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Premier League Roundup: Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom

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Well, well. That was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?

A pulsating Premier League Saturday saw eight terrific matches play out across England and Wales, as goals rained in during the stormy winter weather.

It was moving day in the PL, as Chelsea went top of the standings thanks to Eden Hazard’s masterclass, Liverpool demolished Arsenal 5-1, Man City slipped up an Norwich, and there were big wins for West Ham, Swansea and Crystal Palace at the bottom.

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In case you missed any of it, (I know, you only have one pair of eyes, right?) don’t worry. This tidy little roundup delivers all the recaps, video highlights and analysis from a scintillating Saturday in the worlds most exciting league.

So, let’s get to it!

Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham United

Villa have been woeful at home all season, and that trend continued as West Ham strolled into Villa Park and bagged a vital three points. The Hammers are now unbeaten in three as two Kevin Nolan goals, two minutes apart and two minutes into the second half, saw off a timid effort from the home side. The Villans are only three points off the drop zone.

Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United

Eden Hazard emerged as the hero at Stamford Bridge, as two superb finishes before the break were capped off by a cool penalty kick for his hat trick, as he sent his side top of the PL standings. Newcastle never really threatened and Chelsea just had too much for them to handle, in a magnificent display from the tricky Belgian winger. Jose Mourinho played it cool once again, but this Chelsea team has the stench of potential champions.

Crystal Palace 3-1 West Bromwich Albion

Palace now have five home wins from seven under Tony Pulis, and it’s wins over relegation foes like this that will keep Palace up. Two early goals from debutant Thomas Ince and Joe Ledely saw the Eagles soar into the lead, but Thievy Bifouma pulled a goal back for West Brom just after the break. However Marouane Chamakh won a penalty, then scored it, as Palace move up to 13th.

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

Simply stunning from Liverpool, as the Reds were 4-0 up after 19 minutes at Anfield on Saturday. Arsenal didn’t know what hit them, as two Martin Skrtel goals in the opening nine minutes were added to by strikes from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. After the break Sterling grabbed another to make it 5-0, and Mikel Arteta’s penalty was no more than a consolation. Are Liverpool title contenders?

Norwich City 0-0 Manchester City

The Citizens dropped yet more points, as they slipped up away from home at Carrow Road. Norwich defended superbly for the entire 90 minutes, as City failed to score for the second successive game this week. Manuel Pellegrini’s men ran out of ideas and in truth the Canaries had a few chances to snatch all three points themselves. Still in the title race, but wobbling a little.

Southampton 2-2 Stoke City

A Topsy-turvy game in the win and rain at St. Mary’s as Southampton twice took the lead in the first half, but Stoke twice hit back. Rickie Lambert smashed in a great free kick to make it 1-0 to Saints, then Peter Odemwingie slotted home to make it 1-1. Then Steven Davis saw his cross somehow trickle into the bottom corner to put Saints ahead, but right on half time Peter Crouch bundled home from close range to make it 2-2. That’s how it stayed, despite Saints dominating the second half, as the points were shared at a soggy St. Mary’s Stadium.

Sunderland 0-2 Hull City

Another torrid day for the Black Cats, who had another red card scupper a game for them. Wes Brown was shown a straight-red early on for his third dismissal of the season. Hull City’s new signings Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both scored in each half to seal a big three points for the Tigers, as Sunderland continue to battle away at the bottom.

Swansea City 3-0 Cardiff City

After a week of turmoil in Swansea that saw manager Michael Laudrup sacked, the Swans turned in a terrific performance under rookie manager Garry Monk. The first half was goalless but after the break Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Wilfried Bony all scored to clinch bragging rights in the South Wales derby.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.