The Premier League's Saturday slate certainly didn't disappoint this week, though it was sufficiently odd. Arsenal are no longer top of the table after a terrible performance, while Manchester City have allowed Chelsea to go top after playing for a draw away to ... Norwich? Let's dive into the day that was in England.
Arsenal's performance is inexplicable
by Kevin McCauley
There's no easy way to explain what happened to Arsenal on Saturday. It's easy to explain why they lost to Liverpool in a variety of ways: Liverpool are good at home, Arsenal have turned in a couple of poor road performances, Liverpool's early goal probably threw Arsenal off quite a bit and the double pivot of Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere is no defensive juggernaut. Those are all very good reasons for a loss. They're not good reasons for conceding five goals.
They're also not good reasons for Arsenal getting well and truly blown apart in the first 20 minutes, as if the Gunners were a pub team and Liverpool were one of Pele's Brazil sides. The teams didn't appear to be playing the same sport and Liverpool very easily could have had seven goals by the time their fourth hit the back of the net.
Even though the game ended 5-1, the performance from Arsenal was immensely more embarrassing than their 8-2 loss to Manchester United a few years back, or Tottenham's two collapses at the hands of Liverpool and Manchester City this season. Arsenal fell apart so thoroughly in the first 20 minutes that Liverpool appeared to stop trying.
The point of all of this is that Arsenal are not this bad, which is why Saturday's game was so stunning. There was a feeling that Spurs were not a very good team earlier in this season, and the Arsenal team that lost 8-2 to United seemed destined, at the time, to finish outside of the top four. This Arsenal team is not like those. They're still very much in the title race.
Hopefully, this is an odd one-off collapse from Arsenal. Maybe it was caused by an illness that ravaged the locker room or a tragic event that we'll find out about later. Nothing about their performance made any sense and it's not worth trying to pinpoint things that are going wrong with Arsenal unless they do it again.
Tom Ince's advisers are smart
by Kevin McCauley
Tom Ince didn't want to leave Blackpool on a permanent deal in January. He wanted a loan to a club that he knew would start him so that he could advertise his skills before he hit the open market. On the basis of Ince's goal and assist against West Brom, he and his agent are very smart people.
City in a slump without their stars
by Zach Woosley
For the second time in a week, Manchester City failed to score a goal. While they didn't lose this time around, the result was basically just as bad, costing City a chance to take over first place in the league. If you're looking for reasons why a team that has scored 68 league goals so far this season suddenly can't score, here are some thoughts:
The City attack looks absolutely toothless without Aguero in the lineup. Even with other attacking options like Alvaro Negredo and David Silva on the pitch, no one has the finishing touch that Aguero has shown this season.
The absence of midfielder Fernandinho is causing problems as well. Without the Brazilian in the lineup, Manuel Pellegrini presumably went insane today and instructed Yaya Toure to stay deep and help with defensive duties, while James Milner pushed forward in the central midfield.
The issues are fixable for City, but at the moment they're in what can only be described as a bad funk.
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
The Premier League's Mount Rushmore includes Eden Hazard
by Kevin McCauley
Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero have racked up incredible goal totals this season, with their most impressive spells of play coming after the supremely hot start that Aaron Ramsey got off to. At no point this season has Eden Hazard been the Premier League's hottest or most explosive player, but he might be the most consistent of the group.
Injuries have hampered Aguero and Ramsey, while Suarez started the season suspended. Meanwhile, Hazard has been a consistent fixture, playing in all of Chelsea's games and starting all but one. His hat trick on Saturday took him to 12 goals on the season, to go along with his five assists.
Like most other elite attacking players, Hazard is about more than his easily quantifiable stats. He works hard enough defensively that Jose Mourinho has no problem leaving him in his normal position for big games in which Chelsea plans on defending deep. He creates just as many passes with his dribbling moves and runs off the ball that pull defenses apart as he does the final pass or shot. He's just as good as Suarez, Aguero and Ramsey at doing the things we don't have good statistics to measure yet.
If there was any doubt that Hazard was in this category, his hat trick should erase it. He's the best player on the league's top team and in an elite category individually.
Aston Villa give points away, getting sucked into relegation race?
by Ryan Rosenblatt
Aston Villa will want to forget that Saturday ever happened. They essentially gifted West Ham two goals and managed nothing going forward until late in one of their worst performances of the year. To make matters worse, it happened at home to one of the worst teams in the league.
Villa's left side looked like a sieve and they gave the ball away with regularity, dooming them to a failed 90 minutes. Marc Albrighton made a case to be a regular starter with an excellent stint off the bench, but with Leandro Bacuna and Matthew Lowton completely inept defensively on the left and Fabian Delph losing the ball 20 yards from goal, it didn't matter.
It was the ultimate in three points given away.
Charlie Adam is back in form
by Callum Hamilton
While "were Liverpool wrong to get rid of Charlie Adam?" would be several steps too far, the Scot seems to have rediscovered his form at Stoke and is having a quietly excellent season. After slaying Manchester United, he was then instrumental as Stoke got a difficult point from Southampton today.
His obvious weaknesses are aided by the combative nature of Stoke's midfield, and, well, team and philosophy. But he also seems to have a renewed energy and vigour about his play, getting stuck in and controlling the game in ways he hasn't done since his best days at Blackpool. A return to being a key part of the Scotland team -- where he has always played well -- is surely imminent if his form continues.
Garry Monk is terrifying
by Kevin McCauley
Michael Laudrup is a footballing legend and a good-looking gentleman, but could he strike fear into the hearts of his opponents? I think not.