A round up of the 24th week of Premier League action and it’s a blistering blitz from the Brits as Jamie Vardy fires Leicester three points clear at the top, and the deadly duo of Delle Alli and Harry Kane hit three for Spurs.
A Jamie Vardy double sends Leicester City three points clear at the top of the Premier League beginning a triumvirate of do or die games in their pursuit of the most unlikeliest of Premier League crowns.
Claudio Ranieri’s men disposed of Liverpool with ease; they now face Man City and Arsenal in consecutive games. We are about to find out if fairy tales really do come true.
Vardy’s strikes in the 60th and 71st minute were his 18th Premier League goals of the season. He is the top marksman in the land. To put his striking gallantry into perspective: Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez have only one more goal than the former non-league man.
His first goal was stupendous after he spotted Simon Mignolet off his line before smashing a lob into the top corner of the net. It was his first goal from outside the box in 21 Premier League strikes, and his second came from close range after Shinji Okazaki saw his shot deflect into the Englishman’s path, who duly slotted it into the net.
Leicester would have been hoping that all the blow and bluster over Pep Guardiola’s appointment, coupled with a park the bus like mentality at the Stadium of Light would have been enough to keep Man City at bay. But when you have Sergio Aguero spearheading your attack, nothing can keep you at bay.
Aguero scored in the 16th minute and despite a valiant effort by Sam Allardyce’s men, City they put on a display of solidity and strength to leave the North East with all three points. Sunderland remains in the bottom three, but recent performances should give their fans hope that they can climb out before the end of the season. They do need to strengthen at the back. With 47 goals conceded they have the worse record in the Premier League.
I read a headline over the weekend that said Arsenal would face the most crucial 12-days of football in the previous 12-years. It was a finger pointed at the fact that there has never been a better time to rally the troops and win a Premier League title. It hasn’t been an inspiring start.
A fortnight ago, they were on top. Today, they have fallen to fourth. Their goalless draw at home to a rejuvenated Southampton side is their fourth Premier League game without a win. They have not scored in three games. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that the return of Alexis Sanchez will change that.
Fraser Forster was in awesome form for the Saints. Ronald Koeman’s men have not conceded in four games. They have now picked up 10 points from their past four games after a terrible run of form. It was good to see the Saints coming through a transfer window with all of their squad in tact.
With Arsenal dropping to fourth their North London rivals Spurs moved up to third with a three-nil away win at Norwich. Spurs are only five points behind Leicester. They look like Champions League certainties. They are also contenders to the throne.
Once again it was the English double act of Delle Alli and Harry Kane that did the business for Mauro Pochettino’s men. Alli tapped the ball into the net in the second minute, and was brought down in the box in the 30th minute – Harry Kane stepped up to slam home the penalty. Kane made it three with a goal in the last minute. It’s his 15th goal of the season; only Vardy has more.
Norwich is in free fall. Only Newcastle was in the same ballpark when it came to the numbers Norwich spent in the January window hoping for a miracle. They are going to need it. Toothless. Spineless. Weak. If Newcastle beat Everton Wednesday night, Norwich will fall into the bottom three. If they do, I don’t think they will ever drag themselves back out.
Norwich isn’t the only team falling through the league rankings without a parachute. Crystal Palace has now lost five Premier League games on the bounce after a 2-1 home loss to Bournemouth. Palace opened the scoring after Scott Dann turned in Wilfried Zaha’s low cross in the 27th minute, but they couldn’t capitalize on that early momentum. Incredibly, that was Zaha’s first assist of the season. I think that tells you something about the front line of Palace. Marc Pugh (34th minute) and Benik Afobe (57th minute) saw Bournemouth come from behind to take all three points. It was new signing Afobe’s third goal in three games after his big money signing from Wolves.
The Hammers continue to live on the periphery of the Champions League places with another sterling performance. Their fourth win in six games came courtesy of a two-goal victory over 10-man Aston Villa. Jordan Ayew getting sent off in the 17th minute for elbowing Aaron Cresswell in an unnecessary incident. Remi Garde must look into the mirror each morning only to see the years fall from his face. Michail Antonio scoring with a header to put the Hammers ahead in the 58th minute; Heikhou Kouyate sealing the points in the 85th minute. It was Villa’s first defeat in four games, but they are still 10 points clear from safety.
The last time Man Utd players walked down the tunnel at Old Trafford it was beneath a hailstorm of boos. So it was quite a contrast to see them coming off after a 3-0 win against Stoke with beneath a chorus of cheers.
Jesse Lingard opened the scoring in the 14th minute. It was the first time United had scored in the first half in 11 matches. Man of the match, and player of the season, Anthony Martial, made it two before half time. Wayne Rooney popped up in the 53rd minute to score from close range. It’s United’s second consecutive win after their FA Cup triumph over Derby; they have scored six times in the process. United will be tested when they visit Stamford Bridge over the weekend.
We end at the Hawthorns and Salomon Rondon’s first goal in nine saving a point for West Brom, and preventing new Swansea boss, Francesco Guidolin, from making it two wins from two after his January move from Chievo. Gylfi Sigurdsson had put the Swans ahead in the 64th minute. It was his fourth goal in five games. Rondon equalized in the 92nd minute. Saido Berahino once again started on the bench after the club turned down a £21m offer from Newcastle during the transfer window.
Premier League Odds
According to Oddschecker, Man City is the favorites to take the title at 6/5, Arsenal is second favorites at 5/2, and current leaders Leicester are priced at 5/1 in third. Spurs (6/1) and Man Utd (28/1) are the outside bets.
At the other end of the table you can wave bye-bye to Aston Villa. Although not a mathematical certainty, the bookies have them at 1/50 to go down. Sunderland is 1/5, Norwich 11/10, and Newcastle (5/4), Swansea (5/1), West Brom (7/1) and Bournemouth (9/1) finish off the betting.
Week 24 Results
Norwich 0 v 3 Spurs
Arsenal 0 v 0 Southampton
West Ham 2 v 0 Aston Villa
Sunderland 0 v 1 Man City
Leicester 2 v 0 Liverpool
Man Utd 3 v 0 Stoke
Crystal Palace 1 v 2 Bournemouth
West Brom 1 v 1 Swansea
Games to be Played (Wed, 3 Feb)
Watford v Chelsea
Everton v Newcastle
Premier League Standings (After 24 Games)
1st. Leicester – 50 pts.
2nd. Man City – 47 pts.
3rd. Spurs – 45 pts.
4th. Arsenal – 45 pts.
5th. Man Utd – 40 pts.
6th. West Ham – 39 pts.
7th. Southampton – 34 pts.
8th. Liverpool – 34 pts.
9th. Stoke – 33 pts.
10th. Watford – 32 pts.
11th. Crystal Palace – 31 pts.
12th. Everton – 29 pts.
13th. West Brom – 29 pts.
14th. Chelsea – 28 pts.
15th. Bournemouth – 28 pts.
16th. Swansea – 26 pts.
17th. Norwich – 23 pts.
18th. Newcastle – 21 pts.
19th. Sunderland – 19 pts.
20th. Aston Villa – 13 pts.