After the interlude that was the third round of The FA Cup, the Premier League resumed this weekend. With the weather grim and days dark, there were was plenty of action to gee people up and on through the winter blues. Here’s a look at five things we learned from another huge weekend of Premier League football.
Southampton show massive character to drag themselves out of the bottom three
Things we’re looking pretty bleak down at Southampton going into December. They had just nine points and had squandered a further 12 from winning positions under the hapless Mark Hughes. However, under Ralph Hasenhuttl they have looked so much more energised and up for the challenge ahead of them, which will be massive as they look to avoid the drop.
Their 1-2 away win at Leicester was a real smash and grab victory, bearing all the hallmarks of their improvement under the former Leipzig manager. They were perhaps guilty of being too highly strung at times, as they had see out the entirety of the second half with ten men, following Yan Valery’s sending off. However, their supporters will be thrilled with a huge result that could be massive at the end of the season. They are still a little short of quality in certain areas, but they are at least well and truly back in the fight now.
Liverpool bounce back with tough away win
It’s a testament to the work done by Brighton boss Chris Houghton, that The Amex stadium is now widely regarded as one of the toughest away days outside the top six. Jurgen Klopp, no doubt anticipated such a challenge as he brought his league leaders to the south coast, looking to recover their winning ways.
Defeat at Man City has really changed the dynamics of the title race, so Klopp will be thrilled to have come away with a hard fought 0-1 victory of the Seagulls. Mo Salah’s penalty was the difference for Liverpool on the day, and their travelling fans will have no doubt gauged how important this win was. A makeshift back four, containing Fabinho alongside Van Dijk, marshalled the game with real authority, as Liverpool looked composed and unruffled, following consecutive defeats this month. They will need to show this level of maturity and mental toughness for the remainder of the campaign with City breathing down their necks and ready to pounce.
Arsenal left with yet more questions as West Ham defeat
That 22 match unbeaten run now looks a very long time ago, for Arsenal and Unai Emery. Another costly defeat this weekend has left the Spaniard with some real problems to solve. Take nothing away from West Ham, who were gutsy and bold, clearly sensing their opponents vulnerability – especially as the first-half wore on. But Arsenal fans have some real cause for concern now, after a fifth league defeat of the season.
More questions will arise about their defending, which was inexcusably poor at set plays. Twice Declan Rice was left unmarked and scot-free in the box, the second time, he punished the away side with a lovely finish after Nasri’s tee up.
There is also the elephant in the room for Emery to sort out. Again, Mesut Ozil was absent from the side, not even making the match day squad. They are nowhere near as creative without him and with just one win in their last five, it’s getting increasingly harder for Emery to bat away questions about the German’s future.
Chelsea win papers over cracks for Sarri
When Pedro gave his side the lead, after nine minutes at Stamford Bridge, you’d have been forgiven for filing this one away as a routine operation for Chelsea against a poor Newcastle side. However, it proved to be anything but routine for Sarri’s men as they laboured and failed to impress.
A 2-1 win will ultimately do the job, but the performance was rather toothless for Chelsea, who dominated possession but failed to create a lot of telling chances. With Alavro Morata and Olivier Giroud excluded once again, Cheslea were playing without an out and out forward, leaving their build up play without an end product. Their fans grew restless as Jorginho and Kante were often left with nothing in front of them. Sarri can take comfort from the three points, but until he finds a goal scorer, they are likely to experience more frustrating days like this one.
United pass their first big test under Solskjaer
This was the big one for the new Manchester United boss, Spurs away at Wembley, and a chance for his players to settle a score after a 0-3 home defeat earlier in the season. It was billed as the first massive test for Ole Gunner Solsjaer, so he will be delighted to say the least, to have come away from Wembley with all three points.
For all people will point to De Gea’s obvious heroics in goal, Solksjaer will know that his side gave a really good account of themselves in this match. They looked unrecognisable from the dark and dying days of Jose Mourinho, as his side hit Spurs on the counter with some excellent breaks, forcing Lloris into several smart saves. Rashford and Pogba continue to link up very well, combining again, for the only goal of the game. United are now level on points with Arsenal and have clawed the gap back on Chelsea to just six points. Not a bad way to start a job interview for OGS.