Premier League Recap and Preview: Defoe Returns to the Lane and City vs Arsenal

Defoe Joins Sunderland

Jermain Defoe, he's a…Spurs hero
Jermain Defoe, he’s a…Spurs hero

Over the period of time I was a season ticket holder at Tottenham (2002/3 – 2006/7) my favorite player for the club was Jermain Defoe*.  From the moment he first joined Spurs in January of 2004, I rated him as the best available goalscorer we had, right up until the point he was sold to Toronto FC a year ago.  This weekend, he will return to White Hart Lane, but will be pulling on the red and white strip of Sunderland, as he signed for the Black Cats during the week.

*Okay he was my joint favorite for the two seasons that Edgar Davids was at the Lane, but the Dutch midfielder was something special and it was amazing  to see him come to Tottenham

Some have questioned the logic of the North East club spending big money on both a fee and Defoe’s wages, but regardless of his age or lack of recent form, I was still hoping the transfer would not go through in time for him to make his debut against Tottenham.  This is beyond just the fact that the diminutive striker has an excellent record of scoring on his first appearance for a club, having done so with West Ham, Bournemouth, Spurs, Portsmouth and Toronto FC.  Defoe is an out-and-out goalscorer and someone who is deadly from anywhere around the edge of the box if he has even half a yard of space.

Any confidence I had in anticipation of this game (which as always, is limited with Spurs) was completely annihilated by the news that Defoe would be playing for Sunderland – he will score and chances are, he will get the winner.  One other guarantee – the entire stadium will applaud him and chant his name on Saturday and many Spurs supporters, like me, will be wishing he had on the white shirt of Tottenham…especially when Roberto Soldado is warming up on the sidelines.

Last Week’s Action

Tomorrow’s encounter is crucial for Spurs and Sunderland, as they both suffered narrow defeats last weekend.  The Black Cats were beaten 1-0 at home by Liverpool, who struck early through Lazar Markovic and held on against 10 men following Liam Bridcutt’s second-half dismissal.  Tottenham lost 2-1 away at Crystal Palace, a result that had many pundits pointing to “Spurs being Spurs”, mocking the way that they can beat Chelsea in one game, then lose to the Eagles in the next.  However, it was not exactly a poor performance and the defeat was in part due to referee Anthony Taylor, who awarded Palace a spot-kick from which they equalized, even though Benjamin Stambouli played the ball; then denied a penalty at the other end when Harry Kane was brought down in the box.  Perhaps Spurs should have been better at taking their chances, but there was a huge slice of ill-fortune to their defeat.

Southampton registered their first win at Old Trafford since 1988 and moved into third place in the table in the process, beating the Red Devils 1-0 through a Dusan Tadic goal.  It was a strange loss for Manchester United, who have an array of attacking talent, combined with a poor defensive unit, but failed to muster a single shot on target during this match.  Chelsea avenged their loss earlier this season to Newcastle by beating them 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, a result that moved them two points clear of Manchester City in the title race, after the reigning champions were held to a draw at Goodison Park by Everton.

Villa react angrily to claims that Birmingham is a completely Muslim city, but that was Fox News, not the Foxes
Villa react angrily to claims that Birmingham is a completely Muslim city, but that was Fox News, not the Foxes

Two of the most popular bets right now should be: 1) QPR will lose when playing away from Loftus Road – they did, this time against fellow strugglers, Burnley; and 2) Aston Villa will not score – they didn’t, lost 1-0 to Leicester and were involved in a brawl just before the final whistle. Since West Brom beat Hull 1-0, it meant that all of the clubs that made up the bottom four heading into the weekend (WBA, Leicester, Crystal Palace and Burnley), all won and only the Foxes remain in the relegation zone, though they are now within three points of safety.

In the other two games, Arsenal had the usual routine victory over Stoke at home, as the Potters continue to fail away against the Gunners, despite causing them so many problems at the Britannia Stadium; and West Ham drew 1-1 with Swansea City, as a Mark Noble own goal cancelled out Andy Carroll’s brilliant opener.  Strangely enough, all four matches the Hammers have played in 2015 have followed the same pattern: West Ham score first, then allow their opponents to equalize and it ends 1-1 after 90 minutes.  The only change to the sequence came in Tuesday night’s F.A Cup replay against Everton, as in extra time the Toffees took the lead, before substitute Carlton Cole forced a penalty shootout.  It went all the way to the goalkeepers in sudden death, Joel Robers thundered against the bar for Everton, then Adrian – never knowingly short of confidence – threw away his gloves before converting the winning penalty to send West Ham into the next round.

In the other Cup replays, Spurs were 2-0 down inside 8 minutes against Burnley, but came back to win 4-2, despite one of the worst misses ever by Roberto Soldado, who hit the bar from three yards out with the goal at his mercy.  Southampton overcame Ipswich 1-0 in Suffolk; League One’s Bradford thrashed Championship side Millwall, 4-0, meaning they will progress to play Chelsea rather than the Lions, something everyone outside of south-east Londo will be happy about; while Bristol City, Chesterfield and Fulham all booked their places in the fourth round.

Weekend Action

The highlight of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures is the clash at the Etihad between Manchester City and Arsenal.  Last year, the Gunners were beaten 6-3 by City and their away record has not been great this season, but they are buoyed by the irrepressible form of Alexis Sanchez, plus the return from injury of Mesut Özil.  The reigning champions will be without YaYa Toure, who is on African Cup of Nations duty, but they may be able to start Sergio Agüero, after his substitute appearance last week.

Alan Pardew takes Crystal Palace up north to play Burnley, while two of his former clubs – Newcastle and Southampton – meet at St. James’s Park.  QPR host Manchester United, with the rumor being that Harry Redknapp’s job is on the line should they fail to come away with anything; league leaders Chelsea are in South Wales to take on Swansea; and resurgent Liverpool are at goal-shy Aston Villa.  Following on from their tempestuous Midlands derby last week, Leicester have another on Saturday as they entertain Stoke; West Ham face Hull; Tottenham have the aforementioned defeat to Defoe’s Sunderland; and the Monday night fixture is between Everton and West Brom.

Predictions

Last week, 4-6; Season, 96-124 (whoa)

Home teams listed first

Aston Villa vs Liverpool – Away win

Burnley vs Crystal Palace – Draw

Leicester vs Stoke – Home win

QPR vs Manchester United – Draw

Swansea vs Chelsea – Away win

Tottenham vs Sunderland – Away win

Newcastle vs Southampton – Draw

West Ham vs Hull – Home win

Manchester City vs Arsenal – Away win

Everton vs West Brom – Home win

 

 

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