Premier Analysis: Bright side for drop-dodgers, and Man City's missing talisman
RESULTS (click team name for web-wide club news feed) Sat 11 Feb Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool; Blackburn Rovers 3-2 Queens Park Rangers; Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Wigan Athletic; Everton 2-0 Chelsea; Fulham 2-1 Stoke City; Sunderland 1-2 Arsenal; Swansea City 2-3 Norwich City; Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 Newcastle United Sun 12 Feb Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-5 West Bromwich Albion; Aston Villa 0-1 Manchester City
The bottom six sides faced each other this weekend, and a win for Wolves at home to West Brom would have lifted them to within two points of their Black Country rivals. As it is, a yawning seven-point gap has opened up above the bottom five teams, largely thanks to West Brom's astonishing 5-1 victory over poor Wolves, which ultimately led to the sacking of Mick McCarthy.
The away side registered an astonishing 29 shots at the Molineux, 14 of which were on target, with Wayne Hennessey's eight saves the highest of the weekend. But even Hennessey's heroics couldn't prevent Peter Odemwingie from leaving with the match ball after his own weekend high: six shots on target.
Both of the other six-pointers in the relegation mini-league were won by the team lower in the league at kick-off. Blackburn's 3-2 victory over QPR drew them level on points with the Hoops, despite Adel Taarabt's best efforts.
The magic Moroccan created seven goalscoring chances as QPR clocked up a West Brom-matching 29 shots at goal, but Blackburn's defence certainly didn't chicken out of the battle, throwing themselves in front of 12 shots, restricting the visitors to seven shots on target and ultimately making the difference. How Wayne Hennessey must have wished for a similar level of protection to that which Paul Robinson enjoyed.
Wigan Athletic remain bottom, but avoided being cut adrift with a derby win at Bolton Wanderers. The home side managed only 43% of possession, but compounded their problems with the second lowest pass completion percentage of the season, finding a teammate with just 57% of their attempted passes.
At least Owen Coyle can take some solace in a second-half improvement; as the game stood at half-time, his side Ã¢ÂÂ reverted to 4-4-2 by the reintroduction of Kevin Davies for Fabrice Muamba Ã¢ÂÂ had enjoyed only 33% of the ball and, most damningly, completed just 55 passes (compared to Wigan's 179). Bolton finished the game on top as they pushed for an equaliser, eventually matching Wigan's 13 shots at goal over the 90 minutes.
Finally, Tottenham reacted to a week of speculation over their manager in fine style, obliterating a depleted Newcastle with ease on their way to opening up a 10-point gap between themselves and the battle for fourth spot.
Manchester City loanee Emmanuel Adebayor received the plaudits for his four assists (a feat unmatched since Cesc Fabregas for Arsenal against Blackburn in October 2009), but he also created a further two goalscoring opportunities, scored a goal himself and completed 58 of his 61 attempted passes. If Spurs do indeed mount a title challenge, will Manchester City regret providing their rivals with such a threat?
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