Saturday analysis: Pardew can kiss Cabye-bye to a strong season finish
Newcastle 0-3 Sunderland
There's something about Gus Poyet and Newcastle United - or Alan Pardew, at least. This emphatic win was the Uruguayan's fifth over his Toon adversary, and propelled his previously ailing Black Cats side to the dizzy heights of 12th. It's now three wins from their last four, and seven goals in as many games for free-scoring former England man Adam Johnson.
After the Wearsiders' superb start - Fabio Borini's penalty and Johnson put them two up inside 23 minutes - there was only ever one winner. Newcastle struggled for fluidity in Yohan Cabaye's absence and, although Moussa Sissoko was creative in the first half (he crafted 4 chances for team-mates), the Magpies were impatient in their assaults on Vito Mannone's goal. The stats show they registered 28 efforts on goal, but a significant number came from outside the box.
Pardew said the visitors "lost their heads" and that they must "go back to basics" as they rebuild from a tough transfer window. Before this game Shola Ameobi was the Magpies' only fit out-and-out striker, but new signing Luuk de Jong was forced on for the second half. Ameobi performed well in the air (6/11 aerial duels won, and 5/5 inside the box) but attempted a huge 9 shots, of which only a third were on target. Loic Remy is suspended for another two games, and in the meantime their efficiency up front needs addressing.
West Ham 2-0 Swansea
If this didn't prove how badly West Ham need Andy Carroll, nothing will. The towering Geordie was crocked for the first half of the campaign, and until his return against Cardiff last month you couldn't discuss the Hammers without lamenting the ponytailed predator's absence. Without him, Sam Allardyce's side just don't function. It doesn't matter if you know exactly what they're going to do - if Carroll's in the side there's often not much you can do about it.
At Upton Park on Saturday, the lumbering England man completely bullied Swansea by winning everything in the air and proving a vital focal point for almost every Hammers attack. He set up both Kevin Nolan goals with his prized noggin, converting hopeful box-balls into genuine goalscoring chances. No surprise, then, that he won 10 of 13 aerial duels before his daft sending off for swinging an arm at Chico Flores.
In his absence, West Ham had no great outlet until Carlton Cole's introduction and Swansea passed their way back into the game. Thankfully for Allardyce's troops, their South Welsh visitors were utterly hopeless. Half of Swansea's 20 attempts came after the red card, but they still ended the game without an effort on target. Must do better.
Cardiff 2-1 Norwich
Craig Bellamy's match-winning days have all but left him - but the Welshman has proved he's still got a spark. By half-time he'd misplaced only 1 pass, and by the end had clocked 93% accuracy with the equalising goal to his name. If you haven't heard, the 34-year-old became the first player to score with seven different Premier League clubs.
Meanwhile, Cardiff fans caught a first glimpse of Manchester United loanee Wilfried Zaha. The youngster with a point to prove replaced Peter Whittingham after 38 minutes, and within four of the restart he'd set up Bellamy to start the Bluebirds' vital revival. Despite playing just over a half he recovered more balls than any other player (9) in a hard-working wing display. A few more performances like this and nobody will be questioning the 21-year-old's maturity.
As for Norwich... well, the less said the better. Robert Snodgrass was busy, netting the opening goal with his only on-target effort in 7, but the trigger-happy Canaries were frustrated in their attempts to beat David Marshall. Their wing-happy approach earned them the opener, but just 12/44 crosses found a yellow shirt. Snodgrass attempted 18 of those, created 3 chances and completed 3/8 take-ons as the Norfolk side's most active player once again. This, though, is a result that won't sit well for Chris Hughton.
Everton 2-1 Aston Villa
Who needs Leighton Baines when you've got Kevin Mirallas to find the top corner? (OK, Everton really do need Leighton Baines).
For a while it looked like Roberto Martinez's men wouldn't see reward for their territorial dominance - they completed almost four times as many final-third passes than Villa in the end - but Mirallas' stunning set-piece completed the turnaround after Steven Naismith's 74th-minute equaliser. Everton finished the game with the game's top 10 passers. Patience pays, apparently.
This one did stick to the script for the most part, however. Paul Lambert started with both Christian Benteke and Grant Holt up front to make his intentions clear. But while Benteke put in a typically bullish display as the leading light of Villa's attack, Holt's presence on the pitch was utterly, completely, 100% pointless. Regardless of the fact he was hauled off after an hour, the former Norwich man made fewer passes (6) than Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard (7), with Villa stopper Nathan Baker matching the American's total.
If Villa don't score on the break or from a long ball - which they do immensely well, to their credit - it seems they're flat out of ideas.
Fulham 0-3 Southampton
Oh, Fulham. You'd better hope Kostas Mitroglou thinks he's playing in an Olympiakos shirt, because this is bad.
From start to finish the Cottagers were dominated by their south-coast rivals, and, although they made it to half-time unscatched, Mauricio Pochettino's men made their quality pay in a devastating second half. The Saints had passed the drop-zone dwellers into submission before the break (227 to Fulham's paltry 93), but it only got worse for Rene Meulensteen's men after the restart.
The Saints converted 3 of their 11 second-half efforts as Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez sealed a comfortable win in front of watching England boss Roy Hodgson. The former duo can't do much more to make the plane for Brazil this summer, but they're giving it a good go. Rodriguez peppered the target with 6 attempts (although hit the target only once), while Lallana was neat and tidy in the final third as both proved influential once again.
Fulham had one crack at goal (see below) after the break, which didn't come until seven minutes from time. The Cottagers are now bottom of the league by two points after Cardiff's win. It can only get better, right? Maybe after that next trip to Old Trafford. And then that game against Liverpool...
Hull 1-1 Tottenham
Tottenham just can't seem to get it going - and it may well cost them a place in the Champions League.
Tim Sherwood knew victory at the KC Stadium would prove the perfect tonic for a midweek tonking at the hands of Manchester City, but what he saw was a game in which his top-four chasers toiled against promoted opposition not for the first time this season. It took Roberto Soldado penalties to unlock Hull and Crystal Palace earlier in the campaign, and Paulinho's late winner to see off Cardiff in September.
Here, the north Londoners were made to work again. Steve Bruce's January signings combined for the opener as Shane Long netted from Nikica Jelavic's flick-on, but the visitors were given half an hour to find a winner after Paulinho equalised. Despite all of their possession in the attacking third, however, Spurs were disappointing in their attempts to break down a side missing Alan McGregor, James Chester and the ineligible Jake Livermore. Three shots on target from 19 attempts just isn't good enough.
Hull were forced into one fewer clearance than their established opponents, as they ended a run of four straight defeats with an excellent point. For Spurs, meanwhile, there are still big question marks over Sherwood. Can he really get the best out of this team on a regular basis?
Stoke 2-1 Man United
"I don't know what we have to do to win," said David Moyes after seeing his Manchester United side crash to their eighth defeat of the campaign. But the excuses won't wash at Old Trafford anymore. Sure, Asmir Begovic's wonderful save to deny Wayne Rooney was a turning point in this game, but it's just another example of what might have been for the struggling champions.
Moyes was able to select Juan Mata, Rooney and Robin van Persie in the same line-up for the first time. And while the Mata-Rooney passing combination (14) was bettered by only one other in the game, his link-up with Van Persie was much more infrequent. Nonetheless, 1 of Mata's 2 passes to the Dutchman produced United's equaliser. But it was the same story for Rooney and Van Persie, who found each other just 3 times at the Britannia Stadium.
For Stoke, though, this was their first-ever win over United in the Premier League. Charlie Adam's screamer won it, capping an all-round solid display from the Scot, who was also Stoke's leading passer (23), made 8 recoveries, won 4/5 tackles and made 1 block.
United once again looked to attack down the flanks, a strategy surely flawed against a Stoke team who are clearly strong in the air (indeed, they won 20/33 duels) and defending the wings. The Potters were heroic in their blocking (7). "We got to the byline and cut things back three or four times without getting on the end of it," sighed Moyes.
It's time to prove there's more to your thinking than simple wing play, David.