It was an exciting week in the English Premier League with upsets galore up and down the league. Here are the winners and losers from this weekends action.
An important win over Manchester United will silence the Arsenal boo-birds for another week. What the United game showed was that against the teams that plays football, Arsenal are as good as anyone in Europe. Their problem in the league is that outside of the top four, few teams are as technically sound as Arsenal so their plan is to be physical and stop Arsenal playing and use set-pieces to steal a goal or two.
Arsenal will not win the league this season as they cannot grind out wins like Chelsea and Liverpool can. The best hope for silverware this season might be in Europe where Arsenal will play teams committed to playing football. An Arsenal versus Barcelona Champions League match-up might be one for the ages.
They just cannot stop winning under Harry Redknapp. A couple of weeks ago they were mired in bottom place in the table with their next four games to be Bolton, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. They picked up 10 points out of twelve and in a league with few consistent teams (outside of the big four) there is a good possibility that Spurs could not only avoid relegation, but qualify for Europe!
Seven goals in five games for the striker since Harry Redknapp’s appointment and the likelihood of a call-up for the forthcoming friendly with Germany increases after Emile Heskey limped off with a hamstring strain in Wigan’s game this weekend. I just wonder when Darren Bent will wake up and realize he is Darren Bent and not a consistent top quality center forward?
After the loss to Arsenal, Sir Alex said that United “have got to get above 85 points to have a chance of winning the league”. That means acquiring at least 65 points from their remaining 27 games at an average of 2.4 per match. Put another way, they have to win at least 20 of those games and not lose more than one of the rest.
Two weeks ago Villa were right behind the leaders and with upcoming games against Newcastle United and Middlesbrough, Villa had a chance to show that they were European contenders. Two disappointing loses later and it is clear that Villa are pretenders not contenders.
When you are the richest team in the world, sitting one point above the relegation zone is not what your rich Arab owners had in mind when they acquired City. While Mark Hughes got a vote of confidence this weekend, you have to wonder whether the new owners will still be patience if City are sitting in the same position come January. It is difficult to attract the top players if you are mired in a relegation battle.
City don’t need Ronaldo (either of them). They need to strengthen a defense that has given up 20 goals so far this season and add a defensive midfield player. Chelsea and their millions built their team from the back and that is what Mark Hughes needs to do in the January transfer window.
Their away record is so abysmal – Sunderland have registered just three wins on their travels since readmission to the top-flight – that even a single home defeat constitutes a serious setback. The loss of a point in the final minute, and of three overall because Sunderland ought to have had the match won before half-time, may not be a big deal in November but it may be the biggest deal in six months. But for Jermain Defoe’s conversion, Sunderland would be 15th. Instead, they will be second-bottom for at least another seven days. More so than ever, every point matters.