A Week In Football: Signs of life at the Stadium of Light, but Palace continue to free-fall

They are still in the relegation and still need to massively improve, but Sunderland have their first win of the season, in the North East derby no less. After being hammered 4-0 by Swansea in his first game in charge, this victory over Newcastle will gone a long way to endearing Poyet to the Sunderland fans. In the end, the 2-1 score line somewhat flatters the home side, not that the Stadium of Light faithful will mind. However, if Sunderland want to achieve safety this season, not just bragging rights, then Poyet stills has much work to do.

The goal Sunderland conceded highlights that they still have defensive frailties, as Debuchy was able to ghost in and tap home a Ben Arfa cross/shot totally unmarked. In midfield, Sunderland were outfought by their North East neighbours, and this control of possession is reflected in the sixteen shots Newcastle notched up; double Sunderland’s eight. Up front is where Sunderland’s hopes for the season lie; new boy Altidore has been a growing presence for the Black Cats and the US international bullied Newcastle’s makeshift centre back pairing this weekend. In Altidore and Fletcher, Sunderland have a potentially excellent partnership. The boy off the bench, Borini, who grabbed the winner against Newcastle, could also have an impact this year if he can recapture the form that earned him his move to from Roma to Liverpool.

Life is not so rosy down in London for Crystal Palace, whose terrible start to the season has now seen Holloway tender his resignation. Without a manager, Palace were never going to have an easy time against title pace setters Arsenal. When the result came, it had a feeling of inevitability about it, as the Gunners came out 0-2 victors. Rooted to the foot of the table with a single point, it will be difficult for Eagles fans to take much optimism from yet another defeat. However, Palace made victory difficult for Arsenal, with long, direct passes to Chamakh causing problems for the Gunners’ backline. With former Stoke boss Tony Pulis looking set to be the next man in charge at Selhurst Park, that long ball is likely to become a feature of Palace’s play. It won’t be pretty, but if Palace are to have any hope of survival, and that would take some turnaround, Pulis’ route one, combative style will be key.

Pulis’ former side Stoke will feel bitter at not having helped their own survival cause against Manchester United. Mark Hughes finally dropped Kenwye Jones and was vindicated in his decision, as Peter Crouch caused the struggling Reds all sorts of problems even if his goal was rather fortuitous. The performance, if not the result, was a step in the right direction for Stoke, who find themselves above Norwich and out of the relegation zone only on goal difference. The Canaries will be even more despondent than Stoke that they weren’t able to get a win this weekend, with the Cardiff goal lived a charmed existence as the Welsh side and Norwich played out a goalless draw.

With the battle at the bottom intensifying, the Premier League is looking as tight as ever, even more so at the top. With Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham all winning this weekend, competition is fierce. All have excellent sides, and the two Manchester teams certainly aren’t going to lay down and die either. With United attempting to cobble together some kind of form, and City boasting greater strength in depth than any other Premier League team, there is a genuine six way title race that is sure to provide much entertainment.

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