Jamie Thomas is back after the international break and reveals what caught his eye in this weekend’s league fixtures . . .
Embed from Getty Images
1. Going great Guns
Arsenal looked back to their best after a 4-1 thumping of Brendan Rodgers’ men at the Emirates on Saturday. We haven’t seen this kind of football from the Gunners since the days of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. They still need to tighten up at the back because the Reds certainly had their chances.
It’s been a turbulent week for Liverpool concerning starlet Raheem Sterling, and that continued as he left his shooting boots at home as Arsenal netted three impressive quick-fire goals to kill the game. Arsene Wenger’s men face a trip to Manchester United in the penultimate game of the season, which could well determine where they finish.
2. Work to do for United
At the Aston Villa game, a lot of fans in the stands were saying Manchester United were poor for the first 70 minutes. Until Angel Di Maria came on, United’s penetration wasn’t really getting them anywhere, with countless wayward crosses from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. Sure, they were one goal up thanks to Ander Herrera, but they were struggling for ideas in the final third.
Despite this, Louis van Gaal’s team has come on leaps and bounds considering how they were playing at the turn of the year and a push for the top two is well within their grasp now. They have a tough run-in, though, with Manchester City and Chelsea to play in the next two weeks then Arsenal, which will really determine how far they’ve come.
3. Dyche excels at Turf job
Sean Dyche guided lowly Burnley – who have taken shock points off Chelsea and Manchester City this season – to another great result against Tottenham. It may have been one of the least Super Sunday games in recent memory, but the Clarets gaffer managed to keep man-of-the-moment, Harry Kane, very quiet in a game they probably should have won.
But what Dyche really deserves praise for is his man-management. Danny Ings is probably on his way out this summer but we’ve had none of the drama at Turf Moor that we’ve seen with the likes of Sterling. And when the Clarets were struggling for goals, he didn’t rush Sam Vokes back from injury and is now reaping the benefits as the Welshman is looking menacing again. Dyche lead his men to a vital point and if he keeps them up, he’ll be a strong contender for Manager of the Year.
4. Champions League race is over
With Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham all dropping points, and Manchester United and Arsenal victorious, it must surely mean that the race for the top-four spots is over? The Reds are now seven points off the pace and they’ve lost the luck that carried them through their recent great run.
Spurs and Saints – who slumped to defeat at Everton as Italian striker Graziano Pelle’s Premier League goal drought continued this weekend – have both fallen away. It’s a shame because everyone loves the race for the Champions League, but all that remains to be seen is which of the top four will finish where!
5. Wonder strikes
First there was Stoke’s Charlie Adam, who scored from within his own half – 66 yards out – one of the best long-range goals of all time just before half-time against Chelsea. The Scot couldn’t prevent his team from losing to the table-toppers, but his jaw-dropping equaliser after spotting keeper Thibaut Courtois off his line will live long in the memory.
Bobby Zamora put QPR three up at West Brom with his sublime lob. Then Wayne Rooney got in on the act against Villa as he made his 185th Premier League goal an absolute screamer. Di Maria played the ball to the United star, who deftly spun and fired into the top corner. And not be outdone, an emotional Jermain Defoe’s superb volley was enough to ensure Sunderland a fifth derby victory over bitter rivals Newcastle and send them to 15th in the table.
Read more from Jamie Thomas here.