After what has been yet another incident-packed weekend of Premier League football full of captivating drama at both ends of the table, three red cards at one ground, three spot-kicks at another and yet more eye-catching strikes to savour, we have chosen six talking points to discuss from Saturday and Sunday’s top-flight action.
There have been only a handful of occasions in the last 25 years that going into the final stretch of the campaign, Liverpool have still been in with a shout of the title; however, following Sunday’s imposing 3-0 win at champions Manchester United, this season is now most definitely one of those.
Most of the post-match plaudits went to the Merseysiders’ inspirational skipper, Steven Gerrard, who delivered a man-of-the-match display by scoring a brace of penalties either side of half-time, while in the process becoming the Reds’ all-time leading goalscorer against United.
And not only did the visitors do their chances of winning a first championship since 1990 no harm at all by recording a rare league double over the Red Devils, but by moving 14 points clear of their archrivals, Liverpool also all but extinguished their hopes of finishing in the top four this season.
Liverpool's players clearly believe they can win the league. In terms of performance intensity no club in PL can match them right now #lfc— Adam Summerton (@adamsummerton) March 16, 2014
After Sunday afternoon’s worryingly limp performance at Old Trafford, striker Robin van Persie’s days as a Manchester United player appear numbered.
The Dutchman had tried to put an end to recent speculation about his future in the north west by giving an interview to the club’s programme, United Review, ahead of the clash with Liverpool in which he claimed to be “very happy” with his team-mates and David Moyes before going on to state that he even wanted to extend his contract at the Theatre of Dreams (via The Guardian).
Robin van Persie vs Liverpool: 4 shots, 0 take-ons, 0% headed duel success, 12 passes completed & 0 chances created. pic.twitter.com/PKKMUd5k1O— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 16, 2014
However, throughout the contest, the 30-year-old’s body language was off, his energy was missing and there was also yet again virtually no linkup play whatsoever with strike partner Wayne Rooney.
More importantly, on the rare occasions that he was presented with a sight of goal, the normally deadly forward’s finishing was wayward too.
And if beleaguered United manager David Moyes did not know it before watching RVP’s invisible display, then surely that will have now made the Scot’s mind up to offload the £24 million frontman this summer and instead build his team next season around an attacking trio of Rooney, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj.
There cannot be too many, if any, Premier League stadiums that Chelsea head coach Jose Mourinho could call bogey grounds; however, Villa Park is now most definitely one such venue after Aston Villa ended the Blues’ 14-game unbeaten run in the league with a 1-0 win on Saturday evening.
That shock reverse for the Portuguese means that the Special One has failed to win on any of his previous five trips to the West Midlands, losing two and drawing three of those encounters against a Villa side that enjoyed back-to-back home wins in the top flight for the first time in over two-and-a-half years.
And another person who will not be wanting to return to Villa any time soon is Chelsea midfielder Ramires after the Brazilian joined his manager in being sent off at Villa Park, as the 26-year-old was last season when there also was a pair of red cards brandished.
0 - Jose Mourinho has failed to win any of his five away games against Aston Villa in the Premier League (D3 L2) as a manager. Hex.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 15, 2014
The last time Manchester City failed to win when David Silva netted, as the diminutive playmaker did to open the scoring against Hull City at the KC Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, was way back in February 2011.
And that remarkable run continued in the north east after the twinkle-toed midfielder’s first goal in 17 matches, a run stretching back to mid-December, gave the visitors something to hold on to following Vincent Kompany’s early red card, before frontman Edin Dzeko then made sure of the points late on with his first strike in 10 games.
As a result, City won at Hull for the first time in their history as they shrugged off their influential skipper’s sending-off to cut the gap on leaders Chelsea to just six points, while they have also now somehow managed to win on each of the three occasions that Kompany has been dismissed.
This campaign had already managed to produce some of the most eye-catching and memorable strikes in the history of the Premier League; however, the contender list for Goal of the Season has just grown one bigger following Tomas Rosicky's early wonder goal that helped Arsenal claim the north London derby on Sunday afternoon.
Incredibly, the little Czech Republic international’s winner came after just 73 seconds at White Hart Lane, as the 33-year-old celebrated his recent new deal with the Gunners in the best possible way by netting only his second goal of the season.
And Rosicky's scorching effort also completed a terrible past nine days for Tottenham Hotspur, who have lost three times while also failing to score against their old foes from the Emirates for the third match this campaign.
Maybe all the supposed running up hills that new Fulham head coach Felix Magath has been making his players do in training is starting to finally pay off for the Cottagers, judging by their impressive fitness levels against Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon—and in the nick of time too.
The renowned German taskmaster enjoyed his first victory since replacing Rene Meulensteen in the west-London hot seat last month following a deserved 1-0 win over the Magpies, Fulham’s first three points since New Year’s Day.
And as a result of that vitally important result, Magath and Co are now just four points from safety with still eight games left of the campaign.