TT's Premier Picks: Gunners dour, Reds misfire

02 December 2012 07:54
Uninspiring Arsenal, Liverpool profligacy and Manchester United's defensive woes feature in our review of the weekend's Premier League action. Arsenal 0 Swansea 2 Arsenal's period of misery continues with a lacklustre, uninventive and inept display against Swansea, who fully deserved their victory. The Swans left it until late but two goals from Spaniard Michu was more than enough. Quite where Arsenal's spark has gone is a question that needs to be answered quickly, because this side are sliding down the table. For Swansea, Michael Laudrup has a side that now seem to be playing for the manager after a tricky period. They sit above Arsenal and have 23 points already. The most alarming factor for Arsenal is that a side once known for being profligate in front of goal simply didn't create any clear-cut chances. Gerhard Tremmel in the Swansea goal simply didn't have to make a good save. Daniel Storey Fulham 0 Tottenham 3 Tottenham moved back into the top four on Saturday, with three wins in the space of seven hectic days representing a productive week for Andre Villas-Boas and his players. We have, however, been here before with Spurs - remember their victory at Old Trafford and a run of four straight wins back in September/October? Remember that they then slipped to four defeats in five and saw Villas-Boas' return to Premier League management at White Hart Lane called into question? Will things be different this time around? The omens look good, with Spurs' forthcoming schedule nowhere near as testing on paper as the run they faced on the back of their last winning sequence. Villas-Boas also appears to have found a formula that works for his side, although he is still partial to the odd selection tweak when he should be seeking consistency. He can be let off at Craven Cottage on Saturday as Spurs were coming towards the end of a draining week and were hoping to offer key men enough of a run to maintain their form, but enough of a break to keep them fresh for the challenges which lie ahead. Taking that into account, Villas-Boas will not be all smiles could the end of the weekend. Club captain Michael Dawson must have been out breaking mirrors and walking under ladders again as he picked up another knock against Fulham, while Gareth Bale was forced off clutching his hamstring - and Spurs cannot afford to lose him. Bale is vital to Spurs' cause so they will be hoping for good news once he has undergone medical tests, while they will also be keen to have a word in his ear about the bookings which are starting to tot up. The Welshman was booked again for diving at the weekend, for the second game in a row, and while Spurs may feel that their flying winger is being harshly treated, it is important that he keeps his nose clean for a while if he is to avoid completely burning his bridges with the match officials. On the Fulham front, Martin Jol will have learnt little from a 3-0 reversal against his former employers - with Dimitar Berbatov impressing in glimpses and his defence holding up well until a rare error from Mark Schwarzer swung the tie in Spurs' favour - but he will need no reminding that for all of their good work of late, the Cottagers have now gone seven games without a win and occupy a standing in the bottom half of the table. Chris Burton Liverpool 1 Southampton 0 It was a familiar story of missed chances for Liverpool, who before kick-off had the worst shooting accuracy in the Premier League this season. A tendency to get to the byline on the right-hand side and then waste the cross is also becoming a recurring theme, with Raheem Sterling at times demonstrating his inexperience. Luis Suarez was, as usual, by far and away the main threat in front of goal for Liverpool. But his booking for handball, which was more instinctive than deliberate, means he will be suspended for next Sunday's trip to West Ham United. Who will Brendan Rodgers select from his other limited striking options? Southampton manager Nigel Adkins took the positives from his side only conceding one goal and continuing to push Liverpool. But there was no escaping his one-dimensional strategy. Southampton were set up to take a 0-0 draw and when they conceded Daniel Agger's goal they had little in terms of a 'Plan B'. Pete Fraser Man City 1 Everton 1 Manchester City may remain unbeaten in the Premier League this season but they were still short of firing on all cylinders against Everton on Saturday. City again struggled to make the most of their opportunities against a dogged Toffees defence, with the late introduction of Sergio Aguero (who came on for City's penalty scorer Carlos Tevez, prompting boos from the home crowd) and Mario Balotelli not enough to get them scoring. The penalty itself will have left Everton's fans less than happy after referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot when the influential Marouane Fellaini tangled with Edin Dzeko in the box and the latter went down. Other than that misdemeanour, Fellaini was once again the main man for Everton as he ran the show in midfield. But while the towering Belgian put Everton on the front foot with the opener, City once again showed their fighting spirit as they refused to lie down - although they missed a chance to pull ahead at the top of the table with a win. Rachel GriffithsQPR 1 Aston Villa 1 Harry Redknapp must know now the enormity of his task following his first home game in charge of QPR. Although his players worked hard and created chances against a resilient Aston Villa side, they were unable to break down their opponents and eventually ran out of puff. Indeed, it might have been the visitors who spoiled the party had they pushed forward more in the latter stages, but by then both teams seemed happy to settle for a share of the spoils. Three players stood out on the day for the Hoops - Clint Hill, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jamie Mackie. Once again, Adel Taarabt failed to shine, while Redknapp will want to see more from his midfield duo Esteban Granero and Samba Diakite with important games coming up at Wigan and then at home to Fulham. December may prove to be a pivotal month for Rangers, the oracle that is Redknapp will need a remarkable change in fortune in his side. Meanwhile, Lambo's' Bambinos are impressing game-by-game although more questions will be asked after Darren Bent was left on the bench for the entire match. The Villa boss chose to introduce Fabian Delph, Karim El Ahmadi and 19-year-old Derrick Williams, ahead of Bent. A real kick in the teeth for the England international who looked on in disbelief at the changes. Once again, Nathan Baker, Christian Benteke and Ashley Westwood impressed for the visitors with the latter receiving special praise from the boss in his post-match presser. Two draw and a win from their last three games has edged the Villans away from the drop zone as they look forward to welcoming Stoke to Villa Park next weekend. Raz Mirza West Brom 0 Stoke 1 A week is a long time in politics, it was once said, and a few days in football can certainly see fortunes changed. West Brom fans have endured a couple of games in quick succession that they will want to forget about in a hurry, with a chastening defeat on the road swiftly followed by a toothless display on home soil that saw hopes of returning to the top three dashed. The six changes made by Steve Clarke from Wednesday's line-up did not bring the desired effect, with Peter Odemwingie, Romelu Lukaku and, to a lesser extent, Chris Brunt all staking claims that they should have started once they came on as substitutes. Tony Pulis' changes paid off handsomely, with Michael Kightly feeding Dean Whitehead for the winner. The Potters were losing with 10 minutes to go on Wednesday, but that late comeback and this typically combative display earned six points that sees them looking down on Arsenal and Liverpool in the table. Tim Oscroft Reading 3 Man Utd 4 It must be worrying for Manchester United's rivals that Sir Alex Ferguson's side can produce their worst defensive performance of the year, in which their defence has already had some horrendous displays - and still they win. If Ferguson can sort his back-line out, then with the way in which the team is scoring - it is hard to see how they will be stopped. But sorting their defence out will not be easy. Reading can and will take a lot from the game, but their fragility in defence will also be a huge worry to Brian McDermott. But they showed enough to know they will trouble lesser teams than United - their wide-men Jobi McAnuff and Hal Robson-Kanu look as good as anything I have seen this season, and they will continue to produce chances. Graeme Bailey

Source: team_talk