1. Liverpool fans with high blood pressure might not last the season
Liverpool's thrilling eight goal victory over Stoke City was a rollercoaster ride to say the least. They bounced from looking like genuine title contenders to a side that will struggle to make the Europa League every couple of minutes.
The likelihood is they are something in between and their supporters can expect to see plenty more 'basketball games' like this before the end of the season, especially away from Anfield. Their defence looked all over the place against Stoke, while goalkeeper Simon Mignolet seems to have suffered a mini-crisis of confidence since Christmas. The fact that Liverpool have now conceded two or more goals in seven of their last eight Premier League away games is an alarming statistic.
However, with Luis Suarez at the fulcrum, there are few attacks that purr so loud, and Liverpool will never be out of a game with such devastating weapons going forward. These were three big, big points – a win you suspect Brendan Rodgers' men would not have dug out last season.
Such schizophrenic performances from the Reds should lead to plenty more excitement before the end of the season. It'll be great for neutrals; not so much for Liverpool fans with dodgy tickers.
2. Title hopefuls beware: Manchester City just picked up their most important three points of the season
Should Cheick Tiote's strike have counted? Probably. Were Manchester City lucky to win at Newcastle? Absolutely! However, win they did, and it is in these types of games that titles are won and lost.
Ruthless thrashings at home are all well good but Manchester City look to have fixed the two big problems that threatened to wreck their title bid – their goalkeeper and their away form.
With their dual Achilles' heels seemingly fixed, City now look ominously convincing. No wonder bookies have slashed them to evens to win the league.
Manuel Pellegrini's decision to drop, and then reinstate, Joe Hart is looking like a masterstroke. When the England keeper was at his previous best he looked cocky, but now he just looks confident. Hart started to believe his own hype and it bit him on the bum, but his spell on the sidelines looks to have taught him a valuable lesson. He is now playing for his team, and his place in it, rather than his reputation.
Meanwhile, a more pragmatic approach on the road is paying dividends. Attacking football remains Plan A, but Pellegrini is willing to tweak when required as his substitutes at St James' Park illustrated. City are now seven games unbeaten on the road – not bad for a team that 'doesn't travel well.'
3. Adnan Januzaj is already one of Manchester United’s very best players
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were both missing for Manchester United’s home game against Swansea. But inspiring another defeat for David Moyes, the absence of two such key players for Saturday’s game allowed the brilliant young Adnan Januzaj to demonstrate his deep, deep potential once again.
In a United team that is struggling to win points for artistic impression, this fearless 18-year-old – who has three goals and two assists this season – continues to provide invention and daring, and both of the two goals in the 2-0 win came following one of his crosses.
Januzaj’s emergence has been one of the most positive aspects of Moyes’s reign – even if his huge talent means such an ascension was inevitable. Without him, United would not have beaten Swansea. Indeed, it is frightening to think just how bleak their season would have been without his input. Januzaj looks brighter and better than anyone else in a United shirt at present.
4. Eden Hazard is priceless
A curious transfer tale erupted on Friday with suggestions in the French press that Eden Hazard could be moving to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer in a deal that could trouble the world record. According to French sources, Hazard has already told one of his team-mates that he wants to move to Paris at the end of the season – which seems somewhat unlikely given how, if you followed the saga of his exit from Lille, it is obvious Hazard likes to ramp up the drama and take these decisions as late as possible.
Still, Jose Mourinho said after a 2-0 victory at Hull that the club have no intention of selling -and understandably so. Even in a squad as full of small, attacking midfielders as Chelsea’s, Hazard stands out. Brilliantly so. The Belgian scored a gorgeous goal at the KC Stadium just when it seemed Chelsea could be heading for a frustrating draw after putting in a rather insipid performance. Hazard brought Chelsea to life and took them temporarily top of the league. The club must resist any offers for their most consistent attacking player.
5. Adam Johnson fires World Cup reminder, even if it’s probably too late
In all likelihood Adam Johnson is not going to make the World Cup squad – not unless Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Andros Towsend and James Milner all become embroiled in some kind of scandal in a pre-tournament trip to Ayia Napa.
Thinking about it, that does actually seem possible - and should anything happen to any of the aforementioned, Johnson's hat-trick on Saturday for Sunderland at Fulham will have reminded Roy Hodgson that he is still a vastly talented player. It is rather easy to forget that at the start of Euro 2012 qualifying, Johnson was a starter in the England XI, scoring in qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland under Fabio Capello.
Theo Walcott is out injured so there could be a vacancy on the right of the England attack, but Johnson did not feature for his country at all in 2013 and Sunderland’s struggles have helped to obscure his undoubted ability. It might be too late now, but at Craven Cottage he showed he does have international class.
6. Jason Puncheon is also England material
Well, sort of. The Croydon-born winger was responsible for one of the worst penalties ever to blight football when he put a spot-kick very high and very wide for Crystal Palace against Spurs. Such incompetence from 12 yards surely makes him a natural pick for Roy Hodgson with a knockout tournament looming – what better way to protect the country’s awful record in shoot-outs?
Puncheon was the first player to put a penalty off target in the Premier League this season – and in some style too. It may be only January, but we make no excuses for having another look at a moment which will no doubt headline all those football gaffe videos at the end of the year.
7. Pepe Mel has much to ponder at West Brom
The Spaniard has a line in writing mystery novels, and he'll need every ounce of his creative talent if he's to dream up a scenario in which he turns round the West Brom side who lost 1-0 at Southampton this weekend. There was little to write home about: West Brom mustered only two shots on target and had only 38 per cent of possession as they fell to a defeat which leaves them only three points above the relegation zone.
Mel enjoyed success at Real Betis last season – taking the club into the Europa League – before earning the sack after a poor start to this campaign. In Seville, he built his side around a luxuriantly talented deep playmaker called Benat – essentially a chubby Pirlo – and utilised a lone striker in Ruben Castro who scored 18 times. At West Brom he has been bequeathed a side which played 4-4-2 in its last game and is lacking in midfield guile, or a reliable goalscorer. The novel-writing might suffer for now: Mel has plenty to do.
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- Manchester City
- Stoke City
- Premier League
- Eden Hazard
- Manchester United
- Simon Mignolet