It was pretty much draws all round as United, Arsenal and Chelsea dented their aspirations whilst Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool enjoyed a particularly profitable midweek …
Spurs continued their impressive form under new boss Tim Sherwood with a routing of Newcastle at St James Park, and despite serious question marks over Sherwood’s credentials when he was appointed, the ex-England international has proved most of his detractors wrong so far.
Key to Tottenham’s revival under Sherwood has been the reintegration of Emmanuel Adebayor, and the Togolese striker’s influence again proved crucial on Wednesday, as he grabbed a brace in the 4-0 thrashing.
Amidst all the talk about whether or not Manchester United are capable of getting fourth and the last Champions League spot, Spurs have largely gone under the radar, but really, if one of these clubs is likely to usurp Liverpool and break into the top four, it’s Spurs.
Liverpool were in the ‘Not’ section until the 90th minute of their clash with Fulham, as it looked increasingly likely that the Reds would be held to a draw as United were on Sunday. However, a Steven Gerrard penalty later and Brendan Rodgers’ side find themselves firmly back in the good half.
The three points gained at Craven Cottage has allowed Rodgers’ team some much needed breathing space with Spurs hot on their heels, whilst with Man City’s game called off due to poor weather, Liverpool now sit only one point behind the Citizens in third.
As we’ve stated before, the title does seem beyond Liverpool this season, but the side that Rodgers is shaping looks destined for great things in the next few years.
The Hammers enjoyed their third successive 2-0 win in February, and their latest victory at home to Norwich takes Sam Allardyce’s side up into 10th place.
We might not like the way they play football, we might not like their manager, but given that the East London club were looking dead and buried after a catastrophic January, it’s impossible not to be impressed by their form in the last two weeks.
The wheels appear to be rapidly coming off the Newcastle bus, and although they are just about safe from relegation, in this sort of form there’s every chance that the Magpies will end the season in the lower reaches of the table.
The departure of talismanic midfielder Yohan Cabaye seems to have been the catalyst for some truly woeful performances, and their home defeat to Tottenham was their fifth defeat at St James Park in as many games. When you add in the fact that they’ve conceded ten goals in their last three games and scored none, things look anything but rosy for Alan Pardew’s side.
What’s sad about the Newcastle situation is that one gets the impression they’d actually be quite good if Pardew was allowed to manage the club properly. Yet time and time again his best players are sold from under his nose, and seldom replaced. A particularly telling stat is that Newcastle have not made a permanent signing in the last 12 months – in the Premier League where evolution and improvement is so vital, Pardew really doesn’t have a chance.
It might seem harsh that United stay in the ‘Not’ column after their 0-0 draw with Arsenal, but if we’re honest with ourselves, a point isn’t really what David Moyes needs at the moment. His side are still 15 points off the league leaders and are now 11 points away from the crucial Champions League spots.
Moyes was particularly brash in his midweek press conference, but one particular question he didn’t seem to be able to answer was how his side’s performances are so drastically inferior to last season’s. At this stage last year, United had 65 points and were in first place. This year, they’ve got 42 and they’re in seventh. Given that the squad had barely changed in the last twelve months, the only major variable that can be analysed is the manager, and, quite simply, David Moyes must take responsibility for the fact that he is leading Manchester United to a truly catastrophic fall from grace.
Arsenal were pretty much expected to beat United at the Emirates, and if they had done so they’d currently be sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League. Instead, the Gunners are still a point behind Chelsea having missed a glorious opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and Mourinho’s men.
It was the same old story for Arsenal really as the Gunners enjoyed 57% possession and almost three times as many shots as United, but were unable to capitalise on the champion’s vulnerability away from home. Too often it seemed that Wenger’s side were trying to craft the perfect goal, and with United deploying two very deep banks of four, with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie also operating from deep, Arsenal were always going to struggle to score in that fashion.
The Gunners now head into a tough few weeks with an FA Cup date with Liverpool, Champions League double header with Bayern Munich to look forward to as well as league clashes against Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City. The next six weeks will define Arsenal’s season, and it has to be said, this sterile performance at the Emirates was not the best way to start.
After the events of last week, it seemed that the title was Chelsea’s to lose, but another blip at the Hawthorns means that the Blues are now only one point clear at the top of the league. It is by no means panic stations for Mourinho’s men, but with a clash with West Brom one of their easier fixtures in February and March, they would have hoped for better.
Much like Arsenal, the next six weeks are likely to define Chelsea’s season, with clashes against Everton, Tottenham and the Gunners themselves looking fairly mouth-watering. Despite this setback, Chelsea still seem like the team most capable of winning the league, but it is crucial they get back to winning ways when they welcome Everton on the 22nd February. Easier said than done.