As if we needed reminding about the absolutely insane nature of the Premier League this season, this weekend certainly left us with no questions in that regard. With nine goals in one game and some crucial results at both ends of the table, there was no shortage of exciting action. Read on to relive the main talking points and find out who made The Boot Room’s Premier League Team of the Week.
The late game on Sunday saw a clash of two stereotypical rivals in the shape of Arsenal and Chelsea. Arsene Wenger has a famously poor record against the club in blue from West London and after a match jam-packed full of incidents earlier in the campaign, the latest encounter did not disappoint. Per Mertesacker received his marching orders early on after bringing down the influential Diego Costa when the striker was through on goal. A little later on, a goal from the forward capitalised on Chelsea’s numerical superiority but as the match wore on, Arsenal eventually fought their way back into proceedings but nonetheless, rarely forced Thibaut Courtois into a challenging save. As a result, The Emirates outfit could not keep pace with Leicester City at the top of the Premier League table but they at least received the positive news that Alexis Sanchez is back to fitness and his half hour against The Blues will go a long way to recovering match sharpness.
The first game of the weekend took place at Carrow Road when Liverpool travelled to Norwich City. When Luis Suarez was still gracing the pitch in the Premier League, he had a tremendous personal record against the Canaries; scoring three hat-tricks, and so did Liverpool themselves as a result. However, this particular match could not have been further from the norm, as goals flew in at either end with defensive errors being the downfall of both sides. The top four hopefuls from Anfield have had widely reported troubles from set-play and this came to fruition once more. Liverpool’s defenders failed to win several successive headers from a Norwich corner and when the ball dropped to Mbokani, the forward produced an exquisite back-heel to equalise after Firmino’s deft opener. New signing Steven Naismith put Alex Neil’s men in front a few minutes before half-time against the bitter rivals of his former employers.
Then only a short time into the second period, a couple of inexplicable challenges in the penalty area from Alberto Moreno on the former Everton man resulted in a penalty which was converted by Wes Hoolahan. Less than two minutes later, Norwich had produced a defensive howler of their own to allow Jordan Henderson acres of space in the penalty area to convert. A scintillating counter-attack involving multiple neat touches and intelligent passes sent Firmino through on goal and Liverpool’s Brazilian made no mistake when one on one with Declan Rudd. The Reds’ surge into the ascendency appeared to be complete when a woefully misdirected back-pass by Russell Martin sent James Milner through on goal. The summer signing calmly slotted home and Jurgen Klopp would have been hoping that the day’s excitement was over.
His side managed the game well until yet another ball into the box from a set-piece was not dealt with by Liverpool’s defenders. Sebastien Bassong hit a first-time shot past Simon Mignolet from outside the area and; with only three minutes of injury time remaining, it seemed as though the visitors would let three points slip away. Refusing to lie down though, the much maligned Adam Lallana was the man for the big occasion as the ball dropped to him inside the area and he fired a left-footed shot beyond a stranded Declan Rudd. Cue wild celebrations for the entire Liverpool squad and fans alike. Klopp’s passion has been well documented since his arrival but Saturday saw the greatest example of this as he was engulfed in a crowd of his players and even managed to break his glasses in the process.
This did draw an end to the goal-scoring on the day, with nine strikes hitting the back of the net from only 12 shots on target. Despite the emotion of the eventual outcome, in the clear light of day, the result barely even papers over the cracks for Liverpool. Issues in their own defensive third; particularly when facing set-plays, must be improved drastically and quickly. In a post-match interview, the former Dortmund manager clearly stated that he is all too aware of this shortcoming and you have to feel that their time on the training field will be focused almost entirely on this single aspect. While Alex Neil will be wondering how on earth his Norwich side did not leave the ground with a point, Klopp will be immensely proud of the togetherness of the squad and will need to draw on it in the remainder of the season to achieve the club’s immediate desires.
West Ham entertained Manchester City at The Boleyn Ground and; after leading twice in the game, may well feel disappointed to only come away with one point. The Hammers were in front inside the first minute thanks to Enner Valencia, only for Sergio Aguero to equalise from the spot only a few minutes later. The same pair grabbed the other goals in the game for each side too as the final score was 2-2. Both sides will take the draw, but was not particularly useful for either.
After a brief upturn in form in the couple of matches prior to entertaining Southampton, the pressure on Louis van Gaal had eased somewhat. However, yet another drab display at Old Trafford that resulted in a loss without scoring a single goal has once more increased the ill-feeling towards the Dutchman. A dream start for the Saint’s new signing; Charlie Austin, earned the visitors all three points with the only goal of the game coming relatively late in the second half.