Seven things we learnt this weekend: The Premier League table is fascinating and Liverpool are genuine title contenders

Also, how In nine matches against the bottom six Sunderland have taken six points

1. Premier League table makes for fascinating reading

This season is one of the most exciting for years with the Premier League table shifting every week. It's been a season when just as a team looks certain to march on to the title, they falter. First it was Manchester City and then Chelsea. With victories for Liverpool and Arsenal at the weekend against their respective biggest rivals, the teams in red are back in contention.

The other end of the league is just as interesting, with relegation 'certainties' Fulham finally getting a win at the weekend and ensuring no team at that end of the table can rest on their laurels.

2. Liverpool can win the Premier League title

A trip to Old Trafford, despite all that has gone on at Manchester United this season, remains one of the toughest tests in football. Yet Liverpool oozed confidence and quality in the intimidating atmosphere and deservedly ran out comfortable winners. With games against title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City still to come, Brendan Rodgers' side showed that they have the confidence to win those games.

3. In the must-win games, Sunderland fire blanks

When the boos rang around the Stadium of Light they were for both Crystal Palace and Sunderland, two teams who might join each other in the cold embrace of relegation. Should Sunderland go down, it will be for two reasons – the civil war unleashed on his own dressing room by Paolo Di Canio and their failure to beat the teams around them.

In nine matches against the clubs in the bottom six, Sunderland have amassed a grand total of six points. In four matches against those teams on Wearside – the absolute definition of a must-win game – Sunderland have yet to score so much as a goal.

4. A Mel win at last, but Baggies flag not yet a chequered one

Astonishingly, before their 2-1 win at Swansea City, the last time West Bromwich Albion won away was when Steve Clarke sat in the press room at Old Trafford explaining how his side had destroyed Manchester United. Forty-six days later Clarke was sacked. So it is probably not wise to set too much store by Pepe Mel’s first win as West Bromwich manager 65 days after his appointment.

But for a superb display by Ben Foster in goal, Swansea might have wrapped the match up before half-time. Mel is still not secure but if his side take points from their next three games – against Hull, Cardiff and Norwich Cities – the Spanish flags the Baggies fans have brought to back their manager will not have to be put away just yet.

5. Newcastle’s hopes are ropy on visits to rickety grounds

Once the furore about goal-line technology had cleared away and it became clear that Alan Pardew, watching the transmission from the team hotel, had not assaulted a waiter or thrown a television out of his bedroom window, Newcastle United could contemplate their fifth straight defeat at Fulham.

Craven Cottage has been one of the Premier League’s most inviting venues. However, Newcastle have always had a problem with elderly, slightly ramshackle football grounds. They failed to win on any of their final 15 visits to The Dell and only started beating Southampton when the Saints moved to a purpose-built venue that looks like most other modern football grounds.

6. Solskjaer signings won’t be the salvation of Cardiff

When Malky Mackay was finally prised from the manager’s room at Cardiff, most people believed the club would survive. Firstly, because however loathsomely Vincent Tan had behaved, he would provide hard cash in the January transfer window and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s track record with Molde was impressive. However, while Solskjaer’s tactics and Cardiff’s fight drew applause after the desperately narrow 2-1 defeat at Everton, a look at the team sheet suggested that the transfer budget might not be the key to survival. Four of the men Solskjaer has signed began on the bench.

7. Lambert should have head start on Carroll for Brazil

In the wake of Southampton’s 4-2 crushing of Norwich that will once more have Chris Hughton standing his round in Carrow Road’s last chance saloon, Rickie Lambert was asked about his hopes of going to the World Cup. Lambert, who was watched by Roy Hodgson, replied that he could not see the England manager taking both him and Andy Carroll, who had scored in West Ham United’s 3-1 defeat at Stoke City.

If it is a choice between Lambert and Carroll, the Southampton man should start inquiring about suncream because in his last, injury-blighted year England’s most expensive striker has scored five goals. Rather more pointedly, West Ham have won only one of those matches in which he found the net.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power