The round of Premier League games that ended this week saw many of the top teams face those at the bottom of the table. It also saw a few sides catch up with games postponed because of the snow.
Arsenal, lying third at the start of the round faced third from bottom Wigan. Arsenal‘s total domination of the game was held at bay by Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, who stopped good shots from Nasri, Fabregas and Van Persie. But the Dutchman was able to break the deadlock in the 21st minute when he hit home a through ball from Alex Song. Fabregas had more chances denied with a block from defender Gary Caldwell and another save from Al Habsi. Theo Walcott had a clear run on goal but mysteriously decided to square the ball to Fabregas, rather than shoot and Cesc was tackled by Mohamed Diame. Al Habsi made another fine save from a fizzing shot from Nasri, to see Wigan go into half time only 1-0 down after a total onslaught. The barrage continued after the break with Nasri and Walcott just missing the target. But on 58 minutes Van Persie converted again, connecting on the volley to a perfect long ball from Fabregas. The Dutch hero was on schedule for a hat trick and had the perfect opportunity when Fabregas was brought down in the box by Caldwell who was sent off. But Van Persie amazingly launched the penalty over the bar, not even troubling Al Habsi. It’s one of the mysteries of the game that a player can score with a magnificent volley, then a few minutes later miss with a dead ball only12 yards out. Van Persie followed this up by hitting the post, but finally he was able to get his hat trick when Walcott held the ball up in the area and set him up. A man of the match award would have to go to Van Persie, but Al Habsi would run him a close second. He saved Wigan from a great deal of embarrassment in keeping the score down to 3-0 when it should have been a Rugby score, if not a Cricket score. Arsenal had 24 shots on goal, to only 3 by Wigan, Szczesny was practically redundant in the Arsenal goal.
Chelsea played Bolton on Monday and went one better than Arsenal, beating them 4-0 with goals from Drogba, Malouda, Anelka and Ramires. Manchester United went two better beating strugglers Birmingham 5-0 on Saturday with Ryan Giggs picking up two goals. United played Blackpool in midweek and managed to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Blackpool held their 2 goal advantage until 72nd minute of the game and looked like ending United‘s unbeaten run. Berbatov scored two of United‘s goals and the third cam from Javier Hanandez, who had replaced Rooney in the 66th minute and had a huge influence on the comeback.
United‘s cross town rivals Manchester City slipped up, going down 1-0 to struggling Aston Villa and dropped one place in the league. Villa also triumphed again beating Wigan 2-1 in their midweek game. Meanwhile Liverpool made something of a comeback beating Wolves 3-0 on Saturday and Fulham 1-0 on Wednesday. Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw at Newcastle and West Ham drew 2-2 with Everton, but could not drag themselves off of the foot of the table.
The Premier League takes a break this weekend to make way for the 4th Round of the FA Cup. But there is a full round of fixtures on Tuesday and Wednesday night (1st and 2nd February)
Also in midweek the Carling Cup semi finals were settled with Arsenal coming back from their shock 1-0 defeat at Ipswich, to beat them 3-0 at home. Rumour has it that Ipswich manager Paul Jewell had watched the Arsenal game against Wigan on TV and had to turn it off because they were so good. Ipswich were expected to park their tractor in front of the goal at the Emirates Stadium. But they did well to keep Arsenal out for an hour, until two goals came in 3 minutes. Bendtner hit a superb shot into the far corner and central defender Koscielny headed home a corner precisely placed by Arshavin. Fabregas rounded off the scoring in the 77th minute. Arsenal are red hot favourites to win the League Cup with Birmingham beating West Ham 3-1 in the other semi final. Of course Arsenal beat Birmingham 3-0 in their first game of 2011.