As we wait for Monday’s meeting between Stoke City and Swansea City, we take a look back at what happened elsewhere in the English top flight this weekend.
Zlat’s no good
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is enduring his driest spell since a run of six goalless league matches at Inter Milan in 2007. He has himself to blame for Saturday’s profligacy – particularly when he recklessly swung with the goal at his mercy from 1 yard out – but Tom Heaton will gladly take some portion of responsibility after his heroics between the sticks.
The goalkeeper, dumped by Manchester United in 2010, made 11 saves or blocks to become the protagonist of Burnley’s 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, but he was keen to point out the work of those ahead of him, such as the centre-half pairing of Ben Mee and fellow ex-United academy player Michael Keane.
“The heart and desire on show, the hard work, and putting bodies on the line was incredible. To play behind that was brilliant,” Heaton told the club website.
Meanwhile, United’s inability to convert any of its 37 attempts on goal – following three domestic tilts without a win and an unconvincing League Cup victory against a Manchester City reserve side – will inevitably put the spotlight on Jose Mourinho.
The manager, who was sent to the stands at halftime for incessant complaining, appears to have no idea of what his best United team is.
It wasn’t pretty, but Watford’s 1-0 win at Hull City was enough to vault it into seventh spot – one place above United.
Michael Dawson scored an own goal to gift the Hornets the victory – doing his England ambitions no favours – but it was a deserved three points. Nordin Amrabat’s right-flank partnership with Roberto Pereyra is promising, and Walter Mazzarri’s back three dealt with a toothless Will Keane easily.
This Watford outfit, meaty and unfashionable as it may be, is among the division’s best at effectively using its width during counter-attacks.
An Arsenal of depth and deadliness
For over a decade, Arsenal has been exposed by a couple of injuries to key players or the inconsistency of certain members who simply shouldn’t demand a place in the starting XI.
Olivier Giroud – so potent when in form but a poor imitation of Jonathan Walters when off colour – has, partly due to injuries, started to become a more familiar fixture on the bench … and what a precious Plan B that is for Arsene Wenger.
Alexis Sanchez has rightfully earned a role leading the forward line, but the Chilean can also be shooed deeper to add Giroud’s physicality and aerial presence furthest on the field when in need of goals. It shows options at Arsenal not evident since it romped to the title in 2003-04.
After overcoming a brief scare, the Gunners overwhelmed Sunderland by a 4-1 scoreline on Wearside.
Around the grounds
Manchester City ended a slump of six matches without a win by comprehensively defeating West Bromwich Albion 4-0 at the Hawthorns. Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan both contributed a brace and were superb, while Fernandinho was his quietly influential self in the middle of the park once again.
What a goal from Gaston Ramirez. The Uruguayan collected the ball in Middlesbrough’s defensive third, but then surged up the park, evading a couple of challenges en route, before skipping aside Andrew Surman to coolly finish. Boro topped visiting Bournemouth 2-0 after a second-half strike from Stewart Downing wrapped up matters.
- Crystal Palace 2-4 Liverpool
- Everton 2-0 West Ham United
- Southampton 0-2 Chelsea
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Leicester City
Monday: Stoke City vs. Swansea City
Bob Bradley’s hunt for his first three points in English football takes him to the Potteries, where an improved Stoke City hosts the American’s Swansea City. Although not the most appetising watch on paper, the teams’ last meeting was a fine tactical tussle in which the Swans came back from 2-0 down to share a point with Stoke – a tide that turned when Swansea’s wing emphasis shifted from the right to left.