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Man City juggernaut continues to roll
The Barclays Premier League has a new king, with Manchester City emasculating Tottenham for the second time this season to seize the league keys away from Arsenal. City racked up a 5-1 win at White Hart Lane to follow on the 6-0 thumping they had dished out on poor Spurs this past November to keep their juggernaut rolling.
Their result was made even sweeter by the fact that relegation-threatened West Ham stifled Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, causing the Blues to drop home points for only the second time this season. The 0-0 draw, watched over by a glowering and unhappy Jose Mourinho, leaves Chelsea stranded in third -- and a full game off the title pace.
And that sets up what is now a critical Monday game that could prove to be decisive in the title race: the goal-happy City host Chelsea at the Etihad in a match that neither team can afford to lose.
Elsewhere on a rainy and windswept English night, Aston Villa recovered from a 0-2 deficit early to storm to a 4-3 win in a thriller against West Bromwich Albion that moved them up to tenth. And Sunderland got a critical 1-0 win at home over Stoke in the night’s so-called six pointer. The result lifted Gus Poyet’s Black Cats out of the drop zone, and increased the pressure on Fulham, who sunk into the cellar.
City have now scored 105 goals this year. They have a +18 goal difference cushion on Arsenal. Sergio Aguero now has 50 league goals under his belt in a sky blue uniform, and even though he limped off injured in the first half, the depth the Citizens have is simply shocking. If there is any team in England that can outscore this side, they have yet to be discovered.
On Wednesday night, they simply slaughtered an outclassed, outmanned and outgunned Tottenham side with an emphatic, efficient performance that underscores their title potential. Do they occasionally take a nap in the back? Yes, as Etienne Capoue underscored when he slapped in a sloppy consolation goal for Spurs. But does it matter when you are routing opponents by four or more goals? No, it does not.
The talk about City captain’s “worries” over their defense proved to be little more than hot air, as City went out and strangled the game from the get-go. Aguero took only 15 minutes to get on the board and this was after being denied by the post just five minutes earlier. Yaya Toure would sink a bitterly contested penalty that saw also Danny Rose sent off, but City’s numerical superiority afterwards should not disguise the true tenor of their performance; Rose’s ejection was the correct call -- Spurs had once again been over-run, forcing him to foul Dzeko in the box.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have some real worries. They are an ugly side that have bullied their way to wins this season, shooting blanks, with some 39 shots either saved, blocked, or simply wayward against the Hammers. There’s no question they were the better team on the field, but West Ham, playing two banks of four in a defense-first formation put bodies in front of every shot and stifled that game. Had Andy Carroll not missed a sitter with a ridiculous whiff in front of Petr Cech’s net, we might indeed be discussing a famous win.
Chelsea’s problem is that they lack a true striker; Samuel Eto’o is past his prime, Fernando Torres was damaged goods when he arrived, and only Frank Lampard seems to have that touch of the vicious that a winning team needs. While they have plenty of guile in Willian and Eden Hazard, they lack brute force up top -- and have too much brute force in the middle of the field.
The matchup to come should be fascinating. Last October, Torres pounced on a grave, last-minute mistake to give Chelsea a 2-1 win -- and, incidentally, send Joe Hart to the showers for a while. But that was then. City were a team still in transition, and Hart was very rocky. Now, Hart looks closer to being a top keeper again and City seem to be able to score at will.
But there will be a question mark, and that of course is Aguero. He pulled up in full stride with what is a suspected hamstring injury. He has been explosive for City, and his loss -- if he is held out -- will be keenly felt.
And then, there’s Arsenal. Smarting after a 2-2 draw at Southampton on Tuesday, they can retake their perch with a win Sunday over Crystal Palace. Palace are rising, and it’s a London derby -- but you would think the Gunners would look to make a statement here before they enter a particularly brutal stretch of matches.
The games roll on. And for now, so do City, the once and future kings of the Premier League.
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