The Premier League was rather flush with fixtures on Saturday, in a schedule that is ever more so controlled by television companies and viewing figures. Eight fixtures were played in total, providing the staple diet for any Premier League fan: there were two six-pointers; Arsenal could break into the top four if they could grab a result against an impressive at home Sunderland side and Manchester United took on fierce rivals Liverpool, in a match that had its own recurring subplots.
1. Ed Sheeran and Luis Suarez have more in common than you may think
Fresh with confidence from defeating their bitter foes in the F.A Cup, thanks to a Dirk Kuyt goal, Liverpool this time faced Manchester United away and in the Premier League. For United, it was all about keeping pace with their inner-city rivals at the top of the table and for Liverpool it was an opportunity to beat Manchester United twice in two weeks and extend their unbeaten run to four.
However, although United got the three points with Wayne Rooney scoring a quick-fire brace, the main attraction was the Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez affair: it was the first time the two had faced each other since the fateful day in October in which the former accused the latter of racial abuse resulting in an eight-match ban and similar to Wayne Bridge and John Terry and Anton Ferdinand and John Terry, there was no handshake. Unlike those two John Terry centred examples, however, it was the villain who refused the handshake and not the victim leading me to think that Ed Sheeran, who sings the line, “I know I can’t heal things with a handshake” has more in common with Luis Suarez than I thought, as does Patrice Evra with Sepp Blatter, who feels a handshake can.
2. Feed the Yak and He will Score
We knew that already right? We did, but it may well prove to be what keeps Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League for next season: during his three-game ban, Blackburn Rovers amassed just a solitary point and furthermore, they struggled to capitalise on the chances they did create, proving wasteful without the Yak.
However, reintroduce the Yak after his three-game, and Blackburn hit three goals just like they did in the last game he featured in and just like in the previous 60 games Blackburn have scored three in, they went on to win with Yakubu getting the decisive goal in a 3-2 victory over fellow relegation candidates Queens Park Rangers. Yakubu is now the fifth highest scorer in the Premier League with thirteen goals in a side that has only found the back of the net 39 times, leaving the Nigerian responsible for 33% of their goals. Luckily for Rovers, Yakubu is the most potent striker in the Premier League with a 39% conversion rate.
3. Chelsea slip to 5th, whilst Capello is linked to the job and Roman’s lurking
Everton’s January really has paid dividends much quicker than anyone could have realistically expected. At one point, it looked as if no transfer activity would take place: however, four signings were made, two on loan and two permanently, and three of them have already returned the favour of a new lease of life, either assisting or hitting the back of the net, going much of the way to ease Everton’s scoring worries that existed for much of the first half of the season.
On Saturday, without Jelavic even featuring, the man signed to “score goals, goals and more goals,” Everton took ten shots, had a 70% shot accuracy and converted their chances twice, with one of their January signings scoring in the form of Steven Pienaar as well as Argentine Denis Stracqualursi. Meanwhile, Chelsea, who are now without a win in four games and have only won two of their last ten, slip to fifth place as Arsenal secured a last minute victory over Sunderland thanks to a Thierry Henry volley, in a week in which Fabio Capello is linked with the club and Roman Abramovich visits the training ground twice.
4. Norwich Head up the table inflicting only Swansea’s second home defeat
Before Norwich City, Swansea’s fellow Championship promotion achievers, the only defeat inflicted on the Swans at Liberty Stadium was handed out by reigning champions Manchester United. That loss, only their fourth league defeat since the beginning of last season, was only by one goal and it didn’t deter Swansea from their free-flowing passing game that is built on from the back.
Norwich defeated Swansea by three goals to two, but before that game, Swansea had only conceded seven goals at home in 12 games - 0.58 goals conceded per game – and furthermore, only Arsenal, 2, had scored more than one goal at the Liberty Stadium. However, considering Norwich City’s aerial prowess this season – they are the most prolific PL side in the air with 14 of their 37 goals coming from headers – and Swansea’s averagely short stature, was it that surprising that Norwich got all three points? Norwich are now up to eighth, leaving Swansea in 11th place and just nine points off of relegation: yet, their home form should be enough to ensure Premier League survival.
5. Harry Redknapp isn’t distracted by England talk as Spurs smash home for five
At 4/11 to manage England for Euro 2012, 5/4 to become the permanent manager of the Three Lions and Harry Redknapp himself describing the post as the “ultimate job,” you’d be entitled to doubt how stable some feel at White Hart Lane now, despite Redknapp’s insistence that he “can’t take [his] eye off the ball at Tottenham at the moment,” declaring that he, “owes it to [Tottenham] to continue to keep completely focused on the job.”
However, if there is any worry that Redknapp might leave his Spurs post permanently, it certainly wasn’t a distraction on Saturday: The Guardian’s Scott Murray expected a “home capitulation to Newcastle at the weekend,” but it was Newcastle who would leave capitulated, as Tottenham ran rampant on home turf, clocking up 18 shots on target, nine of which were on target and five of the on-target strikes finding the back of the net. With a 63% of the possession and over twice as many shots, Spurs never took their foot off the pedal, but it was an impressive first half performance that saw them four goals to the good come half-time that won them the match. Emmanuel Adebayor was particularly delectable, notching up four assists and scoring the game’s only other goal, whilst new signing Louis Saha scored two goals for the first time in a year.