At 34, Steven Gerrard is still important for Liverpool's hopes
Observations: When you get to a certain age in soccer, it is assumed that your value to your team is fleeting, or has receded altogether. After he was benched on the weekend, Gerrard returned to the lineup for Liverpool at Leicester City and he made the difference. Leonardo Ulloa had induced an own goal from embattled Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. But after Adam Lallana had equalized, Gerrard won the game and then put it away. Gerrard, who was retooled into a deep-lying playmaker in recent years, after spending the rest of his career as an attacking midfielder, can still play further up the field. He has reportedly been offered a new contract for his deal running out in the summer. From the looks of it, Liverpool better hope he takes it.
Getty ImagesShaun Botterill
Manchester United now seem able to win the hard games, too
Observations: After a chaotic and, if we’re being honest, shambolic start to the season, United have now won four league games in a row. On Tuesday, they withstood Stoke City in a 2-1 win. Tied at 1-1, their winner by Juan Mata was a bit offside-ish. He swung in a free kick that Marcos Rojo probably didn’t touch before it bounced in at the far post. But he clearly influenced the goalkeeper as he tried to head the ball. And he was indeed behind the line when the ball was struck. Then, David de Gea made a huge, late point-blank save and Ashley Young cleared a ball off the line. Out of United’s four wins, three were hard-fought games, decided by a single goal. To go back to being what they once were, those are the games United need to drag out. Even if it isn’t always pretty, their ability to scrape together points is encouraging.
Getty ImagesMike Hewitt
Tottenham cannot put a complete 90 minutes together
Observations: In spite of having never won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era before, Tottenham made a fine start to the game on Wednesday. Harry Kane threatened early, hitting the cross bar with one header, and Chelsea seemed taken aback by their initiative. But then we saw once again why Spurs just can’t ever seem to put it together -- this year, or any other. They are incapable of sustaining their highest level for entire games. In a three-minute spell in the first half, Eden Hazard was allowed to run free up the left and score. And then goalkeeper Hugo Lloris turned the ball over, leading to a Didier Drogba goal, who was enabled by a poor recovery from the defense. Those two plays did Spurs in. They gave it away, ultimately losing 3-0, having otherwise given away a good account of themselves.
Getty ImagesLaurence Griffiths
Strikers are the difference for Chelseaits strikers
Observations: Last season, manager Jose Mourinho knew his side didn’t have what it took to win the Premier League. His side was rebuilding, he argued. But the biggest issue, in fact, was the lack of strikers who could score goals consistently. He acknowledged this. And to wit: No forward got more than Samuel Eto’o’s nine league goals. This year, the strikers have made the difference. Diego Costa has delivered on his immense transfer fee with a bundle of goals. Didier Drogba’s return to the club has been successful -- he poached a fine goal on Wednesday. And even Loic Remy, signed when other clubs passed because of his injury history, has been a reliable third-stringer. Without having to rely on the midfielders to score as much, Chelsea are much improved in both lines.
Getty ImagesShaun Botterill
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is in beast mode
Observations: It had been a full two league games since Aguero had scored -- his longest streak of the year. After single-footedly keeping Manchester City’s Champions League campaign alive with a hat trick against Bayern Munich a week ago, he scored twice and got the assist as City came from behind at Sunderland. Aguero is now on 14 goals after just 14 rounds of play. And if the Citizens have anyone to thank for still being in contention on all fronts in spite of a tricky start to the season, it’s him.