Premier League Mixer: Liverpool put a major dent in Manchester City’s championship ambitions in vital PL matchday.
Crystal Palace left Upton Park as 3-1 winners on Saturday, with goals from Glenn Murray (2) and Scott Dann. It’s now three straight away wins for Palace, who sit comfortably in mid-table, while West Ham still have only one win in their last ten league games.
For years now, names like Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce have been synonymous with PL survival. Basically, its been a foregone notion that if you’re the owner of a relegation-fighting top-flight club, hiring one of these two veteran managers will result in staying afloat, not to mention continued year-to-year success in the league. (8by8Mag recently did an interview with Pulis dubbing him “The Anti-Gravity Man.”) Of course, this year has been no different in that regard. Pulis is leading West Brom’s charge up the table (including a crucial win on Sunday over Southampton), while Allardyce’s Hammers have sat comfortably in the top-ten for most of the season.
Enter Alan Pardew, the next entrant into this exclusive club.
Before his Palace move, Pardew had spent four years as the Newcastle manager, which is just as good as calling him Mayor of Tyneside. (Prior to that, he also dragged a downtrodden West Ham team to the PL in 2005.) He was well beloved at St. James’ Park — at least early on — and even guided the Toon to Europe in 2012, winning the PL Manager of the Season award. The superlative league performance earned Pardew an unheard-of 8-year contract extension in September of that year. He didn’t even make it halfway through those eight years before he was off to Selhurst.
Now at Palace, Pardew has the Eagles in 12th place, eight points above the dropzone. The win over West Ham signals four wins in seven matches, including five away games without a defeat. The hiring should and will go down as one of the PL’s most valuable acquisitions of this campaign. And even if the Pardew-Palace relationship does eventually sour — he does have a tendency to make sure of it — it will do so in the PL, more than likely.
Although Pulis and — especially — Allardyce spend much time lamenting their underhanded role in the European football managerial hierarchy, Pardew seems to be relishing his. Snubbing the higher life that came with Newcastle gafferdom, the 53-year-old may have found at Selhurst as place where he can feel appreciated whilst also winning football matches. The grass might not be “greener” per se, but green is a dangerous color anyways.
Liver continued their excellent league form on Sunday by defeating Manchester City at Anfield. Wondergoals from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho were enough for the hosts in the 2-1 victory. City’s lone goal came in the 25th minute from Edin Dzeko.
The win brings the Reds into fifth-place, just two points from the top-four. For City, the loss puts major dents into their title ambitions, as they sit five points adrift of Chelsea, who have a game in-hand.
It’s difficult to speak of Liverpool’s new year resurgence without singling out the midfield. With Daniel Sturridge just returning from injury and Raheem Sterling slightly coming off the boil in recent weeks, it’s been up to the midfield unit to elevate themselves in various ways. And they have. Specifically, Jordan Henderson.
Henderson’s contribution hasn’t been easily quantifiable but still thoroughly apparent. Apart from his glorious curling strike against City, his overall strength in central midfield has been a marked difference from the player they signed from Sunderland in 2011. On Sunday, Henderson bossed the middle of the park, forcing the usual tank-like Yaya Toure to appear as a frail, second-class player. But it’s really been the 24-year-old’s leadership amidst the absence of Steven Gerrard that’s stuck out. In fact, in the 12 games Henderson has captained, the Reds are undefeated (nine wins, three draws).
Considering how out-of-favor Henderson was during the early days of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool stay — alongside the cursed likes of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Martin Kelly, Charlie Adam, and Jay Spearing — it’s quite unbelievable to see the young man with the blessed Liverpool armband gracing his bicep; the same armband donned by such Merseyside legends as Gerrard, Ron Yeats, and Emlyn Hughes. There’s been much debate in Reds’ circles over who’ll take up Stevie G’s mantle longterm once the Englishman jets off to LA. Hendo looks to be in pole position for that sacred role.
Harnessing Disappointment with Arsenal and Everton
Arsenal’s midweek Champions League demons were exercised on Sunday as the Gunners defeated Everton 2-0 at the Emirates. Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky scored for the home side, leapfrogging them over Manchester United and into third-place. Struggling Everton are now only six points above safety.
In their current states, Arsenal and Everton tend to mirror each other in multiple ways. Both have aesthetically and technically adept managers in Arsene Wenger and Roberto Martinez, who’ve managed to excelled whilst championing the oft-heralded notion of “good football.” They both also traditionally lack a certain defensive competence that has ultimately, at one time or another, stifled their teams’ progression. Then there’s the transfer market, a place where Wenger and Martinez have both mastered and failed in equal measure.
Albeit, Wenger’s side is a much more established, proven commodity, whereas Martinez still has plenty of convincing to do before he’s viewed as part of the furniture. While Arsenal are losing CL fixtures to France’s third-best team, at least they’re in the CL. Everton would’ve expected to be challenging for such a privilege this year after their emphatic display in 2013/14, instead they’re slogging down towards the bottom of the table alongside the clubs they figured they have left in the dust.
We know who Arsenal is for the most part: an elite footballing body who refuses to succumb to the quicksand of sub-top-four life, no matter how dire things get along the way. Everton? We know they have a well-dressed manager. That’s about it.