The Saturday Night Takeaway: Chelsea capitalise on Arsenal and Liverpool shortcomings

Tottenham position themselves as the only potential challenger to the Premier League leaders

BY Raf Diallo 19:45 Saturday 4 February 2017, 19:45 4 Feb 2017

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho leaves the pitch dejected after the final whistle. Picture by RIchard Sellers EMPICS Sport

This week was potentially one that would crystalise the Premier League title race.

With Chelsea facing both Liverpool and Arsenal in the space of four days, two losses in a row for the Blues could have brought the title race back to life.

However, a 1-1 draw at Anfield and a 3-1 home win over Arsenal means Chelsea are getting ever closer to the promised land of Premier League glory.

Their two opponents from the week were obliging on Saturday in similar ways.

It leaves a Tottenham side who saw off Middlesbrough 1-0 at White Hart Lane as the side best positioned to try and claw back Chelsea and provide some semblance of a title challenge.

Same old Arsenal

The Gunners have one of the better squads in the league on paper and the addition of Shkodran Mustafi has added more steel to the back four.

Yet, the same old failings have reared their heads again despite a promising start to the season.

When they decisively swept Chelsea aside by a 3-0 scoreline earlier in the campaign, it seemed the Gunners were most likely to challenge for glory and that Antonio Conte's side were in crisis.

But the 3-1 result at Stamford Bridge today has ended Arsenal's title challenge and their injury curse shows no sign of going away.

In the 3-0 win, they fielded their strongest side which featured the magic feet of Santi Cazorla. But the playmaker has been absent for months now. Aaron Ramsey also picked up an injury against Watford, Jack Wilshere is out on loan and Granit Xhaka is still suspended.

That left Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who has only sporadically featured centrally for Arsenal, filling in where Cazorla and Ramsey normally would.

More troubling was the lack of urgency as soon as Marcos Alonso put Chelsea in front after 13 minutes even if the newly under pressure Arsene Wenger refused to question his players' attitude.

It's back to the drawing board for his side but perhaps when the season comes to an end in May, a new artist should be painting the Arsenal pictures in order to spark something different.

Of course, they would have to be careful what they wish for but some sections of the Arsenal fanbase are losing patience. 

And same old Liverpool 

Arsenal are often accused of lacking determination but at least they have the consolation of Top Four finishes season after season.

But to call a spade a spade, here are their finishing positions since the 2008-09 season when they just missed out on the Premier League title: 7th, 6th, 8th, 7th, 2nd, 6th and 8th. 

For a club of their stature, that has been dire and a look at the squad's quality aside from the three or four front players says a lot. This season has been positive results wise up until a 2017 which has thus far proven to be one filled with setback after setback.

Defeats in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup aside, Liverpool have yet to win in the Premier League during 2017, with three draws and two defeats.

As Off The Ball's Kevin Kilbane said recently, it's results against teams that would be generally regarded as weaker on paper that have "come back to haunt Liverpool".

Case in point, last month's 3-2 home surrender to Swansea and today's 2-0 loss at an admittedly improving Hull City.

While Top 4 is the realistic ambition for the Reds, there had been a time that a possible title shot was on the cards especially with no European commitments.

But Liverpool have been looking flat and are flattering to deceive. Especially for a Jurgen Klopp team, flat performances are a concern given that he demands a heavy metal up-tempo style.

If Manchester City beat Swansea on Sunday, Liverpool will drop out of the Top 4 and with Manchester United hovering just behind if they can overcome Leicester City. 

And with Tottenham coming up and a desperate Leicester City coming up next, Liverpool could face freefall if they cannot arrest current form.

Allardyce's lost magic?

Often a new manager's arrival results in a bounce in results. But not so when it comes to Crystal Palace.

And it's all the more surprising as Sam Allardyce is the survival expert that can bring out extra percentage points out of his teams.

Yet, a humbling 4-0 loss to what has been a very poor Sunderland side on Saturday added to a run of four losses from six games since he arrived.

It also wipes away the optimism that grew from the Eagles midweek win over Bournemouth and more concerning is that they are now joint bottom with Sunderland on 19 points.

Allardyce's experience with England was chastening for the manager and whatever the cause, he hasn't been able to reproduce his club magic at Selhurst Park. 

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