Gameweek 17 ended with Manchester United taking sole ownership of first place after they were able to overcome Arsenal at home, 1-0. It was a tight game that often lacked the quality needed to make it the weekend’s marquee match off paper, but it was a result the Reds will welcome. United’s defense of Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are slowly coming back into their best form as a collective while a midfield five led by Darren Fletcher and Anderson were staunch enough to keep Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin and an unfit Cesc Fabregas mostly quite.
While the win by United was expected by many, what can football fans learn from the match, if anything? For me, the answer: not much at all. Arsenal, while entering into Monday night’s encounter as league leaders, still lack the winner’s mentality needed to challenge for the title by beating stronger teams such as United and Chelsea. For now at least it seems as if the Gunners are destined for another ‘there, or there abouts’ season.
Manchester City emerged from Gameweek 17 the more viable title challenger than Arsenal did. Although their 1-3 victory away to West Ham was expected, Premier League fans are starting to learn more and more about City each week. The lesson? That City can hurt you at anytime and are not solely reliant on just one or two players. While the sad but true Carlos Tevez saga continues to boil off the pitch, City continue to rage on it.
In the weekend’s other match of extreme importance, struggling Chelsea were able to cancel out an early Roman Pavlyuchenko strike to earn a point at White Hart Lane. Much has been spoken about John Terry’s solid performance in the heart of defence yet Chelsea’s more glaring concern at the moment should be their inability to create good chances and score goals.
To put Chelsea’s struggles into perspective, the Blues are a team that scored 21 goals in their opening five matches of the season yet have scored only three goals in their last five league matches while earning a paltry six points out of a possible 21 since the start of November.
Honorable Mentions –
Nemanja Vidic – Manchester United– United’s back line was solid and stingy on Monday night, rarely tested, but effective when asked to be. Vidic, as always, was an integral part of the the clean sheet United enjoyed. Many would say United’s ability to keep Arsenal scoreless was more attributed to Arsenal’s stagnant attack, but Vidic’s second half lunge to block what looked to be a certain Marouane Chamakh equalizer was a moment of defensive brilliance.
John Terry, Chelsea– Another defender makes the list this week who turned in a great performance. Although Terry’s Chelsea weren’t able to overcome Spurs away, it wasn’t the former England captain’s fault. Terry was brilliant in the heart of defense, displayed the poise and defensive positioning that’s made him one of the best defenders in England, and won the majority of his tackles over the course of the full 90 minutes. Did John Terry announce to the league that he’s coming back into his best form with Sunday’s performance?
Stuart Holden, Bolton – The American midfielder fired home a dramatic late winner on Saturday while it seemed as if Blackburn were still celebrating their 87th minute equalizer. Bolton were deserved of the three points they earned on Saturday in large part because they were able to score twice after going down to ten men in the 56th minute. Holden’s 88th minute strike was one of those emphatic blasts into the back of the net that was destined to be a match winner.
Premier League Footballer of the Week –
Yaya Toure, Manchester City– The City midfielder purchased from Barcelona last summer was sensational on Saturday at West Ham. Toure was credited with only one goal but should have been awarded a second when he skinned James Tomkins on the left side of midfield and surged his way into the box to shoot past Robert Green. Toure’s effort was adjudged to have hit off the post before bouncing off Green and in. It was laughable that the goal wasn’t awarded to Toure who did all the work to create the opportunity, but the three points gained by City on the day will likely be all the Ivorian is concerned with.
Early in the match, Toure opened the scoring when a simple ball into the box from Gareth Barry caught West Ham’s Jonathan Spector sleeping. While attempts such as Toure’s have witnessed the ball soar into row Z more times than anyone can count, Toure blasted his shot emphatically past Robert Green and City never looked back. Goals aside, Toure was at his best on Saturday surging forward into the space that Spector and Scott Parker gifted to City in the center of the pitch.
With a gifted supporting cast surrounding Toure in the form of David Silva, Jo and Gareth Barry, City always looked a threat moving forward against West Ham. Toure’s performance both in attack and defensively was welcomed as City were without club captain Carlos Tevez due to suspension. While the potential loss of Tevez in January on paper is a disaster, if Toure, Silva and Adam Johnson off the bench can continue to turn in performances like they did on Saturday, the little Argentine’s absence may not be felt as much as City fans are anticipating.