Premier League Round 20: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


With 2015 in the books, the clubs of the Premier League were looking to get 2016 started the right way with a win during matchday 20. Which clubs were successful and which clubs need to go back to the drawing board?

Find out in this edition of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

Titanic Showdown

Premier League match of the season, right? This one had massive implications on the table … just not the top of the table.

This was a must-win for both teams, so the logical result would have been a draw. Neither side picks up three points, thus not helping themselves at all.

Well, surprisingly, one side was able to pick up an ever elusive victory, while the other was left to contemplate the depths of their failure this season.

So, yes, from a certain point of view Sunderland hosting Aston Villa was a titanic showdown. Titanic in the sense that both of these clubs have struck an iceberg and could not possibly sink towards the Championship any faster.

Big Sam’s Sunderland managed to inflict a damaging 3-1 defeat upon Remi Garde’s Aston Villa. It was a badly needed result for both teams as Sunderland are now just four points away from safety, but Aston Villa’s season appears lost at this point.

The Villains are eleven points behind Swansea City, the first side above the relegation zone, and have not won a match since the opening fixture of the season.

The situation at Villa Park is dire and there appears to be no end in sight to their miserable season. To add injury to insult, the Villains have also lost one of their talented young players in Adama Traore for an extended period of time. It is so bad that an Aston Villa board member has compared the situation facing his club to a Desert Storm situation he was involved in.

Now, since this is “the good” section of the article, that’s enough about Aston Villa.

The Black Cats went through a rough December during which they lost all five of their matches, so they desperately needed a win. A win which they found by a 3-1 margin.

This win has to be just the start, though, of an extended run of better form from Sunderland if they are to escape the relegation zone. Their victories this season have been against Newcastle in 18th, Stoke City in 10th, Crystal Palace in 7th and Aston Villa in 20th.

The Sunderland that beat good Stoke City and Crystal Palace teams needs to show itself more often if they are to survive. This match saw Sunderland score three goals. It was just the fifth time this season that they scored more than one goal in a Premier League match, and two of those instances were in the first month of the season. Can this be the launch point for a more consistent Sunderland?

The Black Cats might need to make a few signings this month if they want to survive. With the victory against Aston Villa and one signing already complete, 2016 is off to a good start for Sunderland.

Wayne Rooney scores and Manchester United win

Manchester United’s problems have been well documented, just as the form of their captain. For one round of fixtures, though, those problems disappeared as the Red Devils secured three points for the first time in more than one month by defeating Swansea City 2-1 at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils scored first for the first time in ages as an Anthony Martial header found the back of the net just two minutes after the second half kicked off.

Louis van Gaal’s charges were pegged back by Gylfi Sigurdsson on 70 minutes and it appeared as though a win would elude the Red Devils for a ninth consecutive match in all competitions.

When they needed it the most, though, Wayne Rooney stepped up to superbly direct Martial’s centering ball into the back of the net via a backheel.

It was a good result for the club and a goal Rooney sorely needed. Rooney is unlikely to reach the heights he once did as one of the world’s best players, but if he can chip in here and there when the club needs it then his place in the starting lineup won’t be such a big talking point before every match.

After going eight consecutive matches without a win, beggars cannot be choosers, but it was Swansea City at home. They are 17th in the Premier League and Manchester United should be winning games like these, something they have not been able to do lately.

Consider that Swansea City have tormented Manchester United since van Gaal took over and they should be pleased with the win, but it will be significant only if it sparks a run that gets Manchester United back on track towards a spot in the top four.

The Bad

Giving away points

Newcastle will be kicking themselves about how many late goals they give up when they are in position to pick up points.

Here is what they have done during their last four fixtures:

Matchday 20: Tied 0-0 away to Arsenal before Laurent Koscielny scores on 72 minutes. Newcastle loses 1-0.

Matchday 19: Tied 0-0 away to West Brom before Darren Fletcher scores on 78 minutes. Newcastle loses 1-0.

Matchday 18: Tied 0-0 home versus Everton before Tom Cleverly scores on 93 minutes. Newcastle loses 1-0.

Matchday 17: Up 1-0 at home versus Aston Villa before Jordan Ayew equalizes on 61 minutes in 1-1 draw.

Not exactly the run of results the Toon Army was looking for since Newcastle beat Liverpool and Tottenham consecutively.

Newcastle are not a good team. They certainly are not good enough to throw away points they are in position to secure. They have thrown away five points in their previous four fixtures, including a home match with Aston Villa which every team in the Premier League would kick themselves for dropping points against.

Newcastle would be 16th in the table if they had held onto those results. McLaren’s team have a legitimate shot of surviving if they can just find a way to keep what they have for the majority of matches and pip more results. The problem is that they seem incapable of doing so consistently.

Figuring out Crystal Palace

I can’t quite get a feel for what the Eagles are about as a side this season. They went on a nice run for a while and found themselves in with a shout for a top four position, but have since gone off the deep end with poor results.

Crystal Palace had been held without a goal four times during their first 17 Premier League fixtures. They have now gone three consecutive matches without scoring a goal, but can count themselves fortunate to have picked up two points from those fixtures.

As if that is not concerning enough to Crystal Palace supporters, the Eagles’ opponents during that three match stretch isn’t exactly a who’s who of Premier League teams.

They drew 0-0 away to Bournemouth, 0-0 at home against Swansea City and took a 3-0 loss at home to Chelsea. Those teams occupy 14th, 16th and 17th in the Premier League.

Pardew better hope they are more like the Chelsea of old, rather than being made to look that way by a poor Crystal Palace.

Their next Premier League match will provide a golden opportunity for Crystal Palace to get back on track when they travel to Villa Park. If they fail to win, though, then Eagles fans should be concerned about a second half slide down the table because Manchester City and Tottenham are their next two opponents.

The Ugly

What were you thinking?

Southampton’s problems against Norwich City started long before the match, and, honestly, they did not have much of a problem with the Canaries on the pitch when they had 11 men, but therein lies the problem.

Sadio Mane was late to a pre-match meeting, which cause Ronald Koeman to drop him from his original starting lineup. That is disrupting enough, but Southampton were handling it decently well before Victor Wanyama was sent off for a reckless challenge.

Wanyama picked up a yellow card for a bad challenge 35 minutes into the match and earned a straight red card for a horrible challenge when the game was scoreless on 73 minutes.

Three minutes later Alexander Tettey scored a goal to win the match for the Canaries. It was Southampton’s only shot on goal, but it was the only one they needed.

The Norwich City match is only a small part of a larger problem for the Saints. They are 1-1-6 in their previous eight Premier League matches. Their only win is the 4-0 destruction of Arsenal. Not included in that horrendous run of results is a 6-1 home loss to Liverpool in the Capital One Cup. Even their draw was bad as it came against Aston Villa.

The Saints are still seven points ahead of Newcastle and don’t need to worry about the relegation battle yet, but if they do not shape up soon then they will find themselves in that fight at the end of the season.