Premier League winners and losers: Everton, Liverpool & David Moyes
Premier League winners and losers: Everton and Liverpool ensure Merseyside comes out on top after weekend full of mixed results
Rampant Liverpool Unquestionably Liverpool were the winners at the top of the table this weekend. The Reds were fresh from a 5-1 rout against Norwich City in midweek and continued their excellent home form against West Ham United. Luis Suarez, who netted four goals against the Canaries, was instrumental again as the Uruguayan bagged his 14th Premier League goal of the season as well as two deflected strikes, whilst Martin Skrtel also found the back of the net. When Brendan Rodgers took charge of Liverpool in May 2012, the Reds were far from invincible at Anfield but the Northern Irishman has gradually turned the stadium into a fortress. Liverpool have scored 22 goals in eight home games – and only Manchester City have been more prolific in front of their home supporters. Touted by many as top-four contenders, the Reds will undergo a real examination of their credentials when they travel to Tottenham Hotspur, City and Chelsea before the end of December.
Everton’s free-flowing football It was a good weekend for the Merseyside clubs, who continue to challenge the dominance of London and Manchester. Everton travelled to league leaders Arsenal and out-passed the normally fluent Gunners at The Emirates; Roberto Martinez’s men finished with 54 per cent possession and an 84 per cent pass-completion rate. Despite producing more shots on Arsenal’s goal, the Toffees were forced to settle for a point after Gerard Deulofeu’s late equaliser cancelled out Mesut Ozil’s 81st-minute strike. After a slow start under Martinez, Everton have emerged as real top-four contenders following a 1-0 win at Old Trafford and a credible draw at Emirates Stadium. Such has been the impression made in recent weeks, there have been murmurings among the United supporters that the Red Devils appointed the wrong Everton boss as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor.
Pulis’ new-look Palace Crystal Palace trawled through potential replacements for Ian Holloway at a snail’s pace throughout November but the Eagles have taken a big step towards safety after appointing Tony Pulis. Under Holloway, Palace were open and vulnerable as the south London side shipped 21 goals in 12 games. Since Pulis has taken charge, Palace have scored three times and keep back-to-back clean sheets. Not only that, but the former Stoke City manager has conjured goal-scoring form out of Marouane Chamakh. The Moroccan scored the winner against West Ham in midweek and bagged the opener in a 2-0 victory over Cardiff City on Saturday. The result hoisted Palace into 19th place, and crucially, level on points with the Hammers. Should Pulis keep Palace in the Premier League, it would amount to his greatest achievement in management.
David Moyes and Manchester United Old Trafford’s intimidating aura is fast disappearing after Manchester United suffered successive home defeats for the first time since 2002. Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye netted a second-half winner after Everton struck late mid-week. Everton, Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion, Southampton and Chelsea have all left Old Trafford with a point or more this season. Perhaps of even more concern for David Moyes is the lack of urgency that the Red Devils showed following Cabaye’s 61st-minute strike. With Tom Cleverley playing a holding role in midfield, United look susceptible on the counter-attack as their back four have little protection and short of ideas up front. Wayne Rooney’s return from a suspension is a boost but the squad remains stretched. Moyes has vowed not to panic buy in January, but the Scot must strengthen if the Red Devils are to close the seven-point gap between themselves and Manchester City.
Allardyce’s frugal Hammers When West Ham secured Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing on permanent deals this summer, the Hammers were talking about a potential push for a Europa League spot. But the England striker has barely featured due to a foot injury whilst Downing had to be replaced after a third-minute injury at Anfield on Sunday. It’s culminated in one win in eight games and the east London side are level on points with 19th-placed Palace. Allardyce has rubbished talk of a relegation battle in recent weeks, perhaps out of pride considering his Premier League record. West Ham have scored 13 goals this season, only Palace and Cardiff City have been more frugal in front of goal, and Allardyce will surely have to ask owners David Gold and David Sullivan to dig deep into their pockets in January.
Jose Mourinho Jose Mourinho allowed Romelu Lukaku to move on a season-long loan to Everton on deadline day, despite Demba Ba and Fernando Torres failing to convince during their respective Blues careers. Ironically, Lukaku appears to be doing his part in Chelsea’s title challenge having scored against City and Liverpool, whilst helping to create Everton’s winner at Old Trafford. However, Chelsea aren’t doing their part after a 3-2 loss at Stoke City. Germany international Andre Schurrle was the standout performer as he impressed with a brace as well as hitting the woodwork in a dominant display. However, at 2-2, Mourinho opted to substitute his star performer and Chelsea lost their impetus. It was a big three points to drop after results at United and St Mary’s, as well as Arsenal’s subsequent draw with Everton.