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Premier Analysis: Van Persie spoils Chelsea's nice weekend as City and Liverpool slip

Man United 1-1 Chelsea

Robin van Persie's late leveller added some drama to a game that had struggled to justify the attention lavished upon it. 

 

All the talk before the game had been about Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho – the former Barcelona buddies whose reputations bestride the Premier League. In the event, two managers who don't mind a counter-attack presided over a battle between two evenly matched sides, neither of which was too bothered about possession. 

Although ball ownership was evenly split, the home side created more chances, and Thibaut Courtois' Man of the Match award was definitely better deserved than Joe Hart's against San Marino. Perhaps Chelsea missed the absent Diego Costa – who wouldn't? – but it was his replacement who opened the scoring shortly after half-time, some bloke called Didier Drogba. 

Over the piece, each side looked susceptible to crosses, failing to deal with more than a third of them. (For comparison with the day's other matches, at Tottenham only 10 of 51 crosses were completed, while at Burnley it was just 6 of 41.) And it was from a cross that the iconic Ivorian rose at the near post to punish Van Gaal's possibly debatable decision to have the much shorter Rafael mark him on set-pieces.

Although Chelsea threatened a second, halfway through the half Mourinho replaced Oscar with John Obi Mikel. It's hardly an unusual switch, but coupled with United bringing on striker James Wilson for Juan Mata – who had set up 3 shots but not exactly immolated the globe – it helped the home side gain impetus. 

While Mourinho continued to tick down the minutes bringing on substitutes, Van Gaal made just the one change – not unsurprising, given his bench otherwise consisted of kids and defensive midfielders. He may have made a change had Radamel Falcao been fit, and it may have been his compatriot Robin van Persie who made way, but again circumstance dictated the hero. 

Three minutes into injury time, Branislav Ivanovic earned a second yellow card for halting Angel Di Maria handily close to the Old Trafford tunnel. The Argentine's free-kick was headed at goal by Marouane Fellaini, who would quite possibly have been Ivanovic's man had the Serbian not been soaping up; Courtois made his 6th save of the day, but the rebound fell for Van Persie to lash home.

Old Trafford erupted in celebration as United made it four games unbeaten. The former champions haven't gone five lossless league games since last November, and as 2014 slips into autumn they'll be hoping they can continue to improve. So will Chelsea, considering United's next game is at Manchester City, who slipped down the rankings with Saturday's defeat at West Ham. Mourinho may be miffed at the late leveller but with City hiccupping, Liverpool struggling and United still very much in transition, the Portuguese will know this weekend has only strengthened his side's chances. (GP)

Match facts

  • Didier Drogba scored his first Premier League goal since March 2012 (vs Stoke).
  • Drogba became the second oldest opposition goalscorer at Old Trafford in the Premier League with this goal (36 years 229 days), after Gary Speed (37 years 190 days).
  • In 9 league games for Chelsea, Cesc Fabregas has been involved in 9 goals (1 goal, 8 assists).
  • Fabregas has recorded 8 assists this season, more than any Chelsea player managed last season in the league.
  • Man United have conceded 6 league goals this season from set-pieces; only Crystal Palace have let in more in this manner.
  • John Terry made his 430th Premier League appearance in this game for Chelsea, overtaking Frank Lampard as the player with the most appearances for the club in the competition.
  • Robin van Persie has scored 7 league goals against Chelsea, but this is the first away from Stamford Bridge.
  • Both of Branislav Ivanovic’s red cards in the Premier League have come against Manchester United.
  • Van Persie’s leveller was United's latest goal in the Premier League since Michael Owen vs Man City in 2009.

Tottenham 1-2 Newcastle

Newcastle ended a run of nine winless league trips with victory from behind at a White Hart Lane ground that is starting to give Tottenham the creeps. After three defeats there in the last four, Spurs have won more home games in the cups than in the league; six points from a possible 15 is not the type of return a top-four team needs. 

 

It's not for want of efforts on goal that Spurs lost to Newcastle: they had 17 to the visitors' 8. Nor did they struggle to get the ball – they had 68% possession and completed 440 passes to Newcastle's 176. But they only troubled Tim Krul twice. 

The first came when Emmanuel Adebayor, picked ahead of Roberto Soldado, nodded home Ryan Mason's pass after 18 minutes. The only other, halfway through the second period, came from Harry Kane – brought on to rescue the situation after Newcastle took barely 12 minutes to turn a half-time deficit into a lead.

Joyously for Alan Pardew, it was two half-time substitutes who turned it round. Just eight seconds after the break, Sammy Ameobi announced his arrival by collecting Jack Colback's through-ball and scoring his first Premier League goal; not long after, fellow inductee Remy Cabella floated over a cross converted by Ayoze Perez, scoring his first Newcastle goal on his first start.

The substitutes were at the forefront of a much-improved second-half performance from the visitors, who more than doubled their final-third penetration after the break. True, they had been utterly limp in the first period, but they ended up with the points because their substitutes changed the game. The worry for Spurs is that theirs – Kane, Aaron Lennon and Soldado – didn't, so they have lost at home again, and are now closer to the bottom three than the top four. (GP)

Match facts 

SPURS 1-2 NEWCASTLE
  • Newcastle's first away league victory since March, ending a run of 9 winless trips (D2 L7). 
  • Emmanuel Adebayor has scored 4 times in his last 4 league games against Newcastle.
  • Sammy Ameobi scored his first Premier League goal, having gone 33 appearances without one.
  • Amoebi’s goal was the fastest by a substitute coming on at half-time (8 seconds) since Opta began recording exact times in 2006/07.
  • It is also the fastest goal by a substitute (since 2006/07), beating the previous record set by Antoine Sibierski (15 seconds) for Wigan against Derby County in January 2008.
  • Ayoze Perez scored his first Premier League goal on his first start.
  • Tottenham have scored at least once in 19 of their last 20 league games against Newcastle. 
  • None of the last 18 league meetings between these sides at White Hart Lane has ended as a draw.

Burnley 1-3 Everton

Familiar failings came back to haunt Burnley as they went down to a fifth defeat in their winless nine-game Premier return – and a third 3-1 home defeat. 

 

The Clarets had their chances against an Everton side who had played in Europe on Thursday: they fired in 14 shots to the Toffees' 15, and were briefly buoyed when Danny Ings – one of their twin 20-goal talismen up front last term – broke his top-flight duck. 

 

But Everton were twice as accurate in front of goal, getting 6 shots on target to Burnley's 3. Take Samuel Eto'o and Lukas Jutkiewicz: each had 5 shots, but the Cameroonian got 4 of his on target and scored twice, whereas the Burnley man – playing against the team he joined as a million-pound teenager – only troubled Tim Howard once and still awaits his first Premier League goal.

Eto'o had opened the scoring with a header won too easily after Leighton Baines was allowed the freedom of Turf Moor to cross, and although Ings levelled when the hard-working Jutkiewicz intercepted a particularly hopeless backpass from Romelu Lukaku, the big Belgian rapidly made amends by forcing home at the sharp end of a typically slick move.

After the break, Burnley pressed but were struck by another recurring problem: Premier League sides have good substitutes, and are often comfortable playing more than one system. As Roberto Martinez switched out Lukaku for Ross Barkley, helping to outnumber the hosts in midfield, Dyche was bringing on Ashley Barnes. And when second sub Steven Pienaar fed Eto'o for a brilliant curled third, it was all over bar the shouting when Eto'o subsequently hit the post and watched the ball roll along the line – his only technically 'inaccurate' shot.

The passing stats tell a couple of stories. Burnley were often forced to watch Martinez's side pass the ball – the visitors, enjoying 62.2% possession, ended up completing 516 passes to the Clarets' 255. However, Sean Dyche won't be too bothered considering the similarity of the teams' attacking-third passes: Burnley completed 75 of 126, Everton 77 of 122. The difference is that Everton have strikers who look like scoring, and at the moment Burnley don't. (GP)

Match facts 

BURNLEY 1-3 EVERTON

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  • Samuel Eto’o scored his first away Premier League goal, his previous 10 all came in home matches.
  • That goal was also the first Burnley had conceded in the opening 15 minutes this season.
  • Danny Ings has scored with his first shot on target in this match, having managed 1 in his previous 5 Premier League games.
  • Since the start of the 2010/11 Premier League season, Leighton Baines has recorded 28 assists, 14 more than any other defender has.
  • Having kept 3 clean sheets in a row, Burnley have conceded 12 goals in their last 4 games in the Premier League.
  • Burnley’s 3 home defeats this season have all been by a 3-1 scoreline.
  • Everton are 1 of 2 teams in the Premier League who have scored in every match this season (along with Chelsea).

West Ham 2-1 Man City

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"We had a very undeserved defeat today," grumbled Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who's slowly developing a reputation on these shores for enjoying a good moan.

 

Deserve it or not, the champions crashed to their second defeat of the season after going down 2-1 at Upton Park to a resurgent West Ham side who consolidated their position in the table to remain 4th.

 

It's true that his side started confidently and finished with a flourish. City's smooth, assured passing early on saw them dominate possession and the Hammers barely managed a sniff of the ball, chasing early afternoon shadows in City's slick black away strip.

 

But through enthusiasm, sheer bloody-minded aggression and the experience and energy of Alex Song, West Ham gradually established a foothold in the game, before taking the lead.

Hints of offside, but Enner Valencia created the Hammers' first big chance of the game and Morgan Amalfitano tucked home to put the hosts in front. The Frenchman's name wouldn't sound out of place were he a Las Vegas casino-dwelling, craps-shooting nightclub empresario, and he's certainly proved a lucky charm.

The former Marseille man has never been on the losing side in a Premier League game in which he's scored. The omens were good for Sam Allardyce.

West Ham's tempo seemed to shock City who struggled for a period, and their attacking impetus only really intensified in the second half - in particular after going 2-0 down. The champions mustered just 1 shot on target in the first half, passing the ball around without purpose or penetration.

However, Diafra Sakho's record-breaking (see Match Facts) goal - a towering header that required goal-line technology to confirm it crossed the line - appeared to jolt City into life.

Pellegrini made changes, frantically waving his arms around on the touchline as he prepared to bring on substitutes, and David Silva's exceptional goal proved the spark that preceded a period of dominance.

Ultimately, though, it wasn't enough. Sergio Aguero missed a number of good chances, hitting the crossbar with a simple chance he usually gobbles up, and Yaya Toure was wasteful in the final third, his shooting wayward. Pellegrini may feel this passage of play warraned a point at least, but the reality is City paid for a slack first half and a wasteful second. "A massive, massive victory" according to Allardyce: City drop to 3rd in the table, five points behind Chelsea and one place above West Ham. (JF)

Match facts

  • West Ham have now scored in 8 successive Premier League games; their best run in the competition since November 2009 (10 games).
  • Man City have kept only 1 clean sheet in their last 8 Premier League games; this after keeping 4 in their previous 5 matches in the competition.
  • Morgan Amalfitano has never lost a Premier League game that he’s scored in (W5 D1)
  • Diafra Sakho is the first West Ham player to score in 6 successive Premier League appearances.
  • Sakho is only the second player in Premier League history to score in his first 6 starts in the competition (after Mick Quinn).
  • In all competitions, Sakho has scored in 7 successive West Ham appearances.
  • All 5 Premier League goals that David Silva has scored in 2014 have come away from home.
  • Silva has scored 2 goals and assisted 2 more in 3 Premier League appearances at Upton Park against West Ham.

Southampton 1-0 Stoke

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Remember in the summer when everyone left Southampton and everybody thought they'd be relegated or go bankrupt or spontaneously combust and cease to exist? The meme with the guy from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air in a giant empty house captioned: "Jay Rodriguez on his first day back at Saints pre-season"? Oh, how we all laughed.

 

Nine games into the season, though, and Southampton fans are enjoying a few laughs of their own by rubbing everyone's faces in it - up to 2nd in the table now after a Sadio Mane goal gave Ronald Koeman's side a narrow 1-0 victory.

 

Before the game, Koeman had emphasised the importance of winning the midfield war of attrition. "I think we have to win the battle in the midfield because I think that’s the key today. We know their qualities," he said.

 

And win it they did, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Steven Davis especially busy, winning tackles, making interceptions and completing more passes than any other player on the park bar Jose Fonte at the back.

 

Steven Nzonzi worked tirelessly to thwart the hosts' territorial control in the centre but the gaps in Stoke's midfield were obvious (see the wide open, blustery corridors either side of Nzonzi below).

 

Schneiderlin completed 73/81 passes and made a game-high 10 ball recoveries and 5 interceptions, while midfield partner Davis was the game's top player for passes in the final third (20/27). With Jack Cork ably supporting, Southampton had a platform upon which to build momentum.

The Saints took the game to Stoke, racking up 20 attempts on goal, 62% possession and nearly double the number of passes made by their opponents. They also won more tackles (22 to Stoke's 19) and made more interceptions (15-12), though Stoke, as one might expect, were aerially superior (26 aerial duels won to 12).

Winning the percentages is all well and good, but for a team to go 2nd in the table you need some magic to go with the maths. And Dusan Tadic provided it once again, creating a game-high 6 chances.

In doing so the Serbian continued a streak that makes him one of the league's top four most creative players, joint with Stewart Downing and just below Cesc Fabregas and Angel Di Maria.

Sadio Mane's pace and crucial finish won the day, but Schneiderlin, Davis and Tadic were fundamental to a win that sees the Saints leapfrog champions Man City in the table. (JF)

Match facts

  • Southampton have won every game that they have scored first in this season in the Premier League (5/5).
  • Southampton have kept clean sheets in 4 of their last 5 Premier League home games.
  • Saints have conceded only 5 goals in the league this season – fewer than any other side in the top four tiers of English football.
  • Fraser Forster has the best saves to shots rate of any regular goalkeeper in the Premier League this season (76%). In comparison, other England goalkeepers Joe Hart (69%) and Ben Foster (66%) have lower save percentages.
  • This was Forster’s fifth clean sheet of the season in the Premier League - more than any other goalkeeper.
  • Southampton have won 6 of their opening 9 games to a top-flight season for the first time in their history.
  • Mark Hughes has won just 4 of his 24 Premier League away game in charge of Stoke (L13 D7).

Liverpool 0-0 Hull

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While it took Luis Suarez just three minutes to notch a debut assist for Barcelona in El Clasico in his new life in Spain, back on Merseyside his old club Liverpool continue to experience the autumnal discontent of life in a post-Suarez world. Beaten resoundingly by Real Madrid (a bit like Suarez's new team, then) in midweek, the Reds stuttered to a 0-0 draw with a resilient Hull.

 

The Tigers came to Anfield with the aim of not losing and left satisfied, with Steve Bruce reserving particular praise for his third choice keeper Eldin Jakupovic, who was challenged regularly as Liverpool not only attempted 17 shots on goal (though only 4 on target) but also rained in 14 corners for the stopper to deal with. 

 

Hull's defensive exertions were the story of the game here, and while Liverpool found no way to break them down - despite Steven Gerrard patrolling the midfield with customary authority - their 39 attempted tackles (23 successful), 27 interceptions and 8 blocks showed evidence of an exemplary, collective defensive display.

People will try to make this one all about Mario Balotelli, but once again that would be reductive and cheap. Liverpool's failings aren't all down to the chicken hat-wearing, helium-inhaling Italian - though that's not to say that his form isn't desperately mediocre. You don't buy a showman and then ask him to do shuttle runs.

Given the high-energy, high-intensity fare offered by Brendan Rodgers' side last season, the forward signings of not only Balotelli but Rickie Lambert too should be as much open to question amid all the recent teeth-gnashing as Super Mario's obvious discomfort with the demands of a pressing style.

The side is lacking creativity and balance, and while a clean sheet finally arrived after only one in the previous 18 games, defensively there's much work to be done. Liverpool have problems right now and the return of Daniel Sturridge can't come soon enough. (JF)

Match facts

  • Mario Balotelli has had more shots (excluding blocked) without scoring in the Premier League this season than any other player (23).
  • Overall, Balotelli has scored just once in his last 23 Premier League appearances – this despite attempting 52 shots (excluding blocked) in these games.
  • The Reds have collected just 5 points in their last 4 Premier League games at Anfield (W1 D2 L1).
  • Hull have drawn 3 successive Premier League away games for the first time since December 2008.
  • The Tigers have only won 1 of their 19 meetings with the Reds in all competitions (D5 L13).
  • After winning 11 Premier League games in a row between February and April, Liverpool have won just 5 of the subsequent 12 matches.

Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal

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After a scare against Hull last weekend was followed up by a late, arguably undeserved comeback in Belgium at Anderlecht in the Champions League, Arsenal picked up an important three points at the Stadium of Light to gain ground in the hunt for a top-four spot (at the very least). Really though, this game was all about Alexis Sanchez.

 

Every player needs time to adapt to the unique quirks of the Premier League, but with three goals in his last two league games, including two to condemn Sunderland to defeat, the Chilean is showing hugely encouraging signs of progression.

True, Vito Mannone made a howler against his former club and Wes Brown was also at fault as Sunderland's defensive calamities continued post-8-0 concede-a-thon at Southampton last weekend. But Sanchez was outstanding, not only scoring twice but working hard to defend and offer an outlet for his team at all times.

While he and Danny Welbeck dove-tailed, the latter drifting wide and deep in a manner that strayed from his stated ambition of being an out-and-out striker, Arsenal passed it around in central areas, intricately looking to pick a way through Sunderland.

The goals eventually came from individual errors, but Arsene Wenger won't care, announcing his delighted at what he called a 'focused' display. Sanchez was the undisputed man of the hour, while the Black Cats continued a miserable streak - they've won just two of their last 22 league games against the Gunners. (JF)

Match facts

  • Alexis Sanchez has scored in 7 of his last 11 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions (8 goals in total).
  • The Chilean winger scored twice in a game for the first time for the Gunners.
  • Vito Mannone has made 3 errors leading to goals in his last 2 Premier League games.
  • Arsenal have won 4 Premier League away games in a row against Sunderland for the first time.
  • The Black Cats have won just 1 of their last 22 Premier League games against Arsenal (L14 D7).
  • Alexis Sanchez’s second goal was Arsenal’s 1500th goal in the Premier League; they became the second side to reach the milestone (Man United 1706).
  • Arsenal have scored 4 90th minute goals this season, 2 more than any other team in the Premier League.

West Brom 2-2 Crystal Palace

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"Assault!" cried Neil Warnock post-match, furious that West Brom's first goal in this 2-2 draw was allowed to stand after centre-back Craig Dawson appeared to catch Crystal Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni with an elbow that ultimately forced the Argentinian off. Warnock was also unhappy with what he felt was a "certain penalty" in the first half after Wilfried Zaha was brought down, again by Dawson. Nonetheless, the Prem's premium ref-botherer left The Hawthorns satisfied with what he ultimately concluded was a hard-earned point.

The previous two league games between Baggies and Eagles at The Hawthorns had seen four goals in the last 10 minutes including two in the 90th, and true to form that's what happened again here.

Saido Berahino's 93rd minute equaliser rescued a draw for Alan Irvine's men after Palace had sailed into a 2-0 first half lead through Brede Hangeland and a Mile Jedinak penalty.

The passing and possession stats show just how West Brom controlled the game. The Baggies saw 69% of the ball, registering 460 completed passes to Palace's 163 and 17 shots on goal to the Eagles' 8.

James Morrison and Craig Gardner controlled the midfield and Chris Brunt made a game-high 5/5 tackles and 10 ball recoveries, also notching an assist, but it was left to Berahino - this season's top-scoring Englishman - to save the day late on after Victor Anichebe had halved the deficit in the 51st minute. (JF)

Match facts

  • Brede Hangeland has scored 2 goals in 4 Premier League appearances this season, this after failing to score in 96 appearances in the competition over the last 3 PL campaigns.
  • Since the start of last season, only Liverpool (13) and Man City (10) have been awarded more penalties than Crystal Palace (8).
  • Mile Jedinak didn’t score or assist a single goal in any of his first 34 Premier League appearances, but he has scored 4 and assisted 2 in his last 13.
  • Crystal Palace have concede a league-high 9 goals from set-pieces this season.
  • Victor Anichebe has now scored 12 Premier League goals as a substitute; only 10 players in Premier League history can top this. He has only scored 21 Premier League goals in total.
  • Indeed, of players to score over 20 Premier League goals, Anichebe has the highest proportion of them as a substitute (57%).
  • Saido Berahino has scored 8 goals in 11 competitive appearances for West Brom this season, with 7 of these coming at The Hawthorns.
  • The England Under-21 international is now the top scoring Englishman in the Premier League this term with 7 goals.
  • Palace have lost only 1 of their last 9 encounters with West Brom in all competitions.
  • West Brom have lost only lost 2 of their last 14 Premier League games against London sides.

Swansea 2-0 Leicester

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The last six meetings between Swansea and Leicester have been home wins and it was no different in the evening kick-off at the Liberty Stadium as Swansea ran out 2-0 winners. This game was notable as further evidence of the increasingly fruitful relationship between Wilfried Bony and Gylfi Sigurdsson, a romantic tale of Ivorian and Icelandic understanding and shared values.

 

The pair sought each other out often and combined for the first goal in the 34th minute, scored by Bony, who then added a second in the 57th minute to wrap up three points and Swansea's first win in five games.

In the first half Swansea were commanding, pressing high up the pitch and forcing Leicester back.

Leicester fought back in the second half and gave a typically spirited performance, and this was exemplified by their average positions and the areas in which they won the ball back after half-time.

The Foxes major failing, however, was in front of goal. Though they managed more attempts on goal and on target, Esteban Cambiasso's bizarre miss summed up their impotence: a second-half faux pas where the ball rolled along the goal-line and out again despite appearing almost geometrically impossible to not go in.

Leonardo Ulloa has been in fine form since moving to Leicester, but in contrast to Bony he failed to register a single shot on or off target for the fourth game running - one blocked shot against Crystal Palace the Argentine's only effort since the 5-3 win over Manchester United. (JF)

Match facts

  • Wilfried Bony has scored in 3 successive Premier League appearances for the first time.
  • Bony is now Swansea’s joint-top goalscorer in Premier League history – level with Michu (20).
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson has had a hand in 8 goals (7 assists, 1 goal) in 9 Premier League appearances for Swansea this season.
  • Sigurdsson has scored 8 goals and assisted 10 more (18 goal involvements) in his 27 Premier League appearances for Swansea over his two spells at the club. At Tottenham, he scored 8 and assisted 4 (12 goal involvements) in more than double the number of PL apps (58 apps).
  • The last 7 meetings between Swansea and Leicester have seen the home side win.
  • The Foxes have failed to score in 3 of their last 4 Premier League games.
  • Leonardo Ulloa scored 5 goals in his first 5 Premier League appearances for Leicester (from 6 shots on target). In his 4 PL apps since, he has failed to score or attempt a single shot.
  • Despite not registering an attempt until the 49th minute, Leicester finished the game with more shots than Swansea (9-7; including blocked).