This weekend’s matches in the Premier League again showed why the clubs outside of the top four still have a lot of progress to make. Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa all failed to win games that they were fancied to take three points from and ones which the top clubs usually grind out results. But will this signal a return to the status quo or will this season finally be the one where the monopoly of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool is broken?
Tottenham battered a belligerent Stoke City side on Saturday but where unable to find the back of the net and fell to a 1-0 home defeat. The stats tell their own story. They had 66% of possession, had 12 shots on target and a further 10 off target, hit the post and had 2 efforts cleared off the line. Yet Stoke, who only had 2 shots on target themselves, squeezed to victory with a late goal completely against the run of play. Spurs could have scored a hatful in any other game and will hope that Saturday was just one of those days and will be eager to bounce back. But was Tottenham’s inability to score down to the loss of Jermain Defoe to suspension or was it just a case of being unlucky and kept out by two heroic goal line clearances from James Beattie?
Aston Villa on the other hand were pretty unimpressive on their trip to Molineaux to face Wolves and could only earn a point. The 1-1 draw was a fair result on reflection as Villa were far from their best and just didn’t create enough chances to win the game. Possibly the most disappointing aspect for manager Martin O’Neill was that after working hard to take the lead late in their game they let it slip within five minutes by giving away a sloppy penalty. Strikers Carew and Agbonlahor didn’t have the best of games, with the former looking sluggish and the latter less than clinical in front of goal despite hitting the back of the net. Ultimately Villa will have to create more chances and score more goals to challenge for a top four place, but can a team that is dangerous from set-pieces and hard to beat bag a Champions League place?
Manchester City will probably be the most concerned by their performance at the weekend, where they let a two goal lead slip at home to Fulham on Sunday. Fulham even created enough chances to win the game and may have done if striker Bobby Zamora didn’t shoot over from six yards in what has to be the miss of the season so far. Most worrying for City will be their frailties at the back, as new signings Toure and Lescott are still yet to form a formidable partnership. For Man City to genuinely challenge at the top of the table they will have to be more ruthless in closing out games, especially at home, and make themselves hard to score against and in turn hard to beat.
If the start of the season is anything to go by, then the top clubs will drop more points than they have in recent campaigns and the battle for Champions League places will be fierce. But City, Spurs and Villa all showed their weaknesses at the weekend and missed an opportunity to continue their promising start to the season. Let’s hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come and that one of them can mount a serious challenge for the top spots.
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