8 Things We Learned from Premier League Week 21
The cogs of the Premier League machine kept turning this weekend as Week 21 of the 2013-14 campaign brought immense change at both ends of the table.
As things stand, only four points separate the basement side from 13th spot, while a host of Premier League big guns remain in the running for this term's title.
As much as it's a learning curve for the clubs involved, we as an audience might have a few things to pick up from the action too, with some of this weekend's biggest talking points discussed ahead.
Arsenal Complacency Threatens Their Premier League Hunt
Arsenal's 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Monday evening will ultimately go down as a major positive for the club, but beneath the surface are creeping tones that could dislodge their bid to end a trophy drought lasting almost a decade.
The Gunners quickly assumed a 2-0 lead in Birmingham through strikes from Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud, but the risks of assuming such a dominant position early on were made all too clear.
After the 35th minute, a goalless lull ensued until, with 10 minutes left, a Christian Benteke goal put the hosts back in the running.
The North Londoners ran in the final 10 minutes under a heap of Villa pressure, but Paul Lambert's side failed to make it tell.
Three more points put Arsenal back at the summit of the English top flight, but if they're to maintain that gallop ahead of Manchester City and Chelsea, it's performances such as these that must be all the more clinical.
Alan Pardew Hasn't Lost His Touch for the Aggressive
Newcastle United's 2-0 loss to Manchester City on Saturday was a hard pill to swallow for the Magpies, who may have felt they at least deserved a goal from Cheick Tiote's controversially ruled-out scorcher.
However, emotions ran high with few more than they did Alan Pardew, who once again struggled to contain his feelings.
The Daily Mail's Colin Young has since reported that the Newcastle boss won't face punishment for calling Manuel Pellegrini a "f***ing old c***," in what isn't the first touchline offence of Pardew's career.
Back in September 2012, the manager was handed a two-match ban and a fine of £20,000 for shoving a linesman, according to the Guardian.
One can only hope that Pardew has finally learned his lesson.
Daniel Sturridge Pivotal to Liverpool's End-of-Season Run-in
Having missed all of Liverpool's busy schedule since the end of November, Daniel Sturridge completed his comeback from injury during Liverpool's 5-3 drubbing of Stoke City on Sunday.
And the England striker marked his return in the best possible fashion, netting one of the five goals scored at the Britannia Stadium as the Reds handed Mark Hughes' side just their second home loss of the league season.
Although Luis Suarez is a critical figure in Liverpool mounting any sort of bid for silverware this season, the Merseyside giants will need all the tools at their disposal in order to live up to new expectations.
This includes the use of a figure who's fallen into the backdrop over the last six weeks but showed against the Potters that he's all too ready to give his side a boost during their end-of-season run-in.
Manchester United Begin Their 2014 Turnaround?
It's no secret that Manchester United are going through one of the more disappointing patches of their history this season.
The 2013-14 term has brought about the worst start to a campaign that the club has witnessed in some 24 years, with worries swirling around David Moyes' appointment as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor.
However, one thing that isn't all too uncommon at Old Trafford is a winter rise through the ranks and the Red Devils may have just gotten off to a start on Saturday.
United's 2-0 win over Swansea City came in the absences of the injured Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, but the signs were there of a more unified fight.
On the evening, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck provided the necessary finishes to see off their Welsh opponents in what Moyes will have seen as a gratifying way to start winning ways in 2014.
The next five months will nevertheless be a gruelling test of the club's resolve, but it could be now, eight months after the Scot took charge at Old Trafford, that things take a turn for the better.
Andy Carroll Can Save Sam Allardyce from the Hammers' Axe
Returning to Premier League action complete with a beard that wouldn't have looked out of place in the biblical ages, Andy Carroll's impact on West Ham's success was immediate this weekend.
Featuring in his first game of the season, it took the England forward a little over 20 minutes before setting up his first goal of the campaign as Carroll assisted Mark Noble's 94th-minute closer at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The Hammers have been suffering this season across multiple areas of the pitch, and Carlton Cole, released over the summer but re-signed on a short-term deal, has looked among their most reliable forwards.
As long as the Hammers, now with 18 points to their name and outside the relegation zone, can keep Carroll fit and healthy, Sam Allardyce can count on some better hopes of staying in a job.
However, that whole "keeping Andy Carroll fit" stipulation has proven easier said than done.
The Special One's Chelsea Can Win Ugly
During Jose Mourinho's first spell in charge at Chelsea, the Blues were an outfit of flair and fancy, boasting some of the finest talents in Europe and displaying it on the pitch in kind.
With the Portuguese back at the helm this season, the West London outfit are once again displaying those traits, but Saturday's 2-0 win at Hull City was something else.
Going in at the break with the score tied at 0-0, Chelsea required something of a far less beautiful nature to emerge as KC Stadium victors, and that's precisely what they gave.
Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres put the finishing touches on the triumph, but it was a rusty win—the kind of win that not every fan wants to turn up to every week but is confidence-boosting all the same.
With that display under their belts, the English titans showed that they're capable of coming out on top when their backs are up against the wall, with Mourinho undoubtedly taking some positives.
Black Cats Get Another Life
Gus Poyet's time as Sunderland manager has been far from the fairytale that the Uruguayan may have wanted in charge of his first Premier League side, with the Black Cats in a relegation battle.
However, their survival hopes look a lot more hopeful following this weekend's 4-1 win at Craven Cottage, Adam Johnson pitching in with a hat-trick performance.
Poyet's side showed the kind of class that hasn't been on show for the Wearsiders a lot this term, pushing Sunderland off the bottom of the English top flight as a result.
Pulling off a rise from the proverbial ashes is something that Sunderland are familiar with, having turned their fortunes around in the winter period on several occasions in recent years.
With any luck, Poyet will see the same happen to his side this term, and the drubbing of Fulham could be the key to getting their campaign off the ground.
Europe Within Reach for Roberto Martinez's Everton
David Moyes' time at Goodison Park was a success that would have understandably led some to fear his eventual exit from the Merseyside outfit over the summer.
However, under Roberto Marrtinez's tutelage, the Toffees have become a far more dangerous weapon and are now showing the signs that they're ready to juggle European responsibilities.
This weekend's 2-0 win over Norwich City doesn't necessarily go down as a make-or-break fixture in the grand scheme of things, but it can often be in these matchups that complacency can tend to creep in.
No such fears were on hand against the Canaries, who were the latest club to fall victim to Martinez's tactical nuance.
Last week, Elliott Bretland of the Daily Mail quoted the Spaniard as saying that Moyes had taught his side that settling for eighth place was acceptable.
Under his command and with a shiny new force of assets at their disposal, Everton are showing that greater things lie ahead—and perhaps further abroad at that.