Chelsea 0 – 1 (Murray 82’) Bournemouth
The quality of life really has continued to worsen over at Stamford Bridge, with another calamitous loss against league cellar-dweller’s Bournemouth forcing Jose Mourinho to admit that an attack on the top 4 may in fact be too difficult now.
On paper, this game was merely the 14th and 18th placed league sides meeting in a tightly contested lower-end fixture, with Bournemouth grinding out a 1-0 victory.
If one were to take a brief look at the financials, this is a team with a net worth of 542 million euros losing at home, being thoroughly frustrated over the course of 90 minutes, by a team newly-promoted, worth 59 million euros, the least valuable team in the EPL. To put that into perspective, “transfermarkt”, a reputable market value website, listed Eden Hazard at the start of the season as a player worth 70 million euros, greater in value than Bournemouth’s entire team of 26 players.
If it wasn’t for the return of goalkeeping deity Thibaut Courtouis, the score line could’ve been worse, as the visitors were stifled on at least 3 occasions by Courtouis’ world class shot-stopping.
Bournemouth’s Glen Murray scored in the 82nd after a weak Chelsea defensive clearance from Branislav Ivanovic gifted Murray a free header into an unguarded net.
Chelsea’s gap to the top 4 now sits at 14 points.
Bournemouth triumphantly leap clear of the relegation zone.
West Bromwich Albion 1 (McClean 39’) – 1 (Alli 15’) Tottenham
Well, it turns out Tottenham have an alternate kit for colour clashes, and it’s purple, quite peculiar.
One of my favourite grimy, gritty, (see: defensively impenetrable and dull) sides West Brom took on the high-flying Tottenham, and managed to annoy the life out of the North London side.
Whilst Tottenham went ahead early through Delle Alli, it was West Brom’s James McClean who nodded home a header prior to the break.
This draw will slow Tottenham’s sneaky progression toward the top 4, as draws, whilst not world-ending in nature, for a side targeting the top 4, simply tend to heap more pressure upon the aspiring side to remain victorious in reversed 2nd half of the season fixtures.
West Brom were textbook in there 2nd half approach, happy to sit defensively and irritate Tottenham, who held the majority of possession late on in the game, but were unable to convert offensively.
Tottenham haven’t lost in 14 games, a streak that equals the club record, as the club fights through a potentially defining season, with the uncertainty riddled throughout the top 4 positions as Chelsea struggle, a clinical 2nd half of the season could cement the Spurs place in the top flight of European club football.
Watford 2 (Deeney (pen) 35’, Ighalo 90’) – 0 Norwich
Watford have established themselves as a useful side, with the combination punch of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo rendering Watford just enough of a problem for most lower-end sides, remaining a concern for most mid-table sides, as Watford sit 9th in the league.
Ighalo and Deeney have now combined for 24 created chances, the most of any striker pairing in the league, as both suit Watford’s style of passing, which relies on both Deeney and Ighalo’s physical strength to fight off the last man in defence for the ball, whether the ball be in-flight or on the floor, both men are more than capable of muscling off a challenge and converting inside 18 yards.
Ighalo faced a stern defensive challenge in the sheer size and physicality of Nrowich defender, Cameroonian Sebastian Bassong. Ighalo had at least 3 chances saved by Norwich’s Declan Rudd, however Ighalo’s determination was rewarded in the 90th minute, as the Udinese import rifled home a Deeney assist to ensure the 3 points.
Norwich were largely ineffective, with the Canaries only having scored four goals in their previous 8 league fixtures, the substitution of starting striker Lewis Grabban midway through the 2nd half after struggling to produce a shot on target will not inspire confidence in the Norwich front end.
Swansea 0 – 3 (Mahrez 5’, 22’, 67’) Leicester City
The planet’s most hipster footballer popped up, once again, to decisively tear apart Swansea.
Riyahd Mahrez, your “bog standard” plucky Algerian “straight outta French 2nd division” football, has been quite the revelation this season, acting as a more than capable scoring machine when required, and mostly keeping himself busy with supplying any Leicester player enthusiastic enough to wander into the opponents half. Mahrez’s hat trick places him atop the leader board of EPL players involved in goals for the season, with 16 goals or assists.
The result leaves Leicester at the top of the table, following Stoke’s victory against City, as Swansea slip to 14th, a mere 4 points clear of relegation.
The victorious performance from Leicester lacked, for the first time in 11 weeks, a Jamie Vardy goal. The ex-non-league striker had to settle for co-pilot role, as Swansea were well and truly dominated in both halves.
Following this fixture, Swansea’s manager Gary Monk was relieved of his duties, with various media outlets suggesting the likes of Brendan Rogers and David Moyes as potential candidates for the Welsh side.
Leicester’s time at the top of the table will be challenged, with fixtures approaching including Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City – fixtures which will give a long-term indication of the squad’s abilities and depth.
Southampton 1 (Romeu 73’) – 1 (Lescott 44’) Aston Villa
Aston Villa entered this match dead last, on a grand total of 5 points – they remain dead last on 6 points.
As any armchair football expert will tell you, this is not a positive sign for the flailing club, as this draw marked their 14th game without a win.
The draw, in some respects, was frightfully kind to Villa, as Southampton dominated immense passages of play. Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic might as well have been Villa’s worst nightmare in stripes, as the pair peppered the opposition’s goal throughout the fixture.
Aston Villa’s recently employed manager Remi Garde has been making sincere attempts to change the club’s fortune, with defensive rearranging in personnel this week, yet Villa still struggled to present a group of professional footballers that appeared to understand their individual roles in the team, severely lacking in terms of creative intent and defensive organisation.
Southampton’s inability to convert goal-scoring opportunities leaves them in 12th position, as Villa remain 20th, 7 points down on the non-relegation zone.
Manchester United 0 – 0 West Ham
Passionately disliking Manchester United remains a sport, as the jammy cash-loaded entity of gits stumbled to a nil-nil draw with the “powerhouse” (see: not), West Ham.
West Ham’s Maurio Zarate and Winston Reid looked dangerous, with both individuals coming close to scoring early on. United’s Anthony Martial continued to provide the lone glimmer of offensive hope for the Old Trafford mob, with a shot missing by the narrowest of margins.
A criticism of Louis van Gaal’s management style is often that he emphasises a possession heavy style which is particularly dull, as United have failed to turn their overwhelming possession percentages into created chances, let alone goals scored.
The pattern of confused possession showed statistically, as whilst United had 20 shots on goals against West Ham, only one of those chances required West Ham’s Adrian to make a save.
West Ham’s star man was New Zealander Winston Reid, a confident defender who spent most of the afternoon keeping Manchester United’s attacking options very quiet. With a mid-week training ground injury resulting in a torn hamstring for Reid, the Hammers may struggle to replace his defensive presence that produced the cohesiveness which saved a point for the East London side.
Manchester United drop to 4th, as West Ham remain 13th.
Arsenal 3 (Campbell 33’, Giroud 69’, Ramsey 90’) – 1 (Giroud 45’ (og) Sunderland
Arsenal appeared to struggle throughout large periods of the game, with an Olivier Giroud own goal arguably deserved by Sunderland, as the French striker deflected a free kick into his own net.
Sunderland will exit this fixture frustrated, as small defensive errors were their undoing, as lapses in concentration resulted consistently in goals for Arsenal, as Joel Campbell and Giroud made the most of their chances, with a late Aaaron Ramsey strike decisive.
Arsenal’s injury list certainly affected this result, as a large amount of possession didn’t appear particularly well distributed, with two midfield wrecking ball’s absent, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, both sorely missed.
Petr Cech made 5 saves, as the veteran EPL keeper stood tall and kept Arsenal in the match at times, this fixture was a classic example of a team with high hopes doing “just enough” to grind out a win against a determined Sunderland side.
The concept of “just enough” was confirmed post-match, as Arsene Wenger suggested his side appeared “nervous and edgy”, instructing his side to take advantage of the angles created by Sunderland’s opportunist style of counter attacking.
The loss leaves Sunderland in the relegation zone, 18th on 12 points, as Arsenal climb to 2nd on 30 points.
Stoke City 2 (Arnautovic 7’, 15’) 2 – 0 Manchester City
One of my favourite enigmatic players in the EPL, Marko Arnautovic, took Manchester City to task and thumped in two goals early to put the Etihad-funded side on the back foot far earlier than expected.
The deliverer of both of Arnautovic’s goals came in the form of Xherdan Shaqiri, another of Stoke’s regularly mentioned “I shall rebuild my career in this windy city” players, with the former Bayern Munich and Internazionale man putting chances on two platters for Arnautovic.
Stoke have been heavily assisted of late by goalkeeper Jack Butland, who continues to quietly press for the top job in the English national side, playing against the competition for said job, Joe Hart. Butland denied both Kevin de Bruyne and Aleksandar Kolarov with impressive keeping.
Shaqiri will be hailed as a hero of sorts following this fixture, with the BBC going as far as labelling him as “Alpine Messi”, given the comparisons in physique and dribbling ability, as Shaqiri waltzed past City players during both assists to Arnautovic, often tearing past two or three players at once, his brain appearing to make decisions at a rate his feet only barely kept up with.
City continued to wish for the return of captain Vincent Kompany, as his absence left City vulnerable in defence, as the Belgian captain has not played since the start of November, as a calf injury keeps him on the sidelines.
Newcastle 2 (Srktel (og) 69’, Wijnaldum 90’) – 0 Liverpool
The amount of self-discipline required to write an objective review here is admittedly high, as my beloved Liverpool were dismantled by a bumbling (of late) Newcastle side.
Approaching this fixture I, like many others, expected a score-line indicative of destruction. Unfortunately, Liverpool failed to deliver, as the team managed to record the embarrassing statistic of the most “misplaced passes” of any side in the EPL this season, with 124 passes going to the bloke in the wrong shirt, excellent.
The Helikloppter may have made an error in judgement here, following a 6-1 thumping of Southampton midweek, the regularly hilarious manager/celebrity made 6 changes, a few of which appeared to backfire, as Newcastle provided more resistance than the expected training run.
Benteke was wasteful up front with the few chances he had, as the usually involved Belgian found himself left out in the cold, struggling for service as the game went on.
The introduction of Daniel Sturridge on the hour mark, along with Adam Lallana, did appear to rejuvenate the Merseyside squad, as momentum appeared to swing toward the men in red, yet Steve McClaren’s defensive selections of Dummett and Colback held firm, keeping Jordon Ibe at bay for the most part.
The talking point of the match for Liverpool fans was Alberto Moreno’s disallowed goal, which upon review was wrongly deemed offside. The professional dog walker of recent social media posts, Moreno lackadaisically finished what would’ve been a near-on 30 yard aerial through ball on a tight angle roughly 10 yards out, with only one touch required to move the ball into the net. Whilst I’m not blind enough to assume this would’ve resulted in a win, as the goal would’ve left Liverpool 2-1 down, the change in momentum commonly associated with a late goal certainly would’ve helped.
The loss leaves Liverpool 6th, as Newcastle move to 17th, equal on points with Bournemouth, only stuck in the relegation zone now on goal difference.
Everton 1 (Lukaku 81’) – 1 (Dann 76’) Crystal Palace
Romelu Lukaku continued his recent streak of form, with 6 goals in 5 games, the physically frightening individual employed by Everton converted a late opportunity that saved the Toffee’s a point at home.
The final result was by all accounts representative of the form displayed by both sides, as Crystal Palace sit 6th and Everton 9th, the sides are similarly talented, both possessing strong options across the park, an entertaining fixture dominated slightly by Everton seemed likely to be resolved with split points.
Crystal Palace are likely to be slightly more disappointed than Everton, with the Alan Pardew led side only managing to stay ahead for 5 minutes, questioning the maturity shown by a side who have struggled to create chances through open play this season, converting a surprising 45% of their chances this season from set piece situations.
This report could carry on somewhat, but even the experienced likes of Pardew labelled the game and result as “hard fought” and “deserved”. This was the quintessential meeting of two mid-table sides looking to work their way through the season with talented youth, Everton’s talented four of Lukaku, Barkley, Stones and Deulofeu pitted against Palace’s Bolasie, Zaha, Cabaye and Wickham.
3 Fixture Weekend Planner:
- Leicester City vs Chelsea – banter, incoming.
- Sunderland vs Watford – one of the few evenly matched fixtures this week.
- Manchester United vs Bournemouth – for the good of humanity, please Bournemouth.