1. Norwich 0-3 Sunderland
Black Cats drag Canaries back into battle
A big win for Big Sam’s team saw Sunderland claw Norwich back.
Sam Allardyce believes a combination of clean sheets and relying on leading scorer, Jermain Defoe, to score the goals will ensure survival. Defoe did score again on along with Fabio Borini’s penalty and Duncan Watmore’s late strike, but which team is best placed for those all-important goals in the run-in?
Below is a table showing the top three league scorers from each of the three teams this season:
|Norwich (GF: 35, GA: 60)||Sunderland (GF: 39, GA: 57)||Newcastle (GF: 35, GA: 61)|
|Dieudonne Mbokani (5)||Jermain Defoe (13)||Georginio Wijnaldum (9)|
|Nathan Redmond (5)||Fabio Borini (4)||Aleksandar Mitrovic (8)|
|Wes Hoolahan (4)||Duncan Watmore (4)||Ayoze Perez (6)|
Four of Wijnaldum’s goals came against Norwich in mid-October and he hasn’t scored in his last 11 games, mustering just one assist. Defoe is in good form having scored three in his last five appearances. But Norwich’s goals are very much spread across the squad and the big January signing of Steven Naismith from Everton has only yielded one goal, which came on his debut during the dramatic 5-4 loss to Liverpool.
Defoe has chipped in with a third of Sunderland’s league goals and you can’t help but feel that his consistency could be the difference.
2. Everton 1-1 Southampton
Draw specialists drop points at home again
It was another disappointing result for Everton as the pressure mounts on Roberto Martinez.
Despite taking the lead through Ramiro Funes Mori, the Toffees were pegged back by Sadio Mane’s equaliser to make it 33-points dropped at Goodison Park this season.
Furthermore, Martinez’s men have drawn 14 games this season, the most in the league, level with West Ham. The difference being that the Hammers have won five games more and are challenging for a European spot instead of mid-table mediocrity.
3. Man Utd 1-0 Aston Villa
Villains finally down and out
Aston Villa’s relegation was as inevitable as a sunset.
But Man Utd still needed Marcus Rashford to grab the winner in a game, which many expected to be a whitewash.
Aston Villa meanwhile, are in desperate need of finding a new manager who can get them an instant promotion. It won’t be easy given the competitive nature of the Championship and the fact that Villa’s history will make them the target of others for a big scalp.
4. Newcastle 3-0 Swansea
Rafa’s first win maintains hope
Rafa Benitez made some big selection calls as his side won for the first time in eight matches.
Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic all started on the bench as Jamaal Lascelles goal five-minutes before the break gave the Magpies the lead.
By the 80th minute, all three players were on and late strikes by Moussa Sissoko and Andros Townsend sealed the three valuable points. It won’t be easy for Newcastle to avoid the drop but at least it is still possible.
5. West Brom 0-1 Watford
Gomes breaks record to earn Hornets win
Heurelho Gomes saved two Saido Berahino penalties to earn Watford a first win in seven matches.
The Brazilian became the first keeper to twice save two penalties in a Premier League following his saves from Darren Bent during Tottenham’s win over Sunderalnd in 2010.
West Brom’s failure to convert the penalties may not come as such a surprise given they’re the second lowest scorers this season, only beaten by Aston Villa. But Berahino’s confidence will surely have taken a hit having missed his second penalty in the 87th minute.
6. Chelsea 0-3 Man City
Aguero helps City to third
Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick as Man City showed how far Chelsea have fallen this season.
The Argentinian has the best goals-to-minutes ratio in the league with 97 minutes per goal. It’s not bad given he’s scored 21 goals and in with a great chance of finishing top scorer.
Chelsea meanwhile continue to disappoint and show what a challenge lies ahead of incoming manager, Antonio Conte come the summer.
7. Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool
Klopp’s Reds coast to victory
Ten changes and three-days on from their breathtaking win against Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp’s side earned a comfortable win thanks to goals from Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge looked sharp as he completed a second successive game for the first time since the start of October and the end of Brendan Rodgers’ reign. The England striker produced a backheel, which caught Artur Boruc by surprise, allowing Firmino to tap-in the rebound.
Sturridge then headed in Jordan Ibe’s cross just before the break. The second half saw him strike the post and crossbar as his form and fitness improves ahead of the Euros.
8. Leicester 2-2 West Ham
Ulloa’s penalty steadies anticipated wobble
This game had more controversy than an episode of House of Cards, but Leonardo Ulloa’s injury-time penalty ensured there was no Leicester collapse yet. His last two goals have earned four-points and have arrived in the dying moments of the game.
Jamie Vardy’s sending off and possible extended suspension could put further pressure on Claudio Ranieri’s men and Ulloa in particular. His game time has largely been limited to substitute appearances, but he’s likely to start alongside Shinji Okazaki at home to Swansea.
West Ham meanwhile, continue to be involved in debatable decisions, which may cost them their European place next season.
9. Arsenal 1-1 Crystal Palace
Ozil’s and Arsenal’s form stutters
Arsenal have only won two of their last seven games as Yannick Bolasie equalised with ten minutes remaining.
This drop in form has coincided with Mesut Ozil being less influential. The German playmaker has only scored one goal and provided zero assists in his last six games. It’s a poor return compared to his peak form of three goals and 14 assists in 13 games from the end of September to the end of December.
10. Stoke 0-4 Tottenham
Kane and Alli double trouble for sorry Stoke
Stoke were torn apart by Tottenham as they capitalized on Leicester’s dropped points.
Harry Kane went top of the scoring charts with his 23rd and 24th goals of the season. Dele Alli got into double-figures with a brace of his own and a candidate for miss of the season.
Kane and Alli have scored 53.1% of Tottenham’s league goals this season. Only the combination of Vardy and Mahrez (64.4%) has contributed more. It’s no wonder both Leicester and Tottenham find themselves battling for the title.
|Harry Kane||24||1||Tottenham (64)||37.5%||53.1%|
|Dele Alli||10||9||Tottenham (64)||15.6%|
|Jamie Vardy||22||6||Leicester (59)||37.3%||64.4%|
|Riyad Mahrez||16||11||Leicester (59)||27.1%|
11. Newcastle 1-1 Man City
Linesman lapse in concentration hurts Magpies
Newcastle held Man City to a draw at St. James’ Park following Vernon Anita’s equaliser.
The makeshift right-back cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s goal which replays showed to be clearly offside.
Rafa Benitez has every right to be frustrated by Aguero’s goal as the Argentinian was stood in an offside position before the freekick was taken. It’s not an easy job being a linesman, particularly with the game being played at the pace that it is today, but this should have been an easy call.
12. West Ham 3-1 Watford
A Noble performance once again
West Ham captain, Mark Noble, showed Berahino how it’s done as he beat Gomes from the spot on two occasions to give the Hammers their first win after four straight draws.
Noble has had a very solid season but continues to be overlooked for England. While he may not be as eye-catching as Jack Wilshere for instance, his tenacity and consistency shouldn’t go unnoticed. He’s notched up five goals – the most he has scored in a Premier League campaign – and four assists so far. He’s also a big reason why players like Dimitri Payet and Manuele Lanzini have had successful debut seasons in England.
It’s too late to suggest Noble can make Roy Hodgson’s Euro squad but at 28, you feel like time may be running out on an international career. He reportedly qualifies for the Republic of Ireland through his grandparents, which begs the question why hasn’t either selected him yet?
13. Man Utd 2-0 Crystal Palace
Feeble attack but solid defence
It was another win with little inspiration at Old Trafford.
An own goal by Damien Delaney and Matteo Darmian’s first goal for the club saw Man Utd maintain their top four charge. But whilst Louis Van Gaal’s side have been generally slow, ponderous and lacking penetration in attack this season, plaudits should be given to the Dutchman for the solidity of his backline.
With David De Gea in goal, arguably the best keeper in the league, you always have a chance of keeping a clean sheet. The Spaniard – who has earned United many points this season – has seen a back four alter in front of him due to injuries, particularly at full-back.
Despite the injuries, Man Utd are top of the clean sheet charts. As a result of not conceding, the attack should have less pressure to make the difference knowing one-goal would be enough. But the fact they’ve scored one goal more than 13th placed Bournemouth suggests a bit more emphasis on scoring is necessary to make Man Utd genuine title challengers again.
|Team||Clean sheets (rank)||Goals conceded (rank)||Goals scored (rank)|
|Man Utd||17 (1st)||30 (2nd)||42 (6th)|
|Man City||15 (2nd)||34 (4th)||62 (2nd)|
|Leicester||14 (3rd)||33 (3rd)||59 (3rd)|
|Arsenal||14 (4th)||34 (4th)||58 (4th)|
|Tottenham||13 (5th)||25 (1st)||64 (1st)|
|Southampton||12 (6th)||35 (6th)||45 (5th)|
14. Liverpool 4-0 Everton
James Milner: Under the radar and underrated
Liverpool defeated local rivals Everton in one of the most one-sided Merseyside derbies.
The Reds took 37 attempts at goal to Everton’s three – all of which came in the first half and none of which hit the target. Funes Mori’s foolish and cynical red card in the 50th minute, which has probably brought a premature end to Divock Origi’s season, ensured that Everton had no way back from the two-goals they conceded just before half-time.
James Milner deservedly earned man of the match having assisted the first two goals. That took his season’s tally to 11 assists in the league, level with Mahrez and only behind Ozil.
A free transfer from Man City, the England international is best known for his work rate and versatility. City didn’t want to lose him, but the offer of regular first-team football was too good to turn down and Liverpool are now benefitting from what he describes as, “a quiet strength.”
A true professional – who refuses to drink alcohol until he has retired due to the short length of a playing career in football – Milner appears to be more than just a player who can ‘do a job’ at full-back, central midfield, wide midfield or as a winger.
15. Arsenal 2-0 West Brom
Sanchez’s brace defeats the Albion
Alexis Sanchez scored twice in the first half as Arsenal ran out comfortable winners at the Emirates Stadium.
The Chilean made it six goals and two assists in his last six league appearances. He achieved the same feat in his previous 20.
His upturn in form may come at just the right time as the Gunners look to avoid regularly playing on a Thursday night next season by securing their annual Champions League spot.
West Brom meanwhile, have lost four of their last five but are comfortably safe from the drop zone. Their end of season form brings back memories of Alan Curbishley’s Charlton sides. Claus Jensen.