Villa took a point from visitors Manchester United and continued their upward move away from the relegation zone but the match of the round was unquestionably the derby between Newcastle and Sunderland. The fairy tale continues for Adam Johnson, a ball-boy at Newcastle and a junior player who was released at age 12, scored for the third consecutive time in the derby match for Sunderland who won an unprecedented fourth derby game in a row.
After a loss in round 15, Chelsea resumed normal business in round 17 with a 2-0 win against Stoke away followed by a well worked 2-0 at home to West Ham. It was a disappointing game to watch if your allegiance lies with the Hammers as big Sam looked to build a dam wall. Predictably, the wall was breached and West Ham were forced to chase the game in the second half allowing Chelsea to play their passing game and score again. The fourth game in the sequence was another London derby, this time away to Spurs. Chelsea took the lead somewhat against the run of play but Spurs equalised almost immediately then pushed on to a 3-1 half time lead. The second half promised more goals and did not disappoint, final score 5-3 to Spurs. Captain John Terry scored 3 goals in the 4 fixtures. Points: 7/12
City hosted Crystal Palace and the visitors were impressive for the first 45 minutes, easily the better team and should have taken the lead on at least two occasions. City’s class prevailed as they worked the ball around the penalty area to open up Palace and in the end ran out quite comfortably, 3-0. The next match was an away fixture at WBA which City easily won 3-1, the lack of a fit striker seeing Milner start at the top of the attack. Round 19 City hosted lowly Burnley and managed to squander a 2-0 lead, fans will be remembering Roma on days like this. The final match of the 4 was another tight affair with the visitors Sunderland. City fans will be concerned that their team almost threw away another 2-0 lead as Sunderland drew level. Frank Lampard joined the battle late and celebrated his loan extension with his 176th premier league goal and 4th goal for City. Points: 10/12
United fans will be disappointed with the results in this 4 match sequence. First, a draw against 10 man Aston Villa when they should have scored a few saw them drop 2 easy points. Next the Geordies came to Old Trafford and were sent packing comprehensively but it is the next two fixtures that will be worrying, a 0-0 nil draw against Spurs when it looked like they might score half a dozen. The second half was a complete flop for United as they had to hang on for a point. 2 days later United traveled to Stoke and conceded early, Falcao scored his 3rd United goal to earn a point. Points: 6/12
Arsenal went to Anfield hoping to cash in on the poor run of the Reds but were lucky to escape with a draw. Next up Liverpool traveled to Burnley where they prevailed and picked up 3 points in a narrow win. The game plan however seems to be taking shape and the high tempo pressing game paid dividends. The following match the Reds got their act together and destroyed Swansea 4-1. Fans might have thought the corner had been turned at this stage but in the next round they hosted Leicester. A match filled with controversy, including 2 dubious penalties for the home team and yet the Anfield team could not prevent Nigel Pearson’s Foxes from taking a point after leading by 2. Points: 8/12
Tottenham HotspursSpurs had to come from a goal down to beat Burnley which lifted them to 6th, Harry Kane impressing with a goal at the death. The next match was on the road at Leicester who put up a brave fight but went down by the odd goal in three. The third match was the goalless draw at home with Manchester United in which Spurs looked completely outclassed in the first half and then completely outplayed United in the second and should have taken all three points. The fourth game was a sensational 8 goal stonker against Chelsea at White Hart Lane. Harry Kane making all the runs and scoring two of the five goals for a memorable win. Points: 10/12
Just as it looks like Wenger’s team are starting to get some form and go on a run they disappoint.
2-2 at Liverpool was a bit of a hit and run as the Gunners burgled a point and then had two London Derby matches against QPR and West Ham. A solid win in both games raised the Gunners to fourth and when the opportunity came to climb within one point of United they floundered against Southampton. Points: 7/12
Southampton, Newcastle, West Ham & Swansea
Southampton won handsomely against Everton in round 17, ending a losing streak going back to Round 13. Koeman’s team kept the momentum going with another 3 points at Crystal Palace before taking a point from table topping Chelsea. The fourth game in the series saw the Saints beat Arsenal by 2 at home on New Year’s Day. Three wins and a draw see them back in the top 4. Points: 10/12
Swansea are a frustrating team to watch and support. Rounds 17 and 18 saw them win by one goal against Hull and Villa respectively to end a miserable stretch of results only to get a big hiding on their travels to Anfield. In the fourth game of the sequence Swansea were somewhat unfairly reduced to 10 men but fought hard to rescue a point at QPR after going down to an early goal. Points: 7/12
Newcastle’s recent climb up the ladder came to an abrupt halt. A string of defeats including 1-0 to Sunderland and 3-1 at Old Trafford saw them slide down the table again. Newcastle won their next fixture against Everton, another team dropping down the table at a rate of knots only for news to leak that manager Pardew has quit to join Crystal Palace. The fourth game in the sequence was against Burnley who have not given up hope of surviving the premier league season with a hard fought point in a 3-3 draw. Points: 4/12
Tony Pulis is back in the Premier League after joining West Brom.
The African players head off to the African Cup of Nations and the FA Cup starts next week. Who will miss their African stars the most? Will City prevail without Toure? Will Swansea survive without Bony?