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BPL Matchday 18: The Good, Bad And Bizarre

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Throughout the Premier League season, Sebastian Noren will provide analysis from the week of games, talking about the good, the bad, and the bizarre. This week features Matchday 18.

The 15th week of Premier League action is over and fans were treated to another round of some  great games, some bad games and some bizarre situations. Leicester stay top of the table despite falling to Liverpool, Manchester United lost again while rivals Manchester City gains ground on the top teams.

United Lose Third Straight

What Happened: Manchester United’s form right now is pointing straight down. The Red Devils have lost three straight games in the league and has gone seven straight games in all competitions without a win after losing 2-0 to Stoke in the early game on Boxing Day.

Bojan Krkic gave Stoke the lead in the 19th minute, and Marko Arnautovic extended the lead in the 26th minute. United continue to struggle to score goals and the winds are definitely blowing around manager Louis van Gaal. If United fails to win at home against Chelsea on Monday, many believe that van Gaal will get sacked.

Stoke stayed in 11th place in the table, while United slipped down to 6th place.

Seb’s Take: Things are chaotic at United, and it’s time for a change. Van Gaal has failed to evolve the team this season, and instead of concentrating on a title challenge, United will have to try and salvage the 4th-spot in the standings and get back to the Champions League.

Uneventful Draw Between Bournemouth and Palace

What Happened: Not much happened in the scoreless draw between Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. There were few chances and only one shot on goal; the scoreless draw was a fair result and it was all Palace needed to move into 4th place in the standings. Bournemouth has showed so much resilience despite some heavy injuries. The Cherries are enjoying a six-game unbeaten run and sit in 14th place.

Seb’s Take: Not the most exciting game of the year, but both clubs will be pleased to at least get a point out of it. Bournemouth has shown that they are tough to beat at home, so it’s not the end of the world for Palace to only get a point against the newcomers. And with Manchester United losing, they moved into the last Champions League spot.

Villa Show Improvement In 1-1 Draw Against West Ham

What Happened: Aston Villa showed signs of improvement in their 1-1 draw against West Ham United on Saturday at Villa Park. Aaron Cresswell gave the Hammers the lead right before halftime, but Andre Ayew tied things up from the penalty spot in the second half. Villa did a good job of holding the ball and had a slight advantage in the possession, along with six shots on target.

Villa manager Remi Garde said after the game that he believed that they deserved to win the game and that it’s a step in the right direction.

Seb’s Take: With Villa finally starting to look better, the fans will have a little bit of hope that they will be able to claw their way out of the relegation zone, but there’s still a lot of work to be done as Villa has nine points up to safety at the moment.

Oscar Mistake Cost Chelsea Against Watford

What Happened: Chelsea had to settle with a 2-2 draw against Watford after Oscar missed a penalty kick late in the second half. Diego Costa gave Chelsea the lead in the 32nd minute after being on his toes inside the penalty area. Troy Deeney scored the equalizer for Watford in the 42nd minute from the penalty spot, and Odion Ighalo gave Watford the lead in the 56th minute.

Costa scored his second goal of the game when he tied the game up in the 65th minute. Oscar had a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the lead in the 80th minute as they were awarded a penalty. But the Brazilian slipped right before striking the ball and missed.

Seb’s Take: Oscar’s slip on the penalty kick was sort of a summary of Chelsea’s season so far, with the reigning champions struggling. Chelsea sits in 15th place, and we’ll have to see if the team will turn things around under caretaker manager Guus Hiddink. Newcomers Watford is on a five-game unbeaten run and sits in 7th place, just three points away from the Top 4.

Benteke Goal Seals Liverpool Win Over Leicester

What Happened: Christian Benteke scored the lone goal of the game as Liverpool handed leaders Leicester City their first loss since late September. Benteke came on as a substitute in the 38th minute after Divock Origi had to leave the game with an injury. The Belgian international found the back of the net in the 63rd minute, scoring his fifth goal of the season.

Leicester still sits at the top of the Premier League standings after Arsenal’s loss to Southampton later in the day.

Seb’s Take: Liverpool has looked better under Jurgen Klopp, and there’s no shame losing at Anfield by one goal. Leicester just has to take some lessons from this game and switch focus to the game against 3rd-placed Manchester City on Tuesday. Liverpool moved up to 8th place, and the Reds are now just three points off the Top 4.

City Bounce Back With Win Over Sunderland

What Happened: Manchester City bounced back from the 2-1 loss to Arsenal by beating Sunderland 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. City came out strong and held a 3-0 lead at halftime after goals by Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony.

Kevin De Bruyne made it 4-0 early in the second half. Sunderland did get a consolation goal in the 59th minute through Fabio Borini. The win meant that City gained some ground on Leicester and Arsenal at the top of the table as they both suffered defeats.

Seb’s Take: Vincent Kompany’s comeback only lasted about 10 minutes, as the captain had to leave the game with another injury. Without Kompany marshalling the defense, City has looked vulnerable, and they will be hoping that he doesn’t miss too much time.

Swansea Snap Winless Streak Against WBA

What Happened: Swansea City snapped a seven-game winless streak by beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 on Saturday. Sung Yueng Ki scored the lone goal of the game in the 9th minute after showing great determination. The South Korean international made a long run and managed to get on the end of a rebound right at the goal line after WBA goalkeeper Boaz Myhill failed to handle the ball.

Seb’s Take: This was a vital win for Swansea as they try to stay out of the relegation zone. Their poor run of form cost manager Garry Monk his job, and we’ll see who ends up replacing him at the helm.

Tottenham Cruise To Victory Over Norwich

What Happened: A Harry Kane double in the first half laid the foundation to a comfortable 3-0 win for Tottenham over newcomers Norwich at White Hart Lane. Kane opened up the scoring form the penalty spot in the 26th minute. He then added a second in the 42nd minute bringing his season total up to 11.

Tom Carroll made it 3-0 in the 80th minute. Spurs sits in 4th place and has back-to-back wins after falling to Newcastle.

Seb’s Take: Tottenham might not be able to challenge for the title, but they are sure to be in the hunt for a Champions League spot. Kane is back to his old self after struggling in the beginning of the season, and he’s showcasing why he should be the first choice at the striker position for England manager Roy Hodgson in Euro 2016 next summer.

Everton Pulls Out Win Over Newcastle With Late Cleverley Goal

What Happened: Tom Cleverley picked a good game to get his first Everton goal as the midfielder scored the winning goal against Newcastle in added time on Saturday. Cleverley headed in the lone goal of the game in the 93rd minute.

Everton dominated the game while having a substantial advantage in shots on target, but failed to break down the Newcastle defense until Cleverley’s late header. The win took Everton up to 9th place, and the Toffees are just one point behind local rivals Liverpool.

Seb’s Take: After relying so heavily on Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku so far this season, it must surely be nice for Everton fans to see Cleverley step up and score his first goal for the club since joining the team in the summer.

Southampton Smash Arsenal 4-0

What Happened: Arsenal had the chance to go top of the table, but instead suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat on the road to Southampton. Cuco Martina gave the home side the lead in the 19th minute. In the second half, Southampton stepped on the gas and scored three more goals. Irish international Shane Long made it 2-0 in the 55th minute. Jose Fonte made it 3-0 in the 69th minute and in added time Long grabbed his second goal of the game.

Seb’s Take: Arsenal looked extremely poor, which was rather surprising after how good they looked in the 2-1 win over Manchester City. But Arsenal has a knack of dropping games like this, and with many players injured, fatigue might have played a part in why they looked so poor.

The Good: Southampton

The way they dominated the game against second-placed Arsenal was impressive. Manager Ronald Koeman called it a perfect display. If they could keep this level of performance up, then the Saints should be able to challenge for an Europa League spot.

With Graziano Pelle out injured, it was vital for Shane Long to come in and do well, and he caused a huge amount of trouble for the Arsenal defense with his speed and power.

The Bad: Manchester United

United’s form has taken a nosedive and there are rumblings that manager Louis van Gaal will be sacked if he doesn’t get a positive result against Chelsea on Monday. After three straight losses and no wins in the league since Nov. 21, the Red Devils have slipped down to 6th place in the standings.

Van Gaal has failed to evolve the team, and the squad still has some obvious weak spots despite the huge amounts of money the club has spent on signing new players since van Gaal took over 18 months ago.

The Bizarre: Oscar’s Penalty Slip

Oscar ended up costing Chelsea points in the game against Watford after slipping at the penalty spot when the game was tied at 2-2. The Brazilian midfielder tried to do a stutter step to fake out goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, but ended up slipping and blasting the ball over.

It was a telling picture of how Chelsea’s season has gone so far, with the reigning champions sitting down in 15th place and the turbulent exit of manager Jose Mourinho. It’s now up to caretaker manager Guus Hiddink to try and get the players to come together and salvage the season.

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