Chelseatook one step closer to the Premier League title with a convincing 3-1 win over Arsenalat Stamford Bridge on Saturday, leaving many pundits declaring them champions with 14 games to be played.
There was pressure on the Blues to get the desired result this weekend as a loss would open the door for many teams to potentially catch them. It was Arsenal that prompted the switch to 3-4-3, the formation that has served them so well since that day at the Emirates and the difference was clear. It took just 13 minutes for Chelsea to take the lead. Marcos Alonso headed home a rebound after Diego Costa’s effort struck the bar. The Gunners were unhappy with the goal as the Spaniard’s collision with Hector Bellerin forced the Arsenal man off with a head injury.
Eden Hazard’s stunning solo run was capped off with a tidy finish past Petr Cech to make it 2-0/ The Arsenal goalkeeper’s day would not get any better as his poor clearance allowed Cesc Fabregas to score against his former club and put the match beyond any doubt. Olivier Giroud scored a late consolation, but it was too little too late for the Gunners who were watched on by their manager Arsene Wenger from the stands.
This week was a big one for Chelsea. They had two tough games against Liverpool and Arsenal, and may rivals would have seen it as a chance to close the gap at the top. However, Antonio Conte’s men have further staked their claim to the title and it looks like they can not be caught. They look like the complete package, and it would take an incredible turn in form for Chelsea to lose their advantage.
Arsenal are now 12 points adrift and will have to settle for a top four position again. Spurs look the likeliest to catch Chelsea, but they still sit nine points behind despite a 1-0 win against Middlesbrough. Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat away at Hull has surely ended their title hopes, and City have yet to show the consistency needed.
The relegation battle just got even more interesting.
Ever match-week there seems to be extra twists and turns in the battle for relegation, and Match-week 24 did not stray away from that fact.
Selhurst Park hosted a real six pointer between Crystal Palace and Sunderland, and the result was one of the most surprising of the weekend. The Black Cats crushed Palace with a comprehensive 4-0 victory. Sunderland netted four goals in the first half alone to move level on points with their rivals.
Lamine Kone reacted quickest to Wayne Hennessey’s spill to give his side the lead after 10 minutes. A stunning end to the first half saw three goals in six minutes as the Palace faithful left the stadium in frustration. Didier Ndong netted a good finish from 25 yards to make it two before a Jermaine Defoe double compounded extra misery on Sam Allardyce. The frustration of the fans at Selhurt park was summed up with a fan that got onto the pitch to confront Damien Delaney. Sunderland remain bottom, but this was a big win that keeps their Premier League hopes very much alive. Palace fans should be worried as their side sit 19th.
Hull pulled out one of the shocks of the weekend themselves as they defeated Liverpool 2-0 at the KCOM stadium to continue their rise under Marco Silva. Alfred N’Diaye scored on his debut to give the Tigers the lead on the brink of half time to punish a poor Liverpoolside that failed to register a single save from the Hull City goalkeeper. Oumar Niasse secured the win with a calm finish to send Hull within a point of safety. Their transformation under Silva has been incredible. When he took over a month ago, the Tigers were bottom and three points from safety. They have since taken seven points from a possible 12 and sit just one point from safety.
With Swansea losing 2-1 to Manchester City, Leicester once again losing to Manchester United and Middlesbrough being downed by Spurs, two points separates 20th to 15th. There are six teams in the thick of this battle and it is only going to get tougher.
Since arriving in Manchester Gabriel Jesus has impressed fans with his displays so far. After grabbing his first goal in English football in mid-week, the Brazilian turned match winner as Man City defeated Swansea 2-1 at the Etihad stadium.
Jesus gave his side the lead within 11 minutes, using his pace to move forward and slot the ball past Lukasz Fabianski. The hosts dominated the first 45 minutes but could not add a second goal, and that came back to hurt them as Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised just under ten minutes from time.
It was looking like a frustrating afternoon for Pep Guardiola and another two points dropped, but a divine intervention took place in stoppage time as Jesus scored his second goal of the game to give City the three points that sends them into third place in the table.
The 19 year old is only new to the Premier League, but he has taken the division by storm in his first two starts for the club. Jesus will no doubt have a big say in City’s bid for the top four and potential title bid next season.
The Premier League may not be as competitive as it is made out to be.
The debate on which league is the best could be made forever and there would still be no right answer. Many fans will be drawn to the fast flowing tempo of the Premier League, others to the technicality of La Liga, some may also prefer the fan friendly Bundesliga. No matter which way you swing, you are neither right nor wrong, the debate is purely speculative and down to personal opinion.
As a follower of all major European Leagues, I have had a lot of criticism from my piers when I dared to question that the Premier League is not a cut above the rest. Although I do love the Premier League, it has often been placed on a pedestal it should not be on and I have been quick to say that other leagues offer something great themselves and should be respected.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A is the lack of competitiveness at the top of the table. Bayern Munich and Juventus have had a stranglehold of their respective leagues over the past half decade, whilst La Liga has often been dominated by the two Madrid clubs and Barcelona. Whilst the Premier League generally does produce different challengers and winners, this season seems to have become what many criticise other leagues for- being one sided.
Chelsea’s dominance this year is greater than that of Bayern, Real Madrid and Juventus who all sit top of their divisions. It begs the question, is the Premier League as competitive as people believe? Maybe it is not.
However, this was one of the most exciting match-weeks of the season
Despite Chelsea’s dominance, this week proved to be one of the best of the season with over 30 goals being scored in the ten games. Most of which came at Goodison Park as Everton defeated Bournemouth 6-3 in a nine goal thriller.
Also in the 3pm kick offs, West Ham began life without Dimitri Payet in a good light with a 3-1 away win at Southampton. Watford defeated Burnley 2-1 and West Brom narrowly beat Stoke City 1-0.
There will not be many more action filled and vital match-weeks like this one for the rest of the season. With each game averaging three goals, shock results, late drama and results having huge implications at both ends of the table, match-week 24 might be the best yet.
Full Premier League results
Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal
Crystal Palace 0-4 Sunderland
Everton 6-3 Bournemouth
Hull 2-0 Liverpool
Southampton 1-3 West Ham
Watford 2-1 Burnley
West Brom 1-0 Stoke
Tottenham 1-0 Middlesbrough
Man City 2-1 Swansea
Leicester 0-3 Man United
The Premier League returns on Saturday 11 February.
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