The Special One Jose Mourinho made a surprisingly muted start to his second coming at Chelsea. The 51-year-old appeared almost unenthusiastic in pre-match and post-match interviews in the opening months of the season, whilst his bizarre treatment of Juan Mata was more of a talking point than his side’s performances on the pitch. However, the Blues have come to life in 2014. The first signs that Chelsea were starting to hit their stride in the title race came following Martin Skrtel’s opener at Stamford Bridge. Trailing Liverpool 1-0, Chelsea burst into life with a powerful performance and secured a 2-1 victory over a title rival. This year, Chelsea have conceded just one goal and Petr Cech maintained his excellent clean-sheet record as the Blues produced a near-perfect performance at The Etihad on Monday. Without Fernandinho, Manchester City were unbalanced in midfield and Chelsea’s trio of Nemanja Matic, David Luiz and Ramires took full advantage. Branislav Ivanovic scored the winner in a 1-0 victory but Chelsea’s devastating counter-attacks could have yielded greater reward. Mourinho may consider Arsenal and City to be thoroughbred stallions in the title race, but his “little horse” has been riding the inside rail and looks ready to surge to the front in the final few furlongs.
Charlie Adam Charlie Adam was an unfortunate scapegoat during Kenny Dalglish’s disappointing reign at Liverpool. The Scotland international was plucked from Blackpool in 2011 fresh from a series of talismanic performances which left the Tangerines on the brink of survival. However, Adam struggled to recapture his 2010-11 form (which saw him score 12 goals in 35 appearances) and a mere 13 months later, the ex-Rangers man joined Stoke City. The 28-year-old has acted with dignity despite the disappointment of his failed Reds career – and the good news for Mark Hughes is Adam appears to be rekindling his Blackpool performances. Having scored five times already this term, Adam added two more strikes to his tally as Stoke City were 2-1 winners against defending champions Manchester United. In particular, the midfielder’s second was a strike oozed class. The Scot is going to be instrumental if Hughes’ men are to avoid the drop.
The baby-faced assassin Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was one of the busiest Premier League managers during the January transfer window. And the transfer activity paid off as the Bluebirds were 2-1 winners against fellow strugglers Norwich City thanks to the impact of two of their new arrivals. Behind after Robert Snodgrass’ early opener, Solskjaer brought on Wilfried Zaha at half-time and the Manchester United youngster made an impact within four minutes, teeing up Craig Bellamy for the equaliser. A minute later and Cardiff were in the lead as Kenwyne Jones, who moved to Welsh club from Stoke in January, scored his first goal of the season. Solskjaer’s signings will prove crucial if Cardiff are to escape the relegation zone.
Free-spending Fulham Whilst Solskjaer made the perfect start following Vincent Tan’s investment in January, Fulham manager René Meulensteen wasn’t as fortunate. Despite spending big last month, the Cottagers were soundly beaten 3-0 by Southampton and dropped to the bottom of the Premier League table for the first time in their history. The Fulham boss needs to make his new-look side gel quickly if the west London side are to end their four-game winless run and stay in touch with their rivals. With Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea on the agenda in February, Fulham could be on the brink of dropping out of the top-flight by March.
Kolo Toure Following mixed results for their top-four rivals on Saturday, Liverpool appeared set to be one of the big winners this weekend after Daniel Sturridge’s first-half opener. However, Kolo Toure’s ill-advised pass across Simon Mignolet’s area was intercepted by Victor Anichebe in the second half and West Bromwich Albion managed to hold the Reds to a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns. It meant that instead of moving four points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur (and nine ahead of United), Liverpool still have their main rivals breathing down their neck. It raises questions about the club’s failure to strengthen in January, with Skrtel and Toure their only fit centre-halves. Toure’s decision to make the wayward pass could have been in part due to fatigue, with the 32-year-old defender playing three full 90-minute games in the space of nine days.
Newcastle United Joe Kinnear’s resignation as Newcastle United’s director of football was hardly surprising after a turbulent week for the Magpies. Yohan Cabaye’s £19m move to Paris Saint-Germain has defied Newcastle’s European aspirations this season. And Alan Pardew’s faint hopes of securing a Europa League spot took another blow on Saturday as Sunderland were 3-0 winners at St James’ Park for the second successive season. Without Cabaye dictating his side’s tempo in midfield, Pardew was fielded the inconsistent Hatem Ben Arfa and the Magpies rarely threatened the Black Cats as a result. Kinnear, for all his bravado, managed to secure one recruit in the January window with Luuk De Jong extended his nine-month goal drought after coming on as a substitute in his first Tyne-Wear derby.
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