After an international break marked by genuine tragedy for many and triumph for some, it was a record-making return for the Premier League. Round 13 proved unlucky for none as the weekend offered something for fans of every stripe (or hoop, depending on who you support).
For fans of the underdog, Jamie Vardy and Leicester City capped off arguably the greatest plot twist in Premier League history. At this stage last season, the Foxes were bottom of the table and early relegation favourites and Vardy was still to prove he belonged in the top flight.
Fast-forward 12 months and one managerial change and the team sit pretty on top of the table in the same weekend Vardy equalled the Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record for consecutive goals scored. It’s the kind of fairytale rise that makes the Goal! trilogy look vaguely realistic. A swift reminder too, that football was indeed invented in 1992-93 and that all records prior are null and void.
Tottenham slaughtered giant-killers West Ham and Liverpool embarrassed Manchester City at the Etihad. Both now look the contenders in a two-horse race for the title of dark horse. It was a pair of comprehensive performances and given the nature of the league this season, may prove big results in the race for Top 4 and beyond.
For fans of the status quo, Arsenal put in their most Arsenalesque performance of the season, losing at West Brom amidst a number of season-threatening injuries to key players. It was a return to normality for a Gunners team that were edging worryingly towards becoming title-favourites. Mikel Arteta departed the field in the most Arsenal manner possible – having injured himself after replacing an injured player – but it was the man he replaced who will be most missed. Francis Coquelin, one of Arsenal’s standout performers this season, looks set to miss the next three months and leaves Arsene Wenger’s side as bare in defensive midfield as the Etihad in the 89th minute of the Liverpool match.
It was, however, a disappointing weekend for fans of schadenfreude everywhere as Chelsea managed to secure three points against Norwich at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho was quick to rule out a possible title-challenge, claiming it was a feat only Tom Cruise could pull off. The Blues remain 14 points behind leaders Leicester and a return to the summit looks as likely as Mourinho playing the villain in the next Mission Impossible film. Stranger things have happened, it must be said.
It was a weekend to remember for fans of the tragic hero, as Troy Deeney’s eleventh hour exploits against Manchester United condemned Watford to heartbreaking defeat. Deeney looked to have secured a draw for his side as he converted from the spot to cancel out Memphis Depay’s earlier effort, but in the 90th minute, Deeney slid in to clear Schneiderlin’s cross-shot and bundled the ball into the back of his own net to gift United all three points. For the hosts, it was as fortuitous timing as a Sepp Blatter health scare when faced with a corruption charge.