Last year it was Liverpool’s Waterloo, a 3-3 draw after Palace scored a quickfire treble in nine minutes. This year, it will be remembered as City’s. The champions have now lost five straight across all competitions, and are slumped in fourth ahead of a vital derby game against United. They bossed large stretches of today’s game, but it was a feisty Palace that took all three points, thanks to equal measures of pluck and luck. Yes, Glenn Murray got away with a no-call when he handled the ball in the box, but City wasted more chances than any team can. Is this the end for Manuel Pellegrini? Don’t be shocked if he’s on the way out after tonight. Side note: Alan Pardew’s now done an odd double over City this season: he got Newcastle a 2-0 win over City in the League Cup to eject the holders in October.
Action Images via ReutersJohn Sibley
Ozil pulls the strings, Arsenal soars
Arsenal ripped Liverpool 4-1 in a showcase between two teams heading in opposite directions. Arsenal, which look to be a side finally gelled, are making a half-serious title chase. Liverpool on the other hand, have been ripped apart by contract negotiations and dressing room unrest, and are playing like a team no better than mid-table. Ozil’s mettle in big games has been questioned, but Saturday he showed exactly what he is capable of, setting up the opener with a delicious pass, then scoring the second directly off a free-kick. It was a convincing performance orchestrated by a man who finally seems to have shaken off the World Cup. You would think Arsenal have too much ground to make up against Chelsea, but if the Gunners continue to play like this ...
Arsenal FC via Getty ImagesStuart MacFarlane
Defoe, Adam and Zamora
Sometimes, the most wretched games can still produce some magical goals. Sunderland’s grim tussle against Newcastle saw Jermain Defoe score one of the goals of the season, a smashing left-footed volley that even had Tim Krul paying compliments. (Criticism of the keeper for showing sportsmanship is grossly unfair.) Charlie Adam beat Thibaut Courtois from 65 yards with an audacious attempt to give Stoke a bit of hope if not a share of the points. And then there was Bobby Zamora, famously immobile, somehow chipping Boaz Myhill with a delicacy rarely associated with QPR. Great stuff amidst some barren matches.
QPR win big but can’t climb out of the muck
Rangers finally won their second away game of the season, a 4-1 thrashing of West Brom after Youssouf Mulumbu was sent off. If QPR can show some more of this spirit in their final seven matches, they might well have a chance -- their midweek game against Villa is now a must-win for both -- but they will have to finish the season without the tricky Eduardo Vargas, who ripped his MCL on Saturday in the win. Are QPR good enough to stay up? Probably not -- but are they really any worse than Hull, Villa, Burnley or Sunderland? No. But they face a brutal run in and must collect points in their next game. Should they fail, they face matches against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City with a grave test on the table.
Getty ImagesBen Hoskins
Spurs running out of steam
The poorest game of the weekend was at Turf Moor, where two teams who prize effort and speed above all else looked notably out of gas. Burnley and Spurs would settle for a 0-0 draw, but the result is arguably worse for the Londoners. With Tottenham eight points out of the Champions League places, and facing a battle to finish in the unwanted Europa League slot, fans are bracing for more disappointment. Their outfield stars have underperformed -- with the notable exception of Harry Kane -- and it would not be a shock to see this trigger-happy team part ways with manager Mauricio Pochettino. While Pochettino’s choices do deserve criticism this season, Spurs’ problem is existential: they have lavished money on poor players, and have rarely stayed the course to develop a settled squad. They are paying for this wastefulness again this year.