5 Talking Points From Premier League Gameweek 32: The Weekly EPL
With a packed roster of matches being played out over the weekend, we have plenty to talk about regarding this gameweek.
1. Manchester City get a glimpse of an alternate reality
Still 12 points clear of their noisy neighbors, United possibly just can’t throw it away from here. But yesterday’s match did was to serve up a intriguing mix of ‘What ifs’. A hard fought victory at Old Trafford in which all the three goals were scored by players wearing a sky blue shirt won’t possibly alter the destination of the League trophy this season. But what it would definitely do is restored the flagging morale of the Citizens. Possibly buy Mancini some more time at the helm. And sound a clarion call – loud and clear that Manchester City are back. In a season blighted by poor form and fitness of key players, in a season when the FA Cup is the only silverware they could possibly win, this resounding victory will give them the self belief which could ensure that the race to the league will be a more tightly contested affair next season.
2. Arsenal and Tottenham in an all too familiar situation
A Gareth Bale-powered Tottenham found themselves sweeping aside all opposition as they fixed their sights of a Champions League spot. An unfortunate twist of fate (or rather of an ankle) and the Lilywhites find their Welsh superstar on the treatment table. Arsenal and Chelsea choose this precise moment to turn up the heat on their North London rivals as they both recorded narrow wins to close the gap down. Add to that a tough run-in with matches against Manchester City and Chelsea and suddenly Spurs are nervously looking over their shoulders. Tottenham fans will be forgiven for having that all too familiar feeling of being overtaken by their fierce rivals Arsenal, who currently sit two points adrift, albeit with a game in hand.
3. Rafalution and The Legend of Zorres
A gruelling run of three fixtures in the space of a week. And they won them all. The European Champions were finding their squad stretched to the limit as the onerous schedule finally started catching up with them. The insipid first half performance was a testimony to that and it was looking all the more obvious when a panicked César Azpilicueta sliced a clearance into his own net. And it was then a masked superhero came to the fore. Sporting a mask (for a facial injury) which kind of resembled the one worn by Antonio Banderas in the two Zorro movies, El Nino injected conviction into the Blues lineup. He might not have got a goal himself, but his introduction in the second half certainly changed the course of the match. With 19 goals all season and three strikes in his last five, he can no longer be labelled a ‘flop’. And the man who had brought him to England and coached him at Liverpool would be probably responsible for the turnaround in fortunes of this Spaniard.
Make no mistake, with six home wins on the trot; Stamford Bridge is slowly becoming a fortress.
4. Next in the Premier League sack race – Tony Pulis?
Make no mistake – Stoke City are in freefall. A shambolic haul of only five points in 2013, it was really no surprise that the Potters faithful made their displeasure evident after yet another dismal performance at the Britannia. Only three points above 18th place Wigan Athletic, Stoke are certainly flirting on the fringes of relegation. For a team which depended on their defensive solidity at home and aerial threats, this season it just hasn’t come together for The Potters. With only one clean sheet in their last 14 games, they look only a pale shadow of their former selves. All this was exemplified this week as a chronic lack of width and long hopeful downfield punts by Robert Huth and co. were easily taken care of by the Villa backline. Stoke City find themselves in a precarious position, one of the more difficult situation since winning promotion in 2008. It will be no wonder if Peter Coates, the Stoke City chairman decides that he has seen enough. If EPL were a popularity contest, Stoke City would bring up the rear end. So the neutrals won’t bother to shed a tear or two if The Potters find themselves plying in the Championship next season.
5. God save the Queens and the Royals
Seven points from safety and not even seven matches to go. You would be certainly forgiven for thinking that the death knell has sounded for the two teams who bring up the rear in the Premier League table. The two R’s, Reading and Rangers, are definitely hearing the ominous rumble of relegation.
QPR fought bravely, despite the early sending off of Bobby Zamora and made a match of it versus Wigan. They almost snatched three points when Loïc Rémy smashed home a stunning shot on the 85th minute. However they had themselves to blame as the otherwise excellent Stéphane Mbia foolishly bundled Shaun Maloney just in front of the 18-yard box deep into stoppage time. Maloney curled in a sublime free kick past the despairing dive of Júlio César to wrest back a point for his side.
On the other hand, one would struggle to say anything complimentary about the performance the Royals dished out over the weekend as they were convincingly beaten 2-0 by Southampton, in the process setting an unwanted club record of eighth defeats in succession.