Liverpool’s weekend ended in a disappointing defeat, producing a number of talking points to add to those that emerged across the Premier League.
Falling behind to a single Wayne Rooney strike, Liverpool’s opportunity to stake a claim for a spot in the Premier League’s top four was disappointingly wasted in Sunday afternoon’s 1-0 loss to Man United.
This drab Anfield encounter contrasted wildly with an enthralling Saturday fixture list, with Chelsea’s 3-3 draw at home to Everton the pick of the weekend’s action.
Elsewhere, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur strengthened their top-four credentials with big victories over Sunderland and Crystal Palace, while Bournemouth and Newcastle United pushed further away from the relegation zone with wins over Norwich City and West Ham United.
Here are five talking points from the latest weekend of Premier League action.
Ramsey Chants Undermine Stoke’s On-Pitch Progress
The progress made at Stoke City under Mark Hughes has been remarkable, with the former Man City and Fulham manager undertaking a transformation of the club’s footballing ideals since his arrival in 2013.
With the likes of Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic adding a polished, attacking sheen to the Potters’ trademark defensive rigidity, Stoke have performed with class throughout 2015/16.
But welcoming league leaders Arsenal to the Britannia Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the club’s supporters showed that this progress is yet to extend to the stands.
While Aaron Ramsey has been booed relentlessly by Stoke supporters, bizarrely, ever since Ryan Shawcross broke his leg with a shocking challenge in 2010, the midfielder’s reception was magnified throughout this 0-0 draw.
After the game, Arsene Wenger admonished this treatment, saying “when people get together they sometimes forget their individual responsibility,” and it is this pack mentality that preserves Stoke’s image as Premier League cavemen.
Managerial Turmoil Could Cost Swansea League Place
Swansea City sacked Garry Monk over a month ago, and are yet to replace him; a fact that must be interminably frustrating for Swans supporters.
Since Monk’s departure, Swansea have won just once in seven games, drawing twice and losing four times—including a 3-2 humbling away to League Two side Oxford United in the FA Cup third round.
Having fostered a reputation as a sensitive, forward-thinking chairman, Huw Jenkins delivered a misguided blow in dismissing Monk without establishing a replacement.
Monk was soon followed by the bemusing sale of Jonjo Shelvey to Newcastle, with the English midfielder having contributed to a strong start to the season alongside the likes of Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Ayew.
Just over a week ago, caretaker manager Alan Curtis was handed the job until the end of the season, yet now they are about to appoint former Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin. Appointing a manager with no experience of the Premier League while fighting relegation isn’t the wisest move, just as it wasn’t for Aston Villa.
Bournemouth Win Shows Benefits of January Spending
Contrasting with the lack of planning on show at the Liberty Stadium, Bournemouth’s 3-0 win over Norwich on Saturday afternoon outlined the careful navigation taking shape by the Cherries this January.
Following injuries to the likes of Callum Wilson, Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings, Bournemouth looked doomed to relegation under the likeable Eddie Howe.
But after building his attack around Josh King and Harry Arter, Howe has added to his side significantly in the winter transfer window, with Benik Afobe and Lewis Grabban both joining for a combined fee of close to £20 million.
Afobe scored Bournemouth’s third against Norwich on Saturday, with the former Arsenal striker showcasing his talents in leading the line—presenting the perfect replacement for Wilson.
Facing relegation at the first time of asking, Bournemouth look likely to have saved their season with major spending this January—something Klopp may be wise to acknowledge in adding to his Reds squad.
Top Four Places Seem Secured
Defeat to United continued to undermine Liverpool’s push for a top-four finish this season, having secured just one point from their all-important clashes with the Red Devils and Arsenal last week.
Liverpool currently sit in ninth place in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of fourth-placed Spurs.
Meanwhile, Spurs’ victory over Sunderland—a powerful, all-round display that saw goals from Christian Eriksen, Moussa Dembele and Harry Kane—continued to reinforce their position in the top four.
With City, Arsenal and Leicester City all continuing their run of form by avoiding defeat, too, the Premier League’s top four is taking shape midway through the season.
Joining Liverpool in looking unlikely to trouble this group are United, West Ham, Stoke and Palace, all of which are set to compete for one Europa League spot this season.
Wayne Rooney Rhetoric Belies Lack of Quality
Following a last-minute penalty in United’s FA Cup third round win at home to Sheffield United and two goals in a 3-3 draw with Newcastle in midweek, Rooney’s goal at Anfield was followed by a deluge of unfounded praise for the England captain.
“For United there is no such thing as a bad win at Liverpool,” wrote the Guardian‘s Barney Ronay.
“Just as for Wayne Rooney there is no day when a performance that ends with a winning goal spanked with gleeful fury into the roof of the Anfield Road end net can be described as a poor one.”
While victory over Liverpool will never be considered a disappointment for United supporters, there is no way that even a semi-conscious onlooker could have ignored Rooney and United’s flawed performance.
Once again, the 30-year-old contributed little overall, and as Liverpool supporters are finding with Christian Benteke, one moment of brilliance does not a brilliant display make.
Of course, the enduring rhetoric of Rooney’s importance will only strengthen Liverpool’s position in the future—so long may it continue.
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