The 2013-14 Premier League season has been a whirlwind of unpredictability ever since opening day. Instead of having the title picture and the table cleared up a bit over Matchday 16, we saw the exact opposite.
Arsenal eyed a chance at extending a five-point lead over the rest of the table but couldn't rise to the challenge against a Manchester City squad that is among the world's best at home. Now on the Gunners' heels along with City is Chelsea, who picked up three points over Crystal Palace.
One thing that many EPL fans could count on throughout this young season is Manchester United stumbling, but that didn't even happen. The Red Devils picked up a much-needed win on the road at Aston Villa and looked like last year's squad as they hope to build off of this morale-boosting result.
Things got even cloudier past those results, so let's take a look at how it impacted the league table heading into Week 17.
|Cardiff City||1-0||West Brom|
|Hull City||0-0||Stoke City|
|Aston Villa||0-3||Manchester United|
|Norwich City||1-1||Swansea City|
Matchday 16 Biggest Results
Manchester City 6 - 3 Arsenal
Looking to continue their improbable run at the top of the EPL, Arsenal faced their toughest test yet and fell back down to Earth by giving up six goals after a Manchester City offensive onslaught.
An absolute force at Etihad Stadium, City scored four second-half goals and that was more than enough to overcome two scores from Gunners' Theo Walcott.
Going into the match, Arsenal may have thought three goals would have been enough given their stingy defense that had let up just 11 goals prior to the loss. But as manager Arsene Wenger said, per the club's official site, they could've scored even more given the way the game unfolded:
"We had the best defence in the Premier League and we conceded many goals today. Honestly, we could have scored at least six as well. It was for me a very open game but on our front I think we made too many mistakes. Our strengths until now was our defensive discipline and that went as the game went on."
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Offensive shootouts have been a rarity for Arsenal this season. Their style of winning has been based much more on holding opponents to clean sheets, although offense certainly hasn't been a lost cause.
The Gunners should get somewhat of a pass in this one since it was on the road and City have been killing everybody at home, but Arsenal will have to figure out how to land a result in these goal-happy games if they want to threaten the Premier League title.
Aston Villa 0 - 3 Manchester United
Manchester United have been so consistently inconsistent this season that almost no result is seen as a surprise anymore, but they took a major step in dispelling that reality with a lopsided win on the road against a solid squad.
With Robin van Persie out, the Red Devils needed to replace some offense, and Danny Welbeck was the hero of the day. After failing to score since the opening match of the season, Welbeck netted two goals three minutes apart—in the 15th and 18th minutes—to give United a lead they wouldn't come close to relinquishing.
Goalkeeping was also on point, as David de Gea made six saves on the day to stifle an Aston Villa attack that desperately tried to get back into the game.
But despite cruising to victory and having a three-goal advantage for much of the second half, manager David Moyes wasn't happy:
Man Utd manager David Moyes: "We played well - the only thing I can be critical of is that we didn't score more goals." #AVLMUN— Premier League (@premierleague) December 15, 2013
Staring a three-game losing streak in the face heading into the showdown with Aston Villa, Moyes' crew could've further slid down the table with another loss as Villa would've tied them in the table. Instead, the win puts United in eighth place and just six points out of the top four.
It will take much more than one result to erase the early-season woes that United have faced, and getting back into the title picture will take one heck of a run.
But Red Devils faithful have to be pleased with three points and a strong showing.