EPL Hits and Misses: 'Twas the one before Christmas...
Martin Skrtel might have saved Liverpool's blushes, but his side joins Arsenal in the Misses section. Meanwhile, strikerless Man City are the big winners of the weekend...
The form team in the Premier League after Manchester United's winning streak was snapped by Aston Villa. It seems like City's win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League was just the tonic they needed after a rather wretched month between Oct 22 and Nov 22. While Chelsea are yet to face the Premier League's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in Stoke City, City are now level on points with Jose Mourinho's side. Would you or anyone for that matter have imagined this just a month ago?
No strikers? No problem. While Sergio Aguero has been the stand-out performer for City, David Silva fired a timely reminder of his importance to City's ambitions to retain their title with a fortuitously-timed return from injury.
The other big winners of the weekend. Since their defeat to Manchester United in September, Sam Allardyce's men have embarked on a monstrous run of form collecting 24 points from a possible 33, enabling them to properly enjoy Christmas while sitting proudly in fourth spot just one point shy of the Red Devils. With a reborn Stewart Downing leading the charge along with the fit-again and goal-hungry Andy Carroll, it will be interesting to see how the Hammers fare over the festive season and for the second half of their EPL campaign.
Surely he's done enough to warrant a place in Roy Hodgson's next England squad? The QPR man is simply unstoppable at the moment as his hat-trick against West Brom places him three goals shy of top scorer Aguero in the Premier League scoring charts. Harry Redknapp would be absolutely to mad to let his ace striker go in January (there will surely be offers) if he wishes to continue playing in England's top flight.
Another week, another 2-1 win for Spurs. It's a scoreline that is pretty much a guaranteed bet these days.
A vital win over a decent side like Everton to stop Southampton's recent slide.
They might be the EPL's draw specialists this season with 10 draws from 17 matches, but the Black Cats really know how to rise to the occasion for the Tyne-Wear Derby. That's four straight victories in a row for them.
The Colombian goal machine must be hoping that his first goal since Oct 5 will be the catalyst to get his gears going to earn the permanent move to Old Trafford that he craves.
Gladly obliged the narrative for football writers everywhere with his heroic last-ditch header to equalise against Arsenal after sustaining a nasty injury. The bandaged Liverpool defender's Instagram tells the whole wince-inducing story...
It was a tough decision on where to place the Reds after snatching a draw at the death against Arsenal that saw them creep into the top-half of the table, but they ultimately end up in the Misses column for the same old reasons: blunt in attack, shambolic in defence. Despite dominating an anaemic Arsenal side (23 shots v six), Brendan Rodgers' men should have been able to grab all three points. Instead, Liverpool failed to make the most of their chances while their defenders, including goal hero Martin Skrtel, were guilty of pedestrian defending for Arsenal's goals. It doesn't get any better with Rodgers' assessment of their performance. He said:"Can we now challenge for the top four? Yes. Absolutely. The most important thing is that we are moving in the right direction again." With such sloppy defending and poor finishing, Liverpool will be lucky to finish in a Europa League spot this season.
While Liverpool at least performed admirably in spite of their evident flaws, Arsenal simply failed to find their footing at Anfield. Even though they're just four points off fourth spot, Arsene Wenger will have to do a lot more to coax out of his troops the consistency needed to prove themselves worthy of a Champions League spot.
It had to end, didn't it? Louis van Gaal's side may not have been defeated, Saturday's game against Aston Villa was one they were expected to win - and comfortably for that matter. While the Dutchman has preached intelligent use of the ball to get the good performances that he craves, his players seemingly decided to take their tactics straight from the David Moyes playbook by bombarding the home side's penalty area with cross after cross after cross. As their boss made his point about how good performances lead to good results, United must up their game if they are serious about challenging Man City and Chelsea for the title.
Not the result expected now that they're free of Europa League commitments.
Winner of just one match over Sunderland after overseeing eight clashes since his appointment in Dec 2010. During that time, Pardew has faced four different Black Cats managers. Will Newcastle fans start calling for his head again after his latest failure to win the all-important Tyne-Wear Derby? Watch this space.
Seven points from a possible 28 since the start of November see the Baggies slipping closer and closer to the drop zone. Alan Irvine must surely be feeling the pressure...
It's getting harder to see Bruce keep his job after the New Year if Hull fail to win their Christmas fixtures against Sunderland and Leicester.
The Foxes must be wishing that Sept 21 was their Groundhog Day.