Battles at top and bottom
There have been battles at the top and the bottom of the Premier League this weekend, none more so than at the top when the game between Manchester City and Chelsea ended in what was virtually a free for all.
Down at the bottom, the battles were won by Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough which has really tightened things up with Sunderland in their highest position at 18th since August. The perennial slow starters were at it again, failing to win any of their first 11 games. That can quite often lead to a change of manager at the Stadium of Light, but with David Moyes having only just arrived they’ve had to stick with him.
Suddenly a fortunate win at Bournemouth has triggered an improvement and they’ve since gone on to beat both Hull and Leicester at home, the latest win taking them above Hull in the table. They’ve suffered a blow since the win with the news that Duncan Watmore will be out for the season but Sunderland do have two big strengths at either end of the pitch.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was again a hero on Saturday, making a superb last minute save to keep out Leicester, and at the other end of the pitch there’s Jermain Defoe who’s already bagged eight goals for them this season. Add the 11 goals he scored from January until the end of last season and he’s the third highest Premier League goalscorer for 2016 behind Harry Kane (21) and Sergio Aguero (27).
Aguero won’t be scoring too many more in this calendar year. He won’t be available for Manchester City again until New Year’s Eve after earning himself a four match ban for a challenge (if the word challenge can seriously be used) on David Luiz. It was a shocker and referee Anthony Taylor, who had a game to forget, had absolutely no option but to show a red card.
All hell then broke loose with both players and officials involved. Fernandinho followed him to leave City to play it out, already 3-1 down, with nine men but it is difficult to understand how on earth Cesc Fabregas and Nathaniel Chalobah have walked away without any punishment.
Chelsea won 3-1 and remain top of the league, but this was a game that City would have won had they not missed a hat full of chances during the first hour when they only had a Gary Cahill own goal to show for their domination.
With City losing, and Liverpool throwing away a 2-0 and 3-1 lead at Bournemouth on the following day, Arsenal have now stepped up into second place with a 5-1 win at West Ham. From the highlights I saw I would suggest the scoreline flattered West Ham but the everlasting memory of the game will be the Alexis Sanchez hat trick. The last one was clearly offside, but what a fantastic finish.
Spurs kept in touch with the top four with a 5-0 demolition of Swansea. The Swans and West Ham seem to be the two clubs in crisis right now. Swansea are seriously struggling under their American owners and manager. All is not well at the Statue of Liberty Stadium as it is now being called.
West Ham are getting away with some of their bad performances because their fans are so far away from the action they can’t really see it. For those with binoculars, it’s not good with Slaven Bilic reportedly in crisis talks yesterday. He’s got Burnley and Hull in his next two home games with suggestions that anything but two wins in those games will see him lose his job.
I was studying the league table earlier. We’ve won just four of our 14 games so far but only the top five have actually won more than five games. We’re not so far behind.
The Premier League’s leading goalscorers, each club’s red and yellow card counts and their average attendances can all be found in Goalscorers-Discipline-Attendances within Season Stats on the top menu.
Gameweek 15 Fixtures
Saturday 10th December
Watford v Everton (13:30 p.m.)
Arsenal v Stoke
Burnley v Bournemouth
Hull v Crystal Palace
Swansea v Sunderland
Leicester v Manchester City (5:30 p.m.)
Sunday 11th December
Chelsea v West Brom (12 noon)
Manchester United v Tottenham (2:15 p.m.)
Southampton v Middlesbrough (2:15 p.m.)
Liverpool v West Ham (4:30 p.m.)