Sunday 01 June 2014
Manchester City maintained their excellent pace of December with four successive victories that took them top of the Barclays Premier League, while Juan Mata was the most high-profile of the January player transfers as he completed a club-record £37.1m move from Chelsea to Manchester United.
"Manchester City are the best team on the planet"
Early-season pacesetters Arsenal began the calendar year well, stretching their winning sequence to five Barclays Premier League matches with victories over Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Fulham, but the loss of Theo Walcott to a cruciate-ligament injury in their FA Cup third-round defeat of Tottenham Hotspur and Aaron Ramsey to a thigh injury on Boxing Day would prove telling over the coming weeks. The Gunners' 2-2 draw at Southampton opened the door for Manchester City to replace them at the summit.
Manuel Pellegrini claimed the Barclays Manager of the Month award manager after his side dispatched Swansea City, Newcastle United, Cardiff and Tottenham Hotspur in style, scoring 14 goals in the process and routing Spurs 5-1 at White Hart Lane, with the help of Sergio Aguero's 50th Barclays Premier League goal, to move a point clear of the Gunners.
Chelsea were just two points further back thanks to successive wins over Southampton, Hull and Manchester United, with Samuel Eto'o's hat-trick earning Jose Mourinho his 100th Barclays Premier League win as manager of the Blues and consigning David Moyes' side to a defeat that left them 14 points behind the leaders. The west London side missed out on the chance to move level on points with Arsenal, however, as they were held to a goalless draw at home to West Ham United, whose manager Sam Allardyce delighted in the fact he had "out-tacticked" Mourinho.
Like Chelsea and Arsenal, Liverpool also mustered 10 out of a possible 12 points in January, plundering 13 goals and closing out the month with a memorable 4-0 triumph in the Merseyside derby, with the help of a brace from Daniel Sturridge, a Steven Gerrard header and Luis Suarez's 23rd Barclays Premier League goal of the season. The win took the fourth-placed Reds four points clear of their city rivals and seven points behind City, leaving Everton a point shy of fifth-placed Spurs.
At the other end of the table Cardiff found themselves in last place, despite the appointment Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager on 2 January and the arrival of six new signings in the transfer window, following straight reverses at the hands of Arsenal, West Ham, Man City and Man United. Fulham were just a point better off after sustaining three successive losses following their New Year's Day victory over West Ham. Allardyce's side lay third from bottom and level on 19 points with the Cottagers at the end of January after collecting four points from a possible 12.
Under Gus Poyet, Sunderland appeared to have steadied the ship, with victories over Fulham and Stoke City, and a draw with Southampton helping the Black Cats out of the bottom three and Adam Johnson to the Barclays Player of the Month award. Tony Pulis's appointment at Crystal Palace was also having the desired effect as his side, too, produced seven points from a possible 12 to help the Eagles soar to 14th. West Brom were a place further back as Steve Clarke's replacement as head coach, the Spaniard Pepe Mel, sought his first victory in the Barclays Premier League after arriving on 9 January.
With just nine points separating Cardiff from 10th-placed Aston Villa the relegation battle was becoming as difficult to predict as the title race, as borne out by the fact that Norwich City, who would ultimately finish in the bottom three, were in 12th place at the end of the month after suffering just one defeat in their four matches.
The opening of the transfer window elicited plenty of activity in the market as clubs took the opportunity to strengthen their squads. Manchester United made the most eye-catching move as they swooped for Chelsea's Juan Mata in a bid to improve their prospects of finishing in the top four. The Spaniard cost a club-record £37.1m and freed up funds for Mourinho's side to pick up four new recruits of their own including Nemanja Matic, a midfielder they re-signed from Benfica and Basel's Mohamed Salah.
Arsenal snapped up Kim Kallstrom from Spartak Moscow on a free transfer, Everton picked up Aidan McGeady, from the same Russian club, as well as Monaco striker Lacina Traore on loan, while Hull City signed Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long from Everton and West Bromwich Albion respectively. The most business, however, was conducted by those clubs looking to propel themselves out of the danger zone, with both Cardiff and West Ham swooping for six players each and Fulham leading the way with seven signings, including Greece striker Konstantinos Mitroglu, of Olympiacos.
"Chelsea is a top club and I have many friends there but you cannot turn down the chance to join Manchester United."
Juan Mata on joining the Barclays Premier League champions
"Manchester City are the best team on the planet, certainly the Premier League."
Tottenham Hotspur head coach Tim Sherwood following his side's 5-1 defeat by City
"Of course it is nice and 100 victories in the Premier League is obviously one more fantastic thing for my career, but the most important thing is really to win the match."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after his side's 3-1 home win over Manchester United
"It was a gamble to go with two strikers but that's the reason we took the risk. We got four goals and could've had six or seven. It was a brilliant demonstration of how to play under pressure."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after his side's Merseyside derby win
Barclays Premier League table on 29 January 2014.