3 Up, 3 Down: Featuring Leicester City and Chelsea
Another week, and another fabulously unpredictable weekend of Premier League football.
Surprise leaders Leicester City kept their extraordinary run of results going, as did newly promoted Watford and Bournemouth. More pressure was heaped on Louis van Gaal with Norwich’s shock victory at Old Trafford, Chelsea fans attacked their own team at Stamford Bridge and in the greatest christmas miracle of all, Aston Villa avoided defeat with a gutsy draw at Newcastle. But who makes the list in this week’s 3 up, 3 down?
Up: A good week for…
1. Leicester City
Leicester City’s season has been so phenomenal it is almost impossible to laden all of the praise they so richly deserve on just one or two names. Riyad Mahrez was the standout performer of the weekend, with two well taken penalties, but the whole side was remarkable in a very impressive 3-2 win at Goodison Park.
Obviously Claudio Ranieri is the mastermind behind this incredible run, but Leicester run out onto the pitch every single week and deliver astounding, fast-paced and, most crucially, winning performances. Unbeaten for 3 months, the Foxes have won 8 of their last 10 in the Premier League, and are starting to look like a really top team, rather than a decent side who are experiencing a purple patch.
Everyone at Leicester City, from the coaching staff to the players, all the way down to the canteen staff and cleaners deserve credit for their remarkable turnaround. As we all tuck into our Christmas turkey on Friday, a glance at the Premier League table will show Leicester at the top of the tree. Bottom just twelve months ago, the sky really is the limit for this unbelievable team.
2. The newly promoted clubs
Three weeks ago, Bournemouth looked dead and buried. Without swathes of their first team stars, and sitting in the bottom three, the prospect of relegation was beginning to loom over the South Coast club. However, after a third straight win, this time away to West Bromwich Albion, the Cherries are beginning to look up the table and finally appear to have grasped the level they need to be playing at to survive in the Premier League.
As good as their 2-1 win at the Hawthorn’s was, Bournemouth had to share the Saturday limelight with another newly promoted club. Norwich City, who sat 18th at the start of the weekend, shocked everyone with a first win at Old Trafford since 1989, condemning Manchester United to a first home defeat of the season. Cameron Jerome scored the first, whilst Alex Tettey demonstrated to us the effectiveness of a toe punt as a finishing technique when scoring the winning goal. Remarkable stuff.
If Saturday was good for newly promoted sides, Sunday took things to a new level. Watford, now on a four game winning streak, pulled Liverpool apart in a 3-0 thumping at Vicarage Road. Yes, Adam Bogdan made a mistake for the first goal. Yes, Martin Skrtel should not have let Ighalo in for the second, but Watford played the perfect match and never looked like relinquishing their advantage. They now sit just a point outside the top 4, in what has been a stonking season for the Hertfordshire club.
3. Crystal Palace
Pardew’s Palace kept on rolling this weekend with a late winner from Lee Chung-yong firing them to victory at the Britannia Stadium.
Facing an in-form Stoke side was never going to be an easy prospect, but the Eagles showed great talent and resolve to recover from Bojan’s late equaliser and go on and win the match. Connor Wickham scored his first goal for the club and Lee’s strike was an absolute beauty of a controlled, long-range strike. The South London club lie in 6th place in the table, level on points with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Spare a thought for the real losers of this game, though. Alan Pardew said Lee’s goal “woke the whole of Asia up.” Considering it was approaching 2am on the streets of Seoul when his shot flew in, you can’t help but feel sorry for the hundreds of millions of people awoken suddenly from their slumber thanks to Lee’s impromptu alarm. Let’s hope they all got back to sleep.
Down: A bad week for…
1. (some) Chelsea players
It is very unusual for a win to be jeered rather than welcomed, but that is the exact situation Chelsea found themselves in after a 3-1 triumph over Sunderland.
There was nothing wrong with Chelsea’s performance, in fact, it was fantastic, but for such a performance to follow so closely with the sacking of Mourinho and months of pure dross made the victory hard to swallow for the fans. Everything about the performance suggested the players had not been even trying to defend the title they won so comfortably in May, and that is unacceptable. The likes of Fabregas, Ivanovic and Costa took the brunt of the abuse, and each of them put in their best performances of the season by far.
A very strange end to a calamitous week for the Blues.
2. Louis van Gaal
Oh dear. For the second week in a row, Manchester United’s Dutch manager features in the down category thanks to a dire defeat at home to Norwich City on Saturday.
Despite having plenty of possession, the Red Devil’s rarely threatened the Norwich goal, and can have no complaints after they stretched their torrid run to 6 games without a win in all competitions. Wayne Rooney, returning from injury was awful, as were Memphis Depay, Michael Carrick and the entirety of the United defence. Van Gaal’s men now sit 5th in the Premier League.
With Mourinho available and Pep Guardiola looking for a new challenge in the summer, surely someone must want to take on Manchester United. They have money, history and a squad that should be challenging for the League title. van Gaal’s days are starting to appear numbered.
3. James McClean
Every player has a moment of madness every now and again, but West Brom’s James McClean seems more prone to them than most.
This weekend, half an hour into the match against Bournemouth, McClean took unkindly to a challenge by Adam Smith, and responded by putting in a horror tackle on the Cherries right-back. Smith was lucky to escape without injury.
The most sickening part about the foul was the blatant premeditated nature of it. McClean waited for Smith to regain possession of the ball in order to attack the right back with as much force as he could muster. It was pathetic, cowardly and dangerous, and Smith was very close to joining Bournemouth’s incredibly long injury list.
As for McClean, he should face a long ban. A disgraceful moment that marred a cracking weekend of football.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Menos b