Premier League Playback: Arsenal, Saints clash in busy midweek; title race on, Manchester United back?

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REAL TOP FOUR BATTLE: ARSENAL vs. SAINTS

As the video above shows, Southampton did plenty of things wrong against Manchester City in their 3-0 shellacking at St Mary’s on Sunday. But it’s okay, as long as they learn from it.

[RELATED: Watch full match replays]

Saints’ young squad have exceeded expectations under Ronald Koeman so far this season but they have a perfect chance to get that disjointed and tentative display against City out of their system. Arsenal away at the Emirates, where the Saints have already won in the League Cup, is the next challenge for Koeman’s boys but they have to be much better across the board than they were against City.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from Saints vs. City ]

They showed City too much respect and in their first big test of the season most of the Saints received failing grades from their manager. I asked Koeman after Southampton’s defeat to City about his sides lack of creativity in the final third, here’s what he said.

Premier League Schedule – Week 14

Game Watch Live
Arsenal – Southampton Weds. 2:45pm ET
Burnley – Newcastle Tues. 2:45pm ET
Chelsea – Tottenham Weds. 2:45pm ET
Crystal Palace – Aston Villa Tues. 3pm ET
Everton – Hull Weds. 2:45pm ET
Leicester – Liverpool Tues. 2:45pm ET
Man United – Stoke Tues. 2:45pm ET
Swansea – QPR Tues. 2:45pm ET
Sunderland – Man City Weds. 2:45pm ET
West Brom – West Ham Tues. 3pm ET

“I think if I look through my team, two or three players reached the level of what they can show. In my opinion Toby Alderweireld played fantastic and in the first half we had a good organization,” Koeman said. “But in an attacking way, it is different to create those  kinds of chances that we can create [against other teams] against defenders like Man City. That was not good enough. You will get punished for that, we knew that before the game. They showed us that difference today.”

As for Arsenal, the Gunners can sneak into the top four with a win over Saints and other results going their way after they beat West Brom 1-0 at the weekend. Arsene Wenger’s men flattered to deceive but got the job done against the Baggies, as Arsenal’s fans held up the following banner (see the Tweet below) with their team limping through the current campaign.

[ RELATED: Wenger relief after win ]

Saints vs. Man City was not a battle for the top four, we all know Chelsea and City will battle it out for the title and the rest will play out a desperate scrap for third and fourth. So, Arsenal’s clash with Southampton is doubly important as both teams look to boost their top four chances. Saints will be missing Morgan Schniederlin through injury, and his forced withdrawal at half time against City was a big reason why Saints collapsed in the second half. If Arsenal’s attackers can exploit the space in front of Southampton’s backline, Wenger could get a morale boosting win. Oh, how he needs that.

RACE FOR THE TITLE BACK ON?

With Chelsea slipping up at Sunderland and Manchester City battering Southampton over the weekend, the Premier League title race is set up perfectly as the busy festive season arrives.

[ RELATED: Is the PL title race back on? ]

A full slate of midweek matches, plus another game for everyone this weekend, means that Chelsea’s six-point lead over City can be dwindled down to zero in the space of three days.

Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur, who are coming off the back of two-straight wins, in a London derby on Wednesday under the lights at Stamford Bridge which could be a classic (more on that shortly) and then travel to Newcastle. While City have two, on paper, easier games this week with a trip to Sunderland and then a home game against Everton.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

Premier League Schedule – Week 13

Result Recap & Highlights
Burnley 1-1 Aston Villa Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-0 Stoke Recap and watch here
Man United 3-0 Hull Recap and watch here
QPR 3-2 Leicester Recap and watch here
Saints 0-3 Man City Recap and watch here
Sunderland 0-0 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Swansea 1-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Tottenham 2-1 Everton Recap and watch here
West Brom 0-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-0 Newcastle Recap and watch here

If you ask most punters in England, they have already handed the 2014-15 PL title to Chelsea after their imperious start to the season which sees them unbeaten after 13 matches. However, Jose Mourinho and his men will not be planning the victory parade down Kings Road anytime soon. City are coming on strong, just like they did at this stage of the campaign last season and the title race is back on, according to City boss Manuel Pellegrini.

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights]

“We can complain about a lot of things with this team this year. That we are conceding too many, and not scoring the amount of goals we did last season,” Pellegrini said. “But the only thing we cannot complain about with this squad is the spirit, personality, character and ambition to keep winning. We have to play 25 games more, it is a lot of points. In football, nobody knows what happens. In one week you can change with three bad results and that will change your position. Chelsea is playing very well, let’s see what happens in the future. We must try to just think about what we do against Sunderland [in our next game].”

SPURS COULD TORMENT CHELSEA WITH TWO STRIKERS

Tottenham’s trip across the capital to play Chelsea is an intriguing battle. On Sunday Spurs beat Everton largely thanks to their two-pronged attack of Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado playing up top together, which saw the latter score his first goal since March.

During his first few months as a manger in the PL, Pochettino led Southampton to a famous 2-1 win over Chelsea as he started with two strikers in Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. If Tottenham are to get a draw, or even a famous win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, the form of Kane and Soldado will be crucial. Chelsea will be missing their star man, Diego Costa, after his fifth booking of the season occurred at Sunderland, meaning an automatic one-game ban.

[RELATED: Premier League schedule]

Chelsea are stumbling a little, and in their 0-0 draw at Sunderland they failed to create a plethora of clear-cut chances while Jozy Altidore’s second half performance caused Chelsea’s backline plenty of distress with his direct and powerful runs. Kane can replicate that, and if Soldado has truly rediscovered his touch in front of goal, Spurs could shock Chelsea and blow the title race wide open.

UNITED READY TO KICK ON?

After their 3-0 battering of Hull City, Manchester United looked back to their best. That is now three-straight victories for Louis van Gaal’s men who have only conceded one goal in this victories and are looking increasingly dangerous in attack. In the video above our Match of the Day crew analyze if United are clicking back into place as van Gaal’s methods are starting to show considerable signs of promise. This week they host Stoke on Tuesday and then Southampton away on Monday, as the Red Devils could easily be looking at five wins on the spin and be right behind Man City and Chelsea at the top of the standings.

[ RELATED: Van Gaal hails United’s display ]

Both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were on the scoresheet against Hull, as United’s two talisman are stepping up to the plate, plus Radamel Falcao returned from injury but there was a slight downer as Angel Di Maria hobbled off with a hamstring injury. Here’s a cheeky little stat which may interest you, as Rooney and RVP are fine-tuning their partnership…

TOP GOALS IN WEEK 13 TO WHET YOUR APPETITE FOR MIDWEEK MADNESS

During Week 13 there were plenty of stunning strikes, but Kevin Mirallas’ strike took the biscuit. What a hit, my son. Check out the video for the top goals from the weekend. This should warm your cockles for 20 more PL games coming your way in the next few days.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here