Six things we learnt from this weekend's Premier League: Stoke surprise Arsenal with style, not victory; Papiss Cisse outshines Diego Costa

Aguero blow costs City more than they can afford, Spurs need to solve more than one problem at home, West Ham's realistic expectations and Liverpool face the music

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The Independent Football

Another Arsenal defeat at Stoke is not a surprise, but the manner of it was

Seeing the Gunners come away from the Britannia with a defeat is not a surprise these days. They haven’t won there since February 2010, a highly-charged affair in which Aaron Ramsey suffered a horrendous broken leg and Ryan Shawcross was sent-off for his challenge on the Welshman. Since that day, Arsene Wenger’s side have suffered three defeats and two draws, and have shown a tendency to be completely outmuscled by a well-drilled Stoke side.

But not this time. While Stoke still show signs of the physicality that earned them their reputation, Mark Hughes has implemented a style of play that works for both the players and the fans. An error from Calum Chambers saw Peter Crouch capitalise on a chance inside the first 20 seconds, while Jon Walters scored a similar goal to secure the 3-2 victory. But in between, Spanish striker Bojan netted a goal of his own to cap a brilliant performance that sees him continue to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s most talented hidden gems. He orchestrated the downfall of Arsenal’s under-performing defence, and exposed them for what they truly are – not good enough.

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Stoke players celebrate after Jon Walters scores a third

Papiss Cisse outshines Diego Costa

The talk pre-kick-off was of how the returning Diego Costa would inspire Chelsea to victory after serving a one-match suspension and continue their relentless march to the title without losing a game along the way. 90 minutes later, Alan Pardew was praising a “great day for the Premier League” after Papiss Cisse emerged from the bench to net twice and secure a famous victory for the Magpies – his third brace of the season.

 

Pardew has done extremely well to ride out the north-east storm and retain his job at St James’ Park given the fans’ clamour to see him axed, but Cisse’s return has proven integral to his survival. His two goals against Swansea on his return triggered the Magpies’ change in fortunes, and he salvaged another point last time out against Burnley. Having won five points single-handedly, Newcastle would be floating precariously above the relegation dogfight had it not been for the Senegalese striker’s heroics.

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Diego Costa struggled to make an impact in the defeat to Newcastle

West Ham’s Christmas run will determine if top four need to take them seriously

Sam Allardyce turns West Ham’s performances around, welcomes back a fit-again Andy Carroll who scores twice in one game and sends the Hammers to the unchartered waters of third place. It’s a script you’d have though could only be written, but it’s being lived out at Upton Park to the jubilation of the fans. Unsurprisingly, talk of a top-four finish and European football next term is being [quietly] spoken about among the Hammers’ faithful, but are they realistic expectations?

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Andy Carroll heads in his second

West Ham face an end-of-year run that will go a long way to revealing whether those expectations can be reached. Starting with matches against Sunderland away and Leicester at home, Allardyce will want at least four points – and you’d expect six – before taking on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. They end the year by hosting a severely out-of-form Arsenal side, and you get the feeling that nine points from 12 will set them up brilliantly for the second half of the season. Now where’s that banner calling for “Fat Sam Out” gone?

Spurs have much bigger troubles at home than which stadium they play at

Tottenham are determined to secure a move away from White Hart Lane in order to redevelop the current stadium and expand its capacity to match the Premier League’s best. But a look at their record at home reveals a much deeper problem – and a more worrying one if your name is Mauricio Pochettino.  Spurs have won just four of their Premier League matches at White Hart Lane this season.

Defeats to Liverpool, Newcastle, West Brom and Stoke have been compounded by the weekend draw with Crystal Palace. Having taken 10 points from eight games means there home record rivals the likes of Stoke, Aston Villa and Sunderland, and that simply isn’t the company the home fans want to be in at the north London club.

City’s £87m strike force could be unhinged by Sergio Aguero absence, but there’s one they let getaway

The 1-0 victory over Everton came at a great cost for Manchester City after Sergio Aguero limped out of the game with barely 90 seconds on the clock. The seemingly unstoppable striker was halted, like so many times in his career before, with a niggling muscular injury that could keep him out of action for a month. City’s pursuit of Chelsea at the top of the table has been due to Aguero’s brilliant form of late, having scored 14 goals in the top flight and an additional five in Europe.

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Sergio Aguero in tears as he leaves the pitch injured

Having spent £87m on bring Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic to the club, Manuel Pellegrini now finds himself with a serious problem on his hands. Dzeko only returned from a month out on Saturday evening and he was deemed not fit enough to replace Aguero, with Pellegrini choosing to deploy academy product Jose Angel Pozo before bringing the Bosnian on in the second half. Jovetic is also currently injured, but what will irk City fans so much is that they have a perfectly fit and in-form striker currently playing north of the border.

John Guidetti is yet to be given a chance at the Etihad, and has scored 11 goals for Celtic this season. The 22-year-old Sweden international has been linked with a move to another Premier League club at the end of the season, although Bhoys manager Ronny Deila has expressed his desire to hold on to his services if possible. However, it seems the club that currently needs him the most is the one that actually owns him.

Liverpool can reignite their season with a wins against Manchester United and Arsenal – how they need it

A 0-0 draw at home against Sunderland is nothing to brag about, especially when your captain and talismanic midfielder over the last decade-plus starts on the bench, but there is reason to be slightly optimistic at Liverpool. Some may look at the next two league games – Manchester United at Old Trafford and Arsenal at home – as a daunting prospect that could see their season begin to spiral out of control, but two victories would reinvigorate the squad and close the gap on the top-four by some margin.

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Steven Gerrard started the draw on the bench

If the Reds are within touching distance of the top four come the turn of the year and finally welcome back a fit again Daniel Sturridge in January, things may soon brighten up over Anfield as the diggers move in to begin work on their stadium.

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