Premier Picks: Tough fight to keep Fellaini

23 September 2012 07:59
Marouane Fellaini, 'lethargic' Manchester United and out-of-form Fernando Torres feature in TEAMtalk's review of the Premier League weekend. TEAMtalk's writers pick out some of the main talking points from around the grounds as the Premier League delivers an emotional weekend of action. Swansea 0 Everton 3 David Tickner While Everton were excellent all over the pitch, one man stood distinctively-haired head and shoulders above the rest. Marouane Fellaini gave Swansea a horrible Saturday lunchtime, bullying their midfielders one second and their defenders the next. He frequently broke up play in his own half to stop the Swans getting their patient passing play going and somehow managed to also be involved in all Everton's best attacking work as well. He set up the first goal, initiated the break for the second, and scored the third. It was, in short, a complete midfield performance that perhaps only Yaya Toure of current Premier League midfielders could match. For Everton, the task now is holding onto him beyond January; there will be a string of suitors. His presence lifts a very good Everton side into one that can, on this evidence, undoubtedly threaten the UEFA Champions League spots come May. His interplay with Steven Pienaar, Victor Anichebe and Leighton Baines was a joy to watch and Swansea - who could have gone briefly top of the table with victory - had no answers and were over-run. For a Swansea side with seven points on the board from their first five games talk of 'second season syndrome' is obviously premature, but the ease with which Everton's incisive blend of brawn and brain swatted the home side away should be a cause of real concern for Michael Laudrup. Chelsea 1 Stoke City 0 Peter Fraser The selection of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard in Chelsea's first XI always looked like a strange choice from Roberto Di Matteo and so it proved to be a case of too many playmakers. The European champions lacked width and Stoke City were therefore able to make themselves compact in central areas to render their hosts short of options. Fernando Torres remains a baffling case. The Spaniard has always been a confidence player and he currently looks completely bereft of self-belief. His mini-revival has subsided and he is now back to a slow-footed, miskicking £50million striker. His control of the ball against Stoke was at times abysmal. While at Liverpool and in a bid to overcome his injury problems, Torres clearly worked to increase his muscle bulk. But it has had the obvious consequence of reducing his mobility. Stoke remain a work in progress as Tony Pulis seemingly attempts to morph his squad away from their previous long-ball style. Their lack of a clinical finisher against Chelsea was evident, as Jon Walters headed the best chance against a crossbar. Michael Owen came on for 26 minutes but played deep and did not get a sight of goal. It looks as if midfielders are also trying to come to terms with the new tactics. Summer signing Charlie Adam at times looked as if he did not know whether to stick or twist and he was involved in long discussion with Pulis on the touchline after being substituted shortly after the hour mark Pulis was on his soapbox after the match campaigning for 'divers' to be named and shamed following some dramatic falls from Oscar and Branislav Ivanovic. The Stoke boss was also less than impressed with David Luiz's late challenge on Jon Walters, which on another day could have been a red card. Pulis was implying there can be double standards in refereeing. But while he may have a point in some cases, surely Stoke will not go the season without benefiting from a contentious decision or 'simulation' at some point in the campaign? Southampton 4 Aston Villa 1 Raz Mirza Although Rickie Lambert inspired Southampton to victory with a brace, the plaudits have to go to the performances of debutants Gaston Ramirez and Maya Yoshida. The former was a class apart and showed why Neil Adkins was so keen to bring the £12million Uruguay international to St Mary's from Bologna. The winger's movement worried Villa defenders as he drifted in time and time again looking to create openings. His second-half impact rocked Villa after they lost the inspirational Stephen Ireland to injury. Indeed, his defence splitting pass created the opening for Nathaniel Clyne's well taken goal. Japan international defender Yoshida brought an air of calm and stability to the Saints backline, which has been much needed in recent weeks after four straight defeats. As well as being commanding in the air, he showed some neat touches and his distribution was second to none. As for Villa, the injury to Ireland proved pivotal to their downfall. He was taken off at the break and they never recovered their dominance in the middle of the park. They were light in midfield and there was suddenly a lack of service to their two frontmen, who had looked such a danger in the opening 45 minutes. The fans had been calling for a creative midfielder in the summer transfer window, but Paul Lambert seemed content with what he had. Could that decision come back to haunt his side in the next couple of months? West Brom 1 Reading 0 Hayley Paterson Romelu Lukaku was the eyebrow-raising selection for Steve Clarke with in-form Shane Long taking a spot on the bench because, in the manager's own words he "needed a rest". It's game-time that Lukaku desperately needs following his high profile switch to Chelsea from Anderlecht where he was billed as the next rising teenage star. The 19-year-old's persistence for first-team football paid off, as did Clarke's gamble to start the Belgian ahead of Long, who was facing his old club Reading. Lukaku offers tenacity, pace and flair but at times West Brom appeared guilty of attempting the long ball too often in the hope that their lone striker's speed would reign supreme - which ultimately led to him chasing loose passes and hopeless through-balls. His strike, however, was a mark of a confident player as he drilled the ball between Alex Pearce's legs from the edge of the box to defeat a resilient Alex McCarthy. Nicky Shorey enjoyed a decent return against his former club, but the Royals offered very little in terms of firepower so the left-back's dangerous deliveries were sparse throughout the encounter at The Hawthorns. McCarthy is no doubt staking his claim for a regular spot as Reading's No.1 ahead of Adam Federici. The 22-year-old has been loaned out to a number of clubs since joining the Royals back in 2007 and only recently has been part of Brian McDermott's first-team plans. The England under-21 did not disappoint either as he denied James Morrison on two occasions with saves at full stretch that were both stunning and fit for the cameras. The young shot-stopper will no doubt provide a selection headache for McDermott ahead of their next clash with QPR in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday. Frustratingly, Jobi McAnuff should be leading by example for the Royals through his captain's armband. However, the tricky winger often let himself down by going over cheaply in attempts to 'buy' a penalty on two occasions. Having his appeals waved away only frustrated the winger more. In an attempt to claw back an equaliser, McAnuff was sent to right-back as Hal Robson-Kanu entered the fray in the second-half which appeared to calm the skipper down and show what a superb player he can be on his day. West Ham 1 Sunderland 1 Ian Watson Andy Carroll may have only played 68 minutes in a West Ham shirt, but his absence has illustrated just how important he has already become for the Hammers. Prior to Kevin Nolan's injury-time equaliser, Sam Allardyce's side had failed to score in over 200 minutes and during the draw with Sunderland, the hosts lacked the quality required in attack to make their dominance pay. Titus Bramble and John O'Shea were rock solid at the heart of the Sunderland rear-guard, which stood firm in the face of the continuous stream of long balls. Carlton Cole was usually the target but, hardworking though he may be, the West Ham number nine lacks the subtlety to pose Premier League defences major problems and, on the few occasions he escaped his markers, his finishing was poor. Cole was not the only culprit in that respect. West Ham fired 24 shots towards the Sunderland goal, but only four troubled Simon Mignolet. Carroll showed enough on his debut against Fulham to suggest that he will benefit from West Ham's direct style. It may not be pretty - at times against Sunderland, it certainly was not - but, with Carroll, it is likely to be effective, especially if Nolan continues to get forward into the positions he did today. If Plan A doesn't work, Allardyce now has a back-up, which came in extremely handy on Saturday. Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun arrived for the last half-hour before the Hammers completely ran out of ideas and the duo helped reinvigorate the hosts flagging attack. A point was gratefully received in the end but had Carroll been leading the line, it is difficult to imagine that West Ham would not have taken all three from draw specialists Sunderland. The England striker has returned to light training but on today's evidence, he can't come back quick enough for the Hammers. Wigan 1 Fulham 2 Steve Pass Fulham boss Martin Jol will be pleased to have earned his first away win of the season. Having lost top-scorer Clint Dempsey, midfield general Mousa Dembele and playmaker Danny Murphy in the summer, some may have thought Fulham would struggle but Jol, with this early form, has shown he has been able to successfully rebuild his side. Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov showed why he will be the main man for Fulham this season - twice setting up Hugo Rodallega headers with deft crosses from the right, the second of which the former Wigan striker duly despatched. Damien Duff may have retired from international football but he showed there is plenty still left in his tank, with the Irish ace putting in an outstanding display. His was a real threat with his crossing and his performance was rewarded with a second-half goal, which he took with aplomb, giving Ali Al Habsi no chance. For Wigan, though, their usual passing game came up short. The Latics were never able to keep possession for long periods at the DW Stadium and build fluid attacking play, although they did show their attacking flair at times, hitting the woodwork, creating chances and scoring late on via Arouna Kone. At the back, skipper Gary Caldwell endured a poor game, being out jumped by former team-mate Rodallega for the opener before being replaced late on, a decision he was not happy about. To his credit, Rodallega refused to celebrate his goal against his former club and received warm applause from both set of fans as he left the field late on. There was an unfortunate moment in the early stages for referee Lee Probert, who was the meat in the sandwich in a full-blooded challenge between Steve Sidwell and Ben Watson. Probert was well and truly floored and there was a lengthy delay while he received treatment, although he did see the funny side, waving a red card in jest while on the ground! Liverpool 1 Man Utd 2 Rachel Griffiths Despite dominating for most of the opening half against Manchester United, Liverpool couldn't take their chances and had the familiar problem of not having any cutting edge in front of goal. The Reds were punished in the second half when the Red Devils, in comparison, made the most of their opportunities. The Merseysiders can take heart from the young talent continuing to impress in their side, with Raheem Sterling contributing another bright shift out wide, looking dangerous in the opening 45 minutes. Fellow teenager Suso also looked promising as a willing outlet in the second half, while it's easy to forget Martin Kelly is just 22. Liverpool fans are likely to be feeling increasingly frustrated with Fabio Borini, who looked uncomfortable out wide and offered little in the way of attack. The 21-year-old works hard but is taking longer to settle than Brendan Rodgers would have wanted at a time when the Reds desperately need a goalscorer. United have cause for concern in the way Nani has started the season, with the Portuguese looking a shadow of the player who has assumed a starring role for the club in the past. His afternoon was summed up when he was hauled off for Paul Scholes at half-time after failing to offer much in attack. Sir Alex Ferguson's side looked lethargic in the first half and the manager was far from happy with the display. Even with a one-man disadvantage Liverpool were able to score and it was only that goal that really fired the visitors into action. It appears Ferguson is still seeking the right balance in his midfield, with things only really clicking with the introduction of Scholes. Tensions were predictably high on the pitch, with controversial decisions angering the Liverpool faithful, but both sets of fans observed the clubs' calls for mutual respect as the Reds played their first game at Anfield since the recent report into the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy. The pre-match handshakes also passed without a hitch. Newcastle 1 Norwich 0 Lewis Rutledge Newcastle may be grinding out results but they are not playing with the same sort of panache as last season, with the notable exception of the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa, and Papiss Cisse's slow start to the season is becoming a concern. It is a strange phenomenon that he and Demba Ba seem incapable of playing well at the same time despite being international team-mates and Cisse looks hopelessly short of confidence at present after missing a series of chances against Norwich, not just the penalty he blazed horribly over the bar. Alan Pardew will also be scratching his head over how best to employ Vurnon Anita after he had to move the summer signing to right-back and push James Perch forward to help get a grip of midfield. Anita performed well in defence and his versatility will surely come in useful, but on this evidence Perch deserves to be first in the pecking order when it comes to utility men. Norwich manager Chris Hughton, given a warm reception on his return to St James' Park, admitted after the match that his side's lack of cutting edge was a worry and this is certainly the area he needs to address as a matter of urgency. Grant Holt began on the bench after a disappointing start to the season and never really threatened after coming on, but if he is not the same force he was last term it is difficult to see where the goals are going to come from for the Canaries, who have scored just twice in five games. There is plenty of spirit and determination about Hughton's side and they look organised at the back now, even though Sebastien Bassong could be facing spell on the sidelines after hobbling off against his former club. Man City 1 Arsenal 1 Peter Fraser Are Arsenal title contenders? They dominated Manchester City for vast periods of this game through the superb passing of their midfield, and Santi Cazorla in particular. But it is the typical case of the need to wait before judging the Gunners. Winning the title is all about the need for consistency and it will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger's squad copes through the hectic winter fixture list. Gervinho was also hopelessly erratic against City while Lukas Podolski grew frustrated and ineffective. Arsenal may miss a main-man striker when the going gets tough. Arsenal have changed to a zonal-marking system at set-pieces this season and it was exposed when they conceded Joleon Lescott's opener. The City centre-back had the run on Podolski and was in effect given an unchallenged header. Keep an eye on whether Wenger and assistant Steve Bould stick with this defensive tactic. City still seem to be finding their feet in the defence of their Premier League title and are already four points behind leaders Chelsea. Is it because they were missing key players through injury in the opening weeks or are Roberto Mancini's concerns about the impact of late business in the transfer window becoming reality? With several new faces adapting to the Premier League at the same time, it is understandable City have made a bit of a slow start. Tottenham 2 QPR 1 David Tickner Spurs recorded a first home Premier League win after disappointing draws with West Brom and Norwich, but they were again far from convincing. There was none of the verve and swagger of last weekend's win at Reading, or even the Europa League clash with Lazio. Jermain Defoe appears to be a more useful lone striker option away from home than at the Lane where his struggle to hold the ball up effectively leaves Spurs too often struggling to retain the ball in opposition territory as they look to pick a way through. They are struggling to replace the creativity deficit left by the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart and further hamstrung themselves here with the first-half deployment of Gareth Bale at left-back. They looked a far-more menacing proposition when he was pushed forward in the search for second-half goals and the impressive Jan Vertonghen switched to left-back. But after three games without a win at the start of the season they now have back-to-back (if contrasting) victories and at the very least a foundation on which to build. For all the problems in evidence today, they are within two points of the Champions League places. QPR still await their first victory but on this evidence that wait will not be a long one. A game they dominated for long periods went away from them thanks to an unfortunate own goal and a subsequent mad minute. Junior Hoilett and Bobby Zamora kept Spurs' defence fully occupied while Park Ji Sung, Alejandro Faurlin and Esteban Granero buzzed around behind them to good effect. But for Brad Friedel, who fully vindicated his manager's decision to retain him in the Premier League starting line-up, the three points could've been safely in the visitors' back pockets by half-time.

Source: team_talk

World Cup Group G

Belgium 1 0 0 3 3
England 1 0 0 1 3
Tunisa 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 0 0 1 -3 0
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