Premier League Review – Gameweek 20

West Ham 2 – 0 Liverpool

West Ham completed the double over Liverpool for the first time in 52 years with a 2-0 win over them at home on Saturday to kick off the new year with a bang.

Despite having picked up back to back wins in their last two outings Liverpool fell back into the old traps that saw them lose 3-0 to Watford. They were simply off the pace throughout the whole game, and they saw themselves punished early on when Michail Antonio headed in an Enner Valencia cross in the 10th minute. West Ham continued to press and provide more attacking entertainment than the visitors and former Liverpool man Andy Carroll fully deserved his second half goal to put the Hammers in a more comfortable position. West Ham will also have been pleased to welcome back key playmaker Dimitri Payet in the second half.

West Ham’s second consecutive victory lifts them to 6th in the table and sees them leapfrog Liverpool in the process, who drop down to 8th. West Ham will be worried about the injury to Manuel Lanzini.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixpztvnk-jQ

Arsenal 1 – 0 Newcastle

Arsenal managed to secure some breathing room at the top of the Premier League table with a shaky looking victory over Newcastle, although some will say it’s wins like this that win you a title.

A massive improvement from Newcastle saw them match the Gunners and even better them for periods of this game. Their midfield covered a lot of ground to dispel the danger the in form Mesut Ozil posed, and they limited the Arsenal midfielders’ opportunities massively. But it wasn’t just an impressive defensive display. The visitors were on the front foot for long spells in the second half and saw Georginio Wijnaldum’s effort saved by Petr Cech. Newcastle switched off in the 72nd minute though, with Laurent Koscielny poking the ball home to give Arsenal a very undeserved three points.

With Leicester failing to win again, Arsenal’s win puts them two points clear at the top of the Premier League and in prime position to fight for the title. Newcastle have a very different battle, and are currently two points from safety in 18th position. But they will certainly take heart from their excellent performance on Saturday.

Leicester 0 – 0 Bournemouth

A goalless draw with Bournemouth saw Leicester pick up their 40th point of the season and Claudio Ranieri insists that this is cause for celebration. But the Leicester fans will be ruing the draw that has seen them slip two points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Bournemouth held their own against a Leicester side who are truly believing that they have what it takes to challenge for the Premier League title. This could have all changed half an hour before the final whistle though as Simon Francis brought Jamie Vardy down in the penalty area and saw himself dismissed as a result. But Man of the Match Artur Boruc got strong hands to Riyad Mahrez’ penalty to keep the scores level. Bournemouth continued to hang on with a man disadvantage and Boruc again denied Mahrez late on. Few could argue that Bournemouth didn’t deserve a point from the game though.

This saw Leicester drop two points behind leaders Arsenal in 2nd place, and despite their excellent scoring record they have now failed to score in any of their last three matches. Could this be the beginning of the decline we have all been expecting? Bournemouth’s unexpected point puts them four points clear of the bottom three in 16th.

Manchester United 2 – 1 Swansea

A piece of brilliant by the under fire Wayne Rooney saw Manchester United pick up their first victory in nine matches as they beat Swansea on Saturday.

The match began in the same vein as most of Manchester United’s and Swansea’s recent matches: Devoid of attacking intent and thoroughly disappointing in entertainment terms. But the second half improved, with Anthony Martial’s headed opener a few minutes after half time bringing the visitors out of their shells. Gylfi Sigurdsson glanced home the equaliser with 20 minutes to go before Wayne Rooney brilliantly back heeled a Martial cross seven minutes later to put Man United back in front. This took the wind out of Swansea’s sails, and their ventures forwards were rare in the final 13 minutes, with goalkeeper Fabianski coming closest with a last minute header from a corner.

This lifts Manchester United into 5th position, and with Spurs drawing on Sunday they are now just three points from the top four position they need so much. Swansea remain just two points clear of the relegation zone in a precarious 17th position.

Norwich 1 – 0 Southampton

Norwich took advantage of Southampton’s poor form with a crucial Premier League victory on Saturday in a match that showed a lot of undeniable effort but not much quality.

The game had largely been scrappy and full of heart, with both teams seemingly lacking the confidence to put forward any good quality football. But the game was changed when Victor Wanyama’s reckless challenge in the second half was punished with a red card, and just three minutes later Norwich found the opener. Norwich substitute Vadis Odjidja was praised by his boss for his part in setting up Alex Tettey’s left footed opener and eventual winner.

This win lifts Norwich to within a point of Southampton, with the hosts sitting in 15th and the visitors in 14th. But the form favours Norwich, with them keeping back to back clean sheets and Southampton losing six of their last eight outings.

Sunderland 3 – 1 Aston Villa

The bottom of the Premier League clash between Sunderland and Aston Villa saw the hosts end their run of defeats and boost their chances of survival.

Sam Allardyce billed this the biggest match of the season, but you could have been forgiven for thinking you misheard him considering the way his side started. Sunderland continually gifted possession to Aston Villa and looked shocking in both defence and attack. They required a smart save from Vito Mannone to deny Jordan Veretout, but then a wicked deflection from a Patrick van Aanholt shot saw Sunderland take the lead against the run of play. This instilled some confidence in the hosts, but Carles Gil’s acrobatic volley levelled the scores with half an hour to play. But Premier League poacher Jermain Defoe responded nine minutes later to put Sunderland back in front and then put the victory beyond doubt in injury time.

Both teams remain in the same place, Sunderland in 19th and Aston Villa in 20th. But Sunderland are now just four points from safety whilst Aston Villa languish 11 points from an escape, and they have now gone 19 games without a win in the Premier League.

West Brom 2 – 1 Stoke

Stoke suffered just their 3rd defeat in their last 13 matches as an injury time winner from Jonny Evans gave West Brom a much needed victory.

The excellent Stoke we have seen at times over the past couple of months seem to have left their flair at the team hotel for this one. Next to nothing happened in the first 60 minutes of the match, with West Brom typically devoid of ideas going forward and Stoke frustratingly dull as well. Stephane Sessegnon gave the hosts the lead with a powerful strike on the hour mark though, with Jon Walters heading Stoke level with one of the few opportunities they created. But indiscipline strikes again for Stoke, with Geoff Cameron reacting to a Claudio Yacob challenge and receiving a red card for his troubles. This put West Brom back on the front foot, and a last gasp poke home from Jonny Evans gave West Brom a much needed victory.

This lifts West Brom to 12th in the Premier League table, with their 26 points putting them well in a very tight mid-table race. Stoke remain in 10th with three points more than their opponents.

Watford 1 – 2 Manchester City

A great finale saw Manchester City come from behind to claim the three points in a rare away win for the Premier League title contenders.

Watford certainly held their own throughout this match against the big spending giants of Manchester City as the visitors went on the search for their first away win since the start of September. It did take until after the break before we saw a goal though, with Aleksandar Kolarov heading a Ben Watson corner into his own net to put Watford in front. Manchester City had a host of chances, but they simply could not put any of them away. Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure saw long range shots saved and Fernandinho went close to scoring twice. But Manchester City turned the game around in under three minutes when Yaya Toure guided a volley into the Watford net before Sergio Aguero headed in his first goal in six matches.

This win stops Man City from falling too far behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, with them remaining three points adrift. Watford sit comfortably in the top ten of the table with 29 points, and they will just be pleased to be seemingly avoiding the drop.

Crystal Palace 0 – 3 Chelsea

Guus Hiddink supplied the Chelsea fans with his first win in charge of the struggling champions as they deservedly beat the in form Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Crystal Palace started brightly as they looked to take advantage of the poor form of Chelsea, but Oscar tapped home the opener against the run of play. After that it was all Chelsea. They dominated the game and fully deserved a second goal, which came via an incredible strike by Willian on the hour mark. Diego Costa got a deserved goal to seal the victory six minutes later when Crystal Palace failed to defend with any conviction.

This takes Chelsea six points clear of the Premier League relegation zone, but they are still a huge 13 points behind the top four. However, they are now unbeaten in four games and have picked up only their second away win of the season. Crystal Palace drop to 7th with this defeat, but they are only two points off a Europa League spot.

Everton 1 – 1 Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur had to settle for a point against Everton as they try to fend off the challengers for the top four spot that they occupy.

Spurs completely dominated the first half, with Harry Kane and Ben Davies both hitting the frame of the goal. But in between these fine efforts came an Everton goal that was against the run of play. Aaron Lennon half-volleyed in against his former club after 22 minutes to put Everton in front. Spurs weren’t going to lie down though and continued to exert pressure, and the in form Dele Alli capitalised on this pressure with a low volley in first half injury time. Everton improved after the break, but ultimately there weren’t too many chances for either team to get a winner.

Spurs remain in the top four following this draw, and with just six points separating them from Premier League leaders Arsenal they could well be in with a shout of sustaining a title challenge. Everton continue to struggle when it comes to picking up victories, and they now sit in 11th with 27 points from their opening 20 games.

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