Throughout the Premier League season, Sebastian Noren will provide analysis from the week of games, talking about the good, the bad and the bizarre.
The 17th week of BPL action is over and fans were treated to another round of some great games, some bad games and some bizarre situations. Leicester will celebrate Christmas as league leaders, Chelsea has started life without Jose Mourinho and Manchester United drops out of the top four.
Chelsea Starts Life Without Mourinho With Win Over Sunderland
What Happened: Chelsea’s sacking of manager Jose Mourinho had dominated the headlines during the week, and the team responded by beating Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday. Branislav Ivanovic got Chelsea off to a great start with a goal in the fifth minute. Pedro made it 2-0 in the 13th minute and at that time the game felt over. Oscar scored from the penalty spot in the 50th minute to make it 3-0. Fabio Borini got Sunderland on the scoresheet three minutes later.
The win took Chelsea up to 15th place, but the reigning champs and interim manager Guus Hiddink have a lot of ground to make up if they are to salvage the season.
Seb’s Take: Chelsea looked better, but they were up against a weak Sunderland side. It might be for the best that Mourinho is gone, as it seems like he had lost the dressing room. Hiddink is a solid appointment and the only way for Chelsea now is up, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to make up enough points to challenge for a European cup spot.
Norwich Hand Man United First Loss Of The Season At Old Trafford
What Happened: Newcomers Norwich City shocked the crowd at Old Trafford as they grabbed a 2-1 win over Manchester United on Saturday. Norwich took the lead in the 38th minute through Cameron Jerome. Alexander Tetteh made it 2-0 in the 54th minute. Anthony Martial gave United a glimmer of hope when he scored in the 66th minute, but Norwich held on and took three much-needed points.
United slipped down to fifth place, as United is on a six-game winless streak.
Seb’s Take: United’s poor form continues, but van Gaal seems unwilling to change his tactics. His possession-based approach has not been working, and if Chelsea can fire Mourinho, then United could easily end up giving van Gaal the boot.
Leicester Stays Top With Win Over Everton
What Happened: Leicester City fans are on cloud nine, as the Foxes will celebrate Christmas as Premier League leaders. Riyad Mahrez’s fine form continues as he scored twice from the penalty spot in the 3-2 win on the road to Everton on Saturday.
Mahrez opened up the scoring in the 27th minute. Romelu Lukaku tied things up five minutes later for Everton. Mahrez once again gave Leicester the lead in the 65th minute and Shinji Okazaki made it 3-1 four minutes later. Kevin Mirallas netted in the 89th minute but it was too little too late for the Toffees.
Mahrez now has 13 goals and seven assists so far this season. His goal tally is second best in the league behind teammate Jamie Vardy (15) and his assist total is good for third in the league behind Mesut Ozil (15) and Gerard Deulofeu (7).
Seb’s Take: Leicester will be tested in the next week as they have games against Liverpool and Manchester City before we ring in 2016. But the Foxes have been so impressive, and Mahrez has been the best player in the league so far.
Tottenham Moves Into The Top Four
What Happened: Tottenham Hotspur took a comfortable 2-0 win on the road against Southampton after goals by Harry Kane and Dele Alli in the first half. The Spurs overtook Manchester United and sit in fourth place with 29 points. Kane got things started in the 40th minute when he scored his ninth league goal of the season. Alli made it 2-0 in the 43rd minute.
Spurs saw out the rest of the game and took the much-needed three points. Tottenham has only lost two games so far this season, but has had a knack for drawing too many games.
Seb’s Take: Spurs fans and players will be pleased that they bounced back with a win after the loss to Newcastle last Sunday. Tottenham has the tools to challenge for a top-four spot, and with Kane and Alli playing well, the run should continue.
Late Wonder Goal Seals Victory For Palace Over Stoke
What Happened: Chung Yong Lee scored an absolute screamer to win the game for Crystal Palace on Saturday against Stoke. The 2-1 win means that sixth-placed Palace is now level on points with Tottenham and Manchester United. Connor Wickham gave Palace the lead right before halftime from the penalty spot.
Stoke got a penalty of their own in the 76th minute and Bojan Krkic made no mistake and tied the game up. But Lee’s screamer won the game for Palace with his first goal for the club.
Seb’s Take: Palace has been so entertaining all season long and this game was no exception. Alan Pardew has his men playing a very attractive style of soccer and it’s difficult to not like this team as they are making waves in the upper part of the table.
Bournemouth Defeats Nine-Men WBA
What Happened: West Bromwich Albion managed to get two players sent off in the 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday. James McClean got sent off after receiving a straight red in the 34th minute. WBA held onto the game and it was scoreless at halftime.
Bournemouth broke the deadlock in the 54th minute through Adam Smith. Gareth McAuley tied the game up in the 79th minute, but a goal from the penalty spot by Charlie Daniels gave Bournemouth the three points. Salomon Rondon got himself sent off in added time after getting a straight red card.
Both McClean and Rondon could miss up to three games. Bournemouth is on a three-game winning streak and a five-game unbeaten run in the league and sits in 14th place with 19 points.
Seb’s Take: The fighting spirit of Bournemouth is impressive as the team is without several key players due to injury. With Norwich beating United, all three newcomers are now above the relegation zone.
Villa Takes A Point Away To Newcastle
What Happened: Bottom of the table Aston Villa finally got a point as they managed a 1-1 draw on the road against Newcastle. Newcastle took the lead in the first half after a goal by Fabricio Coloccini in the 38th minute. Jordan Ayew scored the point-saving goal for Villa in the 61st minute. The goal was Ayew’s fourth of the season. Villa are still a long way from safety as they have 10 points up to Newcastle who sits just above the drop zone.
Seb’s Take: Villa looks like they are doomed to go down. Remi Garde doesn’t have a lot to work with, but maybe they can get a player or two in on loan during the January transfer window and pull off something similar to what Leicester did last season.
Watford Spank Liverpool 3-0 To Keep Run Going
What Happened: Watford’s run of wins is now four after the Hornets defeated Liverpool 3-0 on Sunday. Nathan Ake scored his first goal for the club to give Watford the lead after just three minutes. Odion Ighalo made it 2-0 in the 15th minute and the game felt like it was already over at that point. Ighalo added a second late in the second half to bring his season total up to 12 goals.
Watford stays in seventh place, but is just one point off fourth-placed Tottenham. Liverpool are down in ninth, five points behind Tottenham and that coveted final Champions League spot.
Seb’s Take: Watford has been extremely impressive for being newcomers. The question remains is how they will do with the heavy schedule and if they would suffer an injury or two. Ighalo has been on fire and he will have to keep it up if Watford are to keep pace and stay in the upper half of the table.
Scoreless Between Swansea And West Ham
What Happened: Swansea City’s poor run of form continues as they played a scoreless draw at home against West Ham United on Sunday. Swansea has now gone seven straight games without a victory and find themselves in the relegation zone in 18th place with 15 points after 17 games. No announcement yet as to who will take over after fired manager Garry Monk, with Alan Curtis acting as caretaker manager until an appointment is made.
West Ham has struggled ever since they lost Dimitri Payet, but the Hammers are still in 8th place and just four points off the top four.
Seb’s Take: Uninspired game between two teams that are lacking in confidence. Swansea are in limbo until a new manager is revealed and West Ham needs to get over the loss of Payet and start expressing themselves on the pitch again.
Arsenal Defeat Manchester City In Top Four Battle
What Happened: Arsenal took a 2-1 win over Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Monday after goals by Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud in the first half. Mesut Ozil notched two more assists, bringing his total up to 15. Walcott gave the Gunners the lead in the 33rd minute with a powerful shot on the edge of the penalty area. Giroud scored right before halftime. It felt like the game was over at that point as Arsenal controlled the action on the pitch and didn’t allow any dangerous scoring chances.
But in the 82nd minute Yaya Toure scored a beautiful goal to breathe new life into the game. Toure guided the ball into the top corner from just outside the penalty area. But Arsenal held on and stays in 2nd place, two points behind Leicester.
Seb’s Take: Arsenal should be commended for playing through a bunch of injuries and keeping pace at the top of the table. The win over City is a statement that they will be in the title fight this season.
The Good: Leicester
I’m just going to copy what I wrote last week about Leicester as they are celebrating Christmas as league leaders. There are not enough good things you can say about this Leicester side. After having basically the same teams at the top of the table for the past decade, the Foxes has been a breath of fresh air. They have a solid team with a couple of extraordinary players like Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. Mahrez has been the best player of the season so far in my book, and Vardy is absolutely lethal inside the penalty area.
We must acknowledge that Leicester could potentially keep this up and play in the Champions League next season. I’m still having a hard time picturing them winning the title this season, but with the way they have been able to score and rack up wins, it’s not impossible.
The Bad: Manchester United
Another repeat from last week, but in a negative sense. After back-to-back losses to newcomers Bournemouth and Norwich City, the winds are blowing around Old Trafford as more and more fans are fed up with manager Louis van Gaal. He doesn’t play the type of soccer that fans are used to, and with Jose Mourinho getting the boot at Chelsea, it shows that no manager is untouchable.
The Bizarre: Yaya Toure
For better part of Manchester City’s meeting with Arsenal it looked like Yaya Toure couldn’t care less. Maybe he was thinking about Christmas food or what to give his brother Kolo when the Toures meet up to celebrate the Holidays this week. But in the final 15 minutes or so he was dominant, capping it off with a beautiful goal in the left top corner to give City some form of hope against Arsenal.
City can’t afford having Toure playing at 50 percent for more than half the game. He looks uninterested and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up leaving the team in the summer. He’s already showing signs of slowing down, but when it looks like he also is lacking motivation then it’s time to move on.