5 things: New Arsenal resilience heads the weekend’s lessons
It was a cracking Premier League weekend for north London’s elite clubs, although most of the top-flight’s big boys will have been happy with their lot after the bookies took a bit of a favourites’ bashing.
The one result nobody saw coming heads the things we learned from matchweek 22 so far.
Arsenal can defend well enough when they want to
Arsene Wenger’s men restricted Manchester City to just four shots on target at the Etihad, but in truth the champions only looked like scoring once in the entire match.
Midfielder Francis Coquelin will pick up most of the plaudits for his stout holding job, although reserve full-backs Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal deserve special praise, not to mention recently reunited centre-half pairing Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
Wenger got his tactics spot on as Arsenal kept their shape and saw out a famous away win against one of the big boys. The world has clearly turned upside down. Time to back them for the title at 50/1?
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal doesn’t always get it right
As the ‘Iron Tulip’ alluded to after United’s 2-0 win at QPR, a 3-1-4-2 formation with Angel Di Maria up front does not work.
The Argentine winger was much more influential after being moved back into midfield, while the introduction of Marouane Fellaini for Juan Mata at half time bore the fruit of a goal from the Belgium international just 13 minutes later.
In that respect, Van Gaal got things right eventually, although he’ll have to be a bit sharper in future if his side are to justify 4/11 top-four odds this term.
Spurs have more strength in depth than many believed
The Lilywhites were far from impressive in the first half of their 2-1 triumph over a defensively-minded Sunderland outfit, but did more than enough after the break to be well worth the win.
Boss Mauricio Pochettino should be particularly pleased with the performances of Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Benjamin Stambouli. The trio are far from certain starters at White Hart Lane, but their combined defensive efforts provided a steady platform for the hosts to dominate proceedings.
Spurs no longer look like no hopers for a 7/1 top-four berth.
Liverpool aren’t back yet
Chelsea, Bolton, Chelsea, West Ham, Everton, Spurs, Besiktas, Southampton, Besiktas and Man City make up the Reds’ next 10 fixtures, bringing Brendan Rodgers’ side up to the start of March.
That’s a daunting gauntlet, particularly considering how badly Liverpool were derailed by fixture pile-ups in the first few months of the campaign.
Rodgers’ men may be unbeaten in eight, winning six of those games, but only Bournemouth, Swansea and Aston Villa were downed by more than a goal during that run.
A 2-0 win against a Villans side who cannot score is nothing to write home about, and much tougher tests will come thick and fast for Liverpool over the next six weeks.
Alan Pardew and Crystal Palace may indeed prove the perfect reunion
Three wins from three matches in all competitions for Palace and Pardew, with the latest coming after the Eagles had gone 2-0 down early on at Burnley.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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