The English Premier League saw a change at the top of the table last weekend, and the shakeup continued in Matchday 25 with a new club ahead of the pack. Chelsea’s 1-0 road win over Manchester City last week helped Arsenal claim first place, but the Blues jumped all the way to the head of class thanks to Arsenal’s 5-1 shellacking at the hands (or feet) of Liverpool.
Before we recap the weekend’s action, here is how the league stands at the moment:
|15||West Ham United||25||6||7||12||-7||25|
|18||West Bromwich Albion||25||4||11||10||-8||23|
|Norwich City||0-0||Manchester City|
|Crystal Palace||3-1||West Bromwich Albion|
|Aston Villa||0-2||West Ham United|
|Swansea City||3-0||Cardiff City|
The week started with a bang as Arsenal lost their first match since December 14—but they lost in startling fashion.
Liverpool gave the Anfield crowd a dream start with a blitz attack that—for all intents and purposes—ended the match before Gunners manager Arsene Wenger had any time to blink.
Martin Skrtel got a shin on the end of a Steven Gerrard free kick to give the Reds the lead just one minute into the match.
The same duo hooked up just nine minutes later—this time off a corner—for a looping Skrtel header that beat the keeper and men on the goal line.
Ten minutes, two goals. That’s not completely insurmountable, is it?
But the humiliation was far from over. Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge scored two more goals before the 20-minute mark that decided the outcome with 70 minutes of action left.
There were two more goals—one for each club—to bring the final score to 5-1, but Arsenal looked shell-shocked and completely outplayed.
What’s even more astounding is that the scoring disparity doesn’t completely reveal the utter dominance of Liverpool in this contest. Fortunately, Jason Burt of The Telegraph does:
For 20 astonishing first-half minutes Liverpool produced the most exhilarating football seen in the Premier League this season. Or any season. They scored four. They should have scored six. The emphatic score-line did not reflect Liverpool’s superiority. It should have been more. There were outstanding performances from Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and—in front of the watching England assistant manager Ray Lewington—from the superb Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling who must be pushing hard for the World Cup squad.
Arsenal’s devastating loss was the first domino to fall atop the league table. The result gave Manchester City the chance to reclaim pole position with a win or a draw—a result that seemed inevitable against a Norwich City club that was sitting just above the relegation zone in 15th place.
The matchup of Manchester City’s overwhelming and goal-hungry attack with the most goals scored in the league (68) against a Norwich defense that had given up the fourth-most goals (37) entering the match seemed to favor the Citizens.
Manchester dominated possession, but real chances were few and far between.
|Team||Possession||Shots||Shots on Goal||Corners||Saves|
Unfortunately for manager Manuel Pellegrini, the offense eluded his side for the second consecutive match and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
Manchester City has been shut out in consecutive matches for the first time in 102 games since March 2012.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 8, 2014
Pellegrini’s men blew their chance to overtake Arsenal in the standings, leaving the door wide open for Chelsea to take full advantage.
The Blues were hosting a Newcastle United side desperate to bounce back from an embarrassing home defeat to rival Sunderland last week, but Jose Mourinho’s men took care of business with ease thanks to an Eden Hazard hat-trick.
With the win, Chelsea are now in first place and have the second-best chance of hoisting the Barclays Premier League trophy at the end of the year—at least according to the Soccer Power Index of ESPN:
SPI's Premier League title odds after leaders' games. City still favored; Chelsea up to 29%: pic.twitter.com/lUesDTJ4CM— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 8, 2014
For what it’s worth, manager Jose Mourinho is not getting caught up in the hype according to PremierLeague.com:
I know today we are top of the league but I look to fifth place. I look to Tottenham v Everton and Manchester United v Fulham tomorrow and I want to be far from fifth. When we are far from fifth and have a Champions League position under control, then it will be time to look at Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool and see where they are and see the distances. From that point, we can start thinking about other things.
The end of the EPL season will be full of excitement at the top of the table, but each side will be taking the same approach: one week at a time.