Liverpool starting to show top class
There’s never a dull moment in the Premier League, is there? We saw more cracks in Arsenal, a shock in the West Midlands and more evidence that Brendan Rodgers' program is in full effect.
And let’s start with Liverpool, who dismantled Tottenham on Sunday with a big statement of intent. I do not agree with my colleague, Keith Costigan, that Luis Suarez is the best Liverpool player ever -- but I will agree that Suarez is the deadliest player in this league right now. Without Steven Gerrard, Liverpool needed someone to steer the ship, and we saw that from both him and Jordan Henderson today in a real master class.
Spurs were simply blown apart and while Andre Villas-Boas will point to the sending off of Paulinho, that misses the point. Tottenham – and their manager’s failings -- were both exposed. They left themselves far too open at the back – but more worrying is that they didn’t even have a shot on frame. That’s simply inexcusable for the money they have splashed out this season and I think the Tottenham board now has a difficult choice.
I’ve spoken often before about how Villas-Boas is confusing matters. There’s too much tinkering and too many spreadsheets. He has not chosen a consistent lineup, and what that has done is complicate matters. Those failings – and they are his failings – were exposed today. How Spurs’ board reacts to this will be interesting to watch.
Arsenal are also feeling a bit of the heat. There’s no shame in losing at the Etihad, where Manchester City have set up a fortress. But the score line should be taken as a message: Arsenal let slip six goals to conclude a miserable week and some of the things we saw from them both during and after the game reflect that.
Jack Wilshere should know better than to insult the crowd and the ref with a gesture like that. That’s not what you want to see from and England player, and he’s likely to take a ban for it. He, and Arsenal, did have a couple reasons to be upset – I thought ref Martin Atkinson got a penalty call wrong and the linesman was wrong on an offside– but overall, City were dominant. I didn’t see Arsenal winning that game, and I think Arsene Wenger would admit that. Arsenal simply don’t have enough yet, and I wonder if now Wenger will go into the window and spend. His team looked tired – and he has to know it doesn’t get any easier from here.
On the other hand, I do think what we saw between Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil may be good in the long run for the Gunners. Mertesacker and Ozil are very close friends, and the defender was right to reprimand Ozil for not saluting the away fans as is club tradition. It’s always good to see someone stepping up as a leader, so I hope on Monday, when the team gets back and looks at this game, they will see the positive from that incident.
City now look a real threat – but they have to play better on the road. They can score goals, and what a difference Vincent Kompany makes to this squad, but why don’t they play that kind of fluid, counter-attacking game outside of the Etihad?
Chelsea and Manchester United simply got business done. Palace, under Tony Pulis, look a bit better, but Chelsea reminded us all that good teams win games even when they don’t play well. They were poor, and needed help from Petr Cech, but in the end they took all three points.
United, reeling from the bad news on Robin van Persie, were very professional in how they swept aside Aston Villa. Danny Welbeck’s brace was a delight, and you see how much confidence they had Sunday at Villa Park. The game never looked in doubt, and if United can build on that, stringing a result or two together, they may be able to revive their campaign.
West Bromwich surprised many when they dismissed Steve Clarke after their loss to Cardiff. But the facts are plain: WBA had only won one game in their last ten and collected just 38 points from 41 games. That’s not enough to stay up in the Prem and I think they felt, reluctantly, that they had to get a spark in. But West Brom have also been very unlucky, and I do wonder if they have the talent to be more than a mid-table team. But manager pay for form. Clarke is a good and respected manager, and he has shown he can take some big scalps. I do not think he will be out of work very long.
I do have to mention what happened at Newcastle, and I’ll just echo what our manager, Alan Pardew said: It was pathetic. You never want to see something like that on the touchline, and I think everyone’s a bit sheepish about it today. It distracts from the fact that we’re sitting a solid sixth in the table right now, and we did all right against a very tricky and hungry Southampton side.
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