It was verily the week of the underdog in the EPL, as the lesser lights in the league stunned better ranked opposition in almost every game. Here’s our look back on a stunning weekend, and well, as Adele is ruling the charts and setting records with her album 25, we decided to use that as a theme for our roundup.
Hello, Leicester City
This was supposed to be the weekend when “normalcy” returned to the EPL with Manchester City distancing itself from the pack, Liverpool joining the hunt for the top four, and Manchester United consolidating its place in the top, notwithstanding Louis Van Gaal’s slightly dour version of football. Well, none of that happened. Liverpool and the two Manchesters were less than pleased with the weekend, which had just one overall winner – Leicester City. A Riyad Mahrez hat-trick consigned Swansea to a shock 3-0 drubbing at home and took City a surprise two points off the top as Manchester City stumbled. Those terming this a fluke need to realise that Leicester have done the basics right so far – they have scored more goals than anyone else in the league (32). And they did not need a goal from the record-breaking Jamie Vardy either.
I Miss You, Chelsea (of 2014-15)
Chelsea fans might be professing loyalty to Jose “the Special One” Mourinho, but we suspect that even their patience must be wearing thin after one of the biggest upsets in Premiership history. On the one hand, you had the star-studded Chelsea squad valued at USD 280 million, on the other a newly promoted Bournemouth team whose value was a mere USD 30 million. And the watch was in Chelsea’s backyard too – Stamford Bridge. But when the final whistle blew it was Bournemouth who had emerged victorious, thanks to a slightly controversial by super sub Glen Murray who scored within two minutes of coming on. Mourinho was left bewildered and Chelsea fans wondered where the golden era of not so long ago, of tight defences and speedy and deadly counter attacks, had gone. Oh yes, they miss them all right.
Send My Love (to Your New Lover), Liverpool
It was supposed to see the match that would have seen Liverpool move into contention for a Champions League slot. After all, the Merseyside Reds were facing a Newcastle site that seemed to be specialists in being hammered, and Jurgen Klopp had yet to lose a match away from home in the Premiership. The Newcastle players however seemed to be performing as per some other script and became the first side to actually outrun Klopp’s Liverpool. A pair of brilliant counterattacks brought them a 2-0 win, even as Liverpool struggled to find the form that had seen them hammer Manchester City not too long ago. Liverpool might have a new lover (Klopp) but Newcastle did send them some old love – they had beaten Liverpool 1-0 at St James Park last year as well!
When We Were Young, Sunderland
For one feisty hour at the Emirates Stadium, Sunderland were young again. The team, that had seemed doomed to relegation, has come back to life under the cunning Sam Allardyce’s guidance and this weekend saw them run Arsenal ragged for long periods of time and defend doughtily. Even the sight of Giroud atoning for an own goal by putting Arsenal ahead in the 63rd minute did not take the frown off Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s face, as Sunderland attacked with vim and vigour. Their resistance was finally broken by an Aaron Ramsey goal in injury time, but Sunderland will take heart from even the 1-3 defeat. For an hour, they showed the world they could compete with the best. Wenger, meanwhile, was delighted to see Arsenal back at number two in the Premiership, ahead of the two Manchesters!
Remedy, Manchester City
They started the weekend as leaders of the table, with the best goal scoring record, and with every pundit backing them to open a gap between them and the competition. Fifteen minutes into the match, a Stoke City side inspired by Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic had torn that belief to shreds. City not only never recovered from that dual goal shock (eventually losing 2-0), but left manager Manuel Pellegrini wondering what the Remedy to his star-studded team’s consistently inconsistent performance was. As for Stoke City, the win brought them a step closer to breaking into the top ten – they are behind surprise package Watford who are tenth, only on goal difference.
All I Ask, Spurs
They last lost a match on the first day of the season, but no one knows better than Tottenham Hotspur the difference between winning and not losing. Yes, they have lost just one match so far in the season (a record matched only by league leaders Leicester City), but they also have won only six of their fourteen matches since, leaving them as one of two clubs in the top ten that has drawn more matches than it has won (Everton is the other and they too, incidentally, drew 1-1 over the weekend against Crystal Palace). Yet another draw against a team they were expected to beat (West Bromwich Albion) left Spurs fifth in the table, rather than contending for the top spot. All their supporters must be asking for is a victory.
Water Under the Bridge, Manchester United
The club might have a great record. Its manager might have a great record. And yes, in spite of all the criticism being showered on both, it is still in fourth place in the league, just a win off the top. But all is not well with Manchester United, as the booing that rang out in the stands following a less than inspiring goalless draw with West Ham showed. Van Gaal’s team might have the best defensive record in the Premiership (they have conceded only ten goals so far) but the fact that they are struggling in front of the opposition’s goal as much as they are excelling in front of their own is complicating matters. Van Gaal’s record is impressive but for so many fans, that is Water Under the Bridge. What they want are not just wins, but wins with style. The Dutchman had better start flying soon in terms of strategy or the boos will continue.
Love in the Dark, Watford
They might not be making the sort of noise that Leicester are making with their joyous football, but just like secret lovers in the Adele number, Watford are turning out to be one of the surprises of the season. Just promoted to the EPL, the team has been playing high-tempo, well-organised football built around a solid defence. And a 2-0 win over fellow-newcomers Norwich saw them move into the top ten for the first time and already match their best-ever Premier League performance of six wins in a season. The dark horses of the season already we think – they might end up with zero silverware but they are the team that no one wants to really play.