By Niall Clarke
- Five lessons learned from match-week 15 of the Premier League season
- Full weekend results
The champions are back, Diego Costa tops the scoring charts and the relegation battle continues to heat up. Here are five lessons learned from match-week 15 of the Premier League season.
Leicester City are back… at least for one week
The Foxes’ title defence has thus far been a poor one. The team that won the league last season (minus their best player) sat only two points above the relegation zone heading into this weekend in one of the worst starts to a title defence in top flight history. Criticism of the side not having the hunger and drive of last season started to flood in, and it was up to Claudio Ranieri and his team to respond, and boy did they do that in a big way.
Leicester immediately looked like the team that shocked the world last season and within four minutes they had stunned Manchester City with two early goals. Jamie Vardy was back in the goals with a trademark finish in two minutes before Andy King’s neat curling effort made it two to the shock of everyone at the King Power stadium.
City’s defensive woes were yet again at the fore and within 20 minutes they were 3-0 down. Riyad Mahrez’s touch to set up Vardy was world class and the striker rounded Claudio Bravo before finishing with ease. The Citizens pressed to get back in the game but once again they were sucker punched in the second half. Vardy secured his first Leicester hat-trick by once again taking the ball round Bravo before netting from a tight angle.
City managed to get two goals back through Aleksander Kolarov and Nolito but it was too little too late. It was a huge and potentially season changing result for Leicester. They looked more like their title winning selves, and it showed a return to form for Mahrez and Vardy who had thus far been poor.
For City a re-evaluation is needed. It will take time for them to fully adapt to Pep Guardiola’s philosophy and the Spaniard will like to bring in fresh faces for that. However, they are a serious defensive issue that is so far costing them the title. The return of Vincent Kompany will be a much welcomed one as he offers leadership at the back as well as a world class footballing brain.
The relegation battle heats up further
Saturday played host to two bottom of the table clashes as Swansea hosted Sunderland and Crystal Palace travelled to Hull.
The Swans were bottom of the table going into match-week 15 and were not looking good under new manager Bob Bradley. You would think the opposite looking at this game. Swansea produced the best performance of their season and earned a much needed 3-0 win over the Black Cats. It was a win that lifted the Swans off the bottom of the table and relegated Sunderland back down to that very position, pressure is on again on manager David Moyes.
Hull and Crystal Palace shared the spoils in one of the games of the weekend. Robert Snodgrass executed one of the worst dives of the season to earn his team a penalty just before the half hour mark which he converted to give Hull the lead. Palace won a penalty of their own early in the second half which was scored by Christian Benteke. Palace took the lead for the first time in the match through Wilfried Zaha, but that was overturned by Hull who within eight minutes of going behind found themselves in front 3-2. The Tigers were closing in on a huge victory, but substitute Fraizer Campbell popped up for a late equaliser. A point is not ideal for either side as Hull remain in the drop zone and Palace only three points off it.
On Sunday there were big games for Middlesbrough and West Ham. Boro lost narrowly to Southampton and as a result move closer to the relegation zone.
Diego Costa is the best striker in the league
Chelsea hosted West Brom on Sunday looking to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League and their winning run to nine straight, their best since 2009.
For the large part, Chelsea were left frustrated by West Brom. The Baggies were their usual steady selves. Tony Pulis drills his sides well and make them very difficult to break down and beat and Chelsea found that out the hard way for the majority of the match.
When you struggle, you look to your best players and inspiration and this time, Chelsea looked to Diego Costa. A moment of solo brilliance saw the Spaniard out-muscle the defender before firing home with his left foot for his 12th goal of the season.
Costa was great yet again and has proved himself to be the best striker in the league on current form. He possesses an all round game of strength, power, precision and skill. He can score goals, set them up and even save them with his defending. Off the ball he has some of the best movement in the league too and is a constant nightmare for defenders. His form and fitness will be key for Chelsea’s title charge.
Arsenal might be Chelsea’s closest contenders
Such is the Premier League, the landscape changes week after week and this time around it looks like the Gunners are Chelsea’s closest contenders. Arsenal briefly went top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Stoke at the Emirates.
They went behind due to a Joe Allen penalty but Arsene Wenger’s side were able to claw back to level before half time through Theo Walcott. Five minutes after the restart, Mesut Ozil’s exquisite header had turned the match around and Arsenal were now 2-1 in front. From there the Gunners pushed on to score a third through Alex Iwobi and seal a good win over an in form side.
The win proved to be even more useful as Manchester City went on to lose to Leicester and Liverpool dropped further points at home to West Ham. Adam Lallana gave the Reds the lead early but West Ham managed to turn it around with goals from Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio to go into half time with the lead. Divok Origi levelled for the Reds but West ham managed to hold on to secure a valuable point at Anfield.
It is the second week in a row where Liverpool have dropped points where they should have taken all three. The defensive frailties are still there to seen, a weakness that may cost them the title. The Reds are now six points behind Chelsea and it may be more unless they sort that side of their game out.
What happened elsewhere?
The weekend kicked off with an entertaining 3-2 win for Watford at home to Everton. Stefano Okaka scored his first goals for Watford as they came from behind to beat out-of-form Everton and climb to seventh in the table. It looks like Watford will be safe and secure this season and may push for a European place. Everton on the other hand are in need of a change in fortunes or it could end up being another disappointing season for the Toffees.
Burnley maintained their excellent home record with another Turf Moor victory, this time at the expense of Bournemouth. Home form will be key for Burnley’s survival hopes and thus far they have only lost one game at their fortress. The Clarets are looking like a solid mid-table team which is excellent given the numerous claims they will go down this season.
Full Premier League results
Watford 3-2 Everton
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke
Burnley 3-2 Bournemouth
Hull 3-3 Crystal Palace
Swansea 3-0 Sunderland
Leicester 4-2 Man City
Chelsea 1-0 West Brom
Man United 1-0 Tottenham
Southampton 1-0 Middlesbrough
Liverpool 2-2 West Ham
The Premier League returns on the 13th of December.
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