LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 30, 2014: Tottenham Hotspur's manager Mauricio Pochettino during the Premier League match against Everton at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Spurs favourites for top four, City blunted, Chelsea crisis continues – 5 Premier League Talking Points

The 12th round of fixtures in this season’s Premier League presented a host of discussion points, including Tottenham Hotspur’s top-four credentials.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 30, 2014: Tottenham Hotspur's manager Mauricio Pochettino during the Premier League match against Everton at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sweeping Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace aside, the Premier League served up another captivating weekend of football with its 12th round of fixtures.

The north London derby played out to a 1-1 draw on Sunday, Stoke City landed another blow to Chelsea‘s misery-laden campaign, West Ham United and Everton drew at the Boleyn Ground and Jamie Vardy scored yet again.

Liverpool were the only side in the top half of the Premier League to lose over the weekend, and many results will have impacted on Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds.

Here are five talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action.

Chelsea’s Misery Continues in Jose Mourinho’s Absence

Jose Mourinho’s bizarre season continued on Saturday, as the Chelsea manager watched from the team hotel as his side took on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

Mourinho was given a one-game stadium ban after confronting referee Jonathan Moss at half-time during the Blues’ 2-1 loss to West Ham towards the end of October, with the Portuguese accepting the charge, saying “it is stupid to fight a fight you know you are going to lose.”

Peddling a me-against-the-world stance throughout the 2015/16 campaign, Mourinho has consistently deflected the blame for Chelsea‘s poor performances away from himself.

Against Stoke on Saturday, he may have been given a viable reason.

With Marko Arnautovic scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win, Stoke rose to 12th in the Premier League table—five points and four places above Chelsea.

But while this result should be a cause for concern for Mourinho, it was the way in which his side folded that should be the primary issue. At present, Chelsea are lacking passion, power and creativity, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic all underperforming.

Mourinho returns to the dugout after the international break, but he may be wishing he didn’t have to. Chelsea‘s loss may have left them out of the running for a top-four finish.


Manchester City Blunted by Aguero, Bony Injuries

With Daniel Sturridge making only three league appearances this season so far, Liverpool are fully aware of the impact of an injury to a first-choice centre-forward.

As Manchester City played out a 0-0 draw away to Aston Villa on Sunday, the loss of Sergio Aguero became similarly significant.

Wilfried Bony, City’s only senior striking option beyond the Argentine, trudged off with a hamstring injury in the first half at Villa Park, with manager Manuel Pellegrini opting to move £59 million summer signing Kevin de Bruyne into the No. 9 role.

De Bruyne is one the Premier League‘s finest creative talents, and secured victory as a centre-forward in October’s 2-1 Champions League win at home to Sevilla.

But against Villa, both he and support option Raheem Sterling struggled.

The backs-to-the-wall displays of centre-backs Micah Richards and Ciaran Clark aided Villa’s cause, but City created few openings to truly trouble Remi Garde’s side.

With 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho City’s only other option in attack, Pellegrini may be forced to dip into the transfer market in January—as Aguero continues to make his recovery.


Garry Monk Under Pressure as Swansea Head Into Troubling Winter

After a 1-0 loss away to Norwich City on Saturday, the pressure continued to mount on under-fire Swansea City manager Garry Monk.

Reports from the Mirror on Sunday evening even claimed that the 36-year-old was set to be sacked, with his side having won just one game in their last eight in the Premier League.

But while the Swans currently sit 14th in the league table, that Monk’s future is under debate is a miserable indictment of modern football’s short-term view.

In 2014/15, Monk was lauded as a contender for the Manager of the Year award, with the former Swansea centre-back also mooted as a possible replacement for Roy Hodgson as England manager; Monk had just led his side to eighth place, their best-ever top-flight finish.

At 36, Monk represents one of the most promising young managers in the Premier League.

However, as Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins glances over his side’s winter fixture list, the possibility of Monk’s departure continues to loom.

Swansea take on Liverpool, Leicester, Man City, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Manchester United among others in the next two months, and if their poor form continues, Monk could be in trouble.


Tottenham Hotspur Favourites for Top-Four Finish

Spurs have long been the Premier League‘s also-rans; the honourable mention; the bridesmaid, but never the bride. Chairman Daniel Levy seemed content on building a profitable business, founded on sixth-placed finishes and big-money departures.

But in sacking Tim Sherwood and replacing him with Mauricio Pochettino, Levy set in motion a transformation at White Hart Lane.

Pochettino took time to implement his demanding tactical philosophy, but as Sunday’s 1-1 draw with north London rivals Arsenal proved, Spurs are now a fully formed, top-level side.

With a fine balance of youth and experience, Pochettino has crafted a side capable of outrunning and outgunning the very best Premier League sides, and Spurs are now favourites for a top-four finish.

In many ways, this is what Fenway Sports Group will be hoping to replicate following Klopp’s arrival this season—and supporters should take note of the bedding-in process required.

Spurs currently sit in fifth, four points above Liverpool, and the Reds face a fight to catch up.


Rob Elliot Finding Form as Newcastle’s Backup Stopper

The double blow of Karl Darlow and Tim Krul’s injuries left Newcastle United desperate clawing for cover, with manager Steve McClaren even claiming the latter is worth “18 or 20 points a season” to his side.

With Rob Elliot the only senior goalkeeper available to McClaren, Newcastle looked set to continue their slide down the Premier League table, with relegation looming.

But as the Magpies held on for a 1-0 win away to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday, the Republic of Ireland international produced a performance of sheer fortitude.

Elliot made five saves at Dean Court on Saturday, more than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this weekend, and it was the 29-year-old that secured Newcastle victory—Bournemouth had 20 shots on goal to the away side’s two.

As Darlow continues his recovery and Krul sits out the rest of the season, Elliot will be hoping to establish himself as a regular option for McClaren.

Liverpool travel to St. James’ Park in under a month’s time, and Elliot could play a major role in keeping the likes of Christian Benteke, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino at bay.
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