One year ago, Poyet pulled off a great escape at the Stadium of Light, saving the Black Cats from relegation and taking the club to the League Cup final. Even in that defeat, a 3-1 loss to Manchester City, there was a sense that perhaps Sunderland might pull themselves out of mediocrity. Monday, Poyet was out, and Dick Advocaat was jetting in, just the latest manager sacked by a club that seems unable to climb out of mediocrity. By rights, Sunderland should be far better than they are: owner Ellis Short has enormous resources, yet they continue to be ugly towards coaches, cycling through five men in just six years. Yes, Poyet was far too negative, but it’s hard not to look at the tools at his disposal and think he was given little to work with. It’s not always the manager’s fault.
Getty ImagesNigel Roddis
Manuel Pellegrini and City sleepwalking towards the exit
Against Barcelona, Manchester City were merely outclassed. Against Burnley, however, City were humiliated. Burnley, who have now collected four points this season off the defending champs, had just 30% of possession in the match, and yet managed to collect 100% of the points. Why? Pellegrini’s City seem to be a rudderless side, unable to muster the spark and creativity needed to grit out wins when needed. Captain Vincent Kompany has regressed in an alarming fashion; Yaya Toure has looked a shadow of the player he was before the African Cup of Nations, and the team as a whole gives off the appearance of simply not caring. One gets the sense the axe is being sharpened in one of the Etihad’s back rooms as a result.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
Arsenal’s revival ahead of Monaco
Following the Gunners' 3-1 thumping at Monaco’s hands, there was a feeling of despair around the Emirates, a sense that a season that seemed filled with some promise was once again falling apart. But Arsenal managed to claw back some respectability with a professional and engaging show against London rivals West Ham on Saturday, a fully-deserved 3-0 win. Whether or not they can score three in France is an open question. But right now, Arsenal have won five straight games in the league, and have an FA Cup semifinal to look ahead to as well. And that’s not too shabby.
Getty ImagesIan Walton
Crystal Palace show QPR who's boss
This was a limp London derby, with a dying Rangers side efficiently put to the sword by Alan Pardew’s Palace, who scored three first half goals and never looked back. QPR now have nine games to save themselves from the drop, and in truth, they don’t look near to doing it. Palace, on the other hand, are almost certain of staying up, with nine matches left to collect just seven points. No wonder QPR’s head coach Chris Ramsey smiled ruefully when asked if anything was going well. He reportedly replied that his son was doing well at school.
Getty ImagesMatthew Lewis
Angel Di Maria’s out, and Manchester United shine
Di Maria is one of the more perplexing characters in England this year: an MVP candidate at a superb Real Madrid side last season, a ferociously expensive and erratic player who was not missed at all this weekend. With the Argentine suspended, United enjoyed a breakout match against Tottenham. It was the best show of the year so far under Louis van Gaal. It was a United side that looked incisive, balanced and dangerous. Is there a correlation? Yes. Di Maria has looked like a player laboring this season, a frustrating figure who can still deliver a rare fine cross, but does so too infrequently. Is he now set for an extended time out of the starting lineup? It's hard to keep a man that cost $97M out of a team ... but United made a strong case this Sunday that they are better off without him.