5 Things We Learned from Premier League Weekend

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2012

5 Things We Learned from Premier League Weekend

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    Super Sunday indeed!

    Chelsea led Manchester United 3-0 early in the second half and, had they held on, the Blues could've even reinvigorated their very slim title hopes. Instead, much like the Arsenal-Newcastle match exactly a year before, Chelsea allowed three soft goals (two from the penalty spot) and United earned a 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge to stay in touching distance with Manchester City at the top. 

    Arsenal, meanwhile, gave their top-four hopes a huge boost with a 7-1 win over lowly Blackburn on Saturday, but they'll have to fight off Newcastle, who just refuse to go away. 

    Liverpool vs. Tottenham Monday night at Anfield will be a big test in the fight for Champions League places, but before that kicks off, what have we learned from the Premier League weekend?

Newcastle Seriously Won't Go Away

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    Newcastle currently sits in fifth place, one behind Chelsea and two ahead of Arsenal, and it's a mystery as to how. 

    The Magpies have stayed at the top all season long despite losing key players over 2011 and not really doing much to replace them. 

    Demba Ba, who has surprisingly been one of the best strikers not named Robin van Persie this season, and January signing Papiss Cisse scored Sunday to give Newcastle a 2-1 win over Aston Villa. 

    At this point in the season, you'd expect a side like Newcastle would fall under the pressure and finish up around mid-table, but it really doesn't look like that will happen. 

    Out of all the teams fighting for that fourth spot, Alan Pardew's men have been the most consistent. 

Fourth Spot Is Anyone's to Take

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    While Newcastle have been pretty consistent so far this season, the last Champions League spot could be claimed by any of Chelsea, Newcastle, Arsenal or Liverpool. 

    Just five points (before Monday night's game between Liverpool and Tottenham) is all that separates Chelsea in fourth and Liverpool in seventh, with each of the teams still to play each other between now and May. 

    Liverpool have been in good form since an embarrassing 3-1 loss at Bolton, while Arsenal have shown the ability to both dazzle and befuddle. Newcastle have been quietly and surprisingly winning much of the season, while Chelsea somehow, who knows how they're doing it, actually sit in fourth place. 

    There's also a chance that Tottenham could slide down the table in the next few months. 

    It will come down to which of these teams plays the most consistent football. Chelsea and Arsenal could get distracted by the current Champions League campaign while Liverpool has the Carling Cup Final upcoming—and all three are still in the FA Cup. 

    Newcastle doesn't have the squad depth or talent to really match the other three, but they've hung around this long. Who's to say they won't be the ones playing Champions League football next year?

Juan Mata Should Be Playing Behind Fernando Torres

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    Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United Sunday was a thrilling game for football fans, and the best moment came right after the restart when Fernando Torres provided a perfect cross to an unmarked Juan Mata who duly gave Chelsea a 2-0 advantage. 

    Torres has not played well during his year with Chelsea and a lot of that has been because Chelsea has not played his type of game. And really, when you pay £50 million for a player, shouldn't you adjust to fit his game? 

    At Liverpool, Torres was electric with Steven Gerrard playing just behind him as a playmaker/support striker. Torres' compatriot Mata fits that role perfectly. 

    Mata is quick, has great vision and would get into the penalty box to support Torres, and it was displayed to perfection on Sunday.

    Chelsea has the players; they're just not using them correctly. 

Howard Webb Is Not a Good Official

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    Howard Webb has been considered one of the best officials in football in recent years, but after his performance in the Chelsea-Manchester United game Sunday, that assumption needs to be changed. 

    Webb awarded United two soft penalties in the second half, when the Red Devils were already down 3-0, despite turning down two earlier penalty calls, both of which looked more like penalties, early in the match when the game was still scoreless. 

    It's not often both managers are left unsatisfied with the official, but both Andre Villas-Boas and Sir Alex Ferguson questioned Webb's decisions.

    Webb has been accused of being a pro-Manchester United official, which is debatable, but he's definitely no longer the best official in the business. 

Booing Is a Part of the Game

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    Rio Ferdinand was booed every time he touched the ball on Sunday because of statements he made blasting the John Terry racism sage involving his younger brother Anton. 

    Much like how Patrice Evra was booed at Anfield last weekend for his involvement in the Luis Suarez racism affair, some people were annoyed that fans would boo someone who renounces racism.

    Well, they weren't. They were booing someone who insulted their captain. Chelsea fans have proven they stand behind their captain, much like Liverpool fans have become enamored with Suarez. And when an opposing player insults their player and team in any way, they're going to let them hear about it.

    It's part of the game. Get used to it. If the fans want to boo, let them. Fans could and have done a lot worse.

    Piers Morgan—who voiced his displeasure with the Chelsea fans on Fox's broadcast of the match (I'm sure British fans are jealous of all us Americans who were treated to that)—I couldn't care less what you think about it.