Leicester are the new Barcelona (at least until Pep Guardiola arrives in Manchester), Spurs are inching ever closer to the top of the table, and a rare start for Peter Crouch can’t help Stoke as Manchester United finally rediscover the joy of scoring goals.
The January transfer window slammed shut with a hint of passive-aggression at the end of a weekend in which no major signings were agreed upon; a weekend which couldn’t even muster so much as an FA Cup fifth round upset to tide us over to the midweek Premier League fixtures.
Probably the most significant signing won’t be arriving in the UK until mid-year – as has long been suspected, Bayern Munich née Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola will take the reins at Manchester City next season. City have disappointed fans under current manager Manuel Pellegrini this season by not winning every game 5-0, but they remain favourites for the league title, and are still active in the Champions League and FA Cup.
Of the on-field signings, the most exciting last-minute addition could be Oumar Niasse, who Everton paraded on the pitch like a racehorse before their game against Newcastle. Niasse, who according to the commentators got lost on his way to Goodison Park, joins from Lokomotiv Moscow to add another attacking threat behind Romelu Lukaku and Arouna Kone. Niasse liked what he saw as his new side swept past Newcastle 3-0.
Benik Afobe continued quickly paying off his transfer fee for Bournemouth when he headed home the decisive goal in his new team’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, which put them seven points clear of relegation in their first Premier League season. Afobe can now look to heap more misery on Arsenal – the club he grew up at from the age of 8 – after the London side fell to fourth following a 0-0 stalemate with Southampton.
To make matters a million times worse for Arsenal they were leapfrogged on the table by Tottenham, who recorded another comprehensive 3-0 win over Norwich. Spurs are now just five points off the top of the table – their meeting with Manchester City on the 15th, as well as the result of City’s match against Leicester this weekend, should offer a much clearer picture of how this crazy season might pan out.
Leicester continued to confound expectations last weekend, putting together some Barcelonian passages of play in their 2-0 win over Liverpool. City meanwhile laboured to a vital 1-0 win away at Sunderland thanks to the quality of Sergio Aguero, but looked far from their best. Will the winner of this match go on to win the league? It’s at least two months too early for this kind of talk but if Leicester can take three points at the Etihad then why not.
Played the whole game up front for Stoke – his first Premier League start since March 2015 – in their disappointing 3-0 loss at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford. Mark Hughes went for a ‘Classic Stoke’ line-up with Crouchy playing in front of fellow big man Jonathan Walters, but they failed to make many inroads against a resurgent United side.
Where Are U Now: Adel Taarabt
The Moroccan midfield maestro was brought to the Premier League by Spurs, but played almost all of his games for Queens Park Rangers, where once every ten games or so he would score the type of goal that would convince people he was the second coming of Maradona, dribbling from his own half before belting it into the top corner from the edge of the box. The other nine games he would struggle with match fitness, fail to apply himself, go missing in big games etc. In 2014 he went out on loan to AC Milan, where he duly delivered one of his trademark goals, and in the summer of 2015 was finally offloaded to Benfica, where he has since been playing for the B-team in the Portuguese second division. He’s still only 26, but his brightest footballing days might already be behind him.
Spectator of the Week
Fed up woman stuck between two large men, Norwich v Spurs.
Back of the ‘net
It’s a footballer’s meals special this week – first Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu with an unusually well-balanced plate of meat and veges, and some kind of fancy water in a wine glass.
Stoke City striker Bojan loves his ham.
While Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal just can’t get enough olive oil.