English Premier League Stock Watch

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterFebruary 3, 2013

English Premier League Stock Watch

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    The gap is widening at the top of the table, but elsewhere in the English Premier League, the races for places are heating up.

    Manchester United lead the table by nine points following this weekend's action as champions Manchester City fell further off the pace. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotpsur closed the gap on Chelsea, and Arsenal moved closer to a top-four return.

    Which clubs saw their stock rise this weekend? Whose stock fell? Keep reading to find out.

Stock Down: The Title Race

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    On Saturday, Manchester United moved 10 points clear atop the Premier League table thanks to Wayne Rooney's goal in a 1-0 victory at Fulham.

    On Sunday, Manchester City could only draw at home, 2-2 to Liverpool, and shaved just a single point off United's lead.

    That means City now trail United by nine points. City's quest to repeat as champions, in other words, is in jeopardy.

    It's by no means dead, of course. United led City by eight points as of April 8 of last season, a margin City made up in just over a month.

    After this weekend, 13 matches and more than three months remain in the season. It's almost impossible, though, to imagine United and Sir Alex Ferguson coughing up such a large lead again.

Stock Up: Dramatic Goals in Squeaky Bum Time

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    At times Saturday, no lead seemed safe in the Premier League.

    At Goodison Park, hosts Everton fell behind struggling Aston Villa twice, the second time by two goals with less than 30 minutes remaining. The Toffees roared back, with Marouane Fellaini wielding the wrecking ball.

    First, Fellaini combined with Victor Anichebe in the box before slotting home in the 69th minute. Then, in the third minute of stoppage time, the towering Belgian powered home a header from a corner to rescue a point with a 3-3 draw.

    At St. James' Park, hosts Newcastle turned a 2-1 deficit into a precious 3-2 win over third-place Chelsea thanks to new signing Moussa Sissoko's late brace (more on that momentarily).

    And at the DW Stadium, Shaun Maloney struck in the 90th minute to give hosts Wigan a 2-2 draw in their six-pointer against Southampton—and a point that could prove valuable for Roberto Martinez's relegation-threatened side.

    None of the three comebacks will play a role in this season's title run-in. But even so, two could affect the relegation race. And all three provided neutrals with high drama and entertainment.

Stock Down: Aston Villa

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    At first glance, a draw against fifth-place Everton represents an overwhelmingly positive result for Paul Lambert's relegation-haunted Aston Villa.

    But while the point gained will prove valuable in the relegation rat race, this match must be considered an opportunity lost.

    Villa led 3-1 through 61 minutes following Christian Benteke's second goal. By full time, though, the two-goal lead was gone and Villa had dropped two points in what promises to be a tight relegation fight.

    Losing the early 1-0 lead was understandable. Losing the late 3-1 lead might later become fatal.

Stock Up: Moussa Sissoko's Instant Impact and Newcastle's Quick Revenge

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    French international midfielder Moussa Sissoko signed for Newcastle from Toulouse near the end of January (via BBC Sport) as part of the Magpies' Gallic-flavored rescue job. Since then, the 23-year-old has done little but impress.

    Against Aston Villa in his debut on Jan. 29, he settled into the middle of midfield quickly and set up Papiss Demba Cisse's opening goal. Against third-place Chelsea on Saturday, he turned a 2-1 deficit into an invaluable 3-2 win with a dramatic late brace.

    "I gave 100 percent, the very best I could," Sissoko told nufcTV (via ESPN FC). "I was signed to do that, to give everything, to fight from the first to the 90th minute—that's what I try to do."

    Besides giving 100 percent, Sissoko also gave Newcastle three massive points as manager Alan Pardew tries to rescue a desperately disappointing season. After Saturday's win, Newcastle find themselves six points above the relegation zone with a squad packed with new talent.

    And as icing on the cake, it was also a satisfying victory over former striker Demba Ba and the club who signed him away from St. James' Park in January.

    With all the new players at his disposal, Alan Pardew should have little trouble guiding Newcastle out of the relegation scrap. The question is how they arrived there in the first place.

Stock Up: Fans with Nothing to Hide

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    If you've got it, flaunt it.

    After watching his side come from behind to beat Chelsea, this Newcastle supporter certainly has it.

Stock Up: Reading

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    Jimmy Kebe scored early and late to give Reading a 2-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday. With the win, the Royals moved two points clear of the relegation zone and denied Danny Rose victory on his debut with Sunderland.

    Heroes have abounded in Reading's recent run of form of three league wins in a four-match unbeaten run. Where Kebe shined Saturday, Adam LeFondre starred in the come-from-behind 2-2 draw against Chelsea on Wednesday.

    Comebacks, in fact, have been the norm for Reading of late. But this time Kebe's late goal broke a 1-1 deadlock.

    Still, the feeling remains the same in Reading's dressing room. In a word, it's buoyant.

    Said manager Brian McDermott (per The Independent):

    Our dressing room is a very happy place. But it's not just the 11 players, it's the 18 players in the squad and the staff as well. I've had to learn and gain experience in this League and so have the players. We've had to find a way to win.

Stock Down: Chelsea and Rafa Benitez

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    After losing 3-2 at Newcastle, Chelsea's deficit behind leaders Manchester United climbed to 16 glaring points. If the Blues' title challenge had any life in it before the weekend, it is undeniably dead by now.

    What's more, Chelsea now lead fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur by just one point—and sixth-place Arsenal are only five points behind.

    And according to The Independent, Chelsea have collected 22 points from 39 available under interim manager Rafa Benitez. Roberto Di Matteo, sacked in November for supposedly under-performing after leading Chelsea to FA Cup and Champions League titles, earned 24 in one fewer match.

Stock Up: Andy Carroll

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    In his return to full fitness following a knee injury in November, West Ham United forward Andy Carroll dominated Swansea City physically and scored the late winner as the Hammers edged out a 1-0 win at Upton Park.

    And to think, West Ham boss Sam Allardyce wasn't even sure whether his England international forward would play the full 90 minutes.

    "It's his first full 90 minutes in nine weeks," Allardyce said (via The Guardian). "The only other participation he's had was a few minutes at Fulham. There didn't look to be any fatigue there, so we left him on."

    He needn't have worried. Carroll's goal gave West Ham a first league win in five attempts and moved the Hammers nine points clear of the relegation zone.

    When Carroll suffered his injury in November, the relegation zone felt a million miles away. Tellingly, the Hammers won just twice without him—and again put distance between themselves and the drop upon his return.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, West Ham announced over the weekend that they had reached a deal with Liverpool for Carroll's permanent transfer (via ESPN FC). Carroll might never have been worth the £35 million Liverpool paid Newcastle for him.

    But playing in a more suitable system and more fitting environment, he's clearly proving his worth for West Ham.