Tuesday Premier League takeaways: Chelsea held by strong West Brom defense, Aston Villa sweating

Michael Steele

Pepe Mel has West Bromwich Albion defending well enough to stay up, while West Ham have turned the corner and Aston Villa are seriously struggling.

The best games of the midweek round come Wednesday in the Premier League, but there was still plenty to take away from Tuesday's four matches.

Pepe Mel has improved West Brom's defense

by Kevin McCauley

West Bromwich Albion's switch-off at the end of the first half that allowed Chelsea to score their goal was an unfortunate piece of bad defending, but it doesn't take away from what they did for the rest of the match. They were excellent during open play, keeping Chelsea contained despite some very nice play by the Blues' attackers.

It didn't help Chelsea that Ramires is nowhere near the passer that Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel or even David Luiz are, but the attacking trio of Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard would have broken down an inferior team. All of them looked dangerous on the night, but none of them produced a piece of magic or forced West Brom into a bad mistake. The Baggies didn't generate tons of chances, but by the time Victor Anichebe scored, they had earned their draw.

Even though Pepe Mel hasn't been able to engineer a major turnaround for West Brom just yet, they're clearly defending a lot better than they did under Steve Clarke. His team is starting to look a lot more like Roy Hodgson's West Brom than the team Clarke fielded for most of this season. On the evidence of Tuesday's performance, they're probably going to stay up, and their improved defending is the reason.

Villa sweating the drop

by Ryan Rosenblatt

History says that 40 points is enough to avoid relegation, which means Aston Villa need 12 points from their last 12 matches to stay up. It's a reasonable finish for Villa and one that most would probably bet on, but it's hardly a guarantee and Tuesday's contest at Cardiff was another example why.

Much of the talk after the match was about David Marshall and how his two late saves, including his remarkable denial of Andi Weimann in stoppage time, had robbed Villa of three points, but it wasn't as if the visitors had been good in the match. They were downright dreadful in the first half, and had it not been for a spectacular effort by Ron Vlaar, they would have been down a goal or two before they got into the match in the second half. It was yet another underwhelming performance for the Villans, even if the result was fine enough.

The concern for Villa now is that they have stagnated, while many of the other teams in the relegation race are getting better. If they don't get better, they may be sweating the drop come May.

Hull likely to stay up despite loss

by Jack Sargeant

All in all, Southampton probably deserved their narrow win away at Hull City, though it was far from a comfortable victory. As has been the case throughout the season, Steve Bruce made a point of setting his side up with the principal aim of not conceding, and had it not been for a disappointingly scrappy goal in the second half, they'd have succeeded.

Southampton struggled with a lack of pure width, with neither Adam Lallana nor Jay Rodriguez -- nominally the wingers in Mauricio Pochettino's 4-2-3-1 -- being the type of players to stretch their opponents on the flanks. The result was a reliance on capable young full-backs Calum Chambers and Luke Shaw to provide their width, though as Hull grew into the game and Ahmed Elmohamady and George Boyd became more cavalier in their positioning, Southampton were inhibited.

It certainly wasn't pretty, but it was another impressive tactically disciplined game from the Tigers, and they'll be kicking themselves to not have picked up a point.

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Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Sam Allardyce engineering a great escape

by Callum Hamilton

After failing to gain two consecutive wins since 2011, Sam Allardyce's men now have three in a row, with three clean sheets to go along with them. At both ends of the table, defence is beginning to win out over attack in deciding who will achieve their aims this season. With most of the teams around them also beginning to improve, West Ham have a long way to go, but they look very likely to make good on their escape at the moment.

Scores

Cardiff 0-0 Aston Villa
Hull 0-1 Southampton
West Ham 2-0 Norwich
West Brom 1-1 Chelsea

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