World Football

Barclays Premier League Table Week 20: Major Talking Points from Saturday's Play

Even Tony Pulis' smiles are ugly
Even Tony Pulis' smiles are uglyJan Kruger/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2013

When West Brom and West Ham combined for six goals, you knew it was going to be a crazy day in the Premier League.

Many would've had that pegged as a 0-0 draw or a 1-0 win for either side, yet the two put on a thrilling 3-3 draw that was a great way to kick off Saturday's fixtures.

In other action, Hull City cruised, while Manchester United and Manchester City struggled to gain three points, just to drive home how odd this weekend has been already.

With so much happening, you can count on plenty of talking points to come out of Saturday that will have supporters arguing all week.

Premier League Table—Matchday 19
Pos.ClubWDLGDPts.
1Manchester City13243341
2Arsenal12331839
3Chelsea11431537
4Liverpool11342236
5Everton9721234
6Manchester United10451034
7Newcastle United1035633
8Tottenham Hotspur945-531
9Southampton765727
10Hull City658-123
11Swansea568-121
12Stoke City567-821
13Aston Villa559-720
14Norwich City5410-1619
15West Brom397-518
16Cardiff City469-1518
17Crystal Palace5113-1616
18Fulham5113-2216
19West Ham3610-1015
20Sunderland3411-1714
ESPN FC

 

Who is this man, and what has he done with the real Nicolas Anelka?

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Nicolas Anelka of West Brom touches his sleeve as he celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at Boleyn Ground on December 28, 2013 in Lon
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

For the first time all season, Nicolas Anelka found the back of the net. He liked the feeling so much that he scored another goal six minutes later.

It was a strong performance from the French striker, as he was a hassle for the entire game. Even when Anelka wasn't scoring, he was moving around the box, dragging defenders with him and dropping deeper in the pitch to help facilitate the attack.

You couldn't have expected any more from a target man.

Maybe Anelka's trying to put himself in the January shop window or something.

For West Brom, it would be a major boost if the 34-year-old can find consistent form. A reliable scoring option is the one thing that would help the Baggies avoid the relegation scrap for good. They're a solid team, but they've yet to find a suitable replacement for Romelu Lukaku.

 

Do you like Danny Welbeck now?

NORWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Danny Welbeck of Manchester United beats John Ruddy of Norwich City to score their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and  Manchester United at Carrow Road on December 28, 2013 in Norw
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Over the past few seasons, Danny Welbeck has drawn the ire of Manchester United supporters and neutrals alike for his perceived inability to score goals. The criticism has always been a bit harsh, even if Welbeck has yet to crack double digits in league goals over a full season.

At least now the 23-year-old is silencing many of his critics.

He came on as a substitute after halftime and found the winner in United's 1-0 win over Norwich City. That was good enough for him to win Squawka's man of the match.

Welbeck has been on a rich vein of form recently.

With Robin van Persie's injury problems this season, you'd expect that David Moyes has no other option but to play Welbeck up top.

It makes you wonder if the English forward is in the midst of a Daniel Sturridge-like rejuvenation.

 

Crystal Palace are firmly a Tony Pulis team

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  David Silva of Manchester City tangles with Adrian Mariappa of Crystal Palace during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Manchester,
Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Crystal Palace won't win over any neutrals with their style of play, but much like Stoke City under Tony Pulis, they could string enough results together to get a comfortable mid-table finish.

The Eagles bunkered in and, despite losing 1-0 to Manchester City, will likely be heartened by their defensive performance. City usually ravage teams at the Etihad, yet Palace held out for 66 minutes before Edin Dzeko found the eventual winner.

Manuel Pellegrini was less than pleased with how Crystal Palace played, via Ian Herbert of The Independent.

Why would Pellegrini have expected anything else?

Looking ahead, Palace could give some of the bigger sides fits. Their defensive strength will likely result in a title contender dropping two valuable points as it fails to find a goal.

 

How bad are Fulham?

HULL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  (L-R) Hugo Rodallega, Steve Sidwell and Darren Bent of Fulham react as they restart the match after conceding another goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Fulham at KC Stadium on December 28, 20
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Fulham conceded six—yes, six—goals to Hull City on Saturday. It was a display of absolute capitulation from the Cottagers and the kind of match that gives you no hope that the club will avoid the drop.

This was the 13th match this year that Fulham have given up the first goal, which is a great record for a club in a relegation battle.

Some of the club's failings were chalked up to Martin Jol and his aversion to playing a defensive style. He also failed to strengthen the defense during the summer, opting instead to add more attack-minded players that eventually unbalanced the side.

Things haven't gotten much better under Rene Meulensteen. Fulham remain a disorganized mess with little indication they will get better any time soon.

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