Premier League Wrap: Arsenal Win Derby; Man City, 'Pool Win Easy; Man Utd Lose
The pick of the Premier League fixtures fell on Saturday this week, with all of this season's pretenders and contenders on the menu and a couple of serious performances to digest.
For once, all the top sides were in action on a Saturday, and with almost one third of the season gone, now was the time to make a real statement of intent for the rest of the season.
The early kickoff saw the action started at the Emirates, where Arsenal welcomed Tottenham Hotspur in Andre Villas-Boas' first North London Derby, the 169th in all competitions.
From there it was on to the six 3 p.m. kickoffs (GMT), which saw Reading, still without a win this season, take on David Moyes' UEFA Champions League-chasing Everton.
A real relegation six-pointer saw Southampton travel to Loftus Road and QPR.
This season's surprise package, West Bromwich Albion, took on Chelsea without the inspirational John Terry, who missed the game through injury.
The late kickoff then saw the Red Devils head to struggling Norwich City, with Javier Hernandez determined to add to his record of having scored the most away goals as a substitute in the Premier League.
Read on to find out what happened.
Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur
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Arsenal hammered archrivals Tottenham Hotspur 5-2 at the Emirates, the same scoreline as last season, with Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott all scoring.
However, the final scoreline only tells a partial story.
Spurs dominated the opening proceedings and deservedly took the lead when Emmanuel Adebayor latched onto Jermain Defoe's saved shot after Wojciech Szczesny had failed to deal with it properly.
The away side then had chances to extend their lead, but poor finishing from the likes of Aaron Lennon left the Gunners with a glimmer of hope of getting back into the game.
That glimmer turned into a full-blown spotlight in the 19th minute when Adebayor was deservedly sent off for a ridiculously high two-footed challenge on Santi Cazorla.
From there the momentum completely shifted, and when Per Mertesacker equalised just five minutes after the red card, there was always only going to be one winner.
Two quick-fire goals in the space of three minutes at the end of the first half by Lukas Podolski and then Olivier Giroud put the Gunners 3-1 up and effectively ended the game as a contest.
Bravely, Andre Villas-Boas changed his team's shape for the second half.
Once again, Spurs looked the far better side in the opening period as their slick passing and Arsenal's inconsistency contributed to make the 10-man away side look like the better team.
However, that possessive advantage was well and truly ended when Cazorla fired in the home side's fourth goal of the game on the hour mark.
Gareth Bale did bring some respectability to Tottenham's efforts with a consolation goal only for Theo Walcott to make sure it would be another miserable trip to the Emirates when he slotted home Arsenal's fifth goal of the game.
In doing so, the England winger's goal equalled the scoreline from the same fixture last season.
Both managers will take positives from the game.
Spurs, for their good play with 11 men on the pitch and for their good start to the second half. While nobody would blame the Portuguese for the 5-2 mauling, especially with Adebayor being sent off, his position as manager is beginning to look untenable to certain factions of Spurs fans. Unless results pick up, he will find himself under intense pressure very quickly.
Arsene Wenger will obviously be happy with the end result, but he will be more than aware that this game represents their entire season so far across 90 minutes.
When on top, his team was irrepressible, but when the away side was dominating his side, they seemed afraid of the occasion and unsure of what to do.
Both men have much to do, but Wenger seems far closer to success than Villas-Boas at this stage of their two teams' development.
Reading 2-1 Everton
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Reading have picked up their first win of the season, on their 11th attempt, after they came from behind to beat high-flying Everton at the Madejski Stadium.
The Toffees deservedly took the lead after dominating the game during a first-half period that really should have seen the game put to bed.
Steven Naismith tucked home the opening goal after just 10 minutes after some good work from Marouane Fellaini. From there, David Moyes' side pushed for the second, but profligate finishing from the likes of Nikica Jelavic, Steven Pienaar and the aforementioned Fellaini spared the home side's blushes.
The Royals, playing a 4-4-2 with a nonparallel striking pair that saw Adam Le Fondre drop deep to help the midfield, regrouped at halftime and then took the game to Everton in the second period.
Le Fondre, the man of the match, then started to run the show from his deeper position behind Jason Roberts. The Royals' No. 9 fired home the equaliser and was then taken down by Seamus Coleman for a late penalty.
The striker duly dusted himself down and stepped up to score the goal that takes Reading out of the relegation zone at the expense of Aston Villa.
QPR 1-3 Southampton
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Southampton picked up their first away points of the season after they beat QPR 3-1 at Loftus Road.
The result leaves Mark Hughes' job as QPR manager highly questionable.
Nigel Adkins' team completely dominated the first half and took the lead from Rickie Lambert's short-range finish before Jason Puncheon's low drive put them two up.
With Gaston Ramirez distinctly lacking fitness after a period out of the team through injury and Adam Lallana dominating Rangers' midfield, it seemed only a matter of time before the Saints scored more.
To their credit, Hughes' team came out all guns blazing in the second half and fought their way back into the match when Junior Hoilett glanced home Adel Taarabt's corner.
Ramirez came off with fatigue on the hour mark, and the impetus of the game swung to the desperate home team.
Esteban Granero, Rangers' best player by a country mile in a horrific season so far, started to dictate the tempo of the game as QPR went in search of that elusive equaliser.
However, in a dramatic twist, Southampton scored through an own goal from Anton Ferdinand to end the game as a contest.
The result means that QPR are still without a win after 11 games, and this result combined with last week's draw with Reading means that Rangers have now dropped winnable points against their fellow relegation candidates.
In short, if QPR are still without a win after these games, one must wonder how or when they are going to pick up points.
Next week Rangers play Manchester United.
Could it be Mark Hughes' last game in charge?
West Brom 2-1 Chelsea
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West Brom and Chelsea served up what could be the best Premier League game of the season so far at the Hawthornes Saturday.
This season's surprise package, West Brom, continue to surprise, and Saturday was no different when they deservedly beat Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea 2-1.
The result means that the Baggies climb into fourth at the expense of Everton, who drop to fifth after their shocking defeat to Reading.
Before the game, Steve Clarke had talked about how this game would represent a benchmark in the Baggies' season so far, and on this result, however fortuitous, one must agree with him.
Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long, having an excellent season, opened the scoring with a great diving header after he got on the end of James Morrison's brilliant cross.
The Blues then hit back through a rare headed goal from Eden Hazard just before halftime.
To their credit, West Brom came back out with the same strategy as in the first half.
Long is one of the quickest players in the league, and through Zoltan Gera and Morrison's superb vision, they were able to stretch the Blues defence as Peter Odemwingie mopped up just behind the Irishman.
This tactic worked a treat just after halftime when Long turned provider for Odemwingie, who scored what turned out to be the winning goal.
Chelsea then threw everything at Steve Clarke's side.
If it were not for some inspired goalkeeping by Boaz Myhill and some outstanding defending from Gabriel Tamas alongside superb defensive performances in midfield by Claudio Yacob and Youssuf Mulumbu, the Blues would have won.
Dominating possession and beginning to create the lion's share of chances, Chelsea went for broke when they substituted the lacklustre Fernando Torres for Juan Mata as they pushed Daniel Sturridge further forward.
In the end, it took a superb save from Myhill in injury time to deny Sturridge and Chelsea a share of the points.
Liverpool 3-0 Wigan
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Two second-half goals from Luis Suarez and another from Jose Enrique handed Liverpool a win that looked unlikely for some time.
The Uruguayan's goals, his ninth and 10th of the season, completely changed the complexion of the game and turned it in the Reds' favour after it had looked like it would be another frustrating game for Liverpool's fans.
Liverpool completely dominated the game from start to finish, but they could not find the back of the net in a first half that actually saw Wigan go closer to opening the scoring.
Roberto Martinez, playing his patented 3-6-1 formation, set out to frustrate Brendan Rodgers, and for the first 45 minutes, his team did exactly as asked.
Football as a sport is as close to nature as one could get on the sports field where natural selection and survival of the fittest always prevail.
As most teams move toward 4-2-3-1 formations with one man up front, smart managers are now moving toward 3-5-2 to counteract it.
The theory is that if all things are equal, the five men in midfield will cancel each other out while the three defenders at the back will easily deal with a lone striker.
For Wigan, the tactic worked a treat until Luis Suarez opened the scoring.
After that, Martinez's formation and tactical setup was completely exposed as Liverpool, quite skillfully, counterattacked down the flanks while soaking up the Latics pressure.
Suarez added a second after superb work from Jose Enrique, who then deservedly scored the third as Liverpool threatened to run rampant.
In the end, the result means more progress for Brendan Rodgers, who now sees his team climb to 11th and unbeaten in seven Premier League games.
Manchester City 5-0 Aston Villa
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It was a real case of men against boys at the Etihad Saturday as Manchester City completely dismissed a young and inexperienced Aston Villa side 5-0.
Leading 1-0 at halftime through the superb David Silva, City upped the pace in the second half and blew Villa, with seven players under the age of 23, away.
It still took a controversial second goal to end the away side's resistance, though.
Silva floated a corner kick in, and Yaya Toure headed over, but the referee's assistant, over 40 yards away, somehow awarded a penalty.
The Villains players and manager, Paul Lambert, remonstrated with the officials to no avail, and Sergio Aguero stepped up and slapped home the penalty to leave his team with an unassailable two-goal lead.
As Villa's head's dropped, City pushed on even more and further exposed the flagging away side.
Aguero added his second in between a Carlos Tevez double as the Citizens went up 5-0.
Importantly for both managers, Villa's players lost complete interest and tactical discipline after the second goal went in and basically conceded that the game was over.
Roberto Mancini's side played like the champions we know they are and completely exposed and dominated the dispirited away team.
This is a hugely significant victory for Mancini as he leads his team into the most important part of their season so far.
Real Madrid visit the Etihad in the Champions League next week, and nothing less than a victory against the Citizens' stellar opponents will do. Building momentum against Villa was ultra important, and they did just that.
Newcastle 1-2 Swansea
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Swansea were easy winners at St James' Park Saturday as they picked up their first away win since the opening day of the season.
The Swans were by far the better team throughout and really should have scored far more goals before Shola Ameobi's late consolation goal.
The first bore great resemblance to last week's goal against Southampton. Once again, the Swans capitalised on a dreadful goalkeeping clearance to score.
The beneficiary was Nathan Dyer last week; this week it was Premier League signing of the season Michu who scored.
Once ahead, Michael Laudrup's side went on to dominate possession, and in general they made it very difficult for Alan Pardew's team to find any kind of rhythm.
Out of sorts and bereft of creativity, Newcastle conceded midfield to the Swans' five-man team, who knocked the ball around with far too much ease.
They still had to wait until the 87th minute for their second goal, though, but once Jonathan De Guzman was shown the goal, there was to be no mistake.
Ameobi scored in injury time, but the game was over by then, and it was a case of far too little, too late for the home side, who drop two places to 12th in the Premier League table.
Norwich City 1-0 Manchester United
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Anthony Pilkington's superb guided header was enough to see off Manchester United at Carrow Road as Norwich recorded their first win over the Red Devils since 2005.
Norwich City have tightened up as a unit since the start of the season and have started to concede less and less goals.
The main reason for this is the tactical setup for the Canaries, which has seen them shift from an open 4-4-2 to a defensive-minded 4-5-1. The five-man midfield means that Wes Hoolahan is the only player given carte-blanche to do anything that would deviate from the defensive game plan.
United, without the creative force that is Wayne Rooney, generally struggle to break down teams that only attack when 100 percent certain of a goal-bound chance. And with the Canaries employing Chris Hughton's extremely conservative outlook, this was always going to be a game that hinged on the first goal.
With United bossing the game in midfield as Norwich decided to play with negative possession, the away side were always going to have more of the ball.
However, despite all the firepower on show, the two-man strikeforce of Javier Hernandez and Robin van Perise never really sparkled. This was mainly due to the Canaries shutting off the main supply lines to the free-scoring strikers.
United then paid the price for their poor play on the hour mark when Javier Garrido's brilliant cross found Pilkington in plenty of space in the box.
The England youth international—who could yet declare for Hoolahan and Hughton's Republic of Ireland—still had plenty to do and somewhat amazingly guided the ball past Anders Lindegaard, who started surprisingly for David De Gea, in the United goal.
It was the least the Canaries deserved after a brave display that saw them frustrate their counterparts for long periods.
The game began to drift away from United.
Sir Alex Ferguson decided to make changes but could not bring Hernandez on, as he had already started the Mexican international. He was left with little choice but to remove the ineffective Chicarito in favour of Danny Welbeck for the final 20 minutes.
It proved not enough.
United always struggle to break down teams without Rooney, and the statistics would back that up. The Red Devils have now only won two from their last 13 games where they were drawing 0-0 at halftime.