1. Yaya Toure is the driving force behind Manchester City
Manchester City have endured some poor results of late, and it is no coincidence that their significant dip in performance level coincided with Yaya Toure being away on African Cup of Nations duty.
While he has at times struggled to replicate his phenomenal form from last season, the Ivorian remains an integral part of the City team.
Against Chelsea today, the midfielder was at something like his best again though, scoring the game’s opening goal with a well-taken finish and always looking a threat with his ability to break forward at speed.
Along with Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany, Toure represents the spine of the Man City team and it is not overstating it to suggest his absence and previous loss of form is one of the main reasons why City have been so disappointing this season.
2. Improving defence makes United even more formidable
At the end of December, Rio Ferdinand issued a rallying call to his fellow United defenders.
Having conceded 28 goals in 18 games, Ferdinand acknowledged that the team had not been good enough at the back.
Since then though, there has been a noticeable improvement in the area, which of course can at least partially be attributed to the relatively recent return of Nemanja Vidic. Against both QPR yesterday, and equally, during their recent Champions League clash against Real Madrid, United looked extremely well-organised and efficient when defending.
This enhanced aspect of their game will doubtless be enormously encouraging and satisfying to Alex Ferguson, particularly as the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans have been frequently written off by countless commentators in the past.
3. Cazorla one of the few Arsenal players worthy of comparison to the ‘Invincibles’
(Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla reacts after scoring against Aston Villa – Bogdan Maran/AP/Press Association Images)
Every time Arsenal get a negative result these days, there seems to be talk of a ‘crisis,’ but there was no doubting the importance, from a psychological viewpoint as much as anything, of beating Villa yesterday.
On such occasions, big players are required to step up to the plate, and Santi Cazorla duly obliged in this instance.
Despite only signing in the summer, the Spaniard has rapidly established himself as an essential member of the first team, and his brace against Villa was indicative of the prowess he has demonstrated throughout the season.
Of the current crop of players at Arsenal, only Cazorla and perhaps, Jack Wilshere, would be good enough to contend for a place in the legendary ‘Invincibles’ side that went an entire season unbeaten – as telling an indication as any of how far they’ve fallen since then.
4. Chelsea could do with Lukaku
So far, Chelsea have resisted the temptation of calling back their young striker, Romelu Lukaku, from his loan spell at West Brom. Nevertheless, Lukaku delivered a fine performance for the Baggies on Saturday, in which he scored a brace, as they downed Sunderland by two goals to one.
It was yet another reminder of his great talent and potential, and he’s consequently one of the primary reasons why West Brom have continually overachieved this season.
With Torres invariably unconvincing and Ba relatively quiet against Manchester City today, surely the Belgian international would bring a much-needed spark to their attack.
5. Reading looking like relegation fodder
Reading have delivered some decent performances this season, causing trouble for sides as good as Chelsea and Man City, without actually managing to beat them.
However, noble losses against patently superior opponents look hollow when teams fail to perform in more winnable encounters, as was the case for the Royals against Wigan yesterday.
They were brushed aside 3-0 by Roberto Martinez’s men, despite being two points ahead of them in the league prior to the match.
Consequently, they are now likely to be considered as prime candidates by most commentators for relegation, and deservedly so, on the basis of that performance.