Arsenal powers 7 points clear in Premier League
Arsenal powered to a provisional seven-point lead in the Premier League after beating Cardiff 3-0 on Saturday, with Aaron Ramsey’s prolific season touching new heights with a double against his former club.
There was more misery for Fulham at the other end of the standings, with a demoralizing 3-0 loss at fellow struggler West Ham keeping the team in the bottom three and leaving beleaguered manager Martin Jol fighting for his job.
Ramsey marked his return to his boyhood club by taking his remarkable goal tally for the season to 13 in all competitions. Mathieu Flamini scored in between in the leaders’ 10th victory in 13 games.
“This is where I started my career and where everything began, and hopefully they’ve seen the player they produced today,” said Ramsey, arguably the Premier League’s star player so far this season.
Everton moved level on points with second-place Liverpool and third-place Chelsea, which both play Sunday. Everton, now fourth, had a crushing 4-0 home win over Stoke that was rounded off by Romelu Lukaku’s eighth goal in nine league games.
And in-form Newcastle is just one point and provisionally one place further back after a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion secured by goals from Frenchman Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko in the team’s fourth victory in a row.
At the bottom, Crystal Palace dropped to last place by losing 1-0 at Norwich in Tony Pulis’ first match in charge of the London side.
Jol acknowledged on Friday that he could be fired if he lost against West Ham at Upton Park and again at home to former club Tottenham on Wednesday. The Dutchman is halfway there after this fifth straight league defeat.
“It is not in my hands,” Jol said. “If I have to worry, I was probably worried a couple of months ago because it is not one day and then the other. It is probably the last two months we have been inconsistent.”
Sunderland climbed off the bottom with a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa in Saturday’s other game.
By the end of his latest goalscoring display, both Arsenal and Cardiff fans were singing Ramsey’s name.
The midfielder left the Welsh capital to join Arsenal in 2008 as a 17-year-old hopeful and has taken his time to mature into the kind of free-scoring player that Premier League defenses just can’t cope with this season.
Ramsey headed in a cross from Mesut Ozil in the 29th minute to put Arsenal ahead, and finished off the victory on a counterattack in injury time. He refused to celebrate either goal.
“It shows you how much Aaron Ramsey has improved,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We came here two or three years ago and he had a nightmare here in a cup game.”
“You are always torn between being happy to score and happy you can win the game,” Wenger added, “but out of respect for the club where he was educated he didn’t celebrate.”
Ozil set up Flamini’s goal, too, slotting a perfectly weighted pass into the area for the France midfielder to hammer into the net in the 86th.
“When you play first (on a Premier League weekend), you can only do your job and see what happens after,” Wenger said after Arsenal’s sixth win in seven away matches in the league. “But if you do your job well, you can relax.”
Gerard Deulofeu, on his first league start, Seamus Coleman and Bryan Oviedo joined Lukaku in scoring in Everton’s easy win over Stoke to stay undefeated at home in the league in 2013.
While a lot of the plaudits fell once again on Lukaku, the performance of 19-year-old Deulofeu — who is on loan from Barcelona — also stood out after being handed his starting debut by Catalonia-born manager Roberto Martinez.
“It was the most satisfying individual performance that we had because he had to wait for so long to get his chance,” Martinez said.
Fulham’s loss was West Ham’s gain on Saturday as goals by Mohamed Diame, Carlton Cole and Joe Cole ended the Hammers’ five-match winless run which had left them just above the relegation zone.
It remains to be seen whether Jol keeps his job through to the Tottenham game in midweek.
“The manager takes all the flak really but, ultimately, the players need to take massive responsibility,” Fulham midfielder Scott Parker said.
“He is the one that picks us and we are the ones who go out there. It is not nice being down at the bottom of the table and obviously confidence is low but I don’t think it is a fact that the players are not willing to put in the hard work, because we are.”