Week 12 was full of exciting matches and provided us with some surprise results. We have a lot to discuss so let's get going. We will begin with the Merseyside Derby.
Liverpool vs Everton (aka The Merseyside Derby)
If you woke up early enough to watch this game, you were not disappointed. This was an electrifying match between two rival teams. A win for Liverpool would have put them temporarily in 1st place, while an Everton win would see them jump to 4th place. The scoring started early when Philippe Coutinho finally found the back of the net for the first time this season. Before scoring this goal, Coutinho had the most shots in the EPL without scoring a goal. All that hard work finally paid off when he was able to find the back of the net in the 5th minute. Minutes later, Ross Barkley found Kevin Mirallas and the Belgian tied the game up almost instantly. We weren't even in the 10th minute and already two goals were scored. It was clear we were in for a classic Merseyside Derby.
Luis Suarez struck a beautiful free kick in the 19th minute and curled it over the wall and past Tim Howard's reach to restore Liverpool's lead. Liverpool managed to take the 2-1 lead into halftime.
As the second half started, it was evident that Romelu Lukaku wasn't having his best game. He was not getting himself involved and at times you forgot he was even on the pitch. However, as the game went on, Lukaku started to show up and created some dangerous chances. In the 72nd minute the big Belgian did what he does best and fired home the equalizer. Minutes after that goal, Brendan Rogers decided to put Daniel Sturridge into the game. Lucas Leiva made way, and Sturridge came on to partner Luis Suarez in the attack. Everton were awarded a corner kick in the 82nd minute, and Romelu Lukaku powered home a header to give Everton their first lead of the match. What started out to be one of Lukaku's worst games, turned into one of his best performances. To do it in the Merseyside Derby makes it even more special for the young phenom.
However, the game was not over yet, and the late substitute, Daniel Sturridge, managed to salvage a point for Liverpool in the dying minutes.
Quick Notes: Gerard Deulofeu looked dangerous when he came on early in the second half for an injured Leighton Baines. Deulofeu is on loan from Barcelona and has been one of the most highly touted young players coming out of the Barcelona academy. He had a few great chances but was not able to finish. His one problem is he is too selfish. He needs to understand he doesn't have to do everything all by himself, he has teammates for a reason. Once he figures that out, this kid is going to one of the best players in the world.
On Leighton Baines, it is being reported he has a fractured toe and has been ruled out for as little as 10 days, but could be as long as six weeks. Go ahead and find yourself a replacement if you own Baines.
Top Performers: Romelu Lukaku (13pts), Kevin Mirallas (11pts), Luis Suarez (9pts), Philippe Coutinho (7pts), Daniel Sturridge (6pts)
Arsenal vs Southampton
I think everyone anticipated Southampton's fine form would come to a screeching halt against Arsenal. Olivier Giroud was able to get back to scoring ways after two straight games without a goal. To be fair, he was gifted his first goal. Artur Boruc was clearly not thinking straight, perhaps he had turkey on his mind or something, who knows. A back pass to Boruc, led to Giroud applying pressure on the keeper, instead of booting the ball downfield like a keeper should do when in that situation, Boruc decided to get cute and attempt to dribble past Giroud. Well, that's just stupid, Artur. Giroud took advantage of Artut Boruc's ineptness and stole the ball and slotted the it into the back of the net to give his team the lead. However, to give Boruc some credit, he did come up with two crucial saves in the first 15 minutes of the match.
Southampton were shorthanded on defense with their star central defender, Dejan Lovren left out of the match due to illness. To make matters worse, Luke Shaw was forced off at half time after injuring himself tackling Olivier Giroud. Arsenal controlled the second half for the most part, and were awarded a penalty in the 86th minute after Jose Fonte dragged down Per Mertsacker in the box. Giroud stepped up and powered home his second of the night, ensuring Arsenal would continue to sit top of the table for the time being.
Quick Notes: This is probably the start of Southampton coming back down to earth. It was a nice run while it lasted but they just don't have what it takes to continue the run of form they were on for the entire season. They won't be a top 4 team, the best they can hope for is top 6 and that might be pushing it too. It will all depend on what they manage to do in the January transfer market.
Top Performers: Olivier Giroud (13pts), Per Mertsacker (11pts), Wojcieh Szczesny (8pts), Kieran Gibbs (7pts), Laurent Koscielny (7pts), Bacary Sagna (6pts)
Chelsea vs West Ham
Chelsea dominated West Ham from start to finish. It didn't take very long for the Blues to get on the scoreboard. They were rightly awarded a penalty in the 21st minute, and who else but Frank Lampard stepped up to the spot and gave his team an early lead. A little over 10 minutes later, the young Brazilian who simply goes by Oscar, continued his excellent run of form and scored his 5th goal of the Premier League season. After that goal, Big Sam Allardyce did something we don't see often. He made a double substitution in the 40th minute, taking off Joe Cole and Jack Collison for Modibo Maiga and Mohamed Diame. It was a puzzling move and Joe Cole was irate, he stormed down the tunnel, taking his shirt off in the process. You just don't see managers make any substitutions let alone a double substitution in the first half, especially when it is not injury related.
Chelsea looked well in control as they entered the second half and West Ham really didn't do much to challenge them. In the 82nd minute, Lampard struck home a Lampard-esque goal, unleashing a strike from outside the box and into the back of the net.
Quick Notes: Juan Mata did not see any action in this game and rumors will continue to swirl about his possible departure. Lots of buzz about PSG possibly swooping in and taking Mata away for a sizable fee. Oscar's magnificent form and Chelsea's wealth of options in the attacking band has left Mata on the outside looking in. However, Mata has been Chelsea's best player two years in a row, I'm not ready to give up on him just yet. We should see him feature prominently today in Chelsea's UEFA Champions League match against Basel.
Top Performers: Frank Lampard (16pts), Oscar (13pts), Eden Hazard (10pts), All 4 Chelsea defenders (6pts), Petr Cech (6pts)
Manchester City vs Tottenham
Manchester City completely destroyed Tottenham 6-0. It was a clinic in how to finish by Manchester City. Tottenham would do well to take notes. Afterall, the six goals scored by City almost equals Tottenham's total of 9 for the whole season. Yes, that's right, Tottenham have only scored NINE goals ALL SEASON. Sergio Aguero has more goals than Tottenham. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez both have the same amount of goals as Tottenham. It's quite embarrassing, especially since they spent well over 100 million on world-class players, and they can't seem to get it together.
Quick Notes: Joe Hart was dropped from the team once again and Costel Pantillimon started in goal for the third straight game. Pantillimon has only conceded one goal in his three starts, whereas Joe Hart, conceded 11 goals in his first 9 games. I think we will continue to see a steady dose of Pantillimon and he's still fairly cheap at just £4.9, so he's definitely worth a pick up if you need a keeper.
Top Performers: Jesus Navas (19pts), Sergio Aguero (15pts), Alvaro Negredo (10pts), Costel Pantillimon (7pts), Gael Clichy (6pts), Pablo Zabaleta (6pts), Martin Demichelis (6pts), Fernandinho (6pts)
Manchester United vs Cardiff City
Oh, how the mighty have fallen, eh? We are used to seeing Manchester United come back and find a way to either win or squeeze out a draw at the end of games in what was famously dubbed "Fergie Time". On this day, the tables were turned. Cardiff City found a way to squeeze out a draw against the mighty Red Devils of Manchester in the 92nd minute. United were without Robin Van Persie but that should not have mattered one bit, because they still had Wayne Rooney starting with Javier Hernandez partnering him. Those two should have provided more than enough firepower to bring home the victory and three full points back to Manchester.
Wayne Rooney opened up the scoring in the 15th minute, assisted by the aforementioned Javier Hernandez. Life without Van Persie started off well. In the 33rd minute, the impressive Frazier Campbell equalized for the home side. However, just before halftime, Patrice Evra got his head on a Wayne Rooney cross and powered home United's second goal of the match. Momentum was on Manchester's side going into halftime. Unfortunately, they were unable to add to their lead and in stoppage time, 77th minute substitute, Bo-Kyung Kim sent the home fans into a frenzy with his equalizer. Cardiff earned themselves a point against the defending champions and added some more padding between them and the relegation zone.
Quick Notes: David Moyes can't seem to find his optimal line up. He's having trouble fielding a consistent starting XI and it might be the reason why his team can't put together consistent performances. United are still well in the race with 21 points, sitting in sixth place. Manchester City are in fourth place with 22 points, so they are just one point from the top 4. Moyes has a lot of work ahead of him and will need to strengthen his squad in the January transfer market.
Top Performers: Wayne Rooney (11pts), Patrice Evra (9pts), Frazier Campbell (8pts), Pete Whittingham (6pts)
Those were the best games of the week in my opinion. Yesterday, we saw West Bromwich Albion take on Aston Villa. West Brom took a 2-0 lead thanks to some brilliant finishing by Shane Long for both goals. However, they managed to squander that lead, and Aston Villa were able to steal one point from the match as the match ended 2-2. Ashley Westwood hit a fantastic shot from about 25 yards out for the equalizer.
Swansea defeated Fulham 2-1. Jonjo Shelvey scored Swansea's second goal, the first was a Fulham own goal by Aaron Hughes. Fulham's lone goal came from the lynchpin of the Non All-Star team midfield, Scott Parker!
Crystal Palace recorded their second win of the season, defeating Hull City 1-0. Palace are now under new management, with Tony Pulis recently hired to take over.
Newcastle defeated Norwich 2-1. Loic Remy once again on the score sheet, he now has 8 goals on the season.
Stoke City defeated Sunderland 2-0. Sunderland are bottom of the table. It's getting depressing over there.
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