5 Things We Learned from Premier League Weekend

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2012

5 Things We Learned from Premier League Weekend

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    Hold your celebrations, Manchester United. Your 20th Premier League title isn't yours quite yet. 

    The weekend started pretty slowly with a drab 0-0 draw between Chelsea and Arsenal at the Emirates Saturday afternoon, but Everton and Manchester United more than made up for that with a thriller at Old Trafford on Sunday. 

    David Moyes' Toffees twice came back from two goals down to secure a 4-4 draw, and with Manchester City's 2-0 win over the officially relegated Wolves a few hours later, the title race is well and truly back on. 

    Elsewhere in England, the most in-form side in the Premiership, Newcastle, are threatening to take over third place after a 3-0 win over Stoke City, while Tottenham are clearly content to keep moving down the table after losing 1-0 at Queen's Park Rangers.

    And Liverpool ensured their roller coaster of a season took at least one more dip with their third defeat at Anfield this year, this time to former boss Roy Hodgson and West Brom. 

    Liverpool fans can at least take heart in one fact, though. In their worst season in years, they're 3-0 against Everton. 

Staying Power

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    Queens Park Rangers secured a vital 1-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday to put them three points clear of the drop with just three games to go. 

    While QPR has been hovering in and around the relegation zone all season, Swansea and Norwich have been sitting comfortably in mid-table for some time now. However, it looks as if everyone will stay safe this year, for just the second time in EPL history. 

    In 2002, Blackburn, Bolton and Fulham all stayed up making it the first time in Premier League history that all three newly promoted sides avoided relegation. They've all stayed up since, but Blackburn and Bolton are both in the drop zone now and are three and four points from safety, respectively.

    Ten years later, what have QPR, Swansea and Norwich been able to duplicate?

    While QPR have seen the up-and-down results most newly promoted sides do, they've also had some very big wins at home having defeated Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea all at Loftus Road.

    Swansea and Norwich meanwhile have both relied on their home form and a solid defense away to ensure they'll see another season in England's top flight. 

    We already know Reading will be hoping to mirror their results next season, but do any of these teams have lasting staying power like Fulham, Stoke and West Brom?

Alan Pardew for England

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    Alan Pardew's Newcastle have had an incredible season, and they're only getting better as it winds down. 

    With a limited transfer budget (though it would seem almost bottomless to David Moyes), Pardew has gotten the best out of his players like defender Fabricio Coloccini, who made the PFA Team of the Year, and January signing Papiss Cisse, who has lit up the Premier League ever since he arrived.

    After their 3-0 win at home to Stoke Saturday, Newcastle sit in fourth place, just three points behind third-place Arsenal, with a game in hand. 

    The Magpies don't have a kind run-in, however. They travel to Wigan, to Chelsea, they welcome Manchester City, then travel to Everton on the final weekend of the season, and none of those teams is just going to roll over.

    Wigan are still fighting to avoid relegation, while Chelsea want that same Champions League spot, though they may have one eye on the FA Cup Final three days later. Manchester City need to win out to win the Premier League title, and Everton are fighting to finish above Liverpool for the first time in seven years. 

    Newcastle may have the best form in the Premier League right now, but in the next three weeks, we'll see if that form will be enough or if Pardew's men have the class to see them through to Europe's elite club competition. 

Everton Sure Know How to Finish a Season

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    The Premier League trophy was practically adorned with red ribbons already, but Everton had other ideas.

    David Moyes' men have been masters of the late-season push in recent years, and this year has been more of the same.

    The difference this year? They're getting more than just the one big result toward the end.  

    Their form since the turn of the year has been highlighted by wins over Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham, and it got even better with a thrilling 4-4 draw away to Manchester United on Sunday. 

    If you take out Everton's two recent losses to Liverpool, they've been almost unstoppable since January.

    Moyes hasn't had any money to work with in years, and somehow, even with the game of football being more about money than ever before, Moyes has shown more than anyone that it's really about personnel. 

    Moyes has the right players playing the right system and, most importantly, he's the right manager. Everton has no superstar like Robin van Persie, and they don't have Chelsea's depth. 

    If they could just figure out how to play football between August and December, who knows how high Everton could climb? 

Chelsea Have Had the Best Season

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    Aside from maybe Newcastle, Chelsea have had possibly the most successful season of the top sides. 

    Chelsea have been downright poor plenty of times this season. The defense has been woeful, the offense muted and the midfield confused. 

    Still, Chelsea are just four points off a Champions League spot and, much more importantly, they're in the FA Cup Final and have a one-goal advantage heading to Barcelona for the second leg of the Champions League semifinal on Tuesday. 

    Manchester United and City are fighting for the title and have been well above everyone else for months, but they were both knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages.

    United expect to win the title every year, so this is nothing new to them. Getting knocked out of both domestic cup competitions early is very unlike United, though.

    City, meanwhile, are still getting their feet wet at being a top side, but a squad with that depth and talent should've cruised through the group stages. 

    Liverpool have been great, they've been OK, and they've been downright dreadful. All in the last two weeks. 

    Arsenal have done very well to rebound from the club's worst ever start to a season and should secure Champions League qualification, but the goalless draw with Chelsea still highlighted how far the Gunners are from really challenging for a trophy. 

    Not saying Arsene Wenger and other top managers would trade places with Roberto Di Matteo and Chelsea right now, but they should certainly be taking notes. 

Predictions for Manchester Derby

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    Thanks to Everton, the Manchester Derby next Monday will have real meaning. Manchester United travel to the Etihad just three points above City and with an inferior goal difference. 

    City are riding three straight wins, while United could be dwelling on their draw with Everton. Giving up a two-goal lead in the last 10 minutes is bad; giving up four goals at home to an Everton side that struggles to score is just plain awful. 

    City have dropped just two points at home this year, and they embarrassed their rivals 6-1 at Old Trafford in October. 

    For the neutral fans' sakes, hopefully we'll see a more competitive match this go around. All United need is a draw, but Sir Alex Ferguson would never send his side out to just park the bus. 

    City have the better overall squad than United. They have more depth and a better defense and goalkeeper (though, ironically, it is the much maligned David de Gea who has the most clean sheets). 

    Carlos Tevez has gotten back into the swing of things after his six-month break, and I think he'll be back to punish his former club.

    The one person who could ruin it all for City is Mario Balotelli. The troubled Italian is eligible to return after his three-match ban after being sent off in the loss to Arsenal. 

    However, I don't think Roberto Mancini will be that foolish. City don't need his volatile attitude in the biggest game of their season.