Premier League Rounds 21 and 22: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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This past week featured Premier League teams engaging in two fixtures in a short period of time.

Moves up and down the table can be drastic when six points are on offer and some teams have taken advantage of the opportunity while others did not.

So, who made the cut for this week’s edition of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

The Good

Wayne Rooney

Talk of Rooney’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. I’ve been of the opinion that the system Louis van Gaal is forcing upon Manchester United had more to do with Rooney’s lack of goal scoring than did a severe drop in ability.

Is he as good as he once was?


Will he ever be as good as he was during the 2009-10 season?

That’s a no as well.

Is he still a player capable of contributing to offensive success?

The Red Devils’ last five fixtures are indicative that England’s all-time leading scorer is still capable of doing just that.

Going back to Rooney’s sensational winner against Swansea City during Round 20 of the Premier League the ex-Everton forward has scored five goals and contributed one assist in all competitions (four matches).

He saved Manchester United’s blushes with an emphatic penalty during stoppage time of the F.A. Cup match with Sheffield United.

The Round 21 fixture against Newcastle United featured Rooney at his best. He dispatched another penalty kick into the net to give the Red Devils the lead early on during the fixture. He then made a phenomenal pass to set up Jesse Lingard for United’s second goal of the match.

Rooney saved the best for last, though, when he pounced on a Memphis shot which was blocked and sent a thunderbolt into the top corner of the net from outside of the box.

That shot was certainly a match-winning goal, but United could not hold on for the victory.

Rooney’s next goal did lead to three points for Manchester United during their next match. And it was a big one.

Marouane Fellaini’s header during the latter stages of the Northwest Derby against Liverpool crashed against the crossbar before being pounced on by Rooney. It was a tricky shot because Rooney had to wait for the ball to come down off the bounce before he could blast it past Simon Mignolet and into the back of the net.

It was his first goal at Anfield since 2005 and what a massive goal it was. United did not play well, and Rooney hardly touched the ball, but he did work hard. And his hard work was rewarded in the end.

Rooney is really carrying the club by the scruff of the neck at the moment and he might have to continue to do so if Manchester United want to climb back into the top four of the Premier League table.

As Toby Keith put it, he’s not as good as he once was, but he’s as good once as he ever was.

Dimitri Payet

The French midfielder was having a fantastic season for the Hammers before suffering an ankle injury during their 1-1 draw with Everton on November 7.

It was a shame to see that happen to a player having his career season, and I wondered how West Ham would fare without him.

Predictably, It did not go too well.

They went 1-5-1 in their seven matches without him. That’s just eight points in seven matches.

Payet made his return against Liverpool on January 12, a match which West Ham won 2-0, but it wasn’t until their Round 21 fixture against Bournemouth that Payet really looked like pre-injury Payet.

He contributed a goal and an assist to the Hammers’ 3-1 victory in just 78 minutes played. It was a man of the match performance and his best since returning from injury.

And though he was not able to follow up that performance with another great one during their 2-1 loss to Newcastle during the weekend, the Bournemouth match should give West Ham fans hope that the Payet of old will show up consistently in the near future.

Aston Villa

The Villains are in a rough spot. They’ve been the bottom club in the table for seemingly the entire season. That’s kind of what happens when you don’t find a second win in the Premier League until January 12.

The bottom line, though, is that Villa need to start picking up points. They’re going to have to stun some teams that are quite a bit ahead of them in the table and they are going to have to do so with a frequency that they seem entirely incapable of achieving at the moment.

There is no time like the present to start playing better though. And that is exactly what Aston Villa did during Rounds 21 and 22 of the Premier League.

Aston Villa welcomed Crystal Palace to Villa Park for their midweek fixture on January 12 and they earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory. It was just their second win of the Premier League season but it was fully deserved.

Crystal Palace are struggling, yes, but they are still a top half of the table team (for now), so this was a good three points for Aston Villa.

The win against Alan Pardew’s men was Aston Villa’s third clean sheet of the Premier League season. Just their third … man, that’s bad.

Aston Villa followed up the win against Crystal Palace with a 1-1 draw against title contenders Leicester City.

The Villains pretty much wasted the entire first half against the Foxes and found themselves down 1-0. They passed the ball side-to-side with little to no penetration. It was easy for Leicester City to defend.

Things changed in the second half, though, and Aston Villa forced Leicester City to work much harder in defense. They played incisive passes into the box. They bombarded the Foxes with dangerous crosses into the box.

It was fun to watch. It was some of the best football the Villains have played all season and it was against a significantly better team.

While still trailing 1-0, the Villains had two very legitimate penalty shouts. They were awarded neither, quite harshly I might add, but were awarded a bit of justice later on when Rudy Gestede handled the ball before scoring the game-tying goal.

Aston Villa are still in a bad spot despite picking up four out of six points during this stretch. They find themselves six points behind 19th place Sunderland, nine points behind 18th place Newcastle and 10 points behind 17th place Swansea City.

They still don’t look like a good bet to escape relegation this season, but they gave great effort during these two matches. They fought through adversity to earn a point against Leicester City. It was a match they probably deserved to win, but it is the type of match they’ve found ways to lose to this point during the season.

Aston Villa are a club with rich history and tradition. They also have a great fanbase. The least these players can do for them the rest of the season is give maximum effort. The indication from these two fixtures is that if they go down then the Villains intend on going down with a fight.

BONUS: How about the second half from Chelsea’s match with Everton? Six goals in the second half. SIX GOALS IN THE SECOND HALF!!! Including a 98th minute equalizer from John Terry. Check out the highlights if you haven’t already.

Next: The Bad