This week’s Premier League review see’s Leicester pull even further away from Spurs after another one-nil victory; Norwich hammer a nail into the coffin of Newcastle, and Aston Villa end Remi Garde’s misery.
Rewind the clock 12-months and Leicester City were at the bottom of the Premier League table. Look at them now, peacock feathers all ruffed up, looking down on the rest of the English football league with pride.
Leicester’s victory over a classy Southampton side had all the hallmarks of a team with their ribbons tied around the handles of the Premier League trophy. It was another untidy 1-0 win courtesy of Captain Morgan’s first goal of the season. It’s the Foxes fifth 1-0 win in succession. They could have easily had two penalties go against them, but that doesn’t happen when you are destined to win the title.
“We have everything in our hands,” Said Claudio Ranieri after the match.
They are now seven points clear of Spurs after Mauricio Pochettino’s men failed to find the three points against a stubborn Liverpool side at Anfield. Ranieri hit the nail on the head when he said, “This is our one chance.” It’s unlikely that Leicester will suddenly become a regular Top 4 side. So they have to take the bull down now that they have it by the horns. But then again, it was unlikely that Leicester would have finished in the top half of the season this year.
Spurs visited Anfield to face a Liverpool side who could have been forgiven for having their focus fixed on Thursday’s Europa League clash against Dortmund. It was a professional display from Jurgen Klopp’s side inspired by the impish Brazilian Philippe Coutinho who put the Reds ahead in the 51st minute finishing off a sublime one-two with Daniel Sturridge.
Coming into this game, Harry Kane had scored 21 Premier League goals, equalling his tally from last season. It was a total that exceeded Liverpool’s top three goalscorers combined. He didn’t have a great game, but it was another world class finish that brought Spurs back into the match in the 63rd minute. Kane’s 22nd of the season is the most any Spurs player has scored in Premier League history – a record that will be scant consolation if they keep drawing games they need to win to keep tabs on the bushy tail of the Foxes.
West Ham dropped vital points in the race for the Champions League places after drawing at home to the lead balloon that is Crystal Palace. Coming into this game Palace were the only side to fail to pick up three points in 2016. That didn’t change, but Alan Pardew would have been a lot happier with this performance, even if he did have the referee to thank in part for their point.
Palace took the lead as early as the 15th minute thanks to a howler from the usually unpassable Adrian. A seemingly innocuous freekick seemed to be finding its way into touch when Adrian scooped it onto the head of Damien Delaney. Seconds later he was scooping it out of the back of the net.
It took West Ham only three minutes to react and once again it was that little genius Manuel Lanzini who put the ball in the back of the net. Talking about little geniuses, is there anybody playing better football on the planet than Dimitri Payet?
The Crystal Palace keeper put seven men in the wall to defend against a Payet free kick just before half time. There was only one place the Frenchman could put the ball, – in the top right-hand corner – and that’s exactly where it went. It was another stunning finish from a stunning find for the Hammers.
It seemed for all the world that West Ham would go on and win the game comfortably until Mark Clattenburg sent West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate off in the 67th minute for a foul on Dwight Gayle. It was clumsy. It was ugly. But it was never a sending off. The game changed after that with West Ham trying to hold on to their spoils. Gayle picked himself up off the floor and replied with the equaliser for Palace. It was a tough blow for Slaven Bilic to take, but take it he will.
West Ham’s failure to win allowed both Manchester clubs to increase their lead over the Hammers by two points as the race for the Champions League spots hotted up. It seems certain now that the final spot will be taken by either Man City or Man Utd, and on this weekend’s performances you have to put your money on the blue half of the city.
On the day that United honoured Sir Bobby Charlton by naming the South Stand after him, United played as they have done for most of the season. The game was drab, dreary, and if you gave Sir Bobby a pair of boots and sent him on at half time, he would have done a better job than most of the United players.
“We stole it.” Said Louis Van Gaal after an Anthony Martial goal gave United a one-nil win over an equally lacklustre Everton side.
City, on the other hand, were electric on the south coast hammering four past a Bournemouth side who seem to be playing football with an ice cream in one hand. Kevin De Bruyne returned after a 12 game absence, and he put in a 90-minute wonder show to send City into their midweek Champions League fixture against Paris St. Germain in fine fettle.
Norwich City moved four points clear of Sunderland, and six clear of Newcastle, after their most significant win of the season beating the Geordies 3 v 2 at home.
It was a barnstorming game, with Newcastle twice coming from behind thanks to their frontman Aleksandr Mitrovic, but a 93rd-minute strike by Martin Olsson maintained Norwich’s recent run of form that has seen them take seven points from their last three fixtures.
Newcastle, on the other hand, has only earned seven points on their travels all season, and before kick-off had only scored seven goals – the worse performance in all 10 English divisions. Newcastle has now conceded 58 goals, and only Aston Villa have let in more. Rafa Benitez is going to have to turn into Harry Houdini to sort this mess out.
Aston Villa decided it was time to dispose of Remi Garde’s service in midweek. The fans want to see owner Randy Lerner follow suit. David Moyes has been installed as the 2/1 favorite to take on the poisoned chalice. It looks like a harder task than the one he inherited trying to replace Sir Alex Ferguson.
Chelsea thrashed them. The champions have the longest unbeaten run in the Premier League stretching back 15 games, which incidentally was the time that Gus Hiddink took over. He only lost one game when he previously took charge of the Blues on a temporary basis. According to reports, Chelsea is on the verge of signing the Italian Antonio Conte to replace the Dutchman at the end of the season.
The fanfare is blowing at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland has finally kept a clean sheet after 16 games without one. It was just a pity that the forward line decided to have an off day at the same time the defence pulled their fingers out of their asses. Sunderland’s goalless draw against boring West Brom (it was the seventh game this season that WBA had failed to have a single shot on target), was not as critical as Newcastle’s loss, but they will still go down if they don’t start dragging Norwich back under the water with a series of three points.
Here are the rest of the results:
Aston Villa 0 v 4 Chelsea
Norwich 3 v 2 Newcastle
West Ham 2 v 2 Crystal Palace
Bournemouth 0 v 4 Man City
Sunderland 0 v 0 West Brom
Arsenal 4 v 0 Watford
Stoke 2 v 2 Swansea
Liverpool 1 v 1 Spurs
Leicester 1 v 0 Southampton
Man Utd 1 v 0 Everton
Premier League Title Winning Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Champions League Qualification Odds
Man City -200
Man Utd +150
West Ham +1200
Premier League Relegation Odds (To Join Aston Villa)
Crystal Palace +1400
Premier League Standings (After 32 Games)
1st. Leicester – 69 pts.
2nd. Spurs – 62 pts.
3rd. Arsenal – 58 pts.
4th. Man City – 54 pts.
5th. Man Utd – 53 pts.
6th. West Ham – 51 pts.
7th. Southampton – 47 pts.
8th. Stoke – 47 pts.
9th. Liverpool – 45 pts.
10th. Chelsea – 44 pts.
11th. West Brom – 40 pts.
12th. Everton – 38 pts.
13th. Bournemouth – 38 pts.
14th. Watford – 37 pts.
15th. Swansea – 37 pts.
16th. Crystal Palace – 34 pts.
17th. Norwich – 31 pts.
18th. Sunderland – 27 pts.
19th. Newcastle – 25 pts.
20th. Aston Villa – 16 pts.