Premier League – Week 18

23 December 2016

Eight games in the Premiership on Boxing Day with some great attendances and some post Christmas cheer for some teams.

Lunchtime kick off saw Watford and Crystal Palace eek out a 1-1 draw as Cabaye opened the scoring for the Palace in the first half. Cabaye could have notched at least one more goal during the afternoon and he was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch in Sam Allardyce’s first match back in the premiership since his rather sad tenure as the England manager. A scintillating performance from the Palace man but it still wasn’t enough to win the game as Troy Deeney equalized in the 71st minute from the penalty spot, a personal landmark from Deeney as this was his 100th goal for the club joining a very elite Watford group as he became only the fifth player to score 100 goals for the club. In the end Watford were in the ascendancy with Troy Deeney all over the pitch, it’s amazing what a little bit of confidence can do to a player but no breakthrough came for either side and a 1-1 draw was fair enough to both teams with lots of huff and puff but not too many houses or Christmas trees being blown away.

Arsenal kept the pressure on Chelsea but had to rely on Olivier Giroud 86th minute winner against a dogged and determined West Brom. The Albion seem to be really hard to breakdown these days thanks to Tony Pulis defensive ethics and mid table seems to be where they are going to be for the remainder of the season on this form. For Giroud this was his first start of the season and he looked in good form and so he should with so little pitch time under his belt. He is a player who should be starting every game so it would be no surprise if he walks off into the Emirates sunset if not in the January transfer window then possibly in the summer. The guy is too good to be keeping the subs bench warm all season.

Burnley welcomed a sloppy win by a solitary Andre Gray goal after a mistake by Middlesbrough goalkeeper Victor Valdes allowing the ball to slip away from him and trickle into an empty net. This was enough of a Christmas present to give the clarets all three points as Middlesbrough did little to suggest they could get back on even terms although eleven bookings from referee Craig Pawson broke up the game so frequently it made the whole encounter rather a drab affair.

The Chelsea rollercoaster rattles on and on. The victims at the end of the blues sword this time were Bournemouth although the south coast battlers again put in a plucky performance and played their part in an enjoyable encounter. 3-0 was the score line although Bournemouth fans would say they deserved better than that except Chelsea are dismissing everything in their path at present like matchsticks in a tornado. Goals from Pedro in the first half who again had a fine game and Hazard with a penalty just after the break had the Blues purring and an own goal from Cook after some more fine work from Pedro put the gloss on the final score.

Leicester’s woes continue as they lost at home against Everton who hadn’t won away from home since September when they beat Sunderland, mind you every team looks likely to win away at Sunderland this season so the Leicester win was a much needed fillip for the Merseysiders. The current champions are nestling a little to close to comfort to the relegation zone as goals from Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku was enough to propel Everton back up to seventh. Surely Leicester can’t go down but they need to be careful particularly as they are still heavily involved in the Champions League. To coin a pun they mustn’t take their eye off the ball but the forward line is misfiring and Ranieri just needs to be careful. They should survive as there are much worse teams whose only shots are by shooting themselves in the foot and we are talking Sunderland with no money, Swansea with no manager and Hull with no hope. I fully expect these three to capitulate and return to the Championship by the end of the season. If any one of these three survive it will be a bit of a Houdini act as the only way I can see savior for any of them is if one of the three or four teams above them commits Hari Kari on the playing field and endures a dreadful run from now until May.

Talking of which Sunderland left it late to capitulate against a Man Utd team on a bit of a roll at the moment at Old Trafford. Despite going down 3-1 the score was only 1-0 until the 82nd minute when super Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic got in on the act yet again to put the result beyond doubt before a sweet finish from Henrikh Mkhitaryan that had United boss Jose Mourinho in raptures after the match. Borrini scored a consolation for the Black Cats in injury time but too little too late.

Swansea and Hull played Father Christmas a day late on Boxing Day but lets be fair neither team could beat the bearded wonder if he turned up with half a dozen helpers and a couple of reindeer. Swansea were dismal on the way to a 4-1 home defeat by a very thankful West Ham whilst Hull dished out presents galore at the back thanks to a 3-0 home defeat by Manchester City. Both Swansea and Hull’s requests for a solid back four from Father Christmas obviously fell on deaf ears by theses performances.

Tuesday’s lone Premiership game saw Liverpool reduce Chelsea’s lead at the top and sit behind them in second with a 4-1 victory against Stoke. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the reds and it all looked promising for Stoke when they took the lead after 12 minutes from a John Walters goal. Liverpool did look disjointed at times in defense particularly in the first half but were still too good for the red and whites as goals from LLalana and Firmino before the break, an Imbula own goal and a welcome goal for Daniel Sturridge after the break settled matters. Still concerns for Klopp in the left back spot and in the goalkeepers position and I expect these areas to be dealt with in the transfer window.

In Wednesday’s game Southampton gave a very insipid and uninspiring performance on their way to a 4-1 home defeat by Tottenham helped in part by Nathan Redmond’s 57th minute dismissal for the Saints. Two goals from Dele Ali helped put the Saints to bed and dream of better match days. Even Harry Kane missed a penalty that went sailing over the bar and landed somewhere close to Lapland.

“Main photo:  Vlad1988/”

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