Premier Ratings: Tottenham hot to trot, while Potters stop the rot
FourFourTwo's James Maw is the man with the scores after another madcap week of turbulent top-flight t....errrrm.....football
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 8.5(W 3-1, West Brom A)There's no doubt Spurs are hot at present. With Arsenal dropping points, this impressive away win saw Spurs open up a five-point lead on their local rivals, with a game in hand. Despite their impressive away form Ã¢ÂÂ only table-topping Man City can match their five successful road trips Ã¢ÂÂ it could be what they do at the Lane that seals a Champions League return: with 14 home fixtures remaining and only two of last yearÃ¢ÂÂs top six still to visit N17, they have a great chance to put points on the board.
WIGAN ATHLETIC 8.5(W 2-1, Sunderland A)This victory, combined with defeats for Blackburn, Bolton, Wolves and of course Sunderland, has dragged the Latics right back among their relegation rivals. A first league win since August Ã¢ÂÂ and a first away from home this season Ã¢ÂÂ sees Wigan now just two points from safety, yet with Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United all set to visit the DW in the next four weeks, more away points may be needed to avoid being cut adrift again.
CHELSEA 7.5(W 3-0, Wolves H)If Chelsea really were Ã¢ÂÂin crisisÃ¢ÂÂ prior to this match, it seems unlikely a routine victory against out-of-sorts relegation scrappers will have been enough to lift them out of it. But the three points were important, and they never looked likely to be heading back to Wolverhampton, with the visitors doing little to test the Blues' supposedly shaky defence. Encouraging, but thereÃ¢ÂÂll be far sterner tests.
STOKE CITY 7.5 (W 3-1, Blackburn H)The Potters stopped the rot with a typically battling win, though their performance still wasnÃ¢ÂÂt entirely convincing. Rovers were afforded several opportunities to further close the deficit, while there was an element of fortune about StokeÃ¢ÂÂs deflected second. Still, Pulis & Co. will see this as three points well earned, and will hope the post-Europa hangover doesnÃ¢ÂÂt strike again at Everton next Sunday.
NORWICH CITY 7.5(W 2-1, QPR H)While at present both Norwich and QPR are enjoying life in mid-table, trends of recent seasons suggest the newly-promoted duo are likely to slide as the season wears on, and it will be at that stage that these three points will start to feel particularly valuable for the Canaries.
EVERTON 7.5(W 2-0, Bolton A)The Toffees could be forgiven for feeling theyÃ¢ÂÂve finally turned the corner after yet another sluggish start to a Premier League campaign. This win, combined with last weekÃ¢ÂÂs against Wolves, gives Everton back-to-back league victories for the first time this term, and helps allay fears of a season battling the drop Ã¢ÂÂ for now at least. While Cahill continues to struggle to find the net, new-boy Vellios at least seems to have quickly developed the knack.
NEWCASTLE UNITED 7(D 1-1, Man United A)Bouncing back from last weekÃ¢ÂÂs first defeat of the season at Man City looked like being quite some task given the venue of their next match, but Toon dug deep and once again displayed the kind of defensive resolve that has seen them become the Premier LeagueÃ¢ÂÂs early season surprise packages. While their penalty was more than fortunate, having endured such wretched luck at Old Trafford over the last two decades, theyÃ¢ÂÂre unlikely to lose much sleep over it.
FULHAM 6.5 (D 1-1, Arsenal A)Of the many, many draws the Cottagers look likely to achieve this season (18 or so, at this rate), this will be one of the more rewarding. A resolute defensive showing Ã¢ÂÂ with the in-form Van Persie largely kept at armÃ¢ÂÂs length Ã¢ÂÂ was almost enough to seal a first ever win away to the Gunners, only for Vermaelen to level for the hosts late on. Performances are certainly improving and Jol will hope a similar upturn in results follows.
MANCHESTER CITY 6 (D 1-1, Liverpool A)For only the second time this season City dropped league points, but unlike at Craven Cottage, theyÃ¢ÂÂll have been relieved to escape Anfield with a draw. Perhaps for the first time domestically this term, City were second best, and when Balotelli was harshly dismissed Mancini must have feared the worst. Only another superb showing from Hart helped secure a draw preserved the five-point gap between the league leaders and their Manchester neighbours at the summit.
LIVERPOOL 6(D 1-1, Man City H)Few teams will be disappointed with a draw against City this season, but the Reds must be wondering what couldÃ¢ÂÂve been, after dominating the second half and holding a one-man advantage for the final 10 minutes. Their run of coming up against in-form visiting goalkeepers continued, and the result means Liverpool have now won just two of their seven Premier League home matches this season. Still, it was an improvement on the drab home showings against Norwich and Swansea.
SWANSEA CITY 5.5(D 0-0, Aston Villa H)While Brendan Rodgers will be pleased with yet another clean sheet Ã¢ÂÂ the SwansÃ¢ÂÂ sixth of the campaign Ã¢ÂÂ he may be equally concerned that they once again failed to score, making it three successive blanks, though the previous two fixtures were against Liverpool and Manchester United. Against Villa they seemed to lack any real creative spark or cutting edge in the final third, though the players could be excused if their minds were elsewhere, given the tragic events that preceded the match.
ASTON VILLA 5.5 (D 0-0, Swansea A)Another away day without a goal, but at least Villa at times showed the attacking intent that had been missing from last MondayÃ¢ÂÂs dismal showing at Tottenham. Agbonlahor once again looked the visitorsÃ¢ÂÂ most dangerous player Ã¢ÂÂ indeed he was the only man in a claret shirt to muster a shot on target.
ARSENAL 5(D 1-1, Fulham H)With Van Persie starved of openings and Gervinho benched for the first 70 minutes, the Gunners couldnÃ¢ÂÂt overcome the well-organised visitors. The midfield three of Arteta, Song and Ramsey failed to make a much impact in the opposition half, but, despite what on the face of it is a disappointing result, there were still positives. Walcott continued his recent impressive form, with his delivery for VermaelenÃ¢ÂÂs equaliser a particular highlight.
MANCHESTER UNITED 5(D 1-1, Newcastle H) With City dropping points at Anfield, United will retrospectively see this as an opportunity spurned to close the gap at the summit. Though they can point to the baffling penalty decision that allowed Newcastle to level the scores, the champions should also have a long hard look at their wayward shooting Ã¢ÂÂ their failure to find a second goal wasn't all down to Tim Krul in the opposition goal, after all. A far cry from the free-scoring days of early season.
BLACKBURN ROVERS 4.5(L 3-1, Stoke A)For once, Steve KeanÃ¢ÂÂs insistence that everything was hunky-dory wasnÃ¢ÂÂt entirely misplaced, despite his side being beaten yet again. Rovers created enough chances to get something from the game and on another day this game could perhaps have swung the other way. But once again, sloppy defending was their undoing, with a needlessly conceded free-kick, a half-hearted block attempt and a failure to deal with a long punt up field costing them dear. Nelsen canÃ¢ÂÂt return soon enough.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 4(L 3-1, Tottenham H)Hodgson will be disappointed his team were unable to maintain the pace they set in the first 20 minutes, during which time they put Spurs completely on the back foot and took the lead through MulumbuÃ¢ÂÂs header. Had Brunt taken his second-half chance it may well have finished level. Things should improve when Odemwingie and Long are both fit for long enough to appear on the pitch at the same time and forge an understanding at the sharp end.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 4(L 2-1, Norwich A)You can only imagine Neil Warnock told his players that, if they could silence intimidating crowds at Goodison, Molineux and the Britannia by securing impressive away wins then they could do the same at Carrow Road. Sadly for the Rs it didnÃ¢ÂÂt work out that way, with the West Londoners never really able to get into their stride against their promotion partners. Still, Shaun DerryÃ¢ÂÂs moustache looks good.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 3(L 3-0, Chelsea A)While nobody expected Wolves to come away from Stamford Bridge with one point, let alone three, most would at least expect McCarthyÃ¢ÂÂs team to Ã¢ÂÂlet the opposition know theyÃ¢ÂÂre in a gameÃ¢ÂÂ, to coin a (meaningless) phrase. Gone are the days of Wolves being a difficult team to play against, one that will constantly harry opponents, chase down every ball and be rigidly organised for set pieces at both ends. Despite what looked some decent investment in the summer, they currently look a shell of the side they were last term Ã¢ÂÂ which canÃ¢ÂÂt be good news.
BOLTON WANDERERS 3(L 2-0, Everton H)CoyleÃ¢ÂÂs side donÃ¢ÂÂt seem to be able to build any momentum. The 5-0 thumping of Stoke that was supposed to ignite their campaign has been followed up by meek back-to-back defeats, leaving the Trotters in the bottom three with a third of the season now gone. Of most concern to the Reebok faithful will be the fact there is seemingly little progress being made, and with key men Holden and Lee unlikely to return before spring, the struggle looks like continuing for a while yet.
SUNDERLAND 2(L 2-1, Wigan H)Up until this point the Black Cats had defended reasonably well this season, with just 13 goals shipped in their opening dozen matches Ã¢ÂÂ their problems have largely been at the other end. Yet a clumsily and needlessly conceded penalty and a last-gasp calamity of defensive errors saw BruceÃ¢ÂÂs men beaten at home by the side who had previously been bottom of the league, having scored just twice on their previous five away jaunts. No wonder the locals were miffed Ã¢ÂÂ the manager is surely staring down the barrel...