Had a variety of games to choose from last night but plumped for Leicester, who beat Liverpool 2-0 at the King Power stadium to protect their lead at the top of the table. The highlight was Jamie Vardy’s magnificent 60th minute strike from distance; just as Liverpool were starting to get a grip on the game.
Vardy scored a second 10 minutes later in a move originating from yet another defensive clanger by the preposterous Mamadou Sakho.
Can Leicester really win the PL? They coped very well under the pressure last night. There was no sign of panic because they are so well-organised – maybe that’s the benefit of having an Italian coach. But they still have to get through the next two games against Man City and Arsenal, and hope to avoid picking up any significant injuries in the final 14 games.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini threw the dice against Sunderland and was lucky to get away with it. He played 4-4-2 with Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in central midfield. With Jesus Navas and David Silva on the wings, his team was very lightweight and open to being physically dominated. Pellegrini was naïve to think that system would simply blow Sunderland away.
Although Aguero was once again the match winner, City were battered defensively and needed to rely on Joe Hart to pull off a string of heroic saves.
Tottenham climbed above Arsenal, beating Norwich comfortably 3-0. Harry Kane could have scored four but settled for two. The young Englishman is an effortless finisher that never gets flustered, although we’ll find out more about him if Spurs are able to sustain a title challenge. Young centre back Kevin Wimmer started his first game and was untroubled in defence, but with fixtures piling up in Europe, it remains to be seen how Spurs will cope in the absence of Jan Vertonghen who misses six weeks due to an MCL knee ligament injury.
After drawing 0-0 at home to Southampton, Arsenal are a couple of games away from blowing their Premier League challenge. Should they lose away to Bournemouth this weekend, the Gunner's chances of recovering if Man City open up a five point gap are dubious to say the least and non-existent if Leicester should record a remarkable victory over City at the weekend and topple the Gunners the week after.
The only question now is how willing the fans are to turn on Wenger, or whether they will let him off again should he ‘redeem’ himself via another jammy FA Cup draw.
Could Arsenal finish fifth? Man Utd are only five points behind after Anthony Martial turned on the style in their 3-0 demolition of Stoke. Aged 20, this boy is the real deal – a superb investment. Like Thierry Henry, he starts on the wing and drifts inside. He has a great temperament, maturity beyond his years and is coping well with the physicality of the PL.
United have changed too many players too quickly and brought in too many youngsters. It takes time for players to develop relationships on the pitch and understand each other’s movement, especially under the pressure of having to win every match. This is what Van Gaal’s season has been all about.
As an outsider looking in, I really like Van Gaal. He’s deserved criticism but coped gracefully and intelligently. At his age, having had an incredible career that’s now coming to a close, he could easily be arrogant and stick two fingers up to everyone. His behaviour is the polar opposite to Arsene Wenger, who spent the aftermath of another disasterous result demeaning himself in the tunnel with the referee and Southampton manager Ronald Koeman.
“It’s always the same with you” Wenger complained to Lee Mason, at which point Koeman stepped in and replied, “No, it’s always the same with you”.
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