8 Things We Learned from Premier League Week 35: Chelsea Title Chase Over

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistApril 20, 2014

8 Things We Learned from Premier League Week 35: Chelsea Title Chase Over

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    The past week has brought about a pivotal shift in title race fortunes for Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, with the latter two dropping perhaps irreparably off the pursuit.

    The Reds' 3-2 win over Norwich City leaves Brendan Rodgers' side five points clear at the top of the Premier League, with Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland giving the Merseysiders a major boost in their run to the crown.

    There's excitement to be witnessed at both ends of the table, though. Things remain separated by the smallest of margins at the opposite side of the standings, with just one point between the current relegation zone inhabitants.

    Here, we run through some of the biggest talking points that emerged from Week 35 of the campaign.

1. The 2013-14 Title Is as Good as Liverpool's

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    Liverpool claimed a fifth successive win over Norwich City to move five points clear at the head of the Premier League on Sunday, and their 3-2 win capitalised on Chelsea's loss to Sunderland just a day earlier.

    With that victory, the Reds now have three matches left on their schedule, with the tests of Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United still to come.

    As much as last weekend's fixture against Manchester City will have been looked upon as the league decider, this weekend's proceedings have only helped in furthering the Merseysiders' push.

    Brendan Rodgers' men could even afford to draw against Chelsea next Sunday and still be right in the mix to emerge as champions, but the Northern Irishman's outfit certainly won't be taking that possibility into account.

2. No Underestimating Christian Eriksen's Importance to Spurs

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    Although one can criticise some of those transfer signings Tottenham made in the wake of Gareth Bale's departure from White Hart Lane last summer, Christian Eriksen is proving more and more every week what a coup he really was.

    Signed for a fee believed to be £11.5 million, per Sky Sports, the Dane has been superb where others have struggled, grabbing another two assists in the 3-1 win over Fulham on Saturday.

    Eriksen's delivery from a dead ball has been incredible to watch in recent weeks, and OptaJoe point out that the attacking midfielder now has as many assists as Mesut Ozil (8) in the Premier League this term, though he was signed for some £30 million less.

    Saturday's result was by no means completely attributable to Eriksen's input, but Tim Sherwood would be wise to realise where his strongest resources lie, moulding tactics to shape them, which appears to now be the case with Eriksen.

3. David Marshall Cementing His Place as an Elite Stopper

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    Standing between Cardiff City and damning fate of Premier League relegation is a lot of things, but one rather substantial plug working in the Bluebirds' favour right now is their goalkeeping marvel David Marshall.

    It's been well-founded in recent months that the Scot sits among some of the Premier League's most in-form stoppers, but his performance in the 1-1 draw against Stoke City indicates that he's now beginning to establish a more permanent status among the best and brightest.

    Among Marshall's highlights against the Potters was a sensational one-on-one save from Stoke's Oussama Assaidi, denying the winger late on to quite literally keep his side's Premier League credentials intact for that little while longer, it would seem.

    The Cardiff keeper has some genuine cause to be hopeful of being named in this season's PFA Team of the Year, and if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side do stay up, there's one individual between the sticks who should be first in mind when it comes to bonuses.

4. Jose Mourinho Still a Sore Loser

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    Jose Mourinho's unbeaten Premier League record of 77 home matches as Chelsea manager was brought to an end on Saturday, with bottom of the league Sunderland earning a 2-1 victory that not many will have been expecting.

    It's the type of result that the English top flight has developed a name for and is indicative of why some may refer to the division as the world's most entertaining—but Mourinho certainly didn't see it that way.

    As the attached video shows, the Portuguese appeared slightly bitter about the way Jozy Altidore drew a late penalty, "congratulating" officials Mike Dean and Mike Riley in what could easily be interpreted as sarcastic in tone.

    It's a difficult pill for Mourinho to swallow; not only is his magnificent Stamford Bridge record gone, but it would lead one to feel even more confident that Liverpool will now go on to become 2013-14 Premier League champions.

    That being said, good sportsmanship should always be sought for regardless of context, and perhaps it was not in an abundance in the Stamford Bridge home pressing room post-match.

5. There's Life in Sunderland's Survival Hunt Yet

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    Just when it was all beginning to look so futile, the Black Cats would appear to have unearthed their ninth life from somewhere, with Saturday's 2-1 defeat of Chelsea providing a titanic shift to their 2013-14 prospects.

    With that win, Sunderland find themselves still at the bottom of the table, but are just three points away from getting out of the relegation zone and with a game in hand over most of their immediate rivals.

    Aside from an away trip to Manchester United, Gus Poyet's side now have a run of home fixtures against Cardiff City, West Brom and Swansea City, each of which they can hope to take some points from.

    On the other hand, Norwich City have a nigh hopeless run, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal each to come after the loss to Liverpool on Sunday.

    Provided their fellow relegation-threatened peers drop points, this season is far from over for Sunderland thanks to the goals of Connor Wickham and Fabio Borini saving them at Stamford Bridge.

6. Big Sam's Goal Drought Shows Worrying Lack of Transfer Tact

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    It's not as though it's a problem West Ham haven't gone about attempting to solve, but attack remains a miserable part of Sam Allardyce's squad, and Saturday's 1-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace was significant to that end.

    This was the third time in the Hammers' last eight matches that the club have failed to get on the scoresheet, and it seems not even a fit-again Andy Carroll can help their cause. 

    In fact, coincidence though it may be, West Ham have scored more than once in just two of their matches since seeing Carroll return to fitness, a sign that perhaps tactics aren't as preferable when he's in the squad and focus too much on suiting one player.

    Whatever the case may be, the signings of Marco Borriello—injured since late February—and Antonio Nocerino, both on loan from Serie A clubs Roma and Milan, haven't had a great Upton Park impact, either.

    In fact, the re-signing of Carlton Cole has perhaps been the club's most sensible move over the past year, and a revised approach will be needed this summer if Big Sam's chances of cementing his place as manager are to improve.

7. Tony Pulis' Formula for Survival Is Still a Potent One

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    However, on the other end of that 1-0 result was a jubilant Crystal Palace team, extending their winning streak to five matches and rising up to 11th, just a couple of months after they looked doomed to see the drop.

    In those five matches, the Eagles have managed to keep four clean sheets, bumping their points tally up to 43 and putting themselves out of relegation's sight in sensational manner.

    If there's one things Tony Pulis has proven he can do, it's giving a team structure, specifically at the back more than anything. Just as it's defence which wins titles, it's also defence that preserves top-flight status, it seems.

    One can debate on Pulis' worth when it comes to developing past that phase as a genuine top-half contender, but for now, Palace will seek nothing more from their chief.

8. Roberto Martinez Exposes David Moyes as His Tactical Inferior

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    With the Toffees now enjoying success the likes of which they arguably never saw under David Moyes, it's a widespread belief that Roberto Martinez may in fact be a better fit for Everton than his predecessor ever was.

    However, Sunday's 2-0 victory for the Merseyside hosts served as concrete evidence that the Spaniard's outfit is currently better than the Red Devils', not just in terms of league position but in nearly every facet imaginable.

    Or at least the ones which count in a positive sense anyway; Martinez has formed a squad of stronger mental and arguably physically superior standards, and his tactics are once again beaming through while the Old Trafford chief is showing himself to be somewhat inept in this aspect.

    Moyes may well have been the man who gave players such as Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley their first-team debuts on Merseyside, but it's the current Goodison Park helmsman who's getting the most out of their talents, and it showed on Sunday.

    Meanwhile, Moyes has been stuck with fielding players such as Chris Smalling and Alex Buttner at right-back and left-back, respectively, making such stiff decisions as throwing Antonio Valencia in as a makeshift full-back when times get tough.

    Sunday's outcome was the first time since the 1969-70 season that Everton have managed the league double over United, and one can only agree that it's a duct fully deserving of being broken.