English Premier League Stock Watch
The title race is still (sort of) on, but the real fun resides further down the table.
After Manchester City beat Chelsea on Sunday, the fight for England's Champions League places is starting to look like an outright brawl. And with Wigan beating Reading on Saturday, the relegation scrap is getting, well, scrappier.
So which English Premier League clubs saw their stock rise this weekend? Whose stock fell? Keep reading this week's edition of the B/R English Premier League Stock Watch to find out.
Stock Up: Sir Alex Ferguson's Sense of Understatement
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Manchester United won yet again Saturday, seeing off feeble Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at QPR's Loftus Road.
Rafael da Silva scorched the net with a glorious long-range opener, and old man Ryan Giggs, marking his 999th professional match, starred and scored United's all-important second 10 minutes from time.
Victory kept United 15 points ahead of rivals (and defending champions) Manchester City, and with 11 matches left in the season, that's obviously a formidable gap.
Just don't try to convince manager Sir Alex Ferguson that United are shoo-ins for the title.
"We're in a better position today (Saturday) than we were yesterday," Ferguson said (per Daily Telegraph). "It's one game less and it's really important and the way we can approach it is by winning the next game and then trying to win the next game and seeing where it takes us."
Here's a wild, crazy guess as to where it takes them: title No. 20.
Stock Down: Everton's Top-Four Challenge
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Conventional wisdom holds that Everton are a stretch-run team—strong finishers who make up ground at the season's business end.
There's still time for that, but after a strong start to the current campaign, the Toffees now look more likely to go the opposite direction this time.
Top-four contenders for much of the first half of the season, David Moyes' men are now six points off Tottenham Hotspur's pace after losing 2-1 at Norwich on Saturday (Spurs play at West Ham on Monday).
The loss itself wasn't so bad. Manchester United and Arsenal also lost at Carrow Road this season. The manner of defeat, though, will rankle.
Everton held the lead heading into the closing minutes. Then, on-loan striker Kei Kamara out-leaped Marouane Fellaini to score the 84th-minute equalizer, and Grant Holt grabbed the winner in stoppage time.
For Moyes, who reportedly ranks this squad his best in 11 years at Everton, it was a bitter blow.
“There is still a chance for us to get into the top four but we are going to have to be very good now to do it,” Moyes said (via The Independent). "It is a difficult defeat to take today because we controlled so much of the game and yet didn’t have enough in the final third to finish it off."
Stock Up: Wigan
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If Everton have developed a reputation as stretch-run finishers, Wigan can only be considered escape artists.
Last spring Roberto Martinez's Latics escaped relegation with a stirring rally near the end of the season, eventually finishing well clear of the drop zone.
If Saturday was any indication, a similar run is possible this term as well.
Wigan whipped Reading 3-0 at Reading's Madejski Stadium on Saturday in the first of two relegation six-pointers this weekend. Almost everything went right for the visitors.
Arouna Kone stunned Reading with a quickfire double just before halftime (the first under controversial circumstances), and Maynor Figueroa made it 3-0 moments into the second half. Then, 10 minutes after the restart, Reading's Pavel Pogrebnyak earned a red card for a rash challenge on Figueroa.
With three points in the bag, Wigan climbed out of the relegation zone as Reading and Aston Villa—beaten 2-1 at Arsenal—dropped in. The race to beat the drop has plenty of twists and turns left, but Wigan made a bold statement Saturday.
Even if they didn't mean to.
“We don’t want to be in this position, we don’t enjoy it,” said Martínez (via The Independent). “But, yes, we do know what is expected in this situation and that really helps."
Stock Down: English Football's Anti-Racism Efforts
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Issues of race can be complex and sensitive. But in the case of Paul Elliott, resignation was simply the only correct course.
Elliott, a former professional footballer, resigned last week from his posts at the Football Association and the anti-racism initiative Kick It Out after using a racial epithet in a text message to Richard Rufus.
Both Elliott and Rufus, another former footballer, are black. Elliott, 48, earned a CBE in 2012 for his diversity and equality work.
According to FA chairman David Bernstein, Elliott's place with English football's governing body had become untenable. And he's right. In a league and sport where racism remains a real problem, officials and administrators must set the example.
Elliott, for his part, seemed to understand that. In a statement, he said (via The Guardian):
As an advocate of high standards of public behaviour, and integrity in public life, I know the use of this word sends out mixed messages and contradicts my position as a Kick It Out trustee. I will continue to be active in other projects in what I believe to be a true and just cause.
Stock Up: Wonder Goals
Saturday saw two spectacular goals. Sunday had another.
First, Dimitar Berbatov volleyed home the winner for Fulham against Stoke in the day's early kickoff. That goal can be seen here.
Then, Rafael gave Manchester United the lead they wouldn't surrender against QPR. That goal can be seen above.
Finally, on Sunday, Papiss Cisse put Newcastle ahead of Southampton with a sick volley.
Enjoy all three. They were all world-class finishes.
Stock Down: Chelsea's Hold on Third Place
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Chelsea entered Sunday's match at the Etihad Stadium trailing Manchester City by four points in the table. Victory would have given Rafa Benitez's Blues a real chance of finishing second ahead of the defending champions.
Instead, Chelsea now find themselves barely holding on to third place. With fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur still to play Monday, Chelsea's lead in third place remains at only one point.
If Spurs defeat West Ham on Monday night, they will be the new third-placed team in England. And Arsenal are only one point behind Tottenham in fifth place.
Suddenly, a top-four finish is not exactly a certainty for Chelsea.
Stock Up: Relegation-Zone Thrillers
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Newcastle defeated Southampton 4-2 on Sunday in the weekend's most purely entertaining match. Not coincidentally, both teams are fighting to stay out of the relegation zone.
Southampton took an early lead through Morgan Schneiderlin in the second minute, but Newcastle scored the next two to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. Rickie Lambert equalized for the Saints just after halftime before Yohan Cabaye put Newcastle back ahead with a 66th-minute penalty.
Jos Hooiveld made it 4-2 with a historic own goal in the 79th minute. It was his third own goal of the season, tied for the most in a Premier League season, according to Opta.
The win moved Newcastle six points clear of the relegation zone. Southampton sit three points clear.
Stock Up: Swansea City
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It wasn't a Premier League match, but Swansea City's resounding 5-0 win over Bradford City on Sunday in the Capital One Cup final was good for both Swansea and the Premier League.
The Swans returned to English football's top flight last season after almost 30 years away. As recently as 13 years ago, they were in the fourth tier—while Sunday's opponents, Bradford City (now a fourth-tier team themselves) were in the Premier League (ESPN FC).
The league cup is Swansea's first major trophy in 101 years of football, and though the club will relish their historic turnaround, manager Michael Laudrup is already being linked (per The Independent) with bigger, higher-paying clubs. (Who's apologizing now, though, right?)
For now, though, winning silverware is a worthy accomplishment for a club that ranked near the bottom of English football not all that long ago.
Stock Up: Rickie Lambert
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Rickie Lambert scored again for Southampton this weekend, bagging a goal in the Saints' 4-2 loss at Newcastle.
The goal was Lambert's 12th in his debut season in England's top flight—most by any Englishman this season.
Not bad for an uncapped 31-year-old.
12 - Rickie Lambert is now the top scoring Englishman in the Premier League this season. Patriotic.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 24, 2013