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Quick Six: City maintains control, Chelsea stumbles, and the rest of the headlines from the Premier League weekend

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1. City stays in the drivers’ seat

This is where that big, expensive squad pays off. David Silva and Fernandinho’s health kept them out of Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI. Sergio Agüero was lost after scoring an early equalizer. Despite being unable to get full shifts from three of the team’s four best players, Manchester City overcame an early deficit to win at Goodison Park, earning three points that allowed the club to finish the weekend top of the table.

Liverpool has a chance to overtake City with a result tomorrow at Selhurst, but with their title destiny in hand, the Citizens can still render that result irrelevant. With wins at home against Aston Villa and West Ham (neither of whom sit higher than 12th), Manchester City can claim its second title in three years, potentially without the dramatics that accompanied the last one.

(MORE: Everton 2-3 Manchester City: Dzeko’s double sends City top (video))

2. Chelsea squanders its chance to go top

How does a team go from winning at Anfield despite missing half its starters to being drawn at home against a team that sits at the bottom of the form table? That’s a question José Mourinho and his players have to ask themselves after today’s 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, a result that leaves Chelsea one point behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

After the game, Mourinho expressed surprise at Norwich’s conservative approach. Unfortunately, that’s a tactic Chelsea’s had trouble with all year. Against teams that come after them and allow Chelsea to play on the counter (often the teams at the top of the table), the Blues look like the best team in the league. After the circuit’s bottom dwellers, Chelsea looks inexplicably vulnerable.

(MORE: Chelsea 0-0 Norwich City: No goals, no consequences (yet))

Psychologically, tactically, there are good explanations why Chelsea has trouble making the transition, though these are the types of problems great coaches should be expected to overcome. Roman Abramovich is paying Mourinho commensurate with his reputation, has supplied him with one of the world’s most talented squads, and appears to have sacrificed some of his aesthetic preferences to make peace with Mourinho’s approach. The least Mourinho can do is beat Norwich at home.

3. Fulham, Cardiff City go down

Saturday losses confirmed the season’s first teams to be relegate. Cardiff City, after winning last year’s Championship, goes back down after a loss at Newcastle, with most people ready to point the finger at Vincent Tan for the team’s inability to stay up. Fulham, on the other hand, ends a 13-year stay in the top flight after a 4-1 loss at Stoke.

It’d be too much to say Cardiff will be missed, but after a season defined by turmoil over results, it’s the sympathize with Bluebirds fans whose top flight dream turned sour. The Malky Mackay-Vincent Tan struggle the former coach allowed to play out in the press sent the club into a tailspin from which it couldn’t recover. Even if Mackay put the same energy into managing as he did engineering his narrative, it’s unclear Tan’s presence could be overcome.

(MORE: Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff City: Bluebirds are relegated | Stoke City 4-1 Fulham: Fulham are relegated)

Fulham, conversely, had become a fixture in the top flight. The club;s relegation is sure to hit Americans hard, with many using the presence of players like Brain McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, and Clint Dempsey as reason to claim the club as their own. Now, like those that latched onto Bolton when Stuart Holden joined the Trotters, they’ll assume a new life as fans of a second division club, many of them having never known relegation from the Premier League.

4. Sunderland under attack

After Saturday’s win at Old Trafford, the Black Cats have won three in a row, taking 10 of 12 points to put the team on the brink of survival. Whereas Sunderland were in last place as early as three weeks ago, now Gus Poyet’s side is one point from safety, its goal difference and game in hand meaning the Black Cats would have to lose out to go down.

(MORE: Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland: Giggs’ honeymoon over (video))

There is another possibility that emerged this week, though according to the Premier League, the Gang of Three’s desire to get Sunderland docked points won’t happen. If the Black Cats continue playing as they did this weekend, however, the claim will be irrelevant. Even if a points deduction happens, Sunderland are unlikely to be docked more than three. Between Norwich’s trip to Arsenal next weekend and the Black Cats’ remaining fixtures (vs. West Brom; vs. Swansea), the Canaries will struggle to stay that close.

(MORE: Bottom three ready to fight Sunderland’s light ineligible player penalty | Attempt to dock points likely to fail)

source: AP5. Giggs gets a taste of managerial reality

Seemingly decades ago, on an edition of NFL Countdown, then-studio analyst Bill Parcells — two-time Super Bowl-winner with the New York Giants — was asked who he thought should be favored in a game near the end of the regular season . His answer, delivered with Parcells’ trademark comedic snide: “The team that wants it more usually wins the game.”

Obviously it’s an over-simplification (at least, beyond National Football League games), but in watching Saturday’s game at Old Trafford, you were reminded that only one of those teams had anything to play for. Sunderland — less talented, at the bottom of the table — needed points to help secure survival. Manchester United had no stakes. The players don’t even know who they’ll be playing for next year.

As Parcells would have predicted, Sunderland got a result, but for Ryan Giggs, it was a dose of reality. The interim Red Devils boss made it look easy the week before against Norwich, but against a much stronger side, the same solutions fell short. He couldn’t get his team up for a meaningless game.

6. Arsenal clinches Champions League spot

With Everton’s loss on Saturday, Arsenal clinched fourth place, ensuring another crack at UEFA Champions League. While the result also queued a series of jokes about the Gunners winning Arsène Wenger’s hypothetical trophy, it also left the club with the distinction of being the only team to finish in the top four every year since Wenger took over. After Manchester United’s fall, Arsenal stands alone.

Despite that achievement, Wenger still had to answer questions about whether Sunday’s match against West Brom would be his last at the Emirates. With his contract extension still unsigned, the prying is understandable, but in such inquiries, there’s more than a faint note of skepticism about Arsenal’s recent trend. Though the Gunners survived in this year’s title race longer than most expected, they also had to hold off a late challenge for fourth. Those challenges are becoming more serious as Wenger’s tenure goes on.

Some familiar with the club’s inner-workings suggest there wouldn’t be a huge effort to dissuade Wenger should he elect to walk away. If he wins the FA Cup, now might be the best time to do so.

Unfortunately, after another year where Arsenal survived in the top four, the impasse at the Emirates continues. Wenger’s legacy at the club means he’s practically un-fireable, even though some might embrace the chance to move on.

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.