The Week 22 slate of games played on Jan. 18 was quite interesting on the surface since it didn't exactly feature many blockbuster matchups. But a few top-of-the-table teams were in action. They looked like sure winners on paper; however, their opponents were looking to play spoiler.
Teams near the top of the standings absolutely must beat the lower-level teams if they hope to reign supreme at season's end, so there was a great deal of pressure on squads like Arsenal and Manchester City against teams that are trying to avoid relegation.
Along with a full listing of EPL scores from Jan. 18, here is some further analysis regarding the most important and impactful Premier League results.
|Home Team||Away Team||Score|
|Crystal Palace||Stoke City||1-0 Crystal Palace|
|Manchester City||Cardiff City||4-2 Manchester City|
|Norwich City||Hull City||1-0 Norwich City|
|West Ham United||Newcastle||3-1 Newcastle|
Arsenal Maintain First Place
Arsenal entered Matchday 22 with a razor-thin lead over Manchester City for first place in the EPL, and they were able to hang on to it by virtue of a home victory against Fulham.
The Cottagers have allowed more goals than any other Premier League team, but there were some nervous moments for the Gunners in this match. They were unable to beat Fulham goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg in the first half; however, they finally broke through with a pair of goals in the second half to secure a 2-0 win.
The Gunners clearly dominated the match from start to finish, with a big advantage in both shots and possession, but they didn't truly take control until Santi Cazorla stepped up in the second half. The dynamic Spaniard was all over the place for Arsenal in the second half, and he scored both of the team's goals in the 57th and 62nd minute, respectively.
Cazorla was also extremely dangerous as a passer, as seen in this graphic courtesy of Squawka Football:
With the win, Arsenal gained its league-leading 51st point of the season, while Fulham remained firmly on the relegation bubble. The Cottagers have been falling closer and closer to the dreaded bottom three, and their loss to Arsenal didn't help matters. Fulham put forth a valiant effort in holding the explosive Gunners off the scoreboard for 56 minutes, but Arsenal were ultimately too much to handle.
Manchester City Keep Pace
Manchester City entered Week 22 knowing that it was possible to ascend into first place in the EPL. While that didn't happen because of Arsenal's victory, the Citizens remained within one point by routing Cardiff City 4-2.
Although Man City trail the top spot by a point, most would probably agree that they've been more dominant than any other team this season. They now have a goal differential of plus-38, and they scored their 100th goal across all competitions against Cardiff, according to OptaJoe:
34 - Manchester City have hit 100 goals in all comps nine games faster than any other side in a single season in the PL era. Juggernaut.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 18, 2014
The Citizens have been dominant in 2013-14 due to their incredible depth, and that was on full display on Matchday 22. Four different City players scored, as Edin Dzeko, Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero all beat Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall. Several teams have experienced Manchester City's offensive barrage this season, and it is starting to seem inevitable that Man City will eventually take over first place.
All the Citizens can do is continue to win and wait for Arsenal to falter. The latter hasn't happened yet, but the former certainly has.
The one concern regarding City is their goalkeeping. Joe Hart didn't have to be great on Jan. 18 since his teammates scored four goals, and that has been the case quite often as of late. Manchester City won't be able to score at that clip in every match, though, which means that Hart will have to step up eventually. If the Citizens have an Achilles' heel, that is it.
Crystal Palace Move Outside Relegation Zone
What was the most impactful result of Week 22?
Crystal Palace haven't been dominant by any means in their first Premier League season, but they have hung in there and proven that they belong.
The Eagles were in 19th place with 18 points at the beginning of the day, but that changed thanks to a massive 1-0 win over Stoke City. Jason Puncheon's goal put Crystal Palace on top in the 51st minute, and they never relinquished it as they shot into 16th place, which puts them outside the relegation zone for now.
There are plenty of matches left to be played, so Crystal Palace are far from safe, but they have to feel good to be in 16th at least temporarily. Also, there could be reinforcements on the way, as Crystal Palace sporting director Iain Moody said that the club is attempting to make some acquisitions, according to Ed Aarons of The Independent:
There's a lot of talking at the moment but we'll get there. We've got quite precise targets that we're trying to deal with. It's just sometimes it's in the interests of the selling club or the player to buy themselves a bit of time. That's probably the situation we're in and we're not alone in not having added to the squad.
There's a limited pool of players available in January but we're doing what we can to make the squad better.
That statement has to make Crystal Palace fans feel good, as does the victory over Stoke. Crystal Palace having success in the EPL is a good thing for English soccer since they are a determined club that is willing to spend. Many may simply view this match as a dull encounter between two lower-level teams, but it could potentially be a game-changer for the Eagles moving forward.
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