1. Crunch time for Arsenal and Liverpool
Knowing their fixtures over the next two months, Arsenal might have wanted something more than a two-point cushion against their title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea, but that’s what they’ve got. And bearing in mind Manchester City’s fixtures over the same period, Arsenal can’t really afford to take nothing from Anfield on Saturday morning; by the same token, any notion of being in the title race would surely dissipate for Liverpool if they lose to Arsenal. They would be 11 points off first place, and Rodgers can be bullish, but if that’s the case, 4th place would be the most they could get out of this season. Big game for both sides and should be great for the neutral.
2. Expect the Newcastle slide to continue
After the limpest defeat to Sunderland in the North East derby, Newcastle's morale is low. They’ve sold their best player, Yohan Cabaye, and if last weekend’s game is anything to go by - Newcastle don’t have the resources to replace him in their current squad and didn’t replace him in January, and Joe Kinnear conveniently resigned a couple of days after the window shut, the perfect fall guy - Newcastle look like they could be in for a bracing few months. The perfect time to go to Stamford Bridge then.
3. Sunderland looking odds on to stay up
After a truly woeful first half of the season, in which they were routed to the bottom for almost all of it, Sunderland now look the most resolute and confident team in the entire bottom half. And with various teams looking various degrees of vulnerable, Sunderland’s survival is now looking a likely scenario, insanity, considering how things were. A large reason for this has been the metamorphosis of Adam Johnson from a lazy, ineffectual waste of money to Player of the month-winning unstoppable force. A home fixture against Hull looks winnable for this team right now, and that could put them as much as five points clear of the drop zone.
4. Is Moyes job at risk if he loses to Fulham?
The fact remains that no other club in the world would tolerate a sink from Champions by 11 points to 7th placed also rans, with eight defeats before February. Manchester United pride themselves on their tradition and loyalty, but if Moyes was a bad appointment, which I don’t think would be a controversial statement right now, giving him too much time could result in severe damage being done to the club’s position in the league, and once you lose elite status, it can be very hard to get back. Just ask Liverpool. United might need to start considering options.
5. Has Sherwood’s bubble burst?
A loss to Everton would begin to suggest that Sherwood’s excellent form in the Premier League up to that Manchester City game was nothing more than ‘new manager boost’ - a phenomenon when just the presence of a new manager can boost a flagging team, Sunderland under Paolo Di Canio last season would be another example. Sherwood has taken one point from the last six, and if he wants to keep this job and more importantly, if Spurs want to keep top four as their ambition after a £100 million summer spend that should have taken them forwards not backwards, they really have to win this weekend.
6. Swansea vs the broken dreams
I think everyone thought after last season, where Swansea City won their first trophy, attained European qualification and finished in the top half, that Swansea were here to stay, a permanent fixture of the Premier League tapestry going forward. Well, this season has descended into a nightmare, with promising young manager Michael Laudrup freshly sacked, and they go into the Wales derby this weekend without a manager. They sit only two points above the relegation zone, and if their bad form continues for much longer, those 8/1 odds on Swansea’s relegation are starting to look very good indeed.