By Niall Clarke
- Five lessons learned from match-week 17 of the Premier League season
- Full weekend results
Santa came early for Premier League fans as we were treated to another excellent weekend of football. Here are five things we learned from match-week 17.
No Aguero? No Problem
When Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero was sent off against Chelsea questions were asked on whether the Citizens would cope without their talisman up front. On the evidence of the last two games they are doing just fine.
After the loss to Leicester there were crisis talks among Premier League fans about Pep Guardiola’s ability to manage City. That was a little over-stated, but there were legitimate fears for their season the way things started to turn. City have responded with back to back wins, including a 2-1 win over Arsenal at the weekend.
Despite going 1-0 down to a Theo Walcott goal inside five minutes, Man City came back to control the game in the second half and grab a deserved win at the Etihad stadium. Leroy Sané scored just minutes after the break before Raheem Sterling sealed a crucial three points.
Yaya Toure made his influence felt by tracking runs of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, thus keeping Arsenal’s key men quiet. The Ivorian has made a big difference since returning to the side. It might be a little too late to still compete for the title given Chelsea’s form, but they are still in the hunt with this win and they have leapfrogged the Gunners in the standings.
Chelsea could set a Premier League record
With another 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, Chelsea have now won 11 games on the bounce and are closing in on the record for consecutive Premier League victories that is currently held by Arsenal with 14 in the 2001-2002 season.
The Blues were again not at their best, but they are finding a way to win and that is a mark of champions. Diego Costa was the once again the man who scored the winning goal, taking his Premier League tally to 14 for the season. This sort of ruthless efficiency will go a long way to their title hopes, and at this rate nobody will stop them.
Chelsea face Bournemouth at home without Costa or N’Golo Kante through suspension, then they welcome Stoke to Stamford Bridge to close out the year. They could very well be sitting on 13 straight victories when they travel to Tottenham to kick off 2017. The club record has already been matched by Antonio Conte, can they go all the way and set a new Premier League record while they are at it?
Zlatan is a man on fire
When the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Manchester United in the summer, many people questioned whether the 35 year old will be able to handle the Premier League. After all the English game is played at a different tempo to other major leagues, and with 35 being near retirement age, many wondered if the Swede still had it.
If the last three matches have taught us anything, it is that Zlatan still has ‘it’. The Manchester United striker scored twice to lead his side to a 2-0 win away at West Brom – a very impressive result for the Red Devils who now look in contention to finish inside the top four again.
It is quite clear that the form of Zlatan will instrumental to their European aspirations. The Swede might not have many miles left, but he still has undeniable quality that can win matches for his team. The weekend’s performance was one of United’s best of the season. They restricted an in-form West Brom side to nothing, and in addition scored two goals against one of the toughest teams to break down in the league.
We are still no clearer on who will stay up
Oh where to start? Hull are now bottom after suffering a rather harsh 1-0 loss at West Ham. The Tigers had chances in the first half but could not convert. The Hammers picked up a crucial three points that takes them five clear of the drop zone and up to 13th in the table.
Swansea are level on points with Hull in 19th after being soundly beaten 3-0 by Middlesbrough. Boro are now four points ahead of Sunderland who occupy the 18th position. The Black Cats moved off the foot of the table with a 1-0 win against Watford. They are only a point behind Crystal Palace in 17th who of course lost to Chelsea on Saturday.
Burnley find themselves in deeper trouble after losing 2-1 at Tottenham. Spurs are now hot on the heels of their North London rivals in fourth position and sit only a point behind the Gunners. Leicester made an unlikely comeback from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw away at Stoke despite having Jamie Vardy sent off.
What else happened?
The Merseyside derby ended up being somewhat of a disappointment as neither side were able to break the deadlock for 94 minutes. However as so often in football there was late drama that makes this game so extraordinary. Sadio Mané was the hero for the Reds as his 95th minute strike earned Liverpool a dramatic 1-0 win over their rivals. It is amazing how much of a difference just a few points does. A draw seemed likely and that would have left Liverpool eight points behind Chelsea. That strike leaves them within six and that just reads a whole lot better if your a Liverpool fan.
Southampton moved up to seventh with an impressive 3-1 away win at Bournemouth. Jay Rodriguez was the star as he scored two to continue the Saints’ European qualification charge.
Full Premier League results
Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
Middlesbrough 3-0 Swansea
Stoke 2-2 Leicester
Sunderland 1-0 Watford
West Ham 1-0 Hull
West Brom 0-2 Man United
Bournemouth 1-3 Southampton
Man City 2-1 Arsenal
Tottenham 2-1 Burnley
Everton 0-1 Liverpool
The Premier League returns on Boxing Day.
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