As it's Sunday night, I thought I'd have a bit of a look back at the weekends' games, and compare them with my expectations for how things would pan out in my earlier article, saying what my predictions were. On the whole I'd be inclined to say not an awful lot has changed this week, in terms of my opinions on where teams will be come the end of the season, the Norwich-Arsenal game being the only one that was a real surprise.
Tottenham 2-4 Chelsea
I said: 2-3
My prediction for this one was 2-3, so I was a bit gutted when the last goal went in! A lot of people had put Chelsea's unbeaten start down to their easier run of games to start the season but two away London derby victories at Arsenal and Tottenham has proved their doubters wrong. And now, if they beat Manchester United next week, they have the chance to take full control of the title race. Juan Mata was the star of the show on Saturday, and when you've got players of his, Hazard's and Oscar's flair, genius and quality in your team, you've always got a chance. Watching them, Chelsea seem to look like the team to beat at the moment.
Man Utd 4-2 Stoke
I said: 1-0
Having said that, write United off at your peril. People who have done so in the past have still got the burns to show for it, and it was another typically driven performance from the Red Devils that saw them put four past an uncharacteristically hesitant Stoke defence. I thought the best chance the Potters had of getting something at Old Trafford was actually to close down the likes of Carrick and Scholes to make that midfield their own, but were much too happy to sit back and protect their zones, which allowed United to get into their stride and have time on the ball. If I'd have known Stoke would make that mistake, I might have predicted a more comprehensive win for Man U than 1-0.
West Brom 1-2 Man City
I said: 1-2
Manchester City did well to stay level on points with United producing an impressive comeback, a man down, at in-form West Brom. It was a stupid tackle from James Milner, especially being the last man, he certainly deserved to go. I thought it would be a massive test for the Citizens to get back into the game when Shane Long scored with 20 minutes to go, but the introduction of Edin Dzeko turned the game in City's favour. A lot of credit has to go for the number of saves Joe Hart made before Dzeko scored the winner but the mental strength they showed to come back and win with 10 men, especially away from home against a team playing with the confidence that West Brom are at the moment, makes me think they aren't out of the title race just yet.
Liverpool 1-0 Reading
I said: 2-0
A solid Liverpool performance saw Reading become the latest victims of the Raheem Sterling phenomenon. The pace and oomph he injects into this Liverpool team is fantastic to watch, it's hard to believe he's just 17, I hope he gets the chance he deserves in the England side because him and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings is definately our future. As for Liverpool, I think Brendan Rodgers is the man to lead Liverpool forward in the long-term, he's got some very exciting young players coming through and I think under him they are moving under the right direction.
West Ham 4-1 Southampton
I said: 2-0
That will have been a disappointing result for Southampton. They simply can't stay in this league if they carry on defending like they did today, but the one glimmer of hope their fans can cling onto is that they do look capable of creating chances their St. Marys successes last season in the Championship, alongside their 4-1 home win over Villa three weeks ago suggests that they can pick up a bit of home form which will be important. Nigel Adkins said that he won't compromise his attacking 'principles', I would hope that means that they will continue to attack, but also work on their defending more rather than go for an all-out-attack strategy in matches- that would be a mistake. As for the Hammers, if their aim this season was to just stay up, it's been a brilliant start for them. At the moment, they look at least midtable material.
Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa
I said: 2-0
A solid home win for Fulham, they'll be happy to get the late goal and it's another step forward for them in their ambitions to establish their place in the top 10. With Norwich getting their first win of the season on Saturday, more of which anon, Villa's game against the Canaries next week should measure the extremity of the Villains' relegation concerns. I don't know if this is me as a Birmingham City fan trying hopefully to find signs that Villa will go down, but just 5 goals from 8 Premier League games is a poor return and their goalscoring problems could become somewhat precarious if reports over Darren Bent's rift with Paul Lambert hold value.
Swansea 2-1 Wigan
I said: 2-1
It was an important win for Swansea as I called, and I thought Michu would score as well! The Swans needed to take the opportunity to get that first win in 5 with some very hard games coming up, I'm pretty sure their handsome position in the table will be eroided at again in the next few weeks. 4pts from big games against Reading and Wigan have at least stopped the rot for now, but I think the rot could be due to start again soon. Wigan have got a big game against West Ham next week as they are only 1pt away from the relegation zone, but given they tend to only get started in March sort of time anyway, their fans will be quietly content to be 16th for now.
Norwich 1-0 Arsenal
I said: 0-4
I don't think I'm the only one who'll be surprised by this result, but I do think it's the sign of a team that has the mental strength to stay up, when they can win games when they are hitting a bit of a slump and play against a top-4 side at home, and no-one expects them to win at all. The self-belief in that Norwich team is still there, and I think a lot of credit for that has to go to Hughton. They are officially up and running now. I watched the highlights of the game on Match of the Day after seeing the result, and I expected it to be a case of Arsenal absolutely battering Norwich until they go purple in the face and Ruddy making loads of outstanding saves- but it wasn't. My recollection of it was that Norwich had a couple of chances towards the end because of Arsenal slipping over the ball, but Grant Holt wasn't clinical enough. It wasn't a case of Arsenal's players playing well but being very unlucky, it was just a shocking Arsenal performance. At times, the likes of Cazorla can thrill with their passing and movement, but they can't win the title in the next 2 or 3 years without serious investment in their defence and consistency. They just haven't got it at the moment.
QPR 1-1 Everton
I said: 2-0
The main problem with QPR at the moment is their defence. Neither Julio Cesar nor Rob Green look competent enough and I think that team needs a lot of practice on the training ground to defend the simple balls into the box- that's how you keep the points. The positives they can take from Sunday is that Everton are a top-six team who they drew with, they did create chances and I do feel their new attacking players are very gradually beginning to integrate together, things can still work out for them if their fans are patient with Hughes. With Tottenham coming into form and Arsenal yet to hit their optimum point, Everton can't take their 4th place for granted and they will probably have had ambitions to win this one once they equalised.
Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle
I said: 1-1
This game went accordingly to my expectations, it was a bit of a fast and furious midfield battle and, in many ways, your average derby game. Sunderland fans will have been relieved to not lose this, probably more for pride than anything else, but only being 4pts from the relegation zone might have been etched into the back of their minds. They also could have stollen it at the end when James McClean shot just whisked wide of the far post, but had it gone in, it would have been a slightly harsh repayment for the way 10-man Newcastle defended for most of the game. Both teams will have come away from the game with an element of relief at not losing it. A few games this weekend which I think gave us something of an idea of the belief and team spirit in several camps that could stand them in decent stead for the rest of the season, but I'm still hoping the next few weeks will give us a much clearer idea of the direction in which the relegation dogfight, the title challenges, and the race for 4th, will take.