsenal is up next for United in what promises to be a cracker. Roll on Sunday.

Manchester United grade: B+ 

Manchester City

The Sky Blues had a somewhat bittersweet week, what with the painful last-gasp defeat at Chelsea followed by a hard-fought, extra-time victory over a battling Newcastle in the Capital One Cup.

Manuel Pellegrini decided to drop Joe Hart for both fixtures after his howler at the Bridge and especially after Costel Pantimilimon’s clean-sheet performance against Newcastle.

The Romanian pulled off a string of impressive saves to thwart Ameobi and Cisse
and retained his place for the visit of Norwich.

The Canaries on the other hand have had a disastrous campaign by all accounts this season. They conceded four goals against Arsenal in the league and United in their mid-week Capital One Cup clash and are languishing perilously in the relegation zone.

Their manager knew they would be in for a tough time at Eastlands in his pre-match press conference and he could not have been more accurate.

City ran riot and absolutely tore apart the Canaries from the first whistle. A Bradley Johnson own goal set the ball rolling before further first half efforts from David Silva, Matija Nastasic and Alvaro Negredo put the hosts firmly in control.

Yaya Toure, Aguero and Dzeko added to the score-line and maintained this fixture’s goal-rich reputation, with 25 goals having been scored in the previous four meetings.

City have bounced back well after the set-back at the Bridge and with two clean-sheets fro two games, Pellegrini’s men will look to gather some momentum.

Norwich have a lot of work to do and their manager is rumoured to be close to losing his job. Their defending has been shocking and van Wolfswinkel has not yet caught fire as they would have hoped. It may well be a long season for the Canaries.

Manchester City grade: A

Everton & Tottenham

Goodison Park played host to two Champions League hopefuls (at the very least with all due respect), when Spurs travelled to Merseyside.

The visitors, who have not won away against Everton since 2007, controlled the
first half but could not make their chances count. The opposite was true in the second period, however, as Everton cranked up the pressure and were on top of
proceedings for much of that half without really troubling Hugo Lloris in Tottenham’s goal.

It was as much a midfield battle as much as anything else really, with both strikers isolated for much of the match.

Tottenham and Everton played with five in the middle resulting in Soldado and Lukaku being starved of any meaningful service as both teams cancelled each other out.

There were penalty appeals from both sides that were waved away in an entertaining game that both sides will feel that they could have won. Ultimately both teams settled for a point with each side missing out on the opportunity to go second
in the League.

Everton grade: B Tottenham grade: B


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