Premier Picks: Suarez shows both sides
The good and bad sides of Luis Suarez's game are among the talking points as TEAMtalk reflects on all the weekend's Premier League action. TEAMtalk's writers pick out some of the main talking points from around the grounds on Matchday Seven of the 2012/3 Premier League season. Newcastle v Manchester United Comments made in the wake of a 3-2 reversal against Tottenham last time out suggested that Manchester United were a club in some sort of crisis - with an aura of invincibility gone and Fergie losing his touch. You would think that having watched the Red Devils throughout the Premier League era that people would know better by now, especially those who had the audacity to question a knight of the realm. Sir Alex Ferguson and his troops offered the best possible response to the doubters on Sunday as they made light work of a Newcastle side that harbours aspirations of building on last season's success and pushing on into the top four. The Magpies, in truth, did themselves few favours, with it careless to concede one goal from a set-piece never mind two in the space of seven minutes. Alan Pardew admitted afterwards that a slow start cost his side dear, with Newcastle left with a mountain to climb with just 15 minutes on the clock. Pardew's men will have better days - they have already shown enough this term to suggest that their heroics in 2011/12 were no fluke - but they were forced to hold their hands up on Sunday and admit that they were second best. Ferguson believes the showing from his Red Devils was their best of the season so far, and it is difficult to argue with him. Wayne Rooney looks to be closing on his best form after enduring a difficult start to the season and is revelling in a playmaking role. Manchester United will also be delighted to see Tom Cleverley among the goals again. One criticism of the England international this season has been that he does not offer enough of a threat in the final third. Against Newcastle he didn't even have to get into that area of the field to find the target, with a 25-yard effort sailing over Steve Harper and into the top corner. Was it a cross? Was it a shot? Cleverley will say that he meant it, and who are we to doubt him. Fortunately, the exploits of Cleverly and co ensured that a difficult call for the officials after seeing David de Gea display remarkable reflexes to touch the ball onto the inside post should not reignite the debate for the introduction of goal-line technology. Liverpool v Stoke Liverpool's lack of a cutting edge at Anfield was again exposed on Sunday as a determined Stoke side prevented the Reds for claiming a first home league win of the campaign. Brendan Rodgers' side hit the woodwork three times in the second period but the Potters' solid defensive unit held firm to collect a hard-earned point which Tony Pulis will be delighted with. Ryan Shawcross - whose performances resulted in an England call-up last week - was again immense in leading the Stoke defensive line, although the visitors were lucky to have Robert Huth on the pitch after he appeared to stamp on Luis Suarez early on. Suarez proved a real livewire upfront for the Reds and was subjected to physical treatment from the Stoke players. But while his mazy run into the Stoke box was a highlight of the match, the other side of his game was in evidence as the striker made a theatrical dive later on to try and gain a penalty. Rodgers will be left with more questions of how to gain Liverpool's first home league win of the campaign - but he must come up with the answers soon with his side already a massive 13 points behind leaders Chelsea after seven games. Tottenham v Aston Villa Tottenham's slow start seems a long way away now. Coupling last weekend's triumph at Old Trafford and this solid display against Aston Villa and Andre Villas-Boas will no doubt be holding back the words "I told you so" in his post-match interviews. Spurs attacked from the opening minute at White Hart Lane, and while Villa, for the most part, did well to not only hold them back but attack with promise themselves, there was only going to be one winner in North London. Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale were back to their best, their mesmerising pace and control on the ball causing the Midlands side problems all day. Some might say that bar Chelsea's embarrassment of riches, the best midfield actually lies with Tottenham. Sandro and Mousa Dembele is a wonderful partnership and one to rival any currently in world football. Villa continue to struggle and with £27m worth of talent in Darren Bent and Charles N'Zogbia again left on the bench, Villa fans will surely be wary of their position with only one of last season's top five played and only five points picked up out of 21. For Tottenham though, the future seems very bright and if they can avoid injuries to key players, they could yet prove to be the dark horse in this season's title race. Southampton v Fulham Another game and another failure by Southampton to hold onto a lead - only this time there was a twist. Jose Fonte found a last-minute equaliser to leave Nigel Adkins praising the character of his players in the post-match interview. But the Saints boss could hardly hide his alarm at the manner in which his side defended their lead after the interval. The newly-promoted side had already surrendered nine points from winning positions going into this match but played as though they'd learned nothing from the experience. At least Fonte popped up to help earn a deserved point for the home side. And for that Fulham only have themselves to blame. Martin Jol's men did little to put a stop to the long-held suspicion that the Cottagers can sometimes simply not turn up on the road. And ultimately they paid the price for effectively arriving an hour late on Sunday. Manchester City v Sunderland For the first time all season, Manchester City really impressed at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, displaying the swagger of champions against a Sunderland side that for much of the game were virtually spectators. The arrival of Sergio Aguero in the second half completely turned the game on its head. The influence of the Argentine could not be overstated as he linked up with City's array of attacking talent to menacing effect before netting their second and practically wrapping up the game. Credit to Sunderland, they defended heroically at times, and their season will not be judged on results like these. This was their first defeat of the season and despite a poor day at the office, Martin O'Neill will not be too concerned at this juncture. For City though, this was the performance that Roberto Mancini's side needed after an opening two months of professional, but not dazzling displays. Better things surely lie ahead for the champions, and with Aguero in top form, it will take a mammoth effort from any team to stop them charging towards the title this season. West Ham v Arsenal It's been quite a long time coming, with six Premier League games already under his belt ahead of Saturday's trip to West Ham, but Olivier Giroud finally opened his Gunners account with the crucial equaliser at Upton Park to put the gloss on an impressive afternoon in East London. Arsene Wenger will be hoping his debut league goal will be the catalyst that unlocks the French striker's scoring form. Giroud was not the only summer signing to impress against the Hammers, with Santi Cazorla once again playing an influential role as the most creative outlet in the Gunners' line-up. The Spaniard pulled the strings throughout for Arsenal and also showed his prowess as a finisher after adding the third goal to their 3-1 victory - a classy shot from 25 yards. Another Spanish talent to impress was Mikel Arteta, who is flourishing in his new, deeper role as a holding midfielder. He again brought his intelligent passing to the game, distributing the ball well and rarely losing possession. The returning Andy Carroll proved the main threat in Sam Allardyce's side, making a nuisance of himself throughout. The big frontman was dangerous in the air, while his physical presence was called upon on multiple occasions at the other end of the pitch. Carroll's impressive display was missing a goal but the striker is still settling into the Hammers side and undoubtedly hinted at what he could offer. West Ham and Arsenal are sides that have both made bright starts to the campaign. The Gunners slipped up against Chelsea last weekend but responded with successive wins in Europe and at Upton Park. Now the Hammers must bid to do the same if they want to keep their season on course. Chelsea v Norwich Are we watching potential champions? Even in the immediate aftermath of Grant Holt's drilled strike in the early stages of Saturday's game at Stamford Bridge there was an air of inevitability about the outcome. While the rest of football are queuing up to condemn John Terry and Ashley Cole, it's a different story in the bosom of the Bridge and the end of the international career of at least one of them will only aid the club's ambitions. With a plethora of attacking midfield options available and Fernando Torres seemingly relishing the lack of competition for his central-striker role, there is a feel-good factor on the field at Chelsea despite the problems away from the football pitch. As for Norwich, the search for that first win of the season was never likely to end on Saturday but while Chris Hughton still seems to retain goodwill after some creditable performances he would doubtless trade them for a few more points as concerns grow over the Canaries' prospects. Wigan v Everton Roberto Martinez will have taken the positives as Wigan put in an improved display to halt their three-match losing league run. The Latics' fluid passing game over-ran Everton in the early stages, with both Arouna Kone and Franco di Santo on the scoresheet for the home side. As well as the goals, Martinez will have been particularly pleased with the pair's developing partnership up front. But, on the negative side, Wigan were unable to keep a clean sheet for a sixth time in the league this season and Martinez will be acutely aware work needs to be done to stem the tide of goals against. For Everton boss David Moyes, there were also positives and negatives from the match. While his side were carved open too easily early on, the Toffees' fighting spirit was in evidence as they twice battled back to earn a point. Leighton Baines in particular put in a superb display and his efforts were rewarded with the well-taken equaliser from the penalty spot. With just one league defeat this term, Everton continued their strong start to the campaign and Moyes will be demanding no let-up as they look to earn European qualification next term. West Brom v QPR If Mark Hughes was not already feeling the heat heading into the latest round of fixtures, he most definitely is after overseeing Queens Park Rangers' fifth Premier League defeat of the season. Hughes' sit prop up the division, a situation they could not have envisaged while embarking on a lavish summer recruitment drive. Fresh faces were supposed to prevent QPR from suffering a repeat of last season's relegation troubles, when they only narrowly avoided the drop. As it is, an argument could be offered suggesting that too much tinkering has gone on and that Hughes is still searching for a settled side and familiarity within his ranks. His side certainly played like strangers for 45 minutes at The Hawthorns, and left themselves with a mountain to climb as a result. James Morrison and Zoltan Gera found it all too easy to fire the Baggies into a commanding lead, and Steve Clarke's men are proving to be tough nuts to crack. To QPR's credit, a half-time roasting from their boss saw them put up more of a fight after the interval and, with the mercurial Adel Taraabt pulling the strings, they came closer than West Brom would have liked to taking something from the game. They were, however, 3-2 down when the final whistle sounded and the clock could now be ticking on Hughes' future at Loftus Road. Tony Fernandes has publicly backed the Welshman in the wake of another disheartening setback, but history suggests that a vote of confidence from the board is often followed by the wielding of the axe. While Hughes will be looking over his shoulder, there is no sign of the sun going down on Clarke's managerial honeymoon. He has guided West Brom into sixth spot in the Premier League, with four wins from seven helping the Baggies to a points tally which sits alongside top-four hopefuls Everton and Tottenham. Swansea v Reading Both Swansea boss Michael Laudrup and Reading counterpart Brian McDermott will take pluses and minuses from this thrilling game at the Liberty Stadium. For Laudrup, he will have wanted the Swans to show more teeth early on, but his side failed to turn good chances into goals and they were then punished with strikes from Pavel Pogrebnyak and Noel Hunt against the run of play. Both goals were avoidable - Michel Vorm allowing Pogrebnyak's shot through his arms and his defence failing to pick up Hunt. But Laudrup's switch bringing on Luke Moore for Danny Graham at the interval paid off, with Moore testing Reading keeper Alex McCarthy twice soon afterwards and being a constant threat. The Swans - who had failed to score in their three previous league defeats - then finally gained the reward for their possession and good passing play with goals from Michu and Wayne Routledge to level the match. But again they could not kill off the game despite dominating and they allowed Reading to rally late on, with skipper Ashley Williams having to make a goal-line clearance at the death to deny the visitors all three points. While pleased that his side finally found the net in this game, Laudrup will be disappointed they could not score more and will also want his defence to tighten up silly mistakes as other Premier League sides will not be as forgiving as Reading and let a two-goal lead slip. Reading boss McDermott will have been delighted with the showing of his keeper McCarthy, who is making the Number One position his own after starting the season out of the team. The keeper pulled off four top-class saves in the second period ahead of Swansea's opener but even he could stop the dominant home side drawing level. McDermott will have also been pleased with the way his side took their limited chances in the first period, as well as how they responded when the Swans drew level, with Jem Karacan's header cleared off the line at the death. But a possession statistic of just 28.8 per cent ultimately cost his side an unlikely first win back in the top flight. While McDermott afterwards took the point, how costly could it prove letting a two goal lead slip - as well as two valuable points?
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